My Life with Orr
I started reading that book, Out of Africa. I’d read it already, but I wanted to read certain parts over again. I’d only read about three pages when I heard somebody come in through the tent. It was Orr, this guy that roomed with me.
“Hi,” he said. He always said it like he was terrifically bored or terrifically tired. He wanted you to think he’d come in by mistake, for God’s sake.
“Hi,” I said, but I didn’t look up from my book. He started tinkering with the faucet that fed gasoline in to this ridiculous stove he had started building.
“What are you doing?” I asked him.
“What?” he said. He always made you say everything twice.
“What are you doing?” I asked again.
“There’s a leak here. I’m trying to fix it.”
“Well, stop it, will ya? I’m trying to read here.”
“What the heck ya reading?” he asked. He was kneeling on the floor of the tent now. He was taking the faucet apart, counting and studying all the tiny pieces carefully, and then reassembling the whole thing back together. He could do it for hours at a time. Over and over again. It killed me.
“This sentence I’m reading is terrific,” I said. He finished tinkering around with the faucet and started walking around the tent, very slow and all, picking up stuff. He picked up this picture of this girl I used to go around with before I got drafted, Sally Hayes. He musta picked up that picture a thousand times ever since I put it up.
“When I was a kid, I used to walk around all day with crab apples in my cheeks. One in each cheek.” I threw the book down. It was impossible to read anything with a guy like Orr around you.
“Why?” I finally asked.
“Because they’re better than horse chestnuts,” he answered with a twinge of triumph in his voice. “Why’d you walk around with crab apples in your cheeks? That’s what I asked,” I said, glaring at him. He didn’t notice, of course. He was still pacing around the room.
“When I couldn’t get crab apples, I used horse chestnuts. They’re about the same size and actually have a better shape, though the shape don’t matter much. Who belongsa this?” He was holding the hunting knife from the mosquito-net bar by the dead man in our tent. That guy Orr’d pick up anything. I told him it was the dead man’s. So he chucked it backwards, and it landed three inches away from the dead man’s head. If Old Orr had better aim, it probably woulda killed the guy, if he weren’t already dead.
“Why did you walk around with anything in your cheeks?” I was losing my patience now. You always lose your patience when you’re talking with a guy like Orr.
“I didn’t walk around with anything in my cheeks. I walked around with crab apples in my cheeks, and when I couldn’t get crab apples I used horse chestnuts. In my cheeks. One in each cheek.”
“Because I wanted…”
“On my god! Why did you want—”
“I wanted apple cheeks,” he replied. He started cutting his toenails. He was doing it over the floor, too, so I’d walk on them with my bare feet later. “Well, not really. I didn’t want apple cheeks. I wanted big cheeks. I didn’t care about the color so much, but I wanted them big.”
“Do you mind cutting your nails over the table, hey?” He kept right on cutting them over the floor. What lousy manners. I mean it.
“Do you want to know why I wanted big cheeks?”
I didn’t answer. Instead I grabbed my Nike VR-S STR8-FIT Driver and attacked him. The 4-degree range of face-angle adjustability really helped me connect, you know?