In June Eliza’s dancing school staged a ballet version of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Eliza asked me to be the Blue Caterpillar. I sat on an orange mushroom at the edge of the stage and before each dance read a selection from Lewis Carroll’s book. My role was functional. The evening belonged to the dancers and their families. All I wanted was to be good enough not to draw attention to myself. I succeeded. People smiled at me after the per-formance. Some even waved, but few spoke. “Quite a caterpillar,” a man said in the men’s bathroom as I washed blue makeup off my forehead. “Good going,” a woman shouted as Eliza and I walked toward our car.
Before the ballet I read the chapter of “Alice’s Adventures” in which the Blue Caterpillar appeared. Resembling the sticky pads brush-footed butterflies spin before metamorphosing, bits of the chapter clung to mind weeks after the dancers themselves molted, fluttering off the stage and into scrapbooks. When the Caterpillar asked, “Who are you?” Alice had trouble answering, explaining that she had changed sizes several times since morning, then adding, almost desperately,”! can’t remember things as I used.” Alice was too young to realize that forgetfulness is a blessing. A good memory makes the good life impossible. Without forgetfulness one would be so plagued by guilt that he would be unable to pull himself out of bed in the morning. All the stinging words that the tongue tossed carelessly at others would rise like jellyfish through the subconscious and lash him into paralysis. Forgetfulness frees a person from the past, allowing him to live in a fictional world peopled by many selves, flexible and ever-changing. “Sam, you skunk,” a man said recently, approaching me at Southeast School while I watched Edward trying out for a baseball team, “you were quite the lad at Princeton. I’ll never forget some of your antics.” Not only had I forgotten the doings mentioned, but the man himself was a stranger, so much so that not even 40 minutes of talk quickened recollection.
One summer 30 years ago I escorted 24 college girls through Europe. Three weeks ago one of the girls came to Storrs for a conference on education. She looked me up, and after describing her children and the years that had passed since we were young, she reminisced about the European trip. After mentioning several girls on the tour, half of whom í did not remember, she said, “I’ll never forget the time I got you out of jail in Paris, and I guess you won’t forget it either. What a night!” The remark startled me. Aside from the occasional simulated lockup in a museum, I could not remember ever seeing the inside of a jail. If gendarmes had slapped me behind bars in Paris, wouldn’t I, I thought, recollect the event? “Yes,” I answered, smiling as if I were both slightly ashamed and slightly proud of the past, “yes, indeed, that was a real night.”
Forgetfulness enables people to delight in the present. Forgetfulness transforms the old into the new. Because of forgetful-ness life is forever fresh, and the ordinary becomes Wonderland, inhabited not by Mad Hatters or Cheshire Cats but by plain husbands and wives. Because of forgetfulness, seasons startle. Flowers that have bloomed in dells or along driveways for a decade waylay and awaken joy. Life, of course, falls into patterns, rhythms that can lull observation but which, like a fugue, build contrapuntally into appreciation. For me July is a quiet month. With the bustle of teaching over and the children at camp in Maine, I roam Mansfield, delighting in sights I have seen many times. My mind works by association, the silence at home leading me to still, calm places outside the house.
Early in July I spent a day in the Storrs Community Cemetery. I did not wander among graves. Instead I walked beside the old stone walls, looking at shrubs and vines. Virginia creeper bloomed, and the leaves of alder buckthorn glowed glossy and silver in the sunlight, almost drawing the eye away from the flowers. While petals wrapped the flowers in dusty green, stamens rose from the centers of the blossoms, hooded and white, hovering over the pistils. On buffalo berry, fruits absorbed summer and turned pink. Many leaves were so fresh they resembled spring water, ribs running like streams through pignut hickory, yellow in the morning.
