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Possible new novel: The Antioch Flash

November 11, 2013

I took off all my clothes. Put on my caveman mask, a huge rubber head piece, kept my tennis sneakers on, and headed to the college cafeteria. I had promised to streak through the cafeteria on my last day at Ursinus College. I was a sophomore, and transferring to Antioch College the following spring. On my way through the dorm I remembered the couch in the lobby had been ripped open and its stuffing was filled with black coils that resembled pubic hairs. Ah, inspiration! I grabbed a huge mound of it. Originally, I was planning a streaking group assault, but all the guys who promised to join me faded. But I said, “I’m still doing it!”  So I bolted out of the dorm sprinting to the cafeteria. I was in great shape because I was on the tennis team. I was the captain and the number one player. I was practicing my serve one day and a tall girl, who was pretty, but had tons of makeup and lipstick and jewelry on, was watching me serve and commenting on how powerful my serve was. I could smell her perfume in the spring breeze. And I pretty much blew her off, after hitting each serve saying, “Eh, I just practice a lot.” She could have been Lebanese, kinda exotic, and I was surprised she expressed an interest in me. But all I saw on her was the accessories, and high maintenance, and I was leaving school for Antioch anyway, and didn’t want anything to hold me back. My whole life was some kind of mission. I was powered by Kerouac, and hampered by Salinger, and clueless in my own self-involvement. I didn’t know the woman’s name. Actually, later in life, anytime I was ready to make a career change and on the verge of leaving, a woman always approached me who I never thought ever had any interest in me, and if she had expressed an interest earlier something might have happened that would have kept me from shedding my skin to evolve to the next stage of what I considered the next quest. So I sprinted down the asphalt street lined by elms. “Fred, why do you want to leave Ursinus,” said Joe guy in a frat jacket, a Physical Ed major who was standing on a case of beer in the dorm stairway. “You could stay here and be an Ape.” One of the reasons is I didn’t want college to be the best years of my life. And Joe was a perfect example, years later he wound up a bar fly, who was trying to score with girls he once taught as a gym teacher in high school. He expressed surprise to me that they seemed so interested in him when he was their teacher but no interest at all in him after they became older and he tried to pick them up in bars. A buddy of mine who volunteered to coach high school girls soccer said, “They come at you, and it’s tempting. But you have to hold back because if you do anything it will get out, because you have to know that when your in high school what you do is not real unless you tell your friends about it.” That’s how I think Joe lost his gum teaching somehow, and became a guy who’d borrow money from his friends, then tip big at restaurants –you know, a big shot, and he said, “Those years were great. I’d sleep late, play basketball, head back to the dorm, shower, we’d play cards and drink beer.” The day before my streak, I was in the library, and there was a guy Roger, who was a frat guy, who was always partying. But he was in a library cubicle, with a stack of textbooks reading them. It was odd because classes were over. And he said, “There’s a lot of stuff in here I didn’t know. I’m going to book through all these books this summer.” He looked panicked, as if he realized he had gone through four years of college and didn’t really have an education. And as I approached the Widmer cafeteria I could see turning heads in the windows. IO sprinted through the cafteria to a huge ovation and laughter, I was leaping around and doing loud bird calls, and reaching down to my crotch and throwing out black nested stuffing like they were pubic hairs and throwing them into people’s soups. I grabbed a couple waitresses and danced with them, then bolted out of the cafeteria in one giant, adrenaline pumped up leap, the highest I ever jumped in my life. Then back to the dorm room, where I put on my clothes—all I wore then were bluejeans and sweatshirts and my hair was down to the middle of my back.  I returned to the cafeteria and received a standing ovation. Later in the dorm room, a guy knocks at my door and says, “Fred, I didn’t think you would do it. I know I backed out. But you did it. You made me feel like a hypocrite.” I think he was more jealous of the reaction I received, and how it might help him get girls. But I simply shrugged and said, “You did what you wanted to do and I did it, no big deal.”

At the height of the streaking craze, Antioch College made a big splash when there was a staged picture of naked students standing on the steps of the administration building shocked to see someone run by in clothes. I thought, now that’s the place for me. But I was going to a place where there weren’t sports teams, or standing ovations.

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