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Epistemologically Steadfast: The Story of a Loser
by Devon Pitlor
I. The burdensome semantics of dualistic ontology The burdensome semantics of dualistic ontology. That is at least what Slade Napecrane thought he heard as he entered the small lecture pod several minutes after the start of class. The lecturer was also wearing a sort of cape, a black mantle fastened with a large clip around his neck. He was stirring dramatically from one side to the other of the lectern, grinding his curled knuckles into his theatrically affected brow and staring above the body of silent students at some corner of the lecture room wherein he seemed to be seeking truth. "The burdensome semantics of dualistic ontology", he repeated in a sort of trance-like reverie. "We have attained the veritable Rubicon of modern transcendental pessimism, as it were, and now we are thrust with reckless abandon onto a roiling sea of opaquely tinted murk..." It was the first day in Philosophy 2102, An Introductory Glimpse at Solipsism, offered by an instructor who was, by reputation, becoming a campus sensation, one Nigel Mossbank, who held doctorates from not only Newcastle University in England but from some ancient center of learning in Padua, Italy as well. Nigel Mossbank, visiting scholar and lecturer in the arcane science of human thought. It was supposed to be a fun and easy course. That was why Slade had decided to register. Another reason Slade had been quick to enroll for Mossbank's seminar was that Tory Spangler was in it. Tory had become of late Slade's daydream
obsession, as he followed her down the crowded pathways of Cowhyde University, a small West Texas college where a visiting scholarly dignitary like Nigel Mossbank could wear a black cape and create a sensation just with the stentorian echo of his big words, not to mention his flamboyant body language with which he cloaked his every uttered syllable. Slade had been purposely late in finding a seat in the lecture pod because he wanted to be as close as possible to Tory Spangler, who generally was flanked by attractive and athletic boys in her other classes, boys who were sure, however, not to be in a philosophy seminar. Slade had made a special plan of finding out what Tory had registered for this spring semester and had made a resolution that he would finally emerge from the cocoon of shyness that had bound him for most of his twenty-two years on Earth and at least make himself known to the attractive girl who now occupied most of his waking consciousness. Somehow, someway he would find the means to speak to Tory. After all, she was reputed to be an "intellectual," and majoring in art history, she undoubtedly had a creative streak in her which Slade could use as a fulcrum for conversation because he too liked to draw pictures, little scribbly pictures, especially during boring lectures. Meekly he moved his eyes to the side, avoiding the occasional penetrating scrutiny of Professor Mossbank, who made a point of gazing at each of his students at least once during a fleeting pause in his seemingly endless monologue. Slade was only one seat removed from Tory, the closest he had ever been. He was, in fact, close enough to smell her perfume, or at least what he thought was her perfume, but, then again, it could have been cologne from the fat boy sitting behind them. Slade took out his note pad and wrote a few words because that was what Tory was doing. In fact, that was what every student was doing: Taking notes. Slade started to write "ontology" but then decided to turn the final Y into a lewd doodle depicting what he thought was a female crotch. Ignoring the cascade of words issuing from the animated professor's lips, Slade stole another look at Tory. To
do this he had to look across the plane of Pampinea Tormini's breasts, which were always prominent and often blocking the view between himself and Tory because Pampinea, a shapely co-ed herself, was Tory's best friend and they were rarely seen separately. Professor Mossbank continued. "We can posit then, as a mere abstraction naturally, that California is simply an illusory construct, an abstractly nonexistent unit about which we know virtually nothing in the roughshod rationalistic carapace which encompasses our stultified and urbanely repressive selfhoods....therefore and accordingly, California cannot be properly said to exist on any plateau real or imagined but rather..." "Excuse me, Professor," said Slade barely raising his arm higher than his cheek. "I'm from California. I know it is there. It's where I grew up. My folks are there." Professor Mossbank shot Slade a look of raw contempt, grasped the clasp on his cape, unfastened it and flung the flowing garment away from his body to the side of the lectern. He poised his hands in a clawlike gesture which framed Slade's now blushing and hot skinned face. "A mere triviality," he exclaimed. "An ipso facto footnote marking the deliberately intrusive incursion of an unwelcomed surrealism. A damnable detail which cannot subtract a jot or a tittle from the plenitude of philosophical epistemology...." Then he turned spectacularly toward the opposite end of the class and framed another student's face with his outstretched and curving fingers. "The irrepressible flow of relativistically incomplete dogma, essentially masturbatory in the main and emblematic of the pessimistic curse of unrestrained and rampantly blatant ratiocination gone wild."
