Obedience to the force of gravity. The greatest sin.
Mr. and Mrs. Molasses watched as the glass of wine slowly turned into vinegar. There wasn’t much to see, of course, and it took time—but time often hung heavy at the Molasses’ residence. (Thoughts hung heavy; breathing hangs heavy, even silence can behave heavily.) There were times when life seemed like an outbreak of musical chairs, but the music was always played too fast. The Molasses could never get to a chair quickly enough. Of course, they didn’t’ know this; and they were always the first to be eliminated. Sometimes it was Mr. Molasses and other times it was Mrs. Molasses. They didn’t care. They never played to win, just to compete was enough for them.
But the vinegar, what a wonderful wine it made! It had that bitter, buttery taste that both the Molasses liked. A small being of fermentation, is what they called it. Mrs. Molasses thought the process was like paint drying. To Mr. Molasses, it was more like the sound grass made when growing.
So they waited. The grandfather clock on the wall nestled into its duty of constant ticking. Black Strap, the Molasses’ dog of almost 15 years, hobbled into the corner next to the stove, and promptly fell into a whimpering sleep. Mrs. Molasses thought about their upcoming vacation. She was a little worried about Mr. Molasses. He was no longer a young man.
The Molasses family was about to go up a hill in January. They had already purchased their tickets. They had rooms reserved, and they had all of January to use them. They could take their time.
And it was a nice hill too. Hill number 01. The first. The best. Not too steep, not too arduous. It should be a wonderful trip. The culmination of a whole year of planning and deliberation. They should be able to travel easily along, seeing the sights that most people missed as they rushed through their day. Mrs. Molasses felt extremely lucky to have met Mr. Molasses when she had. There was a time when she didn’t know that anyone moved as slowly as she did. She never thought she would find a husband that could ponder the universe so innocently, and still take the time, as it were, to chew the cud.
Mrs. Molasses smiled that nice private smile she had. Mr. Molasses still had not passed her the glass with the vinegar. He seemed lost in a private world. It seemed he was still savoring the bouquet. He leaned back, one foot on the coffee table, one on the ottoman. He looked to be the perfect gentleman, which he was. Mrs. Molasses rose silently to her feet, took her cane, and slowly made her way into the kitchen. She might as well start supper. She had a whole pot of water to boil, vegetables to slice and dice, and a good healthy cut of beef—rib steak—that was frozen and hard as a rock and would take hours to defrost and prepare.
This was not a problem. A couple of canopies would tide them over. ‘Gone with the Wind’ was on television tonight, and although Mrs. Molasses had seen ‘Gone’ dozens times, she still felt drawn to the physical presence of Clark Gable. He was too fast for her, sure, and too quick to jump into something he really didn’t understand—not like Mr. Molasses, that was certain—but the savoir-faire! Oh my! Mrs. Molasses felt herself turning soft and marshmallow-like. Sugary. She had to watch herself. Mr. Molasses would be jealous. Instead of curling up with her on the couch to watch the movie. He would pull down Marcel Proust and read quietly to himself, mouthing the words as he read
Mr. Molasses had had a long day. He’d been on his feet since 10 am and was dog tired. He could have crawled in under the stove and slept the night with Black Strap. But he knew it was Friday night and Friday night was movie night in the Molasses household.
He was thinking, in fact, of another movie they had seen many year ago ‘Saturday Night Fever’ with John Travolta. Mrs. Molasses had dragged him to see it. He hadn’t expected to like it, but he had. It had a good beat and you could dance to it. Mr. Molasses, let a smile pass briefly across his face, chuckled and thought about ‘The Dick Clark Show’ that was what they always said. It had a good beat band you could dance to it. No, wait: the program was called ‘American Bandstand’. Mr. Molasses was proud of his memory. ‘Dick Clark’ had been one of his favorite shows when he was a teenager. He still remembered Dick sitting with the kids in the audience discussing Fabien or the Shangri-La’s latest hit with all the seriousness of monks discussing the Divine Comedy in the nave of Notre Dame Cathedral. Dick Clark never aged. Right up to the end he looked 25. He was stasis itself.
Mrs. Molasses had never liked the month of January. It was cold. It was dark, and she always got a cold, or the flu—or whatever—that that would take her the rest of the winter to get rid of. January reminded her of Dante’s Inferno. Way down at the bottom of the pit, the great Satan existed. It was pure being, frozen and unencumbered, expressionless, waiting so cold… January was a month without hope. January was the wolf month. It would be good to escape its fangs. And its manacles. They were going up a hill. That should help.
