When you carpool, you don’t pick colleagues. They’re local or they’re not. Now Beal wasn’t only local, he was local color: white-bearded, green and black leaves, more Zeus in a Hawaiian shirt than a Social Studies teacher.
You’d have liked him—all dirty jokes and slang from teen years in the seventies, and then a coming together of preacher and professor—the auto-didactic man, the reader of a thousand books.
We had good talks those mornings.
“Makes you wonder—” I said. “—what they used before Aristotle invented Logic.”
“Logic isn’t the only source of knowledge,” Beal replied, nodding to Black Dog on the radio. “Like revelation. God telling men what’s up.”
I wanted to say science explained all that as hallucinations, sleep paralysis, and drugs but Beal added: “You see that?” He was looking up at the sky, at light and mist. “You see that? What is that?”
Beal cussed like one of his students and said, “There’s a blue hand coming down. Speed up. Speed up the damn car!”
“Is it a cloud?” I said.
“I can see its skin. Pores like… like honeycomb. It’s above us! Jesus, it’s going to grab us!”
I imagined a hand picking up the car like a beetle. But hey, didn’t Carl Sagan say one in twenty-five people hallucinate in their lifetime? Sometimes Carl heard his mother call his name.
Well, what if Sagan was wrong? What if the world is blue hands and dead mothers?
I drove the speedway, trying to retain the speed limit, trying to stay between dotted lines painted by men. Trying to ignore my companion, the mystic in the leaves, writhing like an animal looking for exits, screaming at light and mist.