1. 61. Collaborating with the Oligarchy

    October 23, 2016 by Daniel

    Fulton Chapel

    61. Collaborating with the Oligarchy  – Saturday, October 23

    Mr. Duck, Mrs. Sutherland’s dry waller,  looks nothing like a duck. Actually, he most closely resembles a piece of driftwood. Lean, sinewy, not a trace of beard or body hair, apart from the fringe of white on his head. His smoothly weathered skin seems to give off a brown glow.
    The way he cocks his head and peers at me when Mrs. Sutherland introduces us is, however, distinctly bird-like. The insulation problem around the sky light has been solved, and Mr. Duck has just installed the last section of dry wall. The mud between the seams still wears a wet sheen.
    He’s taking a cigarette break on the back porch with Rusty, his heavy-set assistant.
    “So you’re in classics. You’ve read Xeonophon?” Mr. Duck asks me.
    The Anabasis was required translation in my sophomore Greek class.”
    “I’d like to learn Greek someday. But not for the Anabasis. I’d like to read his Socratic dialogues, see how they compare to Plato’s in the original. In the Loeb’s translation I have back at the trailer, he avoids calling Socrates ‘wise,’ which is a central word in Plato’s characterization, probably to avoid tainting him with Aristophanes’ accusation of being an atheist. Which he was, of course. And he deserved what he got.”
    “What are you saying?” Rusty demands.
    “I’m saying that the court was right to convict him. Socrates was an oligarchic collaborator, an enemy of democracy. An enemy of the people. Who do you think created Alcibiades and Critias?”
    “He was a martyr to the truth.”
    “Bull. What junior high school textbook did you get that idea from?”
    “He saved Leon of Salamis.”
    “He did not. Socrates ran home like a scalded dog and hid under his bed. Don’t talk to me about Leon of Salamis.”
    “I don’t know why I ever bother arguing with you,” Rusty grouses. “You’ve got a closed mind.”
    “Because you work for me, and an ignorant drunk like yourself is lucky to have a job.” Mr. Duck rises, stubs his cigarette in the lip of a bottle of RC Cola, and turns to me. “The walls will be finished and dry by Friday. You can start any time after that. Come out to the trailer park sometime. You know where Campground Road is? We can talk history without pea brain here interrupting.”

  2. 60. What’s That Smell?

    October 22, 2016 by Daniel

    Circle view

    60. What’s That Smell? – Friday, October 22

    I hold the dust pan and the trash bag while Suzie sweeps food from the kitchen floor.
    “What do you think they were looking for?” she poses the rhetorical question.
    “What has James gotten himself into this time?” she asks the air.
    “Hey, Daniel,” Nick says. “What were you raised as?”
    “What species? My mother was human. My father’s a capitalist.”
    “No, I mean what religion.”
    “Far out. What was that like?”
    “I was either bored shitless or scared shitless the whole time. It’s a faith delicately constituted of tedium and terror. Why?”
    “Nick thinks we should join a church,” Suzie explains. “For the baby. He wants our child to have all the disadvantages we had.”
    “I think religion is a good thing for kids.”
    “Yes, certainly – if you want them to be emotionally scarred and intellectually stunted.”
    “What the fuck happened here?” Garrett asks, standing bewildered in the doorway.
    “James’ drug buddies trashed the place, searching for something. I’m amazed you slept through the racket.”
    “I wasn’t even here. I’ve been out all night.”
    Suzie sniffs the air with a frown. “What’s that smell?”
    “That’s me.” Garrett glances down at the caked soles of his tennis shoes. “I’ve been walking in cow shit.”