"What in the fuck is he talking about?" whispered Slade audibly enough that both Pampinea and Tory could hear it. Both girls, annoyed and nudged slightly out of the rapture of Mossbank's flow of thoughts, turned irately toward him and made shhhh sounds. Slade, crestfallen, lowered his head to his notes and continued to scribble. His first close-up impression had been a bad one. And he knew he was going to fail this class, as well. Everyone was just so much smarter than he was. Everyone was so rapt by the extraordinary professor's words. He was such a dunce, and an unremarkable dunce too. He had been that way his entire life. II. An encounter outside the lecture pod When Slade Napecrane found the courage to slink out of the classroom following this first day's lecture, he found both Tory and Pampinea still in the alcove of the Humanities Building and ostensibly engaged in a spirited discussion of the puzzling lecture from which they had all emerged. Pampinea made strange Italianesque gestures with her hand to stress points from her voluminous notes, and Tory nodded her head in spellbound assent. Professor Mossbank was a genius, a worldly man of ethereal wisdom and thespian charisma. This was going to be their best class ever at Cowhyde. They knew it. They could not wait to get home and read the assigned text, something impassable and dense from a guy called Spinoza, a name which Mossbank loved to give special emphasis to during the course of his performance. "Spinoza postulates..." "Spinoza accordingly reprimands the aspiringly vigilant..." Who in the fuck was Spinoza, anyway? Slade had never heard of him until today. His resolve picked up when Pampinea acknowledged his presence with a
frown. "You interrupted a very interesting lecture just to say you are from California. No one cares about that, you know." "Well, I am from California," snapped Slade almost unaware of himself. "I was born and raised there. Who is this guy telling us that it doesn't exist?" "That was only a hypothetical example," said Tory, taking notice of Slade for perhaps the first and only time in her life. Tory realized it was going to be now or never. He smiled at Tory as if he also had seen her for the first time and asked if he could borrow her notes because he had come late and had been a little distracted and could they have a chai somewhere and could she explain some of this subject matter to him? "No way!" said Tory. "You would have understood if you had listened. I don't share my notes with anyone. Now if you'll excuse us. This was a private discussion. If you don't like philosophy, why don't you just drop the class.?" "And if you don't like school, why don't you just drop out of the college and go back to California," chimed Pampinea waving her hands randomly in all directions. Then both girls, stunners to be sure, turned abruptly in the opposite direction and began walking away. "Bye--eee," said Tory. "Bye---eee," repeated Pampinea. Slade watched them walk off in their tight jeans, admiring the flatness of their purposely exposed abdomens. He marveled at the roundness of their buttocks and the sleek length of Tory's jet black hair which fell nearly to the small of her shapely back. He looked at the philosophy textbook clutched in his hand. On its cover was an old man with a long nose and hippie-like hair curling below
his collar. It was, of course, none other than Spinoza, or that is what the caption read. "Spinoza in his study." God, Spinoza was so important that they had to put him on the cover of the whole book. I am so plain and ordinary, thought Slade. I'll never have a girlfriend like Tory or like anyone else for that matter, and they will never put me on the cover of any book. In total dejection, he slouched his shoulders and walked across the blossoming spring campus to his dorm room. Damn, I hate school, he thought. III. Ross Jarrett As far as Slade Napecrane went, his roommate Ross Jarrett was as boring as his name. He was, Slade felt, probably the only boy on campus who was less noticeable than himself. A chunky, bookish kid from some cornfed prairie state who was majoring in, of all things, linguistics. How did colleges always manage to team up the losers? What great omniscient power had so remotely viewed the two losers from afar and decided that they should be dorm mates, this based no doubt on the mutual trait of absolute ineptitude with women and their bovine rumination through the back ranges of life in general? Ross and Slade rarely spoke, and when they did it was never about anything important like meeting girls or getting laid. It was always about some dorm room annoyance like the fact that Ross liked to play Mozart at all hours and Slade hated anything classical, opting like most lackluster kids for the current top forty on the radio. But today, the first day of the new semester, would be different. Spring was, as they say, in the air. But no, Ross had allergies and had to keep the windows shut and couldn't go outside until the pollen count fell in May and that was a month away. Ross was also allergic to smoke, so Slade could not smoke in the room. Ross was also allergic to pot, so that was out. Ross was also allergic to alcohol, so they couldn't go have a beer. Ross was allergic to everything, even girls. Once Slade had mentioned a girl to Ross and
