For one thing, they refused to immediately imprison me. This I found offensive. I was made to sit on something aluminum, and handed beverages I could not possibly drink. (Coffee, I did my best to explain, was OOP. Out of Period. Such beans did not exist in medieval Europe, so I assiduously avoided them.) My portrait was snapped, the air from my lungs scientifically tested. To the best of my memory, I was wearing a simple woolen tunic, nothing extravagant or untoward.
'Let's do this one more time. Just for the record, what year is this again?'
I liked the police officer charged with interrogating me. In him I noted the same pious dreaminess that often overtakes a medieval re-enactor after a long, involving Confraternity of Times Lost Regained weekend.
'AD 1256,' I answered. I was inebriated enough to imagine that he would see in me what I saw in him, and that he would not only recognize but applaud our similar life choices. Our costumes.
'Right. This your wallet, Eckbert?'
'It is my pouch.'
The police officer removed some cards from my leather pouch. The first was a wallet-sized, laminated reproduction of a painting of my son, Tristan, and me. Domenico Ghirlandaio's Portrait of an Elderly Man with His Son.
I raised my voice and rose to my feet. I did something which required another police officer to restrain my hands in metal cuffs.
'Take it easy, old man. Nobody is going to steal your library card.' The officer looked at me carefully. Slowly, he placed my Ghirlandaio back inside the pouch. He held another card. 'Burt Hecker,' he read. 'Well, and here's another, also says Burt Hecker. Confraternity of Times Lost Regained. That your thing, Mr Hecker? Medieval re-enactment?'
History, when you devote your life to it, can be either a weight into a premature old age or a release from the troublesome, promiscuous present: eternal immaturity as an occupational boon. Since I was thirty, most have considered me retired, unemployed, or fundamentally unemployable. I have devoted my adult life to amateur scholarship and the Confraternity of Times Lost Regained, the re-enactment society I founded. I've since been left a considerable fortune.
The fluorescence made me sneeze. 'I'm just an old man,' I said. 'Do with me what you will.' Telephones trilled and voices barked from small boxes full of static. Flags, bowls of peanuts, guns, computer screens imitating aquariumslunacy, plain and simple. Me in my tunic and homemade sandals.
'You do not have a New York State driver's license.'
The CTLR revel had not yet ended when I had absconded, stealing the automobile. It was the first time in my life that I had ever been behind the wheel of such a vehicle. I had had much mead. The last image I recall was of dozens of men, women, and children dressed in all manner of medieval garbprincesses, squires, knights, blacksmiths, peasants, and monksmy twentieth-century secessionists arm in arm around a bonfire, dancing, leaping, singing, with all that desperate blackness surrounding them, pulling at them, devouring the edges of their perfect, historically accurate illusion. Way too much night, I thought. They don't stand a chance. In any event, the idea with the Saab had not been to transport myself to any physical realm.
'Who is Lonna Katsav?'
'What?' Lonna Katsav was my best friend and my lawyer. 'She has nothing to do with this,' I added, finally shocked back into AD 1996. It was Lonna's Saab that I had stolen. On the wall was a framed photograph of the Governor of New York State, and one of the President of the United States. Since when, I wondered, did those wielding great authority begin smiling like nineteenth-century barkers? How could anyone take these men seriously? If everyone loses their mind at the same time does anyone really notice? I looked around me at the game being played, the idea of order and duty and society and justice being re-enacted, that stern idiotic bustle, and I knew, suddenly, that it was all over. I had crashed my best friend's car into a point of no return.
Excerpted from All Shall Be Well; And All Shall Be Well; And All Manner of Things Shall Be Well by Tod Wodicka Copyright © 2008 by Tod Wodicka. Excerpted by permission of Pantheon, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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