I read only one tombstone, a small rectangular marker engraved with the name of a man and the dates of his life, 1917—1990. Attached to the stone and rising half an inch above the granite was the outline of a train engine. Made from iron and turning orange with rust, the engine was old-fashioned. Two wheels on each side powered the engine, and a cow-catcher stretched in front. The headlight bulged like an eye. Above the light the smokestack rose in a soft funnel. Balanced on top of the boiler were a bell and two large metal lumps resembling samovars. The engine, I thought, probably pulled that gospel train coming around the mountain and whistling, as the hymn put it, warning us to buy our tickets. Although I wasn’t quite ready to hurry to the station, as the hymn urged, I looked around the graveyard and thought about where I wanted to be buried. I wanted a plot with a view of trees and flowers. The graveyard was on a hill. Beneath it stretched the university, a landscape dominated by brick and chimneys, and then, most strikingly, the silver dome capping the basketball arena. I could live, I thought, for a few years with chimneys. Eventually the university heating plant would stop burning oil, and the chimneys would be removed. The dome was a different matter. The emphasis the university placed upon athletics trivialized learning, and seeing the dome for decades would gnaw at my vitals worse than a bucket of worms. Bury me, I decided, over the lip of the hill, close to Unnamed Pond, amid poison ivy, in the shade under the raccoon tree, near where orioles nested each spring.
I didn’t fume much about athletics in July. For me graveyards are happy places, and a turn among tombs always brings stories to mind, sometimes sad stories but more often than not humorous ones. Not long after purchasing Haskins’ Funeral Home, Slubey Garts bought the south slope of Battery Hill outside Carthage in order to establish a cemetery. Calling his graveyard The Pillow of Glory, Slubey hired Loppie Groat and Hoben Donkin to clear the land. Loppie preferred the old graveyard near the high school with its boxwood and big cedar trees.” I’d rather die than be buried in a place like this” he said to Hoben while they were wedging up a boulder. Hoben belonged to Slubey’s congregation at the Tabernacle of Love.” Well, it’s just the opposite with me/’ he said, leaning on his crowbar and wiping his forehead with a dish towel. “If I’m spared, I’ll be buried nowhere else”
When Squirrel Tomkins died, Coker Knox was in hospital, recovering from a gall bladder operation. Coker and Squirrel served together in the Tennessee legislature for 32 years, and soon as Coker was able to get about, he visited Squirrel’s grave. Above Squirrel the grateful citizens of Hardeman County erected a statue of Solon, the Athenian statesman. A local artist carved the statue. Since the ancient Greeks were not large people, he made the statue 3 feet high, no matter that Squirrel himself was 6 feet 2 inches tall. Moreover since the artist had never left Hardeman County, much less visited Athens, he dressed the statesman in the only robe he had ever seen, a long white sheet rising to a pointed hood over his head, not just transforming Solon into a pigmy but initiating him into the Ku Klux Klan as well. The graveyard was empty when Coker visited it. The quiet made him melancholy, and Coker did not notice the finer details of Squirrels memorial. Coker had, however, recently completed the advanced course in poetry at theYMCA night school in Nashville, and his thoughts were elevated. “How sad,” he said when he saw the grave, “not a worm, no, not even a blood-red cherub now parades around this desolated sepulcher.” Coker s thoughts lay, as he put it, “too deep to geologize.” “My feelings,” he later wrote Squirrel’s relic Minnie, “marched like telegraphs to the drumsticks of a better world, feathered songsters wobbling in its tepid glens, its creeks festive with seraphic ripples and crowded with the rowboats of paradise, in a sacred grove of hackberry trees a celestial choir on its knees, doxologizing and whistling salvation, in the brothers’ hands, Bibles, sweet cordials of the grave.”
In July when the children were at camp, hours occasionally gaped like graves. Whenever a day seemed empty, I planted it with story, shoveling in character and place. During her first year at Ward-Belmont in Nashville, Orene Hamper published two poems in the college yearbook. When she returned to Carthage for summer vacation, Orene showed the poems to Vester McBee who cleaned and cooked for Mrs. Hamper. The poems impressed Vester. No one in Gladis wrote poetry, and when Vester visited her grandmother MaudyMay, she mentioned the poems, saying “Miss Orene has shocked us and turned out to be a poet.” “Good Lord! Who would have thought it!” MaudyMay exclaimed, before asking: “Did you find out who with? And she has the nicest parents in Carthage, ever so polite and well-educated. Well, I never.”
Clearing boulders from Battery Hill made Loppie’s and Hobens muscles sore, and the day after they finished the job, they decided to walk to Red Boiling Springs and soak in a mineral bath. The day was hot, and after walking six miles Hoben started complaining. After two more miles he sat on a rock beside the road. “Loppie,” he said, holding up his right leg, “would you pull off this boot? My foot aches something terrible.” Loppie pulled off Hoben s boot and after shaking it out examined Hoben’s foot. “Hoben,” he said, “there ain’t nothing in this boot or on your foot that could hurt you.” “Well, then,” Hoben said, “pull off the other boot. I’m sure one of my feet hurts.”