Ross had grunted something about "Women are just trouble. I stay away from them." But Slade realized better than any that it was the reverse. Women stayed away from Ross. Or at least he thought so at the time. "Howzit going?" said Ross abstractly as Slade entered the darkened room. Outside the sun shone beautifully, but inside the only illumination came from Ross's desk lamp which was already burning over some opened textbooks. Ross would no doubt graduate with honors, thought Slade. On the other hand, he himself was bound to take his C minuses and slip out the back door of the university into some decrepit corner of life where he would remain single and lonely for the rest of his days. Life was so goddamn depressing. He threw his philosophy text onto his unmade bed and dived down beside it. Visions of Tory swam briefly in his head until at last he glanced at the cover of his text and there, unmoved, was Spinoza still staring at him with sheepish, bookwormy eyes. Unread Spinoza. He knew. He had already tried. Page after page of confounding metaphysics, propositions, theorems about the nature of being, stuff about substance, god and the inability to know anything for sure. So why write so much if you don't know anything, thought Slade, falling off into a labored doze. At the other end of the room, Ross was peering into one of his books and following sentences with his finger. Armageddon, mused Slade sleepily, Ross, me and Spinoza. And out there somewhere in the sunlight people are happy and having fun. Some nice looking guy has his arm around Tory's shoulder. Some nice looking guy would probably be fucking her or trying to fuck her by nightfall. And here he was watching pizza-faced Ross study and being glared at by a longhaired guy that had died in 1677. Here he was in a class where English words were being used but English wasn't really being spoken. Maybe Ross could explain that. Ross knew all about language. But before he could muster the strength to ask, Slade lay unconscious under the burden of tortuous slumber. His last coherent or semi-coherent thought before sleep was the first thing he had heard that morning upon entering
Mossbank's class: The burdensome semantics of dualistic ontology. IV. More chance encounters When Slade awoke from his nap, the room was dark and empty. Ross Jarrett had apparently closed his weighty tomes and had taken leave. God knows to where, Slade thought. Where does a loser like that go when he is not here? Slade peered beyond the closed curtains of the dark room. Just as he suspected, it was still a lovely, dazzling spring day, and the sun was highlighting the multitude of blooms that graced the campus lawns and walkways. Students of all shapes and sizes flitted past the dorm window, all filled with either a sense of vernal gaiety or the fixation of a definite undertaking somewhere in the distance. Most came in groups, or at worst pairs. Slade knew that when he finally combed his hair and went out it would be alone, and his alone-ness troubled him. He would be viewed as a solitary creature in a community where everyone seemed to be attached somehow to everyone else, where little sausagey knots of young people coiled their way through other groups, hand slapping and kissing. Balls were being thrown here and there as well. Balls. Slade had always hated games that involved balls. Throw a ball. Kick a ball. Run after a ball. Throw or kick it back. What nonsense! And besides, it required a co-ordination that Slade simply did not have any more than he had any concept of group fun. There was something supposedly thrilling about throwing a ball. Slade had never in his twenty-two years discovered exactly what it was. He washed his face and ran a comb through his hair and examined himself in the dirty bathroom mirror. No, he was decidedly not a nerd. Ross filled that part. No, he Slade was just a loser, a guy with no discernable character, no interests, no friends and a bland ironed-out look to his features that screamed mediocrity. He was neither over nor underweight, and his clothes were as cool as anyone else's, but underlying it all was the very tastelessness of his character as accentuated by the plainness
