I believe I wrote more in summer 1991 as a fellow and graduate student in the Summer Institute of the Acadiana Writing Project than any other time in my career. Looking through the collected drafts and handwritten manuscripts that I happily preserved from that time, I’m astonished today at the output! Here’s a satirical piece recounting a true misadventure that happened on one of the more memorable commutes to the University that summer.
The Ballad of the Bard Aspiring, Recounting His Mechanical Misfortunes
A bard aspiring went a’riding,
The Cajun prairie he did traverse.
With quill in hand and parchment for writing,
This day would bear a curse.
Through rice field, meadow and farm
His course he pursued apace,
Bound for Hub City, there to charm
The elite of the scribal race.
His trusted steed, Ford by name,
Devoured the miles with ease.
But where the rain in Rayne falls mainly on Rayne,
The mechanical brake! It failed to seize!
Oh, pedal, why to the floor sinkest thou?
And givest me not my stop?
Why, oh why, must ye fail me now,
And to the floor so sickly drop?
Thus the bard queried the brute
As Ford went sailing along.
But the bard with fate could not dispute,
So he uttered a prayer and a song.
The end of the course loomed ahead.
An octagonal pot bid “STOP!”
The bard turned the wheel, to the shoulder fled
And amidst the rocks did stop.
So on to Goodyear the bard reported.
The mechanic quickly found fault.
“Master cylinder,” said he, “must be aborted.
A new one will make Ford to halt.”
In a matter of minutes the surgery was done.
The new vessel with fluid was filled.
But when put to the test, brakes there were none!
The mechanic must not be too skilled?
So back to the rack, another repair.
This caliper should do better.
But it failed—oh, what despair!
This cost will make bard a poor debtor!
Another guess—it’s the axle seal!
So mechanic made haste with his work.
He redid the gasket, the brake to heal,
But alas, Ford still had the quirk.
“What now? What now?” the mechanic wailed.
I have reached the end of my wits.
To repair this beast, I have miserably failed.
My spirit hath plunged to the pits.
But a happy end was not deserted.
Mechanic consulted his friends.
And when all their wisdom was concerted,
They tied up all the loose ends.
So with brakes anew, Ford took to his course.
Though broke, the poor bard was secure.
And mechanic, now happy, had found a new source—
Ask your friends if you want to be sure!