Wednesday, June 03, 2015

On Being a Non-Conformist

"In the parlance of the 20th century, this is an oddball. His name is James B.W. Bevis, and his tastes lean toward stuffed animals, zither music, professional football, Charles Dickens, moose heads, carnivals, dogs, children and young ladies. Mr. Bevis is accident prone, a little vague, a little discombobulated, with a life that possesses all the security of a floating crap game. But this can be said of our Mr. Bevis: without him, without his warmth, without his kindness, the world would be a considerably poorer place, albeit perhaps a little saner."

Opening narration

It is fair to say that James B.W. Bevis (played by Orson Bean) was eccentric. It is also fair to say it was hard for him to find his niche. When first we met him, he was about to be fired from his 11th job in 18 months.

It would, likewise, be fair to say that, if Mr. Bevis didn't have bad luck, he'd have no luck at all. After he had packed his belongings and was about to put them in the back seat of his 1924 Rickenbacker, the jalopy was pulled away by a car whose back bumper had become entangled with the Rickenbacker's front one — and it wound up on its side following a traffic accident.

Somehow, Mr. Bevis got back to his home — except it wasn't his home anymore. He found the landlady carrying his belongings to the curb.

Mr. Bevis had no other place to go so he went to a bar — where he could look in a mirror and see his guardian angel sitting in a booth, but he couldn't see him when he looked directly at the booth.

Don't worry. Bevis was baffled, too — until the guardian angel explained it to him:

"Several hundred years ago, one of your ancestors performed an act of great courage. Now, part of his reward was to have a guardian angel assigned to one of his descendants in each generation. Current subject: James B.W. Bevis."

He went on to explain that it was his job to "watch over" Mr. Bevis, and he had been brought there by the events that had unfolded that day. He told Mr. Bevis that he could reverse the outcome of the day for him.

And he did. But it just didn't set well with Mr. Bevis. It wasn't who he was. In order for the day to turn out differently, he had to be different. He had to dress differently. He couldn't have a cluttered desk or play football with the kids on his street. He couldn't drive a 1924 Rickenbacker anymore.

He had to stop liking zither music and building model ships and the rest of it. He had to stop being himself.

And he wouldn't hear of it.

So his guardian angel restored his old life — with the original outcomes of each scenario. No job. No home. No car.

But James B.W. Bevis wasn't beaten. He resolved to find a new apartment and a new job and resume building a model ship he had been working on.

It was a nice examination of the life of a non–conformist.