of his features. He could not even tell what color his eyes were. No one else could tell him either. Not his mother or father nor his sister. They never had looked that carefully at him, and no one else did either. His eyes, in fact, seemed to lack color as did every other part of his being. They were a flat brown something with thin eyebrows and almost non-existent eyelashes. Girls, he was told, liked eyelashes. Slade had none. Girls liked pretty eyes. His eyes were just eyes. He used them to see with and little more. Boring face. Boring eyes. Boring guy. That was the self-opinion Slade had formed of himself over all the long and troublesome years of his young life. It would be better to be pimply like Ross and at least have some distinguishable features. It would be better to have a fat butt that could possibly serve as a conversation starter. But most of all, it would be better to be engrossed in something as Ross was. Linguistics. What in the hell was that? With disdain, Slade flipped over one of the large textbooks on Ross's desk. Applied Semiotics and Language Structure. God, the idea of even attempting to read a thing like that was appalling. Slade shoved the book aside to reveal one of Ross's open notebooks. It was covered with technical words which appeared to be about some kind of new grammar, a fresh way of looking at language components. Oh Jesus, how he had always hated anything grammar-related in high school. And here was someone who was actually in his third year of college studying the crap. Here was someone with a zeal about things like verbs and the other whatevers that his teachers had always been spewing about. Who or what in the hell was Ross? Some kind of visitor from another planet who had come to learn about Earth? No, that was Spinoza, the guy on the cover of his philosophy textbook, which lay still on the tussled sheets of his bed, unopened and unread. Suddenly, there was a loud and demanding knock at the door. No one ever came to visit him for social reasons, so he knew it must be some campus monitor with a complaint. Perhaps his parking permit was overdue. Perhaps there was some asinine fee he had failed to pay. Last semester, it had been the
annual Halloween Dance contribution. Someone had actually checked the rosters and ferreted out the one student on campus who had not paid that. He tried to explain that he hated Halloween, but the guy had mocked him and been so insistent that in the end Slade handed him five bucks just to see his back as he left to shake down the next victim of his social baloney. Slade thought for a moment. Since there was no peephole, the best and only way to discover who was at the door was to open it. And so he did, fully expecting to see the beaming face of some campus busybody there to collect yet another "social involvement" tariff. Instead, it was a girl, not a pretty girl, but not an ungainly one either. She was dressed in the required bathrobe used to traverse the halls of the mixed-gender dormitory, and she seemed to look right through him. "Where is Ross?" she said blandly. When Slade began stuttering and searching for an answer, she grew suddenly impatient and looked squarely over his right shoulder into the room as if Ross might be hidden somewhere within. "I need something," she announced, pushing her way past Slade and into the still darkened compartment. Swiftly she navigated over to Ross's neatly made bed and ran her hands under the Donald Duck bedspread. Without so much as a further word to Slade, she extracted a pair of polka-dotted panties which had been rolled into a loose ball and left in the bed. "My stuff," she said, bustling past Slade and into the hallway. "Tell Ross I was here." "You have a name?" "None that you would recognize. Just describe me. He'll know. I forget stuff sometimes." As she disappeared down the corridor, Slade stood dumfounded staring at her backside. She held the crumbled panties in one hand, not attempting to
conceal their existence. Perhaps the panties don't exist, thought Slade, remembering Professor Mossbank's lecture with regards to the imaginary nature of his home state California. But yes they did, and they were inside of Ross's bed. My god, Ross has a girlfriend, and he has been fucking in this very room. Slade was more crestfallen than ever. Ross had a life, a secret life. A bedmate. A girlfriend. A girlfriend who left her underwear in places she had been. A girlfriend who dressed in a bathrobe and made visits and who had no trouble just barging into a private room where she had undoubtedly been many times before. Suddenly the atmosphere of the chamber became stifling. The thought of chubby, pock-marked linguistic major Ross rolling around in his twin bed with a girl...any girl...depressed Slade even deeper into what was rapidly becoming a black funk. He needed to eat. To get out. Have a beer. Go somewhere. Out on campus the same crisscross of activity continued. Some groups (always groups) of students needed to go here. Others there. There was no pattern to it. Classes were, of course, still in progress, so some students must have been coming or going. But most just seemed random. Those on the east side of the small campus needed to get to the west side and vice versa. Again, many could not use the footpaths without throwing balls at one another. In winter, it had been snowballs. Now it was other balls of all sorts. Why was it so important to toss a football back and forth while crossing the campus? And what was all this happy babble about? There was enough gloominess in the world to shut everyone's mouth for good---or was he just projecting? The endless laughter of exultant students grated in his ears as he strode purposelessly down toward the main gate which led to the small university business district directly beyond the white alabaster lions which guarded the entrance, lions which were supposed to roar whenever a virgin passed--the same sick joke on every campus, Slade thought ruefully. A stupid way of saying that every girl within eyesight was fucking, which conversely meant that he was not. A way of saying
