|The cover of the Niles West High School literary magazine Apotheosis for 1967.|
Note—Today we are reaching far back in to the mists of time to a high school in Skokie, Illinois where a hick kid from Cheyenne first stretched his legs and dreamed of literary glory. I am exposing the world to that amazingly pompous young fool with this selection from Niles West’s annual literary magazine Apotheosis for 1967. The amazingly patient and encouraging Richard Gragg was the faculty sponsor but the selections were made by a board of students. I was over represented—four prose pieces and three poems. I was deeply disappointed that all were credited to Pat Murfin instead of the far more tweed-jacket-with-elbow-patches-and-pipe-smoking-dust-jacket-photo P.M. Murfin under which I had submitted my work. Did I mention I was full of myself? This is one of the prose pieces. More may be forthcoming from time to time unless I come to my senses.
A Minor Parable
The string was stretched across his path—not a really a string but a hairy-yellow twine of hemp. And a crude paper sign dangled from the string, “Do not cut String.”
“I’m going to cut it,” he said as he fished for the knife in his pocket.
“It’s just a simple rule-don’t do it.” She pleaded with him and there was a kind of fear in her eyes.
“I don’t like rules.” “Please don’t.” “Why not ?”
She searched her mind briefly then answered, “Maybe it holds the world up.”
“A little string ? It's only a rule. I hate rules.” He opened the knife and cut the string.
Nothing happened except the string broke and fell and the paper came loose and parachuted to the ground. “Only a rule.” He took her hand and they walked on.
The road was dirt and when it was dry, they were surrounded by beige-dusty clouds. When the road was wet, it clung to their boots and could not be shaken. But they did not notice the dust or the mud. They walked on.
At the end of the road was a big building of grey stone and red mortar. It had a green tile roof and gothic-arched doorways. The others said it was a beautiful building, but he looked at it and only thought it was big. He reached for the heavy silver handle on the heavy ebony door and with all his strength swung it open. They walked in.
They were in a long hall with a high vaulted ceiling. Purple tapestries hung on the wall.
The floor was a golden mosaic. And the ceiling shined of mother-of-pearl. “You are here,” the big man said.
“Yes, we have come.”
“You cut the string.”
“It was against the rules.” “I don’t like rules.
“It was a bad rule, a stupid rule, an unbeautiful rule.”
“It was a rule and rules are to be followed.”
“A string should not fence in a man.”
“Would you rather have iron bars?”
“I would have no barriers. But iron bars make more sense. To trap a man you need more strength.”
She saw that the big man was getting angry and started pleading with him, “Please, sir, it was only a small rule. He didn’t hurt you.”
The big man turned to her. “He doesn’t hurt me when he breaks the big rules. They won’t let him. They will call him a criminal and kill him. But if he breaks the little rules—the ones they call silly—they will call him a hero and break the rules themselves. That’s what will hurt me.”
“I don’t like rules,” he said. “The rule has been broken. The rule is dead.”
She was frightened. “Please!”
And the big man only turned and walked rule away.
—Pat Murfin ‘67