With Bells and Motley
By Jeff Baker
The city is old and familiar. But all cities, all places are familiar to me. I glance casually at the people walking along the street. Some of them eye me curiously, some of them are smiling. I smile to myself at that.
Fashions have changed (of course) and at times I feel there is as much difference between different countries and different centuries. I have worn the most outlandish outfits as well as sober grey flannel. I have been plainly seen presiding over my special area of human frailty and strength. In the days of knights in armor I was in bells and motley, but I also was seen in ermine robes as well as running naked in the woods. I have been to funerals in a burst of sudden good feeling and nostalgia and once, in this very city, I was in the wings on opening (also closing) night of an unfunny stage comedy, where the conversation between the playwright and the stagehand was funnier than anything the audience was being subjected to. I hope the playwright took what little hints I could give as to subject matter for a next endeavor. I don’t drop hints very often, though I have dropped people’s pants unexpectedly.
I am an Embodiment, what some called a Teraphim, a personification, of something considered insubstantial. The depiction of Death, with a skull-face and black hooded robes is one such being. Father Time is another. I am laughter. I am humor. Frivolity and satire. And I take many forms in many places. I have been in hospitals, on playgrounds and in prisons of all sorts. I have literally been gallows humor.
So, why am I here in this place at this moment? There. That young man at the table, at the outdoor café. The one with the drawing pad. He has drawn me here.
Because he is thinking about me.
He is talking to his friends about me. And he has drawn a picture. It doesn’t look like I appear now, nor is it dressed like I do today. No white jacket, no hat, no carrying bag. In the drawing I am wearing bells and motley, the exact same pattern as I wore long ago. The drawing is not a surprise. We are not entirely unknown, and there are some people who are sensitive to us. This young man is one of them I am certain.
In the drawing, I am behind the wheel of a fancy car, a convertible. A well-drawn car, a car of at least four decades earlier. My drawn counterpart is laughing, and so is the young man at the table with his friends as he points to something.
The license plate at the rear of the car. It does not have numbers, but is one of the recent, personalized variety. The term on the plate is a new one, just a few years old; LOL.
It makes me smile.