that he was in what the French called a "mussel bed," a crude way of saying that the female half of the college lot was encrusted with a lot of available pussy. And he, Slade Napecrane of Tracy, California---a real, not illusory, place which did exist in some kind of actual space-time dimension---wasn't getting any. Immediately upon stepping off campus onto the busy main street, Slade chanced to notice Pampinea Tormini, still dressed in her overtight jeans and displaying some enticing cleavage between her shelf-like breasts. Pampinea of course did not notice him. She was, uncharacteristically, alone, but had that look of blind determination on her face as she veered off toward The Pizza Locker, a local hang out, which now became his destination as well because wherever Pampinea was heading had by its very essence to be where Tory Spangler was. That was a given. An "immutable" given, thought Slade remembering another oft-repeated term tossed out several times by the nowlegendary Professor Mossbank. Mechanically he followed Pampinea into the pizza joint, which was crowded with more of the fortunate and gloating herd. Pampinea aimed straight for the bathroom, as if some kind of internal radar were guiding her to Tory. Women love bathrooms, mused Slade. They spend hours in them, primping or discussing boys or whatever they do. Since Tory was not by the counter or at a table, it was "immutably" certain that she must be in the bathroom. Besides, Pampinea had undertaken her entire journey with a cell phone pressed to her ear. Tory had to be at the other end of the call, perhaps sitting silently on a toilet waiting for her best friend to arrive. Jostling past some of the young and spirited customers, Slade wedged himself into a line in front of the counter with the intention of ordering a calzone and a soda. He glanced from side to side looking for Tory. He ducked, as yet another hurled football flew over his head. They could not even stop playing ball inside a pizza dive, he grizzled with ever-growing repugnance. Like a flat piece of
cardboard, he stood upright in the line waiting his turn. In front of him was a well-built boy who had a frisbee tucked into his hairy armpit. He wore a torn singlet with the outline of a bi-plane on it. Above the plane were the words "Come jump with me." A skydiver. My god, what a wasted activity. But then abruptly an impossibility occurred. Tory Spangler appeared out of nowhere and approached the skydiver. She knew his name: Calvin something. Taking absolutely no account of Slade, she slipped in behind Calvin by tugging at the belt of his jeans and just sort of lodged her way in front of Slade in the line, making no apology whatever. She knew Calvin, and the space in front of Calvin as well as behind Calvin were naturally hers simply by virtue of their acquaintance. Though she did not appear to have any sort of romantic attachment with Calvin the skydiver, Tory continued to hold his belt as she bounced impatiently behind him waiting to order. After a safe enough time to establish her position in line, she let it go, which gave Slade a brief moment of unexpected relief. At least she wasn't going to fuck him right there. Maybe they were just friends. Slade stood silent and motionless as the action unfurled around him. At once, he became aware of another who had squeezed into the line just behind him. "Oh, sorry," this person said to no one in particular. "You don't mind, do you? I...we...have a class in ten minutes." It was, of course, Pampinea, and without turning Slade could imagine the upturn of her outstanding breasts and the seductive crease of her exposed navel. He could sense the unceasing movement of her always-busy Italian hands. He stiffened his body more erect to make room in the line when suddenly the unforeseen happened. Tory Spangler, no doubt sensing the nearness of her friend, did an about-face and gazed directly into Slade's forehead. She seemed not to recognize him in the slightest and began what was without a doubt the further enlargement of a conversation she had been having previously with Pampinea. Looking, as it were, straight through him, she announced that she was going to skip her water color class that evening and go night skydiving with the club. Pampinea responded that it would be fun. "They dive with big flashlights,"
