The bridges of Baltimore County

Dick George

September 15, 1993|By Dick George

I AM reporting to you today from Dimension Z, which is a sort of parallel dimension to the one you're in, Dimension A.

I'm speeding along at breathtaking speed, and yet also standing perfectly still. That's how it is in this separate reality. I can't even tell you how I got here except that it took a whole lot of connecting flights.

I came here searching for Robert Kincaid, who is the protagonist in the best-selling book "The Bridges of Madison County." In the book, he's a photographer on assignment to shoot the covered bridges of Madison County, Iowa. He stops at a farmhouse to ask directions, and that leads to a torrid four-day love affair with a farm wife named Francesca, whose kids and husband Richard are off at the state fair.

Kincaid asks her to leave with him, but she can't; she has this family, after all, so he leaves and the two of them pine for each other the rest of their lives, never meeting again but leaving behind written affirmations of love, including a note from Robert about falling through Dimension Z.

This book turns women into jello and gets to a lot of men, too, myself included. But it also raises a lot of questions, and that's why I came to Dimension Z.

Hold it! Holy smokes, this looks like Robert Kincaid now! It ought to be easy to tell. Hold on! I'm going to poke him in the stomach with my finger . . . Ouch! Geez, it was like poking a fry pan. Robert? Robert Kincaid?

KINCAID: (Wheezing badly, the apparent effect of a lifetime of heavy smoking.)

ME: Robert, you are probably at the moment the most famous male lover in the world, and I was wondering: What's the most important thing for a woman, do you think? You seem to put a lot of emphasis on that flat-stomach thing.

KINCAID: (Unintelligible wheezing.)

ME: I mean, she's always noticing your stomach, "flat as a knife blade" at age 52. Those of us with stomachs that are flat as a spoon want to know, how did you do that? Was that Nordic Track, or Stairmaster, or what?

KINCAID: (Wheeze, wheeze.)

ME: Also, in the book you're always sweating, and Francesca seems to go for that. When I sweat, people tend to move away. Were you using a deodorant or anything? After-shave?

KINCAID: (More wheezing.)

ME: Nothing, huh? Interesting. You're a smoker, too. Do you think women think that's sexy? Uh, no thanks, Robert, I quit. Camels, still? You can get them here in Dimension Z? Whew! Your breath must have been a killer.

KINCAID: (Smoker's horrible, hacking cough.)

ME: Whoa, easy, big fella. Now, I have to ask you. All this cosmic poetry. You wrote to Francesca, "There are old winds I still do not understand, though I have been riding, forever it seems, along the curve of their spines." Robert, did you do a lot of drugs while you were in college?

KINCAID: (Wheeze.)

ME: Uh huh, I kind of suspected. Robert, listen . . . I just happen to live in a farmhouse where people tend to stop and ask directions, and I have a wife named Fran, and she's Italian, and my name is Richard, and I travel a good deal, and I was wondering, you know, man to man: What advice might you have for me? Lose the stomach? Get in touch with my feelings? What?

KINCAID: (More heavy wheezing.)

ME: Make love in the meadow? I don't know, it's pretty buggy. You think I should deep-six the deodorants? Tell me this: Is there any chance you might come back in another life or something?

There is? Listen, I live in Baltimore County, Maryland. Here's a complete road map. Let's not be knocking on my door, OK, Robert? I'd appreciate it. Now, I need directions. How do I get back to Dimension A?

Dick George writes from Baldwin.

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