  3. 59. Intruders

    October 21, 2016 by Daniel

    Oxford neighborhood

    59. Intruders – Thursday, October 21

    I wake again on my pallet, this time with Herodotus fanned across my chest. The lamp is on, and my clock reads 11:17.
    Noises downstairs. Furniture being pushed around. Cupboards being opened and closed.
    I creep down the stairs to see what’s going on. Somebody’s trashing the place. Cushions have been pulled out of chairs and sofas, books swept from shelves, everything on the floor.
    They’re in the kitchen now, dumping our boxes of cereal, rice and dried spaghetti on the floor, digging with bare hands into our canisters of flour and sugar.
    It’s the head man from James’ harvest deal, with one of his partners.
    “Where is it?” he asks me.
    “Where is what?”
    “Look, James is out of town. I don’t know what you’re searching for, but it’s probably not here. And that’s our food, man.”
    “You know where he is?”
    “I don’t. Chrissake, look at this mess. If you guys think we’re holding here, you’re wrong. Not with the bust about to happen. James cleaned out everything before he left town.”
    “We’re leaving, too. Just as soon as we find it.”
    “What in the hell is it?”
    The lead man’s partner punches me in the stomach and I collapse.
    “Ask James,” the lead man says. “He knows. Tell him I’ll be back.”

  4. 58. Rose on Roses

    October 20, 2016 by Daniel


    58. Rose on Roses – Wednesday, October 20

    “Men are idiots. All of you. Idiots,” Rose declares.
    I’m reporting yesterday’s conversation with Cindy on our way back from a beer run to Holly Springs. I’ve volunteered to make the actual purchase, because it’s considered un-ladylike for a member of Delta Delta Gamma to buy five cases of Bud from the carry-out on highway 7.
    Serving as her male factotum, I’ve conduct the transaction and loaded the beer in the trunk, while Rose remained inside her ’69 Mustang, incognito.

    Now we’re on the road back to Oxford. Just over the Tallahassee bridge, we notice one of the sheriff’s squad cars stationed by the side of the road, deputy in the drivers seat doing nothing. No speed gun. No nothing. Just watching the traffic go past.
    “What can I do to apologize?” I ask as Rose accelerates, once out of his line of vision.
    “This calls for flowers,” she says. “Roses. Red.”
    “I don’t have any money.”
    “You mean you’ve already spent your cut from the Harvest?”
    “Garrett and I have vowed to use that money for good works.”
    “Idiots. Look in my purse. I think I have a $5.00 bill in there. Call it a loan until the first of the month.”
    Rose parks behind the sorority and checks inside, to be sure the house mother isn’t around. As we unpack the trunk, a dozen or so of the sisters wander out. A few help carry, but the majority simply watch.

    Since they’ve all probably seen the trunk of a car being unloaded before, I assume I’m the object of curiosity – a real live hippie, in the flesh. They’ve probably heard cautionary tales about us at Vacation Bible School. Still, they seem friendly enough.
    “Thank the nice man,” Rose says to them as I’m leaving.
    “Thank you, nice man,” they call.
    Five dollars is enough for four roses at the flower store on Jackson Avenue, with 13 cents change.
    “Somebody’s funeral, college boy?” Deputy Hacker asks when he sees me carrying flowers across the Square.
    “They’re for a girl.”
    “You oughtn’t be throwing your money around. You’re going to need cash pretty soon to post bail for your friends. Maybe even for yourself. Major bust is coming down.”

    Cindy’s curled on the couch, watching a rerun of I Dream of Jeanie. I enter the room, flowers hidden behind my back.

    She glances from the set to me, suspicious, then returns her gaze to the screen, petulant. “What do you want?”    
    I produce the bouquet and extend it to her. “I just want you to know that you never have to leave the house with an unwashed back again.”

