Field Notes, Installment IV
Usually when the girl recorded an unusual creature in her field notes, it is was a creature. Four legs. Claws. Snout. That manner of thing. After meeting Robert Schapper, however, the girl decided that restricting her field notes to beasts had been rather narrow-minded of her. As a specimen, Robert was so utterly unremarkable as to be moderately fascinating.
“All field notes should include at least one study in contradictions,” said the girl as she sketched quietly. So far as she was concerned, the fact that her thoughts had juxtaposed ‘utterly’ and ‘moderately’ together, and then ‘unremarkable’ and ‘fascinating’ meant the Robert qualified nicely as an exemplum contradictionis.
“After all,” observed the girl to a starling which had landed on a nearby branch to observe her progress, “it’s not every day you meet a young man whose ears have migrated to the lowest possible point of his head.”
Had any of the Schnapper family seen the girl’s sketch or overheard her meditations on their fifth son, they would have avoided each other’s eyes and talked loudly of the merits of strong beer and axe throwing, for the perilous hanging of Robert’s ears was an embarrassment to one and all. Any lower and they would have resided on his neck, and that position would have once and finally disqualified him from the occupation of hero.
Since it is an established fact that the ears of heroes are well behaved and handsomely situated to either side of the head–and not only-just-barely above the neck–Robert’s family had long ago dismissed the likelihood of his doing anything more heroic than managing not to tread upon his own feet. Had anyone of the Schnappers (particularly Robert’s younger brother Vipper) known that the young man still harbored high hopes of heroism (and wasn’t half bad at alliteration either), they would have laughed themselves silly.
The Schnappers were the sort of people who believed manliness and facial hair were one in the same,† on account of which remarkable logic, the entire Schnapper clan–from grandparents to third cousins twice removed—had given up on Robert amounting to anything.
It was manifestly unfair, for while the young Robert could have done something to ameliorate the expression of perpetual surprise upon his face, and while he could have taken better care not to step on his own feet, there was nothing he could do about his beard. Mother Nature had heartlessly condemned him to a life of scruff, and that was that.
After sketching the young man in her field notes, the girl stared at the page. Beneath her sketch of the underestimated Robert, she wrote only, “May he prove them all wrong.”
Before slamming her notebook closed in disgust, the girl added one last, hasty sketch of the mocking Vipper Schnapper with a quick note.
“Let that be a lesson to you, my girl.”
In this, she was being perhaps a little hard on herself. It wasn’t as if she was the first young woman to be misled by a dramatic head of hair. Moreover (and to her credit), it had only taken a few minutes’ conversation for her to realize that the well-groomed Vipper would never live up to the intensity of his eyebrows. Such disappointments happen all too often.
Still, if she was brutally honest with herself, the chin beard really should have told her e v e r y t h i n g. It really, really should.
† That created some difficulty where Great Aunt Stomp was concerned, but that’s another story.