That’s zeero SIXty three.
That was the start of it, his rapid descent into a babble only he understood, into the status of unintentional laughmonger, into unemployment. Of course the nightly and increasingly daily drinking with the president and the provost at the downtown gentlemen’s club and alone in his office didn’t hurt — didn’t hurt, that is, in terms of gently escorting him to the precipice, maybe it even wrecked some of his braincenters governing speech, who knows. Not even Tara his wife could stop that selfdestruction or even slow it. Why did he drink so much? Because the damned stuff tasted good he acknowledged without a blink, and because it felt good too, he had built up his intake gradually enough over the years to avoid the retching and the headaches of serious drunks and had remained respectable and kind, handsome polished statuesque even, never a silver hair out of place, had even modeled a few times in menswear and hardware ads this smiling DeanofStudents, the gentleman homerepairer standing beside a tablesaw one hand firmly gripping an eight foot long twobyfour the other reaching openpalmed toward the gleaming teeth of the tool made friendly by his winsome smile.
He calls the number G40 with a smile of anticipation, hears the inevitable echo billowing from the same hunched wildhaired sexagenerian in the same seat at the same table every week, Fwo-o-orty it goes, just as it goes each time Dunston calls forty, Fwo-o-orty, an ebullience, an eruption without precedent or cause, the man bellows it without even looking up from his cards, innocent as a child suddenly emitting a coo or an old man a fart, and it each time provokes a series of response from around the hall, Shuddup you old coot, that sort of thing, or Aw shut the fuck up. Dunston hears that kind of language increasingly in the college hallways and the wooded campus paths it happens even in classrooms, he’s had to mediate numerous studentstudent and even studentprofessor contumelies, he hates doing that, despises it. But then again he doesn’t have to do that anymore, he should be using past tense, the farcical scenario following the classroom catfight took care of that, it took only a few days to taste the unceremonious and bittersweet dismissal from office and campus, a cop was even called in to escort him to his car bypassing his office they called it leave of absence but surely it was a permanent dismissal, and then the banishment from his home by Tara who accused him of being a drunk and a nihilist and a wrecker of marriage life and future, to which he meekly uttered Pants damper bunny, then Buzzing crank– mealy . . . Get out of here get out she shouted, quite brutally, I’ll deposit your paychecks for as long as they send them, you can withdraw what you need, now get out of here, and he left, head hanging, he had had over the course of several days a sense that the end would come to this, such a wasted end, and now he’s resting his sodden head on pillows at a Super8 not far from the bowlingalley and Bingohall wondering whether it was the speech problem or the smell on his breath, of the vodka he’d swallowed before the catfighters were brought in all patchy and scratchy. Books Bingo scotch and Applebee’s kept him alive now, he had brought Ovid with him, and Kafka and Milton and his beloved Rembrandt’s Eyes, he should be doing some research into his speech problem, he’d seen a shrink lately but received no help, only a You can’t afford me, the fuckhead, he knows that something’s amiss in his brain but then he thinks of his world, the shambles of his experience in it, he thinks of the president of the college and his boys, all procured for him over the years by a loyal trustee, Dunston knows it but can’t prove it and never wanted to, so in a way he’s been complicit all this time, each time he thinks of it he slips into an ennui that saps him of will and he drinks, he drinks and does fifty pushups and two hundred situps and studies his handsome face deepblue eyes and perfect hair in a cracked Super8 mirror and wonders how much longer he’ll have to live.
G fortytwo he says. G G G G someone else says is that all you can call is G? The game’s rigged another voice yells. Prick a woman’s voice spits out. That’s Gee four two.