Cursive, foiled again

When Kinross, whose cursive under civilized conditions was superb, but whose cursive courage was untested, was appointed secretary, we were concerned. True, for three years running, Kinross had easily captured ''Calligrapher of the Year'' awards - awards we coveted but had never won. Yet, those of us in the cursive trenches knew that Kinross, regardless of his Phi Beta Kappa cursive, had not passed his calligraphy-under-stress tests. When the National Director of Calligraphy appointed Kinross secretary of our unit, he was undoubtedly unaware of this important detail. And, here on the front line of calligraphy, we were afraid Kinross would be a prima donna - unable to cope in the calligraphic jungle of day-to-day cursive.

Feinstein, Weller, and I accompanied Kinross to the bank on his maiden funds deposit, transfer of signatures, etc. As we expected, Kinross, like a hothouse rose transplanted too soon in a frosty earth, merged untimely with the busy crush pushing toward the teller's cage. He strove to appear ''in control.'' But, when Kinross stepped up and placed the deposit and transfer paraphernalia on the marble ledge, his hands trembled. He struggled vainly to be brave, but he penned wretchedly, more wretchedly than words can express. When he had voided seven checks in a row (we were so embarrassed!), and his 10 attempts at a readable signature were futile, I snatched up everything, and we retreated ignominiously, people's eyes burning holes in our backs.

Members' shouts for Kinross's resignation subsided only when I stood up (partway) in his behalf. ''We all need help from time to time,'' I implored. I reminded them of Kinross's potential greatness, once the kinks were worked out. Kinross, inspired, vowed to try harder, and most of us rallied behind him. Feinstein, Weller, and McTish scoured the city to find shorter, friendlier bank lines. Weller did some fine research on the demographics of waiting-in-line dynamics, with Feinstein's assistance.

We accompanied Kinross to a new, out-of-the-way bank, with a small, undistinguished lobby, for a fresh start. When Kinross stepped (looking this way and that) to the teller's cage, nobody else was near. While not as good as it could have been, Kinross's cursive was not bad. We were half finished when an impatient crowd suddenly assembled behind him, urging him to hurry up. Kinross's cursive careened out of control; we retreated, though less ignominiously than before.

During a rainy Wednesday afternoon, while everybody was sitting around despondent, McTish, in his effervescent way, began to tell about the great cursivists of the past. McTish told how Boniventure the Bold (437 or 438 AD) cursivized his escape from a dungeon; how Ugub the Flamboyant (835 AD or thereabouts) fought a dragon with one hand, doing cursive with the other; how Sagarbaum the Insolent (1066 AD), when asked how he liked the Saxony climate, replied in stinging cursive unequaled since, that he didn't like it very much.

We noticed that Kinross, who had been slouching, sat up, and his eyes, fastened on McTish, took on a sparkle. McTish, encouraged, narrated late into the night, about heroic cursivists up to our own time, including the cursive revolutionists of the 1970s and early 1980s (Heinze, Crowley, Sturdmeijer, and that group).

It is not often that words change a man so totally, so quickly. But McTish's speaking so inspired Kinross that, at 3 a.m., he demanded to go to a teller's cage and do business. Kinross, as we all know, went on to become the fiercest calligrapher of them all. The Director, of course, called him to Washington, D.C., and the rest is history.

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