THIS MORNING, Irvine Valley College’s new “Clock Tower”—the long-awaited replacement of the venerable old Clock Tower—finally arrived.
It arrived by post, in a box, which the mail guy brought to President Glenn Roquemore’s office. Here's what happened next:
...Glenn greedily opens the little box. He pulls out the clock, separating it from the tissue paper. He holds it high and smiles.
“Kinda small, isn’t it?” says the mail guy.
Glenn sniffs. "Wayne got it. It's really well-made."
He places it flat on the pea green blotter atop his desk. He hovers above it. “It looks bigger there. Sort of.”
After a while, Glenn decides to go outside to "try it out." He enlists the mail guy, who looks confused.
“Let’s get this show on the road,” says Glenn, decisively. "It's time for me to take charge. C'mon!"
They take it out to the spot of the old Clock Tower. The mail guy climbs into the planter and plants the clock where he figures it oughta be.
It's about as noteworthy as a dirt clod.
"Looks like shit there," says the mail guy. "Total insignificant shit. If you want my opinion."
"Yeah," says Glenn. "It's supposed to be a real good clock." Glenn shakes his head.
After a while, he says: "How about on this thingy on the dingus that holds the light fixture dealy?" Glenn has the guy move it there. They step back and stare.
"OK, that looks worse," says the mail guy.
"Plus, the clock stopped."
Glenn stops to think. He thinks hard. The mail guy looks at his feet. A rabbit hops by and stops, unnoticed by the president and the mailman, to stare. He is wearing a vest and a pocketwatch. Yes, he is a white rabbit.
Glenn decides to put the Clock out near the library. They walk there and find a squarish light thingy by a planter; they put the Clock Tower on top of it; then they stare at it.
"That bird shit on that squarish thingy is a problem," says the mail guy. "It detracts."
"Yeah," says Glenn. "How'd that get there?"
They stare for a while. The mail guy fingers the bird crap.
Then Glenn says: "What about over there by that door?"
"I dunno. That door." Glenn puts it there himself, on the ground, by the door.
"Now it looks super small. I think it's getting smaller," says the mail guy.
"Yeah." Glenn thinks really hard now. He thinks for five whole minutes. Then he smiles.
Glenn next walks over to the parking lot. He puts the Clock Tower near a bend in the path. He stands back and squints at it.
"OK, now it looks like some kind of weird mushroom," says the mail guy. "I mean, that's if you want my opinion."
"Mushroom? Wait," said Glenn, "what's this?" His brow furrows and he kneels down and sure enough, there is a mushroom, right next to the new Clock Tower and, on top of the mushroom sits a caterpillar, a blue one smoking a long hookah.
The Caterpillar and Glenn look at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar takes the hookah out of his mouth, and addresses him in a languid, sleepy voice.
"Who are you?" says the Caterpillar.
This is not a particularly encouraging opening for a conversation. Clearly the insect has not seen the president's special parking space. Reserved for Glenn. Glenn replies, rather shyly, "I—I hardly know, just at present—at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then. It all started with this, this, Clock Tower." He points.
His finger shakes a little and he suddenly realizes the terrible toll that being college president has taken on him. He used to be so carefree and jolly, cruising along through life on any number of sporty conveyances, Seadoos and Cushmans and Vespas, when not shooting at small animals.
"What do you mean by that?" says the Caterpillar sternly. "Explain yourself!"
"I can't explain myself, I'm afraid," replies Glenn, "because I'm not myself, you see."
"I don't see," says the Caterpillar.
"I'm afraid I can't put it more clearly," Glenn replies very politely, "for I can't understand it myself to begin with. It has something to do with, to do with, uh,…size."
The mail guy is clearly uncomfortable. He is an employee of the Postal Services, trained for all kinds of circumstances, but not this. He pushes his clipboard at Glenn. "If you could just sign here sir, well, that would be great. I have other deliveries. It's getting late."
The Caterpillar ignores the mail guy and turns his attention to Glenn. "What size do you want to be?" he asks. "Smaller? Bigger?"
"Oh, I'm not particular as to size," Glenn hastily responds. "it's not about me, it's about…" He nods toward the Clock Tower.
"You'll get used to it in time," says the Caterpillar; and he puts the hookah into his mouth and begins smoking again.
"I know I will, but others won't. They will see it as a symbol of…me."
After a minute or two the Caterpillar takes the hookah out of his mouth and yawns once or twice, and shakes himself. Then he gets down off the mushroom, and crawls away in the grass, merely remarking as he goes, "One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter."
"One side of what? The other side of what?" thinks Glenn to himself. And why is this big animal quoting the Jefferson Airplane? The mail guy has deserted him by this time and the students seem to be making a wide circle around the suited fellow kneeling next to the mushroom in the grass.
"Of the mushroom," says the Caterpillar, just as if Glenn has asked his question aloud; and in another moment he is out of sight, heading toward the coffee cart with a cloud of sweet smelling smoke trailing after.
Glenn remains looking thoughtfully at the mushroom for a minute, trying to make out which were the two sides of it; and as it is perfectly round, he finds this a very difficult question. However, at last he stretches his arms round it as far as they will go, and breaks off a bit of the edge with each hand.
"And now which is which?'" he says to himself, and nibbles a little of the right-hand bit to try the effect: the next moment he feels a violent blow underneath his chin: it has struck his foot!
But then he looks up at the new Clock Tower and smiles. Perfect, thinks Glenn. Now as soon as everyone takes a bite—