Early in July í hunted snakes, catching garters; black racers; northern water snakes, their undersides mottled with orange, brown, and purple; then my favorite, the ring-necked snake, its belly and neck bright yellow, its back blue in the shade but green in the sun. One day I found a black racer with two bulges in its stomach, probably baby birds. Under a piece of plywood I found the skin of another racer, the length 4 feet 7 1/2 inches. Searching for snakes, I turned over many rocks and boards. In the damp under a rock curled a black and white marbled salamander. A wolf spider scurried into dry leaves, young clinging to its abdomen like an infestation of warts.
Paper wasps built nests under rocks and once, when lifting a rock, I slapped my hand over a nest and was stung. Stings rarely burn longer than a quarter of an hour, and I ignore them. Being stung is part of life in July. While picking raspberries I bumped a hornets’ nest and was stung again. I moved four yards away and continued picking. Friends warn that bee stings have a cumulative effect, saying that someday I will have an allergic reaction. I don’t think I will. As a child on my grandfather’s farm in Virginia, I roamed summers barefoot and half-naked. Hives of wasps and hornets stung me. Now when I am stung the pain does not so much startle as trigger association, awakening memories of hazy days spent building huts, climbing silktrees or picking spiders out of mud daubers’ nests.
Insect season begins in Connecticut in July. During the first part of the month eye gnats swarmed about my face, searching for water. Deerflies spun around me when I was in the shade. Since deerflies tried to bite me on the neck or head, rather than on hands and arms, ï wore a hat and ignored the buzzing. In contrast, George suffered. Flies dug into his ears and hind quarters. Several times when I slapped them off him, they burst, staining my palm red. At the beginning of July I examined small insects: adelgids clinging cottony to hemlocks; on alder, woolly aphids clustered white and thick as heavy cream; carpenter ants carving logs into delicate lattices; and a crab spider glistening like a pink and white pearl. Early in the morning blossoms on swamp rose trembled, bumblebees shaking them, bathing, almost as if the pink petals were tubs floating with yellow pollen. Bristly yellow and black larvae of ladybugs clung to spikes of timothy, here and there the heads of flies shining like dew. I marveled at the hair on red milkweed beetles. í watched spotted ladybugs hunt along leaves, their black backs dotted with pink like a gay necktie worn at a summer party, a July party held under a striped tent, the sound of ice tinkling and glasses beaded and bright with half-moons of lemon and lime.
Eyespot galls stained the leaves red maple and white oak brown. The midges that caused the galls had left the trees, and many galls had dried and sunk. Still, on oaks the centers of some galls remained red while a levee of leaf tissue rose yellow around them. Resembling stale bits of granola, brown galls peppered alders looking as if they had been shaken over leaves to season the trees. On cherries spindle galls twisted upward resembling not simply spindles but also small worms twisting upright. When a breeze stirred the leaves, the galls danced, vibrating like thin, improbable belly dancers. By July the galls were empty, the mites having escaped through holes bored near the tops of the galls.
Early in July black-winged damselflies perched on spicebushes along the Fenton River. By the middle of the month dragonflies bustled hurriedly over ponds and preened on twigs. One morning six white tails clung to a dead tree. Bark had peeled off the tree, and the wood had dried bony and blue. Each white tail was two inches from, its neighbor, all so still they seemed painted, turning the tree into the border of a delicate Chinese screen. Some afternoons I squatted on the banks of ponds and watched dragonflies. Often they seemed to play with light, catching it on their wings then flicking it quickly away in a burst of sparkles.
I sat watching insects, and listening to birds. From damp woods fluttered the calls of wood thrush, veery and ovenbird. Though meadows bounced the whistles of field and song sparrows. Crows ripped the calm of late afternoon, and the screams of the red-tailed hawks slid through the air. At dusk the lonely barred owl and the screech owl whinnied. Every evening from behind our house a wood peewee called, and Vicki and I stopped what we were doing to listen. The call was sad, and we wondered how to cheer him up. “Maybe,” Vicki said, “we could introduce him to house wrens or red-eyed vireos.”
