September 25, 2009 § Leave a comment copy copy

me, bell, Bob, bell, Bob, Mom, Bradley

My mother is visiting my sister Davis in Pennsylvania for a while, so I went down for a few days. We sat on the rosy brick patio in the lush garden; I cooked a couple of dinners and played with Bradley the Mackerel Cat; Mom read and proofread my novel; and Bob took Mom and me into Philadelphia for a day. Davis was working—doing acupuncture on an aged, crippled dog who also has a regular physical therapist to exercise him in the pool, and a lady to sleep with him at night, should he have bad dreams. My sister has a lot of great stories. I’m thinking: comic novel about a vet. I could publish it after she retires.

Bob is my sister’s SO: charming, handsome, kind, an electrical safety inspector (another great occupation for a fictional character) who’s good at building patios, mixing drinks and getting along with everyone. He took us to the Liberty Bell, which Mom and I had never seen.

The Liberty Bell, as everyone knows, is cracked. The letter ordering it instructs, “Let the Bell be cast by the best Workmen & examined carefully before it is shipped with the following words well shaped in large letters round in vizt. ‘By order of the Assembly of the Province of Pensylvania for the State house in the City of Philadª. 1752’- and underneath – ‘Proclaim Liberty thro’ all the Land to all the Inhabitants thereof – Levit. XXV.10’”

Few have remarked on it, but that missing ‘n’ in Pennsylvania, a typo the engraver faithfully reproduced, was the root cause of the crack. What happened was the engraver saw the mistake, got upset and fixed it, then thought maybe he was wrong about the correct spelling and changed it again, and did this six or seven times until his hands were trembling with nervous exhaustion, his wife hit him over the head with a candlestick and tied him to the bed, and the bell was sent out with the ghost ‘n’ following it to the new world to wreak its subtle havoc on the bell, the country, and liberty itself.

I made up the part about the engraver. Rather, it came to me in a vision.  In any case, who can doubt that missing N has been floating around causing mischief for the last 257 years? Where do you think the term “Nobama” came from? (Google ‘Nobama’ if you want your daily shudder.)

Trust America to revere a bell that cracked the first time it was struck. “It’s a bell you’d feel comfortable having a beer with,” they said. “Let’s keep it.”

Poem: Sonnet To Liberty

Not that I love thy children, whose dull eyes
See nothing save their own unlovely woe,
Whose minds know nothing, nothing care to know, –
But that the roar of thy Democracies,
Thy reigns of Terror, thy great Anarchies,
Mirror my wildest passions like the sea
And give my rage a brother -! Liberty!
For this sake only do thy dissonant cries
Delight my discreet soul, else might all kings
By bloody knout or treacherous cannonades
Rob nations of their rights inviolate
And I remain unmoved – and yet, and yet,
These Christs that die upon the barricades,
God knows it I am with them, in some things.

-Oscar Wilde

davis2Davis and part of Bob


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Pensylvania at Mostly in the Afternoon.


%d bloggers like this: