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The Adventures of Tar-man
      by John Rose

[Tar-man Index]

TAR-MAN ˝

Night falls on the roof (CRASH!). In a shadowy corner, by the light of a dim petroleum fire, Tar-man enacts a solemn ritual.

"O key, thou hast today proven thyself worthy to be named Useful, a key not forgotten but imbued with that self-same importance with which the very best keys of the ages have been possesséd. I hereby grant thee thy validity, and empower thee to take thy place on the ring with these others, helping to fight against those who would deny or limit access. Like thy Master, thou art now granted the freedom to penetrate thy particular portal with thy fellows and thy keeper--Tar-man!"

Several days earlier. Tar-man has been called upon to do roof-related work inside a theater. From one tar-soaked pocket issues an old rusty ring of keys, barely recognizable. He tries every key on the door to the projection booth…

One after another, all fail.

Discouraged, Tar-man sits on a toilet and ponders. Too late, he remembers who he is, but the damage is done. Tar clogs the toilet like a rubber stopper. He shuffles to the closet for the plunger…

Locked!

Again he tries each key on the ring, but no use.

Enraged, he stalks frantically back and forth, in and out of the theater, finally finding a certain peace in the cool, blank darkness before the screen, which glows softly like a brief current through the gloom.

As if in a dream, Tar-man makes his way to the locksmith for he knows not what reason.

He doesn't look up at the passersby who stare in amazement. Hasn't he been judged by them a thousand times before? PAH! Who needs the weak? Let them stoop half a lifetime on a roof and see which ones can take it. None!

"Only I, Tar-man, am able to withstand all! ALL!"

He slushes into the locksmith's shop, the pathetic remnants of a dozen keys held sadly in his blackened hands. He doesn't know what to do, why he came…

He holds them out, praying inwardly for forgiveness.

"What is it you want, roofer? WHAT!? Speak up! Woudja knock off that infernal mumbling, I can't hear a damn word!"

Tar-man flees, humiliated.

Back on the roof, Tar-man is despondent, but some hidden stubbornness persists, as he searches his mind for some forgotten clue that will locate the missing key.

Hours pass.

Night falls on the roof (CRASH!) as, softly, Tar-man begins to emerge from his reverie.

"Maybe…something in the glove compartment…"

All alone and ugly, reeking of petroleum in all of its forms and almost unrecognizable through its black-streaked finish, the tar truck waits.

Breaking open the terminally locked glove compartment with a rusty crowbar, Tar-man produces from the recesses a nondescript ring with three keys, long-forgotten and all but useless.

Neither Tar-man nor the keys really have any hope that this will be the solution.

When the theater closes for the night, Tar-man steals through the darkened lobby to the bathroom and the closet.

One by one he tries the keys. His futility grows, an invisible stage manager drawing a shadow curtain in his head, until finally…

Success!

The key glows, grail-like, and the shadows retreat. For now.

A solemn procession to the roof, where a dim torch is lit.

Tar-man ennobles the triumphant key, and places it in a spot of honor with its new fellows.

"Thou hast proven this day before Tar-man that thou deservest not to be melted down for scrap nor added to a Synthetic Cubist's canvas for trompe l'oeil, but shall be elevated so that all those desiring access shall look upon thee with favor and gladness. Kneel, key. I dub thee 'Useful'."


Copyright 2002. All Rights Reserved.