  5. 57. Looking Good in a Burka

    October 19, 2016 by Daniel


    57. Looking Good in a Burka  – Tuesday, October 19

    Dr. Evans is commiserating with me about my difficulties with my German class over lunch in the cafeteria.
    “It’s an unsonorous language,” he agrees, “though very well constructed, grammatically. Sort of like a Volkswagen.”
    “The department requires it for an advanced degree, though. They say that the best classical scholarship for the past century has been in German.”
    “Linguistically, though, it would make more sense to have you proficient in a romance language. Si dovrebbe imparare l’italiano.”
    “You speak Italian?”
    “I was stationed in Sicily during the war,” Dr. Evans fiddles with his pipe again, trying to keep it lit. “Picked it up like a native, but I haven’t had much cause to use it since.”
    “You could have long chats with Dr. Giordano.”
    Cindy suddenly appears, drops into the chair beside me.
    “I’m sorry I said you’re skinny.”
    Dr. Evans stops messing with his pipe. His eyes widen with interest.
    I make introductions. “Cindy, Dr. Evans. Dr. Evans, Cindy.”
    “As am I. But I don’t understand what you’re apologizing for. Daniel is skinny.”
    “It’s not so much that I said he’s skinny, as where I said he’s skinny.”
    His interest intensifies. “Where did you say he was skinny?”
    “In the shower. And he’s been avoiding me ever since. He didn’t even invite me to the movie with our friends last Saturday night.”
    “Look,” I say, “you just caught me by surprise. I didn’t expect you to ….”
    “I was in a hurry. I explained that. And I thought you’d wash my back. I had to go to the interview with a dirty back.”
    “No gentleman would leave a young lady with a dirty back,” Dr. Evans chastises.
    “He almost jumped out of the shower,” Cindy says to Dr. Evans, “as if he’d never seen a naked girl before.”    
    “You have, haven’t you?” Dr. Evans asks me.
    “Well of course I have. I just didn’t expect to see Cindy naked. It was embarrassing.”
    “Why?” Cindy wants to know.
    “Because you’re a friend.”
    “No kidding. I wouldn’t have come in if I didn’t like you, you know.”
    “But, I mean, that’s all we are. Friends.”
    Her eyes widen. “What? You thought I was after your body? Wow. What’s wrong with you, Daniel? I mean, who raised you to think that way?”
    “Yes,” Dr. Evans wants to know, “who did raise you?”
    “Look, I’m sorry. You just caught me by surprise, is all.”
    She rises and stands stiffly by her chair. “No, no. My mistake entirely. I didn’t realize how delicate your sensibilities are. I’ll try to find a burka at Neilson’s to lounge around in at home, so you’ll never be embarrassed again.”
    Dr. Evans watches her leave. “I don’t know,” he says. “She’d probably still look pretty good, even in a burka.”

  6. 56. Suicide in the Museum

    October 18, 2016 by Daniel

    Bishop and Bondurant Halls

    56. Suicide in the Museum  – Monday, October 18  

    An ambulance is parked along Fraternity Row and a gurney is being wheeled into Bishop Hall as I get out of class.
    Dr. Goodleigh is watching the excitement from her office window in Bondurant when I reach the museum.
    “What’s going on?” she asks.
    “Somebody had a heart attack in modern languages.”
    Her left eyebrow arches. “Really? Which specific languages did he have the attack in?”
    “Okay, so it wasn’t a bilingual coronary. I meant that somebody in modern languages had a heart attack.”
    “Every time I see the squad over there, I worry that it’s going to be Bill Sutherland attempting suicide again.”
    “Mrs. Sutherland says he’s in therapy.”
    “As if that ever cured anybody. The doctors can’t do anything for depression. Just talk, no treatment. And his condition seems to be deteriorating.”
    Dr. Goodleigh follows me back into the museum, apparently in a mood for talk.
    “Somebody died right here, you know.”
    “I didn’t.”
    “Back in 1959. The museum hadn’t been created yet. This space held offices for the philosophy department. Old Dr. Linen, 38 years of service, attended that year’s commencement ceremonies, then returned to his office and hanged himself. Right where your desk is.”
    “May I move my desk?”
    “Quite a few times I thought I’ve seen him doddering around here, squinting at the pots. Does that surprise you?”
    “That there was somebody on the faculty named Dr. Linen?”
    “No, that he haunts the museum.”
    “Oh, please.  The whole town sits on some kind of psychic sinkhole. Show me a building around here that doesn’t have at least one ghost. My junior year in Garland Hall, even the second floor shower stall was haunted.”
    “Then Professor Linen shouldn’t present a problem for you.”

