You use the word supple to describe a body or a mind or a garden hose, but you don’t use it to name a thing like something you ate, as in I just got finished with supple and it was gourd, and you certainly don’t use gourd to describe the quality of something because gourd refers to a kind of plant, so to say in polite company I just got finished with supple and it was gourd is sure to draw laughter or quizzical looks or sneers, unless you’re a baby, in which case you probably wouldn’t have a word like gourd in your limited vocabulary. But Dunston Maycroft said things like that with a straight face because that’s the kind of thing he says — on a good day. Supple was gourd I had rose beets calyx and wise. You’d think he’d rehearsed all this paronomasia but no, it seemed to come out as easily as normal wordage from anyone else, at least in social settings and in his private imprecations, for example when driving his car or confronting TV commercials he might pound some nearby object, a steering wheel or a coffee table maybe, and spit out a resounding forking bolts must blink I’m a problem boron. How he spoke in the privacy of his own mind no one knew of course, not wife or son or colleagues or acquaintances, he no longer had close friends, and when he wrote things such as memos or letters to alumni or emailed complaints to the phone company his writing bespoke a clear mind, a confident voice, tinges of humor, and even some occasional touches of elegance.
But when he called Bingo, even directly after consuming half a fifth of cheap scotch at the bar next to the smokefilled hall he presided over, his voice and vocabulary were as clear and distinct as a Cartesian idea. Bee 4, his rich baritone cut through the dense cigarette smoke like a dart, Number B four. Calling Bingo was something he did every Wednesday evening in a fundraising effort for his son’s highschool booster club, he hated doing it, despised it, but he loved his son Troy he attended as many school events that Troy was involved in as his work schedule allowed. Except for inarticulate cheering (he-e-eys or a-a-a-ws) during football or baseball games he kept mostly silent at his wife’s request — he had been allowed to pant and gasp and even grunt during his nights of lovemaking, back when he was allowed to make love, but not speak, not utter a word, lest the paroxysms he’d elicited during the course of his generous manipulations caresses and heavings were not the result of accumulating ecstasy but of sudden spontaneous fits of laughter. He didn’t mind keeping silent for her, back then, he was happy to comply, he had in fact grown to prefer silence, real silence that is, its steadiness, its immeasurability, its commodiousness, he could inhabit it with no inhibitions, no indignation, no judgmentmaking, no eagerness either, he listened to no music anymore, watched no television, left the house if Tara his wife had talkradio on, slept in his own cramped guestroom after Tara’s scorn demanded removal from her big queen. But every Wednesday evening he found himself inthe lowcealinged Bingo hall billowing with cigarette smoke and awash with body vapors, he wafting on the irregular respiration that rose and fell according to the sound of his amplified voice, Oh sixtysix, he’d announce to abrupt soemnity, a numbered pingpong ball between his thumb and forefinger, that’s zeero six six. He’d marvel at the resonance of his voice and watch with infinite amusement as rows of long tables set end to end suddenly seemed to become animate, heads of players bowing, arms rising and dropping, rising and dropping, like scores of pistons in precision time, but only for some seconds before they fell out of synch, one or two at a time, then more, up and down the line, without order or logic, it’s like watching the keys on a playerpiano run amok, out of the stillness some mutters, hands drop daubers in favor of smokes, the voices rise, the cigarettes bobble in corners of trundling lips droning on about grandkids or sonsabitchin husbands or naggingfucking wives or next Sunday’s service or Father Maury’s sneaky caretaker, then his amplified voice which even he admired, Gee five two, that’s G fiftytwo.