she said into the back of his neck. "Into the meadow behind the chapel," said Tory still looking directly through his apparently immaterial body. "They land in the grass and roll over," responded Pampinea, still talking to her friend through his seemingly non-existent frame. "Yes, they do," chuckled Tory still peering through his forehead. "And then some of them do you know what in the soft grass." "Bet it is fun," agreed Pampinea. "I mean to fall so far and so fast and then have such spontaneous sex." Tory was now looking over Slade's left shoulder when she agreed that it was indeed fun, employing a kind of knowing tone which seemed to signify that she had been there and done that. Slade Napecrane had never felt so intangible in his life. His physical existence was simply not there as the two voluptuous pals carried on a conversation which for all the world took no account that he was standing directly between them. Taking a small, one person table in the gloomier side of the restaurant, Slade picked away at his calzone and took tiny swallows of his coke. In the center of the room sat Tory, Pampinea and Calvin, all three carving away at an enormous pizza and shoving slices into each others' mouths. A pitcher of brown beer sat between them and Calvin continued to pour their glasses full. At one point he audibly announced that beer enhanced the diving experience, and everyone laughed again. Slade noticed that seemingly each and every
incoming customer, whether male or female, knew Calvin and had to touch his bare shoulders as they passed. Calvin was, apparently, very touchable. Again, Slade was plunged into the darkest of moods. Not only was he nondescript and unimportant but now it was confirmed that he was insubstantial as well. He might as well have been the imaginary state of California which Professor Mossbank had proposed. In the midst of such bubbling jollity, he was only an inconvenient clump of some unseen matter, an impediment to conversation, something or someone totally ignorable. V. Back in philosophy class. Today's lecture was going to be "unrelentingly Kantian," according to Professor Mossbank, who had arrived in the lecture pod sporting a rakish purple beret and holding a small red-beamed LED pointer, which he aimed into the various corners of the room as he built up suspense for his lecture. A spellbound silence filled the room. Notebooks flew open on the desks ready to capture his every word. With an accustomed flair, Mossbank flung off his black cape and tossed his beret high into the air. "Ah, the refreshingly indeterminate cosmology of unrestrained and somewhat masturbatory monism," he began breathlessly. Slade, this time removed several seats from Tory and Pampinea, mechanically scrawled the word "masturbatory" onto a fresh sheet of his note pad. It was the one term he felt he understood. It had something to do with jacking off, an activity which Slade had long been familiar with. Not comprehending the rest of the gush and tumble of terms that Mossbank was broadcasting, Slade began to sketch a crudely erect penis next to the word. He stole several glances at the pretty girl of his recent obsession. From his vantage point he could see that Tory had already extracted and transcribed several long sentences from the lecture, if not an entire paragraph. Her beautiful, full lips were parted
seductively as she gazed at the dynamic teacher, who now was prefacing almost every sentence with phrases that involved some other philosopher named Kant. It was Kantian this and Kantian that. "Categorically the masturbatory subtext of post-Romantic Kantian inquiry negates that possibility of real and palpable substance in favor of a quaintly meta-idealistic and eschatological Weltschmerz which by its very innate nature deftly bypasses the confines of smugly pristine and toxic reason..." Slade chanced to write "toxic reason" on the open page of his notebook next to the scribble of the penis and the word "masturbatory." He gave up writing as Mossbank went on to describe more things and ideas as both "masturbatory and inherently fecal." Tory, Pampinea and the others present continued feverishly to jot down nearly every word spoken. Slade could only focus on "fecal." He knew that had something to do with shit. And shit was what he was feeling as the vigorous lecture spun on with Mossbank still swaying from side to side in the lecture pod and framing the occasional student's face within the span his long curving fingers. Slade's head began to swim. "The epistemological and absurd absolutism of post-Kantian critique leads one only to ruminate hopelessly over the de facto and overtly de minimis artistic conceptualism of those who vanished under his gigantic and overpowering footfalls," roared Mossbank. By this time, Slade had utterly no clue about what the professor was saying. Some gigantic thing with big feet was stomping out Kant's critics or whatever. Was it a yeti? An abominable snowman who just crept into Kant's world? As Leibniz suddenly swung into view along with something Mossbank described as "windowless monads," which was meant, Slade felt, to define the entire human race, the invisible boy from the nonexistent state could take no more. He rose to his feet and meekly took leave of the lecture room. As he unobtrusively, or so he thought, closed the classroom door behind him, he could hear Mossbank bawl out something about "an early but syllogistically correct departure from the nominalistic but meta-ethically
