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The Adventures of Tar-man
      by John Rose

[Tar-man Index]

Episode Four

A room. In the center is a work table, eight feet long and four feet across, piled high with blue velour, old burlap torn to pieces, springs, clips, wires, steel rods, splinters of wood, staples, sawdust, the odd tool, and seat cushions, some appearing to be intact but most in varying degrees of decay and disrepair.

Along one wall are some dilapidated wooden shelves with emergency light carcasses, exit signs, rolls of leftover wire, electrical boxes, and stationery from the Women's Film Society of America. Alongside the shelves run stacks of wood, and where the wood ends there is a corner filled with pipe and aluminum and sheet metal and a 20 foot 2x10 stretching nearly to the ceiling.

On the other side is a partial cabinet salvaged from a dumpster which holds a profusion of batteries, ballasts, plastic lenses, more wire, and tools. Next to it are stacks of drywall, particle board, insulation board, laminates, trellises and shims.

And along the wall opposite there is another, taller workbench containing in shelves underneath everything else. There are boxes of spare plumbing supplies, faucets, seat parts, an old drinking fountain, a stainless steel sink, vinyl tile, ceramic tile, rug shampoo, sample seat covers and lumber.

On top of this bench is even greater confusion: a roll of new burlap is laid out for cutting on one end, next to a vise, and surrounding it are door closers, deadbolts, locks, keys, rollers, cans and jars of chemicals, cleaners, solvents, paints, stains, adhesives and metal polish, and a cacophony of hardware of every description in mustard, mayonnaise, peanut butter and jelly jars.

There is no access to this room, properly speaking, except the few feet of space underneath the furnace ducts, and along three-quarters of this space are piled old toilets in boxes and several doors. A narrow passage is left to anyone wishing to gain entrance.

Twenty-five feet above, on the next floor, trying and often succeeding to exist in another dimension (only not when anyone is there to see it), is the lair of Tar-Man. The entrance is just a dusty old work-room, the worn remains of an ancient workbench in one corner, some burned-out lamps and old sacks in another, and a makeshift sawhorse. The most prominent feature is a permanent ladder fixed to the floor in the middle of the room and disappearing into a hole in the ceiling.

Through the hole is pitch darkness and rafters, relieved only by the occasional glint of light through a chink in the top of a fixture poking up through the plaster. But as one proceeds along the rafters, in the midst of the gloom is gradually revealed a window opening into another part of the crawlspace. Squeeze through this opening, which makes no sense in the middle of an attic, and you find yourself standing on a flight of stairs. At the top is a doorway, covered in padlocks, leading out to the roof.

This jumble of unused, misused, overlooked and left over architecture is the place Tar-Man calls home. Only here does he feel safe from the crowded, lying, rage-filled milieu below.


Copyright 2002. All Rights Reserved.