Note: Today begins my effort to refine the ending to “The Supple World of Dunston Maycroft.” We’ll see what happens when I engage this work publicly. Tomorrow I may make changes on this segment, and I’ll definitely add more to it. The difficult part for the reader who wants make the effort is to try to pick up the thread of a story that left off months ago.
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Hours after leaving the counselor and her jaw and her notes and scales, Dunston Maycroft sits hunched on a folding chair in a kitchen cooler at the Bingohall amid mayonnaise and jellomolds protected for the timebeing by a heavy steel door from the accumulating smoke of the fire he’d started in the payarea outside it, arms at rest on his thighs, hands folded, fingers interlocked, unaware of the subtle pulsation of his skin, tiny throbs like rising and falling goosebumps, unhearing of the screams and clatter and commotion out there, all those Bingofolks pushing coughing and squealing to and through the four exits to escape the heavy smoke and hidden fire he’d set, to save their lives. He sits there untroubled by the panic he’s unleashed in that hall, the peril, for some maybe the doom. Instead, rock solid, like a posed mannikin, his face and his mind are focused on better times, his days of mingling with corporate heads and flushed young scholars, of polished shoes and tailored suits and shirts, the heat and juices of a hundred women possibly more, no not that many but plenty, you have lots of chances as a smart dashing erudite college administrator so long as you eschew arrogance and insensitivity and you look good. He thinks of his descent from those golden years into this state of madness, yes he knows he’s mad, his hitch in the Super 8 offered this revelation to some days, weeks, ago, but when did the madness start again? it must have been going on for quite some time, he searched for signs among the squalls of faces, doings, torments and tensions of his recent days and months, his chronicle of failures, he stood and paced, four steps this way and back, this way and back, back and forth in the cramped cooler, his memories buffeting him like gales of heavy soot . . .
No he concluded, no, every thought, vision he had was normal after all: the female students did fight. The President did buggerlittle boys, the Concerned Christian Parents (CCP) did take their case against the teaching of evolution andgene therapy public, they did hold a mass prayer meeting with some students and there was indeed an effort to have him removed as DeanofStudents because he joined students in defying the fundamentalists, his life was threatened when he sided with a female professor against the noncompliant studentathletecumrapcomposer who skulked in the halls outside her classroom and even his office flashing the EvilEye, his position was in jeopardy for opposing the university’s role in contributing to foreign wars, his need to drink wasexacerbated every time he read a newspaper listened to talkradio or watched the news on TV.
Out there, out there, the Bingohall is burning, glueddown carpeting sends clouds of smoke and poisons billowing their way to the ceiling and they spread and merge like smutty breaths, flames lick and slither along tabletops, trolls catch fire, altars smolder, computers squeal and slowly expire, whiteboards liquefy slide down molten walls, everything’s burning in Dunston Maycroft’s world, it’s all the same to Dunston now there’s no distinction now between academia the exalted and Bingo the unhallowed: framed photos of smiling valedictorians blacken, windowpanes shatter in paroxysms of cracking thunder, trolls and bookladen backpacks catch fire, there’s screaming there’s clopping and cursing and thudding all around, he feels the thick walls around him shuddering, the plastic jugs of mayo and dills relish ketchup mustard discretely clicking, he’s sealed in the cooler safe yet, beginning to shiver despite his old woollined hooded coat, wondering what he’ll do, whether he’ll join the frantic throng on their rush to the cold outside air or sit in here and maybe freeze or just go out into the burning hall and inhale deeply the lethal smoke and melt with the trolls, the human bodies that surely lie trampled on the searing crematorium floor.
(Whew. M0re tomorrow.)