correct orbit of ineffable non-data based protean experience." In his own way, Slade knew the words had something to do with him, as the only word he could actually claim to understand was departure, and he was most certainly departing. VI. Ross Jarrett again Ross Jarrett, sitting cross legged in a pair of striped boxer shorts, was characteristically poring over his textbooks when Slade Napecrane regained their dorm room and flung his philosophy text once again on his rumpled bed with some lingering trepidation that he might finally have to read some of it. "This is shit," Slade muttered to himself without regard to his roommate. "What is shit?" asked Ross suddenly looking up from his book. It was the first time in Slade's memory that his dorm mate had actually asked him a question other than "Howzit going?" "My philo class. I can't stand it. I only took it to be around this girl Tory. Philosophy, I can't understand a word of it. I can't take notes because I haven't the faintest idea of what the dude is talking about." Slade suddenly found himself blurting out more words to Ross than he could ever remember doing before. So he decided to continue. He informed Ross that a girl from down the corridor had been by the day before to recover some panties, a thing which made Ross turn a shade of purplish-rouge. "Nothing to be embarrassed about," snapped Slade, "at least you're getting some." "I get lucky now and then. It's the grammar, I think." "Fuck grammar. I was talking about that girl."
"So was I," said Ross with a kind of sly grin breaking across his face. "If you fuck grammar, you might just never fuck the girl." It was the first time Slade had ever heard Ross utter an obscenity like "fuck." "You're fucking her because of your grammar?" "I suppose you could say that," said Ross somewhat awkwardly. "She's majoring in communications. She loves semantics. Everything has a structure, and grammar is simply the structure of language---all language. Some women go for that stuff, you know." "No I don't know. I have no idea what women go for. Some of them like skydiving and screwing afterwards I've been told." "And some of them dig intellectuals. Emily, that's her name, is one of them. I just got lucky." "Maybe you could pass me some of your luck." "Maybe so," said Ross pensively. "This is all about that girl, isn't it?" "Sort of." "And this professor that you find so...so indecipherable...she likes his class, doesn't she?" "Yeah, and I suppose it's because she actually understands him. I can't make out a word of what he is talking about. He might as well be that old-fashioned
looking dude on my textbook." "You mean Spinoza?" "Yeah. You know him?" "A little bit. Anyway, there are lots of ways of understanding things," continued Ross glancing back at his books. "Maybe this girl has her own way. That is how language is. It is a code that is sometimes different for everyone who uses it." "What in the fuck are you talking about?" "Look," resumed Ross, reaching for his hand-held voice recorder. "You gave me a battery boost when we first met last November. I owe you a favor. It's clear that you are getting nowhere with either this girl or with your class. Let me give it a shot." "You mean you want to attend. You've got to be kidding. He darts around like a flying monkey and flails his hands at everyone in the room. But what he says is like the real Doctor Sominex himself. I haven't got a clue." Ross Jarrett rose up in his boxer shorts and put on the required hallway robe. He was obviously going out to some other room in the dorm. No doubt Emily's. In his hand he clasped the voice recorder and handed it to Slade. "Record a lecture for me," he said. "I'll listen and see what I think." With that, he switched off his desk lamp and walked out of the room. Lucky stiff, thought Slade, once again pushing aside his philosophy text but this time being certain to turn it over so that he was no longer being
scrutinized by the drowsy eyes of long-dead and totally unfathomable Spinoza. VII. Commotion and sorrow on campus "Ah, the inescapably fatal Weltschmerz, the livid and ontological sorrow of it all. The world's gasp of inexpressible agony. The existentially poignant pain..." Professor Mossbank, dressed for today's class fully in black, cooed his condolences for the tragic loss of a Cowhyde student, and a well-liked one at that. Calvin Rackstone, the immensely popular president of the university skydiving club, had inexplicably plunged to his death into the soft grass of the little meadow behind the college chapel. He had, ostensibly, failed to open his chute and was shouting out some lyrics from Astrophel's Messengers, a renowned local band, as he plummeted, "twisting madly through the skies" as it was reported by several onlookers, among which had been Tory Spangler, who had followed directly behind him from the crop duster bi-plane in the jump. Like most of the bereaved students in the room, Tory was redfaced from crying and wore a black armband. She sobbed silently as Mossbank concluded his