Friday, March 5, 2010

Mystery of the Knight Mangum Building

Lounging, as was my custom of an afternoon, in the comfortable offices of Dr. David Pratt, Pleasant Professor of British History, I darkened my brow over his tale of a curious, changeable spot, just overhead, that grew by stages in his imagination as the years wheeled by; until, at last, stirred, he flew tiptoe from the desk and jimmied off a ceiling panel, and there—“What was it?” I spluttered—“A cake!” he screamed. “Now where would that come from?” A little white cake. Of rock.

I like a good mystery and so passed things along to ma mère, who never at a loss for wherefores, laws, and such like, from my tenderest days, promptly set out in keen detail the value of snacks on demand, her roomate’s mastermind, the swift as midnight raid, the prized crème deluxe, the heavy tread of feet, the quick upward glances, the chair, the jimmied shingle, a knock, innocent faces--and all that followed. Those were the days, she expostulated, when dorm mothers still strode the darkened hallways, armed with writs from the academic senate and wired for kitchen raids and ladders.

“Well,” I demanded, “Didn’t she get back to it?”

“Who knows? There was always a lot going on, and she was like that.”

O Cake!
Sweet Cake!
To you I sing,
which once a thing
of powder, salt, and butter.

What madness caused
those too cruel laws
that pushed you into rafters?

What care and thought
in she who wrought
and mindful turned the batter--

Then you forgot
and left to rot
for twenty years thereafter.

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