Once these preliminaries had been settled, Doff de Chonez decided to wait no longer before putting his project into effect, for he was afflicted by the thought of how much the world would suffer from his tardiness. Many were the misconceptions about nudity that needed to be corrected! So, without informing anyone of his intentions, and without anybody seeing him, on that warm July morning before dawn he stashed his clothes in his trusty bicycle’s basket, with a towel, some water, snacks, and a large bottle of sunscreen. Wearing only a patched-up helmet and sneakers, he mounted Bare Glider and took off down the dirt road behind his house. The ease with which he had inaugurated his great objective made blossom within him an immense satisfaction and boundless pleasure.
He had advanced only some hundred yards down the road, however, when a terrible thought overtook him, one almost strong enough to make him abandon the entire endeavor at the very outset. It occurred to him that he had not been dubbed a card-carrying nudist by any nudist authority, such as The Naturist Society or the American Association for Nude Recreation. This reflection caused him to waver in his purpose, but, his craziness being stronger than any reasoning, he made up his mind to have himself dubbed a nudist at the first nudist park, campground, or resort that he happened upon.
As our incipient adventurer pedaled along, he thought to himself as follows. “Who knows whether in the future, when the history of my famous deeds shall be brought to light, the sage who writes it–surely one of the more celebrated naturist chroniclers, such as Mark Storey, or Florencia Brenner, or perhaps Paulo Pereira–when deciding how to set forth my first sally in the early morning, may it not be set forth in this fashion? ‘Barely had The Bear Republic sun touched the newly bared shoulders of our bare adventurer, burnishing them to a bare-bodied buff, when Doff de Chonez pa su Mecha mounted his trusty Bare Glider and barreled along the bare backroads of Santa Bernarda,’” which was in fact the name of the small municipality where he was riding.
And he continued in this vein, now addressing his muse: “O Lady Mecha… Mechinelda,” adding syllables to make her name sound more mellifluous to his ear, “lady of my captive heart, dueña de mi corazón cautivo, an abiding motive hast thou visited upon me, for when I saw thee denuded, in the act of offering up thy clean, wet garments to the sky, like a sacrifice to the sun, I conceived the desire to uncover my person as thou hadst done. Venturing forth on thine example, I strive to prove myself worthy of thine honor. O Lady Mechinelda, deign to hold in remembrance this my heart, that thus in agitation pines for thy favor.”
He proceeded down the road, stringing together these and other absurdities, and although it was unkind to the precarious frame of Bare Glider, he did not stray from the rough dirt road which, once he had traversed it further than ever before, led him through vast fields of tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, and other produce for harvest. From time to time a farm worker would lift his head and yell, “Mira ahí, un pelado en bicicleta,” which Doff de Chonez knew enough Spanish to understand as meaning “Look there, a naked man on a bike.” But to the mounting frustration of our nudist-errant, the farm workers seemed to be a tolerant if overly dressed lot, providing none of the yearned-for opportunities to prove his mettle in the defense of nudity.
When, after suffering the heat of the day followed by the onslaught of the mosquitoes, and having stopped only once to reapply sunscreen and avail himself of food and drink from his own meager supply, Doff de Chonez happened upon a large vehicle around which were congregated a score or more of the farm workers, he became eager to meet the circumstances before him in order to defend his choice to remain unclothed. He saw that these workers, who at that moment were enjoying a very brief break from their labors and refreshing themselves, had removed some of their gloves and head coverings and placed them in a pile off to one side.
Straightening Bare Glider’s handlebars, the nudist-errant made a beeline for the pile of gloves and caps. Pulling up alongside, and sweating profusely, for, though he held firm to his guiding conviction, he had never done anything remotely like this before, he began grabbing the garb and stuffing it into his basket. The workers immediately noticed what he was about, and several of them began shouting at our hero, running toward him with most aggressive attitude. Doff de Chonez quickly rode away some distance, having filched an odd number of mismatched gloves, two baseball caps, and a surgical mask.
The workers who had been chasing him were struck by the folly of the situation. They stopped and yelled at him, “Are you crazy?” “¿Qué te pasa?” and further less decorous phrases. In this turmoil our hero, clutching one of the caps and raising it high, shouted “¡Atención! It is I, Doff de Chonez pa su Mecha, who doth beseech ye, sayeth unto mine ears the name of whosoever it is who doth oppress ye so!”
The alarmed farm workers, some laughing but most with blank stares, looked at each other in confusion, many averting their eyes from the uncovered countenance of our nudist-errant. The driver of the bus, for indeed the large vehicle around which they were congregated was the bus that would eventually take the workers back into town, came down the stairs and addressed Doff de Chonez, raising his voice.
“Mire, caballero, most of us understand English, but not yours. Your English sounds very complicated. On the other hand, what is easy for us to understand is that you’re a crazy naked man! On a bike. Out here in the middle of the cauliflower fields. And you’re stealing our gloves and caps!”