One morning at Tift Pond a cardinal cried loudly, the repetitions breaking like deep ripples rolling through the water. A green heron and a great blue heron fished the beaver pond in the Ogushwitz Meadow. Nearby a northern water thrush nested in shadows under a bank of the Fenton River. A pair of kingfishers sputtered over wet lowlands, the female often sitting on a branch reaching up from the riverbed. The end of the branch was splintered, and from a distance resembled an open hand clawing the air. Indigo buntings rummaged the scrub wrapping the cornfield on Bean Hill. A willow flycatcher sat alert on a cattail at the edge of Unnamed Pond. A pair of kestrels carried mice to their young in an oak tree. Late one afternoon a glossy ibis circled low over Unnamed Pond, its body black against the sky and its bill long and hammered into a curve like a dagger.
Places did not remain constant throughout July. Along the shore of Tift Pond the white trumpets of swamp azalea wilted sticky by the middle of the month while sweet pepperbush burst upward into spires white and fragrant. July was hot, and during the month the beaver pond shrank, drying into puddles, trapping tadpoles in mud. Unnamed Pond pulled into itself like a bull’s eye. Just behind the willows, though, blackberry canes glistened moist with berries. One afternoon I picked eight quarts. Vicki refused to eat the berries because the seeds wedge between her teeth, and so I ate them all, blackberries for breakfast, lunch and dinner. With the exception of raspberries, ï eat all the foods I bring home from walks. The first week in July 1 dug ramp or wild leek in the wet woods above the beaver pond. Ramp has a strong onion flavor, and although Vicki chopped some into a salad she prepared for me and then the next night fried a handful with Polish sausage, she would not taste ramp.
In the Ogushwitz Meadow flowers broke July into three seasons: milkweed season followed by seasons of Canada thistle and Joe-Pye weed. Although other flowers bloomed at the same time, Canada thistle, Joe-Pye weed and milkweed marked July with the richest colors and spread fragrance in melodies, drawing hives of bees and butterflies like confetti. Sometimes I stood in patches of thistle and listened to bees. Often I watched butterflies: monarchs, swallowtails, sedge and silver spotted skippers, cloudy wings, cabbage whites, sulfurs, pearly crescents, fritillaries and painted ladies. At the same time Joe-Pye weed bloomed in the meadow, its purple throaty and hot with summer, chicory and Queen Anne’s lace blossomed dry and leggy along the road behind the dairy barn. At the top of Bean Hill green buttons of pokeweed pulled tight toward purple, and Japanese beetles chewed multiflora rose and grape into lace.
My walks were collages. Impressionistic, they papered the hours with small pictures, making days pleasurable but never reaching high truth or accurately chronicling the flow of time. Profound truths are beyond me. When a choice exists between simple and complex explanations, I always choose the simple. I resemble Horace Armitage in Carthage. One spring Horace decided to grow a beard. Although Horace did not shave for 10 months, his beard remained thin and as yellow as runoff from a paper mill. “Horace, why don’t you see Dr. Sollows,” Googoo Hooberry said in January. “He’ll tell you why the beard won’t grow, and he’ll prescribe fertilizer for it.” “Hellfire, Googoo,” Horace replied, “peat moss isn’t going to do this beard any good. Besides I already know why it’s scraggly. This fat nose of mine casts a big shadow, and the beard don’t get enough sunlight to do any real growing.”
On walks little things captured my attention: on a trail a dead bat an inch and three-quarters long; a painted turtle sunning on a tire in. the pond behind the piggery, duckweed covering the surface of the pond, making it glow and from a distance resembling a meadow; the bark of American chestnut seams blistering up from the ground; leaves of Amur maple resembling the back of a cassock; then in the middle of the woods a tan, fibrous bag split, white chicken feathers spilling out in a rush. The feathers had lost fluff and clung to quills in damp, suffocating mats. July is quiet, and as I noticed small things on my ambles, so little matters interested me at home. From Maine a student wrote, saying he spent 12 days near Mt. Baxter. The number of days, he said, was not long enough “to learn to think like a mountain,” though, he added, “a medium sized hill is not beyond access, if my experience is the norm.” girl wrote from Oregon and asked if I were a dragon. “Have you always been like this?” a woman wrote from Michigan after reading one of my books. I wanted to answer that I was smaller when I was a child and did not have as much hair on my back, but I didn’t.
