NOW FOR SOMETHING ENTIRELY DIFFERENT, or, MRS. HOPKINS
by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
SEATTLE, Wash. -- Mrs. Hopkins' brother, with whom she'd been living after the untimely death (because too long postponed) of her late husband, had promised to take her on one of the rock climbs with the incessant narration of which he had wearied her, to say nothing of her late mister - of whom no more, I promise - to the point of exasperation.
The point of exasperation was, in Ocala, Florida, in the 1990s, as theoretical as a point in Euclid. The Euclid. Not the one in Oklahoma. If commas, or delirium, or the two together, God forbid, upset you, read no further. Go turn on Martha Stewart. No, wait...Martha's in enough trouble. Better: go read last week's Ink Soup. This one is not for the squeamish.
You'd have to see Mrs. Hopkins. The bandana, had it been over the front of her head rather than over the back, might have served some social end - urban beautification, say.
As it was, the face of Mrs. Hopkins was seen in some quarters as a threat to the normal development of young children, as a disincentive to growing up, or indeed to any further growth. Efforts were made by those charged with shepherding them through parks to shield their eyes, but some saw her, and wept bitterly at night, beneath their blankets, spoiling their trigonometry books, besmeared anyway with anti-acne cream. Conquer hideous skin eruptions, for what? To look like Mrs. Hopkins?
I, on the improbably other hand, loved Mrs. H. She was my patient, I her therapist, and I saw beneath that repulsive exterior the shy, pretty girl she actually was, or had been.
Was it after all her fault that she'd been a guard at one of the Nazi death camps? It could happen to anyone, and it did, it did. It happened to many. Not all of them managed, as did Mrs. H., to grow beyond it, and above it, while never ceasing to draw energy from it.
To the observant, a holster with a Lueger in it, when strapped about the middle of a young woman who did not, clearly, have your best interests at heart, could be very bad news indeed. To the unobservant, like you and me, the great majority, it would not be news at all - just another odd person from West LA wondering which supermarket aisle to obstruct next.
But when Mrs. H. first arrived at my place of business - I tried calling it my consulting room, but no one could keep a straight face - she waved the Lueger in my receptionist's face and dismissed her. She'd been with me for five years, and I never saw her again.
We are not talking real weapon here, needless to say, only the effect of her personality on those fortunate enough to encounter her, and live. Word got around about my patients and I could not find another nurse in all of East Tennessee, the only place where I had any hope of finding one.
The only other place, northern Idaho, immediately disqualified itself when I found, on driving into Coeur d'Alene, a banner stretched across the main street: DOCTOR SOUP: DON'T LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON YOU OR MRS. H. IN THIS TOWN!
Well, I thought. Well! One knows that the buttered side of the bread always falls down, but still . . .
Stay with us now. We'll be right back after this. Or not.
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.