At one hugely important spurt in my growth I took to wearing a yellow plastic boat on my head. In public, everywhere. Bridge and conning tower made a mold to hold my oblong skull firmly inside. I thought it was magic: at age seven, even giggles drawn from the girls in church were signs of the power. Yellowboat perched atop my crewcut so like sunblasted grass; just to think of Fremont Church and the yellow headboat, prow over brow, is to remember all things nautically connected, our blackforest green and whitetrim house, and the boat, and the tomboy girl I loved. Pepe lePew, did he give Tom ze notion, loving la belle tomboy skunk fatal?
But to realize, in one sudden fluster: you don’t wear a yellow plastic boat on your head, no, not even if your seven-year-old blue Sunday suit and bowtie are immaculate; to see the disapproval-stones flung from church elders’ eyes! I wanted to run through the electric April grasses into a swimming pool and let the charge from the green blades burn me at first watery contact. Still in the Sunday suit, still the yellow boat for a hat, but floating deadboy and crisp. First embarrassment, first love, my whitish-blond girl adored, the gaggle of smart church girls ignored. One long blush for the thought that a yellow boat might crown me admiral.
I wouldn’t run headlong into an electrocuting pool, even had the gate to suburban death lain open. But still see me, pew-sitting, arms folded, not removing the viewblocking hatboat until Dad (who can: he’s been in the Navy) strips me of the yellow mass, deposing me as the long lightstream arrows kingly and softcolored through the stained glass windows.