  7. 55. Proverbs 36:1

    October 17, 2016 by Daniel

    Oxford church

    55. Proverbs 27:14 – Sunday, October 17

    Garrett answers James’ call on the second ring.
    “Where are you guys?” he asks. “Lexington? What’s happening in Lexington? Oh. Okay. I get it. Yeah. Yeah. It was Proverbs 36:1. Yeah. Okay. Bye.” He laughs. “James is convinced that the phone is already tapped.”
    “What was that about Proverbs?”
    “I told him that was the verse for the day.”
    “You lied. Nobody posted anything overnight. So what’s that verse?”
    “Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish.”

    “I’m perishing.”

    “So am I. Let us hasten to Holly Springs. Mayhap to meet an angel on the road.”

  8. 54. Another Night at the Lyric

    October 16, 2016 by Daniel

    The Lyric

    54. Another Night at the Lyric – Saturday, October 16

    Movie night, The French Connection at the Lyric.
    Just as Garrett and I are preparing to leave, Rose, then Clamor and finally Dr. Hirsch arrive, all looking for James, all disappointed to learn that he’s back on the road again, though Rose takes the news philosophically.
    “Probably best for him to get away. Rumors are flying all around town about a big bust in the works. You boys aren’t holding, are you?”
    We invite them to join us for dinner at Colemans, before the movie. We make an odd-looking party – Clamor, Hirsch, Rose, Garrett and me in the corner booth with piles of barbecue, Cokes and Hostess fruit pies.
    “This may be the strangest date I’ve ever been on,” Rose whispers to me as we proceed together to the Lyric.
    The theater is crowded tonight, but we find five seats together in the second row. We’ve smuggled two bottles of Wild Irish Rose in. Garrett unscrews the first and passes it down the line.
    We’ve barely gotten settled in when the show starts. No previews. No cartoons. No news. Some French detective gets his head blown off while checking a mailbox. Gene Hackman’s dressed up like Santa Claus, singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” with a bunch of kids in a bar. Then a chase scene that ends with Gene pistol-whipping a pusher and questioning him about picking his feet in Poughkeepsie. The bottle comes back to me.
    Jane Fonda is a high-price call girl who’s being stalked by a serial killer. I’m trying to make the connection between this story line and the one with Gene, who’s tracking drug runners, but there isn’t one. It turns out we’re watching a preview of another movie entirely.
    “Do you smell something?” I whisper to Garrett.
    “Hash. Ho and the projectionist must have lit the bong.”
    Gene and Roy return.  (Hackman and Scheider, not Autry and Rogers.) The audience settles back into the film until a Woody Woodpecker cartoon interrupts another chase scene. The audience is shouting curses and complaints at the projectionist booth.
    “I love Woody Woodpecker,” Clamor volunteers.
    The screen goes blank, and stays that way. People begin stumbling for the exits in the dark, searching for the manager, but only old Jeff, the one-toothed guy who mans the ticket stand and the candy counter, is on duty tonight.
    We finish the first bottle and unscrew the lid on the second. The screen lights back up with a newsreel about President Eisenhower visiting a Boy Scout Jamboree.
    “I loved President Eisenhower,” Clamor says.
    “Better than dipshit Nixon,” Garrett agrees.
    A frat boy two rows back warns us not to be bad-mouthing the president. We trade insults. Dr. Hirsch is giggling.

