It began with a bakelite brooch, a harmless piece of plastic purchased at a pawn shop for his girlfriend, Alberdina. He gave it to her in Marsuoin Park, asking for her hand as they enjoyed a polystyrene picnic, eating from plastic plates using plastic forks and spoons. Percy Boggs was young and did not realize the implication.
They married, moving into his grandfather’s house on Creek Road. Through the years the plastics came: celluloid, rayon, PVC, nylon, advancing with resinous patience, consuming his life like a slow-growing cancer. By the time Percy recognized the destroyer, he was too far gone to save.
“When I was young,” Percy would say, “a man put on his cotton clothing, fastened his leather belt by the brass buckle, and lived in a house made of wood.”
The house made of wood, in which he and his wife had raised their three children, built by his grandfather from trees felled on the property, where was it now? Hidden under vinyl siding like a pretty girl wearing too much makeup. When the Horns moved into the place next door and Monica began sunbathing in her back yard, Percy had agreed to erect 25 lineal feet of lust-proof privacy fencing. He wanted to build it of wood.
“May as well get the vinyl,” Alberdina told him. “It’s maintenance free.”
They lived in a plastic house surrounded by a plastic fence, drove a car with plastic bumpers, walked on plastic carpet, sat on a plastic toilet seat, drank from plastic cups, and had a dog named Polly.
“Should have named her Polypropylene,” Percy told his wife one night. “It’s like we live in a Barbie house. Our lives are injection molded.”
“Low maintenance,” Alberdina said.
Even a man who has prostituted his integrity to synthetics has a limit. When Alberdina bought the mint-green polyester seersucker suit, Percy refused to wear it.
“Don’t you understand?” he asked. “What I want is wood, leather, brass, and cotton.”
“You’ll wear it, sooner or later,” she laughed, putting it on a plastic hanger and leaving it in the closet. “When you do, it will look as good as new.”
Slamming the fiberglass door behind him, Percy walked across the manufactured-wood porch, opened the vinyl gate, and removed the mail from a plastic mailbox.
“Not in this life,” he mumbled.
Percy died at home, six years ago this spring, a nurse at his side, a plastic tube in his vein. He looked strangely restless in his synthetic coffin, dressed in the mint-green suit. Alberdina cried like a rookie widow but I could detect a hint of triumph on her face, as if she were saying through the tears, “You’re wearing it now, ain’t you?”
After moldering in his grave since 2010, I don’t imagine there’s much left of Percy Boggs. But I doubt that six feet and six years has damaged the suit. One generation passeth away and another generation cometh, but polyester seersucker pretty much abideth forever.