Hair was on mind as well as back. Several people who live in nursing homes write me regularly. Although small matters make walks enjoyable, they are not the stuff of entertaining letters. The dead bat that soars quick through imagination in the woods may bore on the page. For the person who lives a quiet life, finding interesting things to write strangers about is difficult. One day shortly before leaving for camp Eliza commented on the hair in my nostrils, hoping, she said, that when she was an adult she would not be so hairy. Not long afterward I wrote Miss Frances in the Grand View Health Home in Danville, Pa. In the letter I quoted Eliza’s remark. Miss Frances answered by return mail. Enclosed in the envelope was an advertisement for a “Rotary Nose Hair Clipper” costing $7.95. The clipper, the advertisement declared, was “for careful grooming in the privacy of your own bathroom “ A “professionally designed, precision-made personal grooming instrument,” it trimmed “nostril hair without so much as an “ouch’”
During July I read Edward Hoagland’s collection of essays, “Balancing Acts.” Hoagland visited Belize and Yemen. He paddled the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, rode horseback through the Absaroka Mountains in Wyoming, and traveled the Black and Porcupine rivers in Alaska in a flat-bottomed boat. On his trips Hoagland met soldiers of fortune and lion tamers turned environmentalists. I don’t know such people. My friends are teachers, students, dentists, real estate agents and coaches. During July I talked to few people other than Vicki. For a while after finishing “Balancing Acts,” I envied Hoagland. But then as I stood at the corner of a cornfield and looked at yellownut grass, its bristles wet with dew and sparkling in the sun, I forgot envy. My words and roots are local. They don’t stretch far, but they twist through tussock and great fringed sedges, reed meadow and blue joint grass, agrimony, horse nettle and poke milkweed.
Although I resembled Alice and followed most rabbits that crossed my path in the woods, grass and wildflowers were the stenciling binding days together, linking one walk to another. In July I saw several flowers that I had not seen before and looked closely at flowers 1 neglected in the past: spreading dogbane and Canada lily, ribbons of pink striping the bells of the former, 15 ribbons in all, five bands of two ribbons alternating with bands of one; the anthers of the latter flower resembling flat loaves of reddish brown bread, the edges crusty and overcooked.
Vicki and I are different. I like knickknacks and clutter. If Vicki had her way, she would live in a house as bare as a sauna. I go to bed at 9:30 and read, always falling asleep before 10:30.Vicki putters and watches television, coming to bed after midnight. I get up at 6 in the morning. Vicki sleeps until 9. For the first years of our marriage children were blossoms, their fragrance pulling us close. Over time, however, our roots have become entangled, and differences have hybridized into friendship. When not roaming hill and field, I hung out with Vicki. I wore short pants around the house. The pants were baggy, and my legs dangled like worn-out bell clappers. “Are those the pants Vicki wore when she was pregnant?” my friend Tom asked.
One Saturday Vicki had a tag sale, selling boys’ clothes. Vicki plans ahead and buys clothes on sale. She stores the clothes in the attic, and sometimes she does not find them until the children have outgrown them. Occasionally clothes bought for a distant summer will only fit a boy in winter. Sometimes the boys don’t like the clothes she buys, and they refuse to wear them. As a result many clothes in the sale had not been worn. Nevertheless, in order to clean out the house Vicki set low prices: 25 cents for shorts, trousers a dollar, and shirts 50 cents. Vicki made $162, and three women gave her their telephone numbers, imploring her to call them before the next tag sale. The day after the sale Vicki boxed the clothes that were left and donated them to Windham Area Interfaith Ministries. While she carted clothes to Willimantic, I bicycled to the Catholic Church and gave blood. Many people I knew were giving blood, and I stayed for a longish time, eating doughnuts and chatting, not with former mercenaries and carpenters become lepidopterists but with our family doctor, the secretary to the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, a member of the English department, an art librarian, and the mothers of two of Edward’s friends, one friend a member of his fourth grade class, the other a forward on Mansfield’s 10-and-under soccer team. That evening I piddled about the yard.
