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March, 2002

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The Adventures of Tar-man
      by John Rose

[Tar-man Index]

Origins of Tar-man - Episode 3/4
                                           

"Tar-man wasn't always a hideous misfit, lurking on the fringes of society. Once he was an aspiring opera singer like you or me.

"Hey, Billy, let's hear a few bars of 'Batti, batti'! Hah-hah!" (aside) "That darn Joey always stumps me. What I wouldn't give for his leggiero e calmato."

One day, struggling at the piano to find his fach, he heard that first fateful drip! "Voi, che sapete…huh?!"

Turning, he saw a thin stream of water come through the plastered ceiling to land unapologetically on his mother's priceless solid cherry buffet.

With the sure instinct and speed of a born roofer, he grabbed a nearby champagne bucket and a rag and soaked up the water before it could do any damage.

The stage was set.

Suddenly realizing the full implication of what he had done, Billy broke down and wept. Then he ran to get his mother.

"Billy, calm down, what is it?"

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to, it was getting on the buffet… I had to!"

"There, there, honey, don't worry, you did the right thing! Of course you did."

"But I wanna be an opera singer! (sniffle) All the other kids are gonna be!"

"Of course you can be an opera singer, Billy! Has that Joey been making fun of your ornamentation again? I'm going to have a talk with his mother."

"No! You don't understand!" Billy tore himself from her and ran to his room, desolate.

Later, as the twilight lengthened the shadows on his walls, Billy lay on his bed and stared at nothing.

His mind wandered to earlier, happier times. He thought of his family.

His mother married her high school sweetheart, Marv Fleischmann. He was nothing but a humble margarine salesman who she knew would never amount to a hill o' beans, but she loved him.

Billy is roused from his nostalgia by a knock on the door. It's Marv.

"Hey, buddy, your Mom said you were a little upset today. How about taking your mind off it by helping me up on the roof? Got a hole that needs patching (wink). How 'bout it, sport?"

He felt desperate to run away and hide himself, but the grip of destiny was tightening, tightening around his throat like an iron gauntlet, forcing the words to come: "Sure, Dad."

All was lost! He felt dropped from some dizzying height to plummet forever without landing, a fall without consummation or redemption. Inwardly he writhed with the agony, the horror…

"Great, I'll be out in the garage."

The die was cast. He could see the future stretching out before him. Shingles, asphalt, the sulphurous black stench of the burner, coated ropes on rusted pulleys, mineral surface, black paper, coal-black as the bottommost blackness of Styx, entrance to the black underworld, and blacker than any of them, the black that was shunned forever from the light on the first day of Creation, bubbling and churning since the dawn of time… tar.

[Last panel-present day Tar-man] Tar-man sits on the roof, striking matches one by one and watching as they flicker and die in the evening breeze, thinking about the Gulf War... the ocean burning... the teeming life of the sea blanketed by burning blackness...

"

 

Copyright 2002. All Rights Reserved.