Friday, March 16, 2012

The Mertha Merriment

By Richard Osgood

When the invisible man died he left nothing behind.  No will and testament.  No family photos.  No trace he ever existed.  Weeks passed before they found him, a curious shadow on the floor of a south-facing porch, and when they did, people refused to believe.  There's no such thing as invisible men, they said.  Newspapers called it a hoax.  Lutherans called for group prayer.  The IRS called for an audit of his internal affairs.

A woman came forward and claimed she was the invisible man's mother.  "I didn't even know I was pregnant," she told reporters.  "Doctors said it was gas.  I said, 'well, gas is invisible, isn't it?'  The doctors threw their arms in the air and walked away, so I popped the kid out and named him Mertha."  The reporters nodded and licked pencil lead and flipped pages of top-bound note pads.  "He was a joy to raise.," she continued.  "Always got along with other children.  Never used his invisibility for ill gotten gains, and not a day went by when he didn't bring me merriment." 

This being the only known invisible man in Carlisle, and with nothing to dispute the woman's claim, elected officials called a special meeting to author a proclamation that this day shall forever be known as The Day of Mertha Merriment.  Festivities began with a procession down Main Street.  The Manifest Destiny Funeral Home crafted an invisible casket in which Mertha was laid and proudly displayed in an open-air hearse.  The mayor wore a top hat and tuxedo and waved from the back seat of a red convertible, all the while seated on a stack of pillows.  The Carlisle Shriners drove tiny cars in whip-bend circles as red-button clowns skipped and danced and tossed candy to children on shoulders of waving adults. 

They gathered at Founders Park where upstanding townsfolk stepped to a podium and recounted fond memories of the man they now saw as free from the burden of visibility.  The fire chief described a harrowing tale of how the invisible man pulled him from a burning building as the roof collapsed behind them.  His fifth grade teacher praised his tranquil disposition and unassuming demeanor in the classroom.  Onlookers turned to one another, commenting on his contagious smile and conciliatory presence.  They talked of things he whispered in ears, reminders of lost purpose and bygone years, and where they left their keys.

Elected officials commissioned a sculptor to carve a statue, to mark the final resting place of the man called Mertha, but when the sculptor approached the block of raw granite, three-feet by three-feet by nine-feet tall, he had nothing from which to create a likeness.  "How does one render an invisible man?" he said.   The sculptor pondered the rock, then the subject at hand, and left the stone untouched.  Future children danced in hand-held circles around the uncorrupted block of granite, each with a sculpted rendition of the visibility they would one day achieve.    


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