Sherwood Walks Straight


“'Sherwood, walk straight!!! Walk straight or I’ll bat your ears in!! Sherwood walk straight, or when you get to the end of the underpass, you’ll see great big letters, red letters three-feet high—‘SHERWOOD WALK STRAIGHT’—that will be to-night, and to-morrow night they will say—‘SHERWOOD WALK STRAIGHT OR I’LL BAT YOUR EARS IN.’ Those two men up ahead will print them there because they know I named you Sherwood to get even with my fat stale silly life, so you won’t have a fat stale silly life, and so you might live up to your name. They are going to teach me how to talk to someone I’ve named Sherwood—a new message on the end wall of that underpass every night forever, and one night I’ll look up from my grave and know that to a lad named Sherwood you don’t say, ‘Sherwood walk straight or I’ll bat your ears in.’ You say instead, ‘Sherwood, old boy, tone it down a bit, and try to walk with a little more direction, or you’ll fall off this breakwater and drown your silly little fat self before you get a chance to prove that I was right to name you ‘Sherwood’—and I’ll know that you are writing the messages on the end wall of that underpass then—and the two men will look up from their graves and we will have a drink to-gether, and shake hands and be happy because we will all know that I was right to name you Sherwood, for you will sign your three-foot red letters with four-foot red letters saying, ‘SHERWOOD FINKELBAUM? POET AND PHILOSOPHER? PRODUCT OF A NAME’ and I will shout, ‘Sherwood, walk straight!!!—or I’ll bat your ears in!!!—but you won’t hear me, and you will walk through the underpass up onto the breakwater and near the end of the breakwater you will say, ‘I Sherwood—poet and philosopher—product of a name—have always walked with direction, and I shall not deviate now.’ And the two men will scream, “Walk straight Sherwood!!! Walk straight!!!’ We thought of it long ago, but we really didn’t believe it Sherwood. We wanted to believe that the breakwater didn’t end—everybody wants to believe that it doesn’t end—but they lack the strength of their beliefs, and we lacked the strength of our belief—but you can do it Sherwood—you can do it. It won’t end for you, if you only walk straight. Sherwood, you bastard, walk straight!!! But you won’t hear them Sherwood, you won’t remember the two men, for you have been walking in their footsteps, and when you reach the end of the breakwater you will stop, as they did—and then, as they did, you will slowly turn and walk back the way you have come, and you will ponder—as they did—how the breakwater, to future historians, will appear to be a great sacrificial altar, and how the historians will imagine the post-holes to have held horrible prongs upon which were impaled virgins, whose left breast had been severed; and those large holes in the middle held even larger prongs upon which were impaled all of the Sherwoods of the day, and upon that high steel tower with the flashing beacons sat the high mogul praying for atomic control and the archeologists will spend years digging in this sand beach for their remains—. You will walk slowly back along the breakwater and understand that Americans are the only people in the world who will gather under a NO SMOKING sign to smoke, and swim under a NO SWIMMING sign, and dream under a NO DREAMING sign, and live under a NO LIVING sign, and you will understand also, that this might be because they have more ‘no living’ signs than others have. When you have thought these things you will have become one with the two men, and I will be left with fat stale silly thoughts, and the awful void of eternity in death as in life, and I will stand in my grave and howl and scream at you as you endlessly write your red letters on the end wall of the underpass—Sherwood—Sherwood, you little bastard! Walk straight, or I’ll bat your ears in! But again you won’t hear me because you know that man no longer wants great poets and philosophers, and the people will no longer come through the underpass—and then you will change your messages. You will write BAND-BOX, MUSIC-BOX, CASABLANCA, MELODY-CASINO, THE AIRLINER, HOLLYWOOD BOWL, THE COME ON INN, TROCADERO, CUBAN VILLAGE, SHANGRI-LA, THE BRASS RAIL, THE DOWN BEAT ROOM, THE FAMOUS DOOR, SHERWOOD’S DRUGS, SHERWOOD’S HATS, SHERWOOD’S READY TO WEAR, SHERWOOD’S FIFTH AVENUE, SHERWOOD’S EUTOPIA, and the people will flock to you as to a savior. Luscious languorous lascivious females will stretch themselves indecently upon the letters of your words and writhe at your feet in obscene homage, and you will be not Sherwood, the great poet and philosopher, but good old functional Sherwood, originator of all the names of continuous entertainment and name to all things that men and women die in righteous wars for. Then you will hear me, but it will be too late. You will try and walk straight, but you cannot, for everywhere you must turn from the indecent adulation of your great public. You will not be able to walk straight, and you will turn in faster and faster circles. The two men will rise again from their graves and try to stop your mad circling. They will shout, ‘Walk straight Sherwood! Walk straight you bastard!!’ but it will be too late and the luscious languorous lascivious females and all their satellites will be sucked into the eddy of your dizzy whirl, and finally into its very core and you will all go screaming and howling and spinning into the horrible eternity of continuous entertainment, madly grasping at dizzily whirling three-foot red letters which still spell security and truth to your frenzied flock. You will know better then Sherwood. You will hear me and the two men then Sherwood, and you will shout back at us, ‘Come with me, come with me. I need you now more than then. Come with me. I need more than a name. I can’t walk straight with just a name. Don’t you see that it was the name that did it. It was the name! The wrong name—the wrong name. I can’t walk straight. I can’t walk straight with just a silly name—just a silly name.’ You will shout that at us Sherwood, and I will follow you, not knowing what to name you then—”