My Rocky 50-Year Love Affair by Jay Squires
Story of the Month contest entry
It would be impossible to tell you anything about the Tarots unless I first told you about Clarence Felter.|
Clarence was in his 70’s when I became his pupil. That was over 50 years ago. He lived alone, except for his dog, whose name I don’t remember, and in a shack that leaned in a number of directions, depending on where you were sitting when you viewed it.
He never let anyone in his house. One of us speculated it was because he’d killed his wife, cut her into manageable packages and stuffed her in his freezer.
I don’t think he even owned a freezer.
I’m estimating six of us visited Clarence regularly. The oldest of us was probably 25. We all worked as counselors in a home for emotionally disturbed children, called Brown School. Because we worked rotation on one of the three shifts, around-the-clock, it was rare that more than a couple would visit Clarence at the same time.
Usually, I went alone.
From the street, you couldn’t see his shack. You had to climb over, under, and through brambles and vines along the little path that led to his dirt-and-weed visiting area. One of us was always getting slashed by the branches that crisscrossed the path, like webbing.
Or an ankle got twisted.
No one never mentioned it, at least in my hearing; I truly believe that any such injury was considered part of the rite of initiation. It was a showing of our sincerity, a willingness to undergo hardships in order to be worthy of membership in the mysteries.
I know. That sounds dramatic. But true none-the-less. An unspoken, but very real, master/pupil relationship existed between Clarence and some of his wards.
Oh, before I forget— I take that back about the freezer.
That’s because I remember he came out of the shack once with a quart of vanilla ice cream. No bowl; just the carton and a spoon. He would dip the spoon into the ice cream, shove the filled spoon in his mouth, work it around with his eyes upraised in ecstasy. Then he would refill it, and hold it out for the dog who licked at it until it was of a size to fit into its mouth. Clarence would take another bite, give the dog another. Finally, he offered the spoon around to us.
I understood, and I think the others understood, that Clarence was testing us with the ice cream. Observing our feelings of impropriety. He was always testing us with random questions and then listening carefully — and with a tiny, waiting grin — to our answers.
I have something else to tell you about Clarence.
A Secret Revealed
I’ve been putting it off, fearing you might think I’m offering it out of a misguided desire to shock you. That’s not the case.
I guess I should simply lay it out for you.
Clarence Felter had an enormous set of testicles. Each was the size of a large orange. Or a small grapefruit — I don’t know.
When I first met him, I tried to ignore them, to keep my eyes off them, but he didn’t make it easy. He always wore the same loose-around-the-legs khaki shorts, and when he sat on his stool to read my Tarots, those gigantic orbs always oozed out one or the other leg hole.
He never mentioned them. Of course, I never mentioned them. But they were always there as a kind of obtrusive presence.
Granted, I could have written this introduction to the Tarots, and Clarence’s part in bringing them into my world, without once mentioning his testicles. But I’ll tell you why bringing his testicles into the picture is relevant.
Medically, I believe his condition is called Testicular Elephantiasis, or Scrotal Elephantiasis, more commonly called (or at least, as I know it) Elephantitis.
That’s the medical significance.
But Clarence’s condition was relevant to me on another level — on the psychological and symbolic level.
That requires some explanation.
Testicularity and the Artist
I was a burgeoning writer at the time. All my experiences — my work at Brown School, my visits with Clarence, the Tarot, my romances, bowel movements, insomnia, the people I met on the street, or in bars, in the gutter or in church, and everything, everything else — were grist for the writer’s mill. At about the time our master/pupil relationship began, I was devouring the book “Tropic of Cancer,” by Henry Miller. I took Miller and his philosophy of unfettered and uncensored freedom seriously. Quite, quite seriously.
In one of his “Tropic” books, or possibly “Wisdom of the Heart,” I’m not sure which, he explored his theory of “the reabsorption of the sperm,” in which sperm, not used through ejaculation, was reabsorbed by the creative-spiritual centers of the brain.
You need to know, I believed Henry Miller with all my heart. Henry Miller said it. It wasn’t theory. It was fact. It was replicable truth.
His argument was incontestible, insuperable.
By extension of what I now see as a kind of crazy, loopy logic, the larger the sperm factory, the greater the volume of sperm produced, then reabsorbed. (I chose to believe that, in his 70’s, Clarence was not sexually active.)
That made his testicles a freakin’ creative-spiritual dynamo!
And I was privileged to be his pupil.
But I’m here to tell you about the Tarots.
Clarence’s Spiritual teachings centered on the Tarot.
I don’t know how to begin to explain his Tarot teaching except that it was wrapped in the veils of the Eleusinian Mysteries.
When he turned over the cards, one by one, which I had laid out atop the planetary symbols painted on his foot-stool, I found myself singularly transported to ancient Greece. I romped on the playground of the gods and goddesses, the nymphs and satyrs. Then, with the bat of an eye, they transmigrated to wander easily through darker medieval kingdoms; now I was more under the spell of Rome than Athens.
The Master/Pupil Relationship Intensifies.
When Clarence perceived my interest was less in having him give me a reading and more in prying out the mystery locked in each card, he gave me some advice, and I’m going to pass that advice on to you:
I am learning and growing every day (except from 6–7 PM, five days a week when I watch the re-runs of “The Big Bang Theory”).
Now, I leave you in Austin, Texas with the spirit of Clarence Felter. I haven’t seen him for better than fifty years. He’s now at least 120 years old. His dog’s in his mid to late 50’s, and probably a bit cranky.
Clarence may test you with a spoonful of vanilla ice cream. Look for stray hairs. I hope you ask Clarence to read your Tarots. If he does, and you are sitting across from his Tarot board/footstool, try to keep your eyes off the hefty fellas peeking out from the leg-holes of his khaki shorts.
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