To which Doff de Chonez replied, “Listen, ruffian, and mark my words! While it is correct to say, nay, even to insist, that I am naked, and moreover, it may well be true that the declaration that I am crazy is not all that far off the mark, one of these assertions does not necessarily imply the other, and I beg of thy sensibilities to disavow such an automatic association!” Of course, very little of this was understood, since, in addition to the general incomprehensibility of Doff de Chonez’s convoluted reasonings and archaic diction, it all had to be shouted from a distance of some thirty yards.
But at this point our intrepid hero began to gesticulate at the workers as he continued. “What I want to know is, why do ye wear such excessive coverings? Several layers of clothing ye don, long-sleeved and long-panted. Many head coverings. Gloves, as if we were not in sunny California but rather the frigid arctic. Why do ye not open yourselves to the sun and breeze, as I, who will defend ye should ye choose to join me, have so done?”
His words were met with nervous giggles. Once again, it was the driver of the bus who spoke up. “You seem to be quite comfortable running around without clothes on, but we are not. And besides, these coverings, as you call them, protect the workers out in the fields.”
One of the workers nodded, saying, “Perhaps, caballero, if you would care to come join us in the field, you would see the need for these… coverings.” At this point, since Doff de Chonez understood that the workers had finished their respite and that it was time for them to return to the field, and as he was feeling conflicted about the matter of his thievery, he agreed to accompany them to their labor. He rode back to the workers, returned the items he had taken, and asked their forgiveness. Once this was accomplished to everyone’s satisfaction, the driver of the bus found an extra blade for Doff de Chonez to use in the harvest.
|From “How Cauliflower is Harvested”|
Leaving his helmet over the handlebars of Bare Glider, our hero followed some of the workers along a thin aisle between the rows of cauliflower. Mimicking their movements if not their protective wear, he bent over and pulled and sliced and threw. He found great difficulty in matching their pace, although he knew that in part this was simply because, for him, it was a new undertaking. But soon he felt calluses welling up on the palms of his uncovered hands, and he felt his thighs and shins itching from a bright red rash, and he struggled to breathe deeply the heavy air that seemed to him unduly pungent. He fell over backwards.
The same worker who had spoken to him earlier, addressed him again, saying, “Por favor, caballero, now that you’ve seen what we do, you should go on and leave us alone. We don’t want any trouble.”
A second worker joined him, scolding the first worker for lecturing the poor man lying there on the ground naked. She helped our hero to his feet, and then she opened her canteen and splashed water over him. Doff de Chonez thanked her.
“Escuche, caballero,” she addressed him, “listen. Es verdad, it’s true you can stay cooler out here without clothes on, sin ropa. Your sweat evaporates and cools your skin quickly, just like the water I threw on you. But when you are out here in the fields, you need to protect your skin from the bugs, from the chemicals, from the sharp knife, even from the hot sun. Yes, we get very sweaty and stinky, but we go home and nos bañamos, and the next day we do it all over again. We are just trying to earn money for our families, ¿entiende?”
Our nudist hero, heaving and panting and resting his hands on his knees, nodded his head. “Pero… But I will add that the whole operation here seems far from natural, and yet what could we imagine to be more natural than tending a garden, wearing nothing? Surely this is what our ancestors did.”
“Sí, señor,” responded the male worker, “but our ancestors, nuestros antepasados, did not have harsh chemicals, nor did they have to harvest huge quantities, cantidades imensas. These things, these needs, add up, and then clothing becomes our need as well.”
Doff de Chonez dropped his shoulders in resignation as he watched head after head of cauliflower travel up a conveyor belt to be rinsed, wrapped, and boxed.
“Señor,” spoke the female worker, “it is almost our quitting time. Today we have worked very hard to be paid very little, just like every other day. I have no food or shelter to offer you. Do you know your way home?”
“My lady,” spoke Doff de Chonez, “I most certainly know the way to my own home, about which, I must say, in gratitude, not platitude, that mi casa es su casa, and I pray thee not doubt my hospitality for even a second. Nevertheless, I would not be worth my salt as a nudist-errant if I did not press on to find a naturist resort, of the highest quality, where I can be dubbed a card-carrying nudist.”
“No entiendo,” she replied. “I’m sure I don’t understand, but look, just a little ahead off the main road you’ll find a bed-and-breakfast. Maybe you can stay there. When you get to the road, turn left, you’ll see the sign por ese lado.”
Perhaps the worker spoke in haste, and certainly her words were muffled by her surgical mask, but in any case, Doff de Chonez, whose actual abilities in Spanish were far outpaced by his faith in said abilities, deduced that what she had uttered after the word “sign” was not por ese lado, meaning “on that side,” but rather pelado, meaning–as you, dear reader, will no doubt remember–“naked.” He nodded with enthusiasm, took his leave graciously, and set out upon Bare Glider to find shelter at a hostel that, in his mind, must surely have pertained to an organization about which he had read with great interest: the Clothing Optional Home Network, a “Network of Nudist-Friendly B&B Style Homes.”