Mr. Molasses thought about thinking. He did this every day. He liked to think. It put wings to his words. But sometimes he thought about things so mundane it made his arms hurt, things like the weather, or if the Yankees were going to win the pennant. At other times, however, he thought about serious philosophical problems, questions that really had no solution, like ‘could you actually look at the face of evil?’ or was it possible to live on after your death? What Hamlet called the undiscovered country…did it exist? Mr. Molasses took such questions very seriously. It was one of the reasons he wanted to go up the hill in January. He wanted to experience the sublime; he wanted to have a happy ending.
Of course, the preparation was part of the trip. He would start tonight, after dinner. The Molasses, as I’m sure you can imagine, did not travel lightly. They brought everything. From socks to his rain coat; from his Burberry trench coat to his beany. He had to take all his shoes, sneakers, galoshes, hiking boots, flip-flops. Everything. You never knew what you would run into when going up a hill.
He also wanted to take books. An art book or two, a number of philosophy books, and of course his beloved Proust—and, at least one of Shakespeare’s plays, and maybe the sonnets. And the Bible. Yeah. And—well, some contemporary writing as well. Mr. Molasses was not going to a desert island, but still, you never knew. It didn’t hurt to bring a few more books with you than you really needed.
And then there was the intellectual preparation. He had had to learn what defined a hill—as opposed to a mountain. He’d researched famous hills, like the seven hills of Rome, Bunker Hill, Knob Hill. Did you know that Cincinnati like Rome had seven hills, and that most hills were made by eroding water, and not by the great tectonic forces that created the earth’s mountain ranges?
Mr. Molasses thought about the first time he had gone up a hill. It had taken a long time, too long. He couldn’t remember it too clearly. The hill had been steep, almost a mountain. He’d gotten lost, got turned around, right at the beginning. For a while it seemed like he had come down from the top and not gone up from the bottom. It had been more like a merry-go- round-chase than a boy scout expedition.
Mr. Molasses leaned back in his chair, suddenly confused and uncertain. It was like a pickle had got stuck in his throat and was dripping acid down into his lungs. A strange pain. Suppose he had not gone ; hill that cold day so many years ago. Perhaps he had never gone uphill at all? His mind was suddenly a bright red. Stop. The more he’d thought about it the more unlikely such a trip became. The pain subsided. He breathed. One of his legs had fallen asleep, that was all. He would have to ask Mrs. Molasses for a massage after dinner. No one gave massages like Mrs. Molasses. He could stretch out on the couch. Her hands would sink into his thighs like it was butter.
Then a 500 pound sack of potatoes hit him in in the chest, swinging from nowhere, crushing his rib cage. Smothered it. What was this? Was he having a heart attack? Mr. Molasses began to melt down, his body returning to sugar. He half fell to the floor., freeing his chest of the pain. That was better. He rested. He got his breath back then he felt the Lilliputians busy tying him to the floor. He panicked. They would kill him. He knew it. The day had finally arrived; and they were ready. Christmas was over, New Years was over. It was clear and cold .]Mr. Molasses thought about a race he’d read about in one of his philosophy books. The tortoise was racing Achilles. Now normally you would think Achilles would be a shoe in, an easy winner. But Achilles had been foolish enough to give the tortoise a head start, figuring he could easily pass him in matter of seconds. The problem was that by the time Achilles could get to the point where the tortoise was at the start of the race, the tortoise was able to get a little further ahead. And no matter how fast Achilles could run, every time he got to the place where the tortoise had been, the tortoise had managed to get a little bit farther along, He just could not catch up.
He was still on the floor. But he was feeling better. He thought: This trip was just like molasses going uphill in January. Just as Mr. Molasses knew that Achilles could catch the tortoise, he knew he could not, somehow, go up the hill. You can’t fight gravity.
That’s why they ran the race. Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a glass of wine. Jack fell down and broke his spine and Jill came tumbling after. In the distance, music began to play. It was the song they always used for musical chairs, ‘London Britches Falling Down.’ He listened to the music trying to determine where it was coming from. And yes, he was preparing himself to make a run for a chair. The great game of musical chairs was about to commence. Mrs. Molasses came out of the kitchen. His color had returned. She smiled. They laughed. She was so pretty, so young, and they were playing her song.. Perhaps, Mr. Molasses thought, standing up, as if he was a burning phoenix emerging from the ashes, perhaps they could wait awhile before they went up the hill…