The hall erupts, a dauber sails through Dr. Dunston Maycroft’s sight, he hears a clipped goddamnit a handsome graying man simply says shit a woman directly in front of him growls christalmighty I only had one more why didn’t you call my number, all around is a low din, he spots a fellow volunteer rush to the woman with her hand raised high, she’s young, skinny you could call her, glasses, loose ponytail with a network of hairstrings rampant along her forehead and ears. The volunteer reads the line of O numbers which Dunston repeats, selecting the appropriate ball for each to display to the stillgrumbling audience, That’s a Bingo he says and flushes the used balls from their holdingpen into the general hopper, the hall goes quiet save for the faint sound of shifting papercards and mild coughing. Dunston takes in the panorama with wide glassy eyes, smoke filling the air but swirling inside his head, he has a minute to himself, thinks about scotch, he’ll have to buy a bottle on the way home, there’s a party store not far from the bowling alley, he pictures it, tastes the scotch, the buzz he had cultivated at home before driving the five miles to the hall has worn off, he smells flames flashes a look of concern, catches movement distinct from hands on the table directly before his, focuses his eyes and sees only a couple of trolls, one purplefaced with orange hair the other greenfaced with periwinkle hair, things are happening kind of fast — the blonde young woman in the catfight leans over a wastebasket and pulls out handfuls of hair cursing, the president of the college the one who sleeps with juniorhigh boys says what the hell’s the matter with you Dunston those two bitches ran all over you you’ve lost control as well as your language you’ve become a laughingstock here, this institution doesn’t need that go home Dunston, you’re on leave, go home, A phylloprick Dunston said, even the president, stupefied for a second or two, almost laughed at that one . . .
I twentyone . . . that’s eye, two, one.
Dunston sighs, his voice is clear and deep, it’s plain English too, it isn’t gibberish, he can somehow speak normall here in this dingy sweaty hall redolent of bodyodors and tobacco smoke, bad breath, unwiped assholes, murky dreams, maybe this is his place after all, maybe it’s his own characteristic milieu, properly earmarked for him alone by events historical and much greater than his limitations will allow him to fathom, after all he’s met them all already, the others, the heirs of millionaires and the millionaires himself, the movers and shakers of the college community he lives in and its environs — not all the students after all ar bargirls and tabledancers — he’s met them and he’s found them wanting, the movers and shakers popping in and out of collegesponsored luncheons, saven a.m. breakfasts and evening receptions, calling at all hours to get their kids out of trouble or distress usually academic and sometimes social, not seldom criminal, he’s addresses them and he’s listened to them at their foundations in their executive meetingrooms their athletic and fellowship clubs. Lifting his eyes from the whirlstrom of pingpong balls and surveying the legions out therewith their daubers framed photos and toys he smiles, he instantly replaces the roiling disheveled hoipolloi out there with visions of the toothy smoothness, the glib mintiness of the gleaming privileged and their waxy wannabees, he hears wchoes of their refined banter about football the market the effectiveness of their capital city lobbyists, thier state reps, their gubernatorial candidate, and suddenly it’s time to call the next number to this murmuring multitude, Geethirtythree . . .
that’s number G threee three.
The pistons out there immediately set to pumping and Dunston Maycroft thinks I want a drink. And then he thinks of the three students drunk in one history classroom, a goung woman and two young men, apprehended while texting each other, couldn’t restrain their giggles, on pot and booze highs, all rules shattered with each thumbpress, more mindless pistons at work he thinks now, youthful indiscretion one of the fathers said they deserved removal from the room but not from the course, but Mr. Fleer you must understand that the professor won’t have them back he says academic decorum has been ruined he was made to feel his classroom was no more than a common tavern and that the professorstudent relationship was forever debauched he used that word, fuck the professor the father said fuck debauched, I endow a chair I’m a friend of the Secretary of Education fuck the professor, these three kids will be reinstated the words pound Dunston’s ears he looks toward the bouncy little pingpong balls sees them as words not numbers, wants to crush them in his hands wants to grind them with his molars oval tonka bona fides he said to the father, his eyes sprung wide, the father froze too, what the fuck did you say? That was the start of it.
Oh six three
Can’t you call a goddamn B?
That’s zeero SIXty three.