During July I spent much time in the yard, levering up rocks in order to plant flowers in the dell, turning compost in the woods, and pulling weeds. I pulled weeds almost every day. One night after dinner I timed myself, and in an hour I removed 421 weeds from the front yard, most plantain but a few dandelions and a handful of hawkweed. Often I yanked up bittersweet or Connecticut kudzu, as I call it. The trouble with removing bittersweet was that it led to more strenuous doings. One afternoon after pulling up bittersweet near the Morrones’ property line, I crossed the yard and began digging forsythia near Mrs. Carter’s driveway. From forsythia I progressed to small trees, sawing off branches that blocked sunlight from the dell. One long, thick branch caused problems. After much bending and muttering, however, I pinned the end of the branch to the ground with my foot. Then I leaned forward and started sawing well up the branch near the trunk of the tree. “If this limb breaks,” I thought, “it will do serious damage to my face. I’ll have to be extra careful.” The next thing I knew my shirt and shorts were splattered with blood, and my mouth was numb. Before I sawed through the limb it broke and, snapping like a rubber band, whacked me on the chin. Flesh wounds bleed heavily, and by the time I reached the back door I was gory, not a sight in which Vicki delighted.
In 90 minutes five friends were coming to dinner. Vicki had prepared a feast: curried apple soup, rice with pinenuts, sautéed zucchini with carrots, lemon and ginger pork loin, and key lime cheese cake. As various as the seasonings were, they were not eclectic enough to include white and red corpuscles. “Jesus!” Vicki exclaimed, “what have you done now? Don’t even think about coming in the house until you stop bleeding,” she added, handing me a towel from under the sink. By pork, two hours and a can of bandages later, I stopped bleeding. The next morning my chin resembled a redbelt fungus, jutting out from my face and dusty with dried blood. To show Vicki how stalwart I was, I dismantled the children’s swing in the back yard. The swing had stood for 10 years. All the bolts were rusty, and I used a maul to dismantle it. In the process a strut fell and, hitting me on the jaw, started my chin bleeding again. Although blood ruins most pies and soups, I did not let it spoil my work. By the time I reduced the swing to pasta, my shirt was red, and Vicki refused to let me eat in the house, from the basement fetching the towel she gave me the day before and making me dine al fresco on the back steps.
At the end of July I went to a funeral at the Congregational Church. A neighbor died. I did not know him well. But on Halloween he and his wife gave the children apples and candy, and whenever he drove past our house, he smiled and waved. Flowers turned the church into a garden, blossoms spraying up through ferns toward the altar: gladiola, bushy spikes of liatris, lilies, chrysanthemums, and daisies, some white and yellow, others yellow and orange. The neighbor was popular. For 50 years he worked hard to make Mansfield and the University of Connecticut better places, and the church was crowded, mostly with older people who had visited each other for many Julys. When a woman sat in the pew behind rne, a friend greeted her and asked about her health. I heard part of the woman’s response. “A touch of arthritis,” she said, “but that’s part of it.” The first hymn sung was Isaac Watts’s fine, old standby “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.” “Time, like an ever-rolling stream, / Bares all its sons away,” the fifth stanza began. “Yes,” I thought when I sang the words, “being borne away is part of it. But that’s not all of it.” Being rooted like my neighbor was another part.
People also slip from memory, or, as Watts wrote, “They fly forgotten as a dream / flies at the opening day.” At the end of her adventures Alice woke up. She described her dream to her sister then ran home for tea, high-spirited and forgetful. Her sister sat longer by the river bank, “watching,” Carroll wrote, “the setting sun, and thinking of little Alice and all her wonderful Adventures, till she too began dreaming.” August has now arrived. In a week the children return from camp. Nature, as Coker Knox put it poetically if not logically, “vies with Creation to render the scene of unmitigated splendor.” Goldenrod has turned the Ogushwitz Meadow yellow. Stars of virgin s bower twist through swamp dogwood, and the dell is lemony with horse balm. I will take the children for walks even though they won’t remember much I show them. Perhaps they will dream a little. Perhaps when they are grown, they will roam August by themselves, wads of mint in their mouths, hands swollen from stings, maybe even a ring-necked snake turning green through their fingers. Perhaps a rabbit will scurry before them into a patch of blackberries, and they will remember me, not with high falutin’ words but simply, maybe oddly, as Horace Arrnitage remembered his old buddy Hiram Povey, saying, “Hiram won’t a man to keep his talents hidden in a napkin.”