With terrible effort, a man manages to twist and curl himself into a shape that could hide from the world inside a burlap sack.
Unfortunately, he has no one to assist him into the sack. His girlfriend has refused, peremptorily. Her baffled frown suggested even a grimace. And the matter is of too personal a nature for the man to have felt comfortable approaching his friends.
With another terrible effort, the man unwinds himself. He decides to seek out a doctor he’s heard about, a specialist in unorthodox practices.
The doctor’s office is a bunker of musty shadows. The drapes are closed. The spectacles the doctor wears are strangely opaque.
“Yes, your request is peculiar,” he informs the man. “But human enough, from your agitated explanation. Your girlfriend refuses to assist, you say?”
“Even peremptorily so,” the man complains. He snorts. “I mean, you wouldn’t believe some of the things she—”
The doctor waves him to silence. He shrugs. His face takes on a philosophical scowl around his opaque glasses. “Relationships are a cradle of thorns,” he observes briskly. “What about your friends?”
It’s the man’s turn to shrug.
“I see,” the doctor says.
The man hands over the fee, which is very large, and arrangements are made to meet deep in the forest the next day.
At the designated hour, the man arrives at the foot of a tree in a great grove. He places the burlap sack on the ground. It resembles an outsized placenta that has been recovered from the attic after many years. The man takes a deep, grim breath. He proceeds to twist and curl himself, with much excruciating straining.
The doctor’s figure appears. It towers over the prone, contorted man, opaque-spectacled and carrying a rope. There’s a brisk question: Is the man ready? The man grunts. He has a little speech prepared as a worldly au revoir, but the doctor takes hold of him before he’s finished the first sentence. The doctor shoves and presses the man into the sack. He ties up the sack mouth with one end of the rope, and throws the other end twice over a great bough above that’s like an arms-wide gesture of welcome with one arm. He braces himself and laboriously hoists the loaded burlap sack off the ground until it’s six feet in the air. He ties the rope off around the tree trunk. He calls out a flat-voiced goodbye. There’s a muffled response, and then the snapping and crunching of the doctor’s shoes moving away, into the distance.
The coarse, laden sack hangs in midair, ponderous and bottom-heavy. Its occupant is not exactly comfortable, but remains determined in his desire for a haven of respite from the world, and all the world entails. Part of a venerable tradition, as he was going to affirm in his little speech.
A breeze comes up and bumps into the sack, so the sack jostles and sways slightly. The breeze then hurries on, brushing through the leaves and branches of the trees nearby and continuing on its way, into the depths of the forest.