Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Corn Maze

I saw my first sign for a corn maze yesterday and my blood turned to ice water in my veins. Here's a "Susan Says..." classic that will explain why....

The Corn Maze

Ah, autumn. 

Warm, golden days and cool,refreshing nights. Flaming maples, their scarlet leaves bright against the periwinkle skies of the season.  Gleaming pyramids of rosy, locally grown apples stacked to the sky at outdoor markets. Hay bales and colorful mums adorning our front steps and the rumble of  yellow school buses carrying eager youngsters back to class.  And corn mazes.

I harbor certain fears in this life—terrorism, airplanes, dental drills, any old movie with Tony Randall….and corn mazes. Signs announcing their existence start popping up about now. Often rustically hand-lettered on cardboard, they line the sides of local roads.  I avert my eyes and step heavily on the gas.

Who came up with this madness, anyway? A sadistic farmer with bodies already buried under the barn but who’d lost his spark for procuring fresh victims, perhaps. “Yes, I will trap hapless souls by ensnaring them in a maze of towering corn!  And—wait for it— I shall charge them a fee, wooohooo!”

About a thousand years ago, when I was a very Brooklyn-ized young lady and the only indications of a change of season were new displays in card-store windows, my idea of a lovely fall excursion meant a subway trip across the Manhattan Bridge to a museum.  One crisp day I was invited, by an equally Brooklyn-ized young man named Anthony (I only dated guys named Anthony—it was a strict rule) with a penchant for high-waisted  pants,  to “go the country” to see what there was to see.  This suggestion was anxiety producing (what was this place known as “the country?”) but wanting to impress Anthony, I slapped on some blue eyeshadow and off we went. 

To this day I have no idea where we were.  I know it involved lots of sneezing , acres of pumpkins, and countless signs announcing the elusive presence of fresh pies.  And a corn maze.  My date, probably a budding serial killer himself, wasn’t sure what a corn maze was but it appealed to him.  Having had problems with mazes in Highlights Magazine as a child (I also preferred Goofus to Gallant-- a harbinger of personal conflict on other levels), the word “maze” conjured feelings of confusion and inadequacy.  Wanting to appear fun-loving and agreeable, I smiled as Anthony forked over money he’d earned  shoveling popcorn at the Loew’s Oriental on 86th Street and, in we plunged.

It was very crowded.  There were armies of small “country children” gurgling gaily, their hands sticky from country goo as they pushed past my city legs.  I became separated from Anthony almost immediately.  Unable to find him, my cries for help were apparently absorbed by the dry stalks around me  and I stumbled about for what I believe to have been several days.  

At one point I heard someone shouting my name but panic already had me in its grip and, as I turned corner after corner, choking on some sort of toxic dust piped in by the farmer to numb his victims, I was unable to answer.  It soon became a full blown horror movie filmed in slo-motion and I have no recollection of how I eventually escaped.  If my date hadn’t been nearly as strung out as I was, I would have been very angry but it seems that he was having a similar experience somewhere else in the maze.

On the way home, we agreed never again to venture out of the four boros (we said four because  Staten Island is considered the country)or speak of this to others.  We ended up at a favorite diner, comforting ourselves with slabs of cherry cheesecake—the official post- date snack of all Brooklynites— and glasses of cold milk which caused, shall we say,” digestive” issues with poor Anthony whose Saturday Night Fever pompadour was already seriously compromised by earlier trauma. Sadly, it was one of the better dates of that period of my life.

So, we never went out together again.  

If we ran into one another, he with another blue-lidded young lady and me, with another of the remaining  Anthonys, we’d nod silently, the unfortunate combo of corn and cheesecake forever in the rear view mirror of our youth.

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