Writing from the Heart: Chilmark fantasy

With homage to the New Yorker’s ‘Shouts and Murmurs’ column.


I am sitting on the outside patio at the Chilmark Tavern, happily devouring my Middle Road Honey and Citrus Panna Cotta, when Jenna comes out and says, “Ted and Mary want you to come to their table. They have a proposal for you.”

I don’t immediately jump to, since I don’t want them to know how starstruck I am, and how much I love them both beyond words, so I slowly finish eating, gently dab the heavy cream off my chin, and saunter into the main room of the restaurant.

It’s packed as usual, but I see where they’re sitting by following every eyeball in the place, folks like me trying to nonchalantly snag a sighting and maybe even a photo to send back home.

After formal introductions are made, Ted and Mary tell me they’re doing a new TV series and they need an actress with firsthand knowledge of the glacier moraine that formed the Vineyard. I don’t know how they got my name, because I barely made it through geology in college. In fact, instead of answering any of the questions on the final, I filled the blue book with a poem that I wrote:

“don’t blame me
it’s not my fault
I had nothing to do
with amygdaloidal basalt.
Because of my excess of salty saliva
I’m unable, unwilling to taste blocky lava
My brunch on Sundays includes
Bagels and lox
A much better option than
Your metaphoric rocks”

And on it went. Professor Kenwin gave me a D-plus, and years later I was told he would pass out copies of the poem.

The one thing I know, if anyone asks, is that the ice sheets gouged and plowed and then receded 20,000 years ago, which makes me wonder how old they think I actually am. They did say “firsthand knowledge.”

Or maybe they know about my open-mindedness concerning alternative substances. And they are willing to take imagination as a substitute for actual experience.

Whatever, I’m flattered and plan to say, “Yes I’d love to,” not even considering admitting my only acting experience was accepting my Academy Award in the mirror with my hairbrush in seventh grade. “I just want to thank my mom …”

But just as I’m about to ask about salary and a trailer with my name on it, who should walk in but David Attenborough, and they drop me like a hot accumulation of unconsolidated debris.

I kind of shrink away, a little embarrassed, but totally understand that David, being older than me and all, a guy who has probably never smoked anything stronger than an American Spirit cigarette, would be a much better fit for the series.

By the time I get back to my table, the relief that I don’t have to travel doing stuff on location and that I can just go back to my little humble cabin two minutes from my panna cotta habit is palpable.

I send a note on the back of the bill (where, to my delight, Jenna has comped me my dessert), “Tell any other famous folks who send for me with mystical proposals, I’m afraid I’m just not that available.”