    The frat boy threatens to beat the shit out of us, but his whiney date is bored and wants to leave. So they do, just as The French Connection comes back on, a car chase scene that segues into an advertisement for the 1968 Chrysler 300, voice-over by William Conrad.
    “That’s the narrator from Bullwinkle and Rocky,” I point out.
    “I love Bullwinkle,” Clamor says.
    Garrett passes the bottle to us with a warning. “Hey, I’m trying to watch the movie. You guys hold it down, or I’ll have the usher remove you.”
    “There is no usher.”
    “There is no movie.”
    Indeed, the projectionist appears to be randomly loading any reel of film he can find. He must have quite a collection.
    The house lights are back on when I wake. Old Jeff is nudging me in the ribs with his the end of a broom handle. My watch says it’s 2:18. I wake the others and we stumble out of the Lyric and back to Colemans, for coffee and more fruit pies.
    “This is definitely the strangest date I’ve ever been on,” Rose decides.

  9. 53. Shiny Black Plastic Monstrosity

    October 15, 2016 by Daniel

    53. Shiny Black Plastic Monstrosity – Friday, October 15

    James and Andrew have left on another road trip.
    I learn this from Garrett upon my return from another long day in the Museum. “I suspect Hacker kind of spooked them with that talk about a bust. James was pretending to act cool, but I think he decided to clear out till the heat lifts.”
    “Do you think the sheriff is really building a case against James?”
    “Naw. Hacker was just yanking James’ chain. I can always tell when he’s bluffing. Besides, Claprood’s got other priorities.”
    “Who’s Claprood?”
    “The new sheriff. Paris Claprood.”
    “Our sheriff’s name is Paris Claprood?”
    “Not a bad guy, once you get to know him.”
    “Well, I’m surprised James would leave right in the middle of the new Tamburlaine mystery.”
    “Not to worry. He’s going to call every Sunday for the latest verse.”
    “How in the hell is he going to do that? We don’t have a phone.”
    “That’s where you’re wrong, lad. Please step into the parlor.”
    Garrett leads the way. There on the corner table sits a shiny black plastic monstrosity, like a giant cockroach.
    “It’s just a telephone,” Garrett soothes. “Nothing to be afraid of.”
    “If it rings, I won’t answer it.”
    “Relax. Nobody except James has the number. Everything will be fine.”
    “Wish I could believe that. Nothing good ever comes of a telephone.”

    “We all understand how you feel,” Garrett soothes.

  10. 52. Interstate Orgasm

    October 14, 2016 by Daniel

    Bishop Hall

    52. Interstate Orgasm  -  Thursday, October 14
    The second floor lounge in Bishop is packed with undergraduate English majors with dreams of literary greatness. All of them Amy Madigan devotees.
    I enter unobtrusively, and find a seat near the back. Dr. Evans is addressing the group, nods to me in acknowledgement of my presence as I skulk in.
    “Ole Miss hasn’t had a literary magazine since 1962. That was 10 years ago, during the Meredith crisis. The campus was occupied by federal troops then, and the department felt it wise to limit student outlets for self-expression. So when Miss Madigan,” here he gestures to Amy, in the front, “approached the faculty with her idea to launch a new magazine, we were very enthusiastic.”
    Amy rises, addresses her disciples about the magazine’s mission and philosophy, and proclaims herself editor-in-chief. “My assistant editor,” she adds, “is someone most of you don’t know. He recently returned to campus, and is in the Classics department.” She pretends to peer, myopically, into the audience, though I know she’s already spotted me. “Did Daniel make it today? Oh, yes, there he is. Stand so everyone can see you.”
    I stand. Heads turn and necks crane to behold me. I sit down.
    “One of your first jobs,” Dr. Evans adds, “will be to decide on a name for the magazine. We’ve had several suggestions, but none has seemed quite right. Daniel?”
    I hadn’t expected to be called on a second time. I hadn’t even expected to be called on a first time.
    “Yes, sir?”
    “Didn’t you have a creative team working on a new title? What did they come up with?”
    I rise from my seat. Heads turn again. “Yes, the Tyler Avenue brain trust labored for days on this matter, with copious measures of Wild Irish Rose, moon pies and grass. And we finally agreed on the one name we’re sure everybody here will be really proud of: Interstate Orgasm.”
    The room is still.
    “I like it,” Dr. Evans replies. “But I’m afraid it won’t work for the Baptists.”