embedded eulogy with some comments about the "inescapably rude foundations of the fragile and tenuous life-hold that trusses us to this slatternly Earthbound sphere---as Kant himself would have instantly and tragically remarked." Both Tory and Pampinea, now removed several rows from Slade, continued to listen in wondrous awe as the professor weaved the death of the unfortunate Calvin into his lecture on "higher metaphysics and the necessity to negate all hope of self-actualization in the face of the irreproachably innate forces of fatalistic determination." "The vain and unattainable reaching for elusive immortality," continued Mossbank, now very absorbed with his own labyrinthine verbiage. That was more like it, thought Slade. Rumor had it that Calvin was high on
meth and had simply decided that no solid ground could ever delay his descent toward virtual greatness. It had been further reported that he had confided in the bi-plane pilot that his intention had been to "transcend the necessity of the parachute." Slade listened for a short time, but then slipped on his earphones and enjoyed a Plastic Demons tune while the fervent teacher droned on. His last sound bite from the latter was something about "the romance of a real and palpable Kantian tragedy delivered into our specious lives to remind us of the eternal...blah...blah...blah of something...blah...blah." Beside Slade, Ross's voice recorder captured these words and hundreds more before the class had finished. Later Slade would play it all back for his roommate to see what the latter could make of it. Slade was not jubilant about the death of Calvin Rackstone, however. He simply accepted it as the natural outcome of someone who conducted himself with such reckless abandon, which Slade deemed to be mostly designed for the ladies. And, in effect, he was right. Tory and Pampinea, as well as scores of others, would be inconsolable for days now. There was no need to try to intersect or waylay them. The ill-timed Calvin death was probably all that occupied their reflections at the moment. He wondered if either of them had ever slept with Calvin and decided that, yes, they had. Both of them no doubt felt the sting of his passing even worse because of the recent memory of his internal manly thrust. Or something like that. Slade turned up the volume on the Plastic Demons just below the externally audible range and settled back into his seat. In front of him, was an emotionally charged fresco of cheerless and depressing youth who were undergoing their first real brush with death. Under the spell of the music, California, Slade's home, continued to subsist in actual reality, and for a time all was more or less right with the world. Heavy spring rain was thundering down outside accompanied by peals of thunder and bursts of lightning. As the class wound to its inevitable conclusion, Slade casually removed his ear buds and caught Nigel Mossbank's final words: "Yes, yes. Do not grieve for the liquid and abysmally charged passing of your classmate and comrade, for,
trust me, the immortally bequeathed Calvin is not dead. He lives on in an inexpressibly unique and comforting dimension just beyond the range of your humanly limited perspectives." This final crescendo did not forestall the quiet weeping of the students in any of the rows in front of Slade. There was no evidence that day that dead Calvin had attained any sort of immortality, regardless of the extravagant rhapsodies of their supercharged professor. As he left the lecture pod, Slade wondered if Calvin had taken pleasure in any "supernal and an eternally time-stamped moments of fleeting and illusive superconsciousness," as Dr. Mossbank had asserted. With a sense of unmitigated finality, Slade decided that Calvin had not. He had simply crashed into the meadow and had thereupon become unfuckable for those who would land, like Tory, after him. Gripping the voice recorder in his hand, Slade exited the lecture pod well ahead of the others. Calvin was gone, and he didn't wish to engage in the sob scene which would necessarily ensue. Rather, he became interested in the living and wondered what his newly refashioned roommate would think about the lecture. VIII. The truth about Professor Nigel Mossbank The real facts concerning the philosophy professor are indeed too knotty to fully explore here, but suffice to say that his current name was a pure fabrication which had changed many times in the course of his wavering and rocky lifetime. Born Umber Schultz in a place called Eagle's Roost in a state unknown, he was the son of a successful forger, a small time printer who had perfected the art of creating false documents, like drivers licenses, which could not in all reality be traced or identified as bogus. His father's son, he had sharpened his craft while serving several small sentences in prisons which were
not in England or Padua, Italy but rather in the square and somewhat naive states west of the Mississippi where the unsophisticated flourished and where a commerce in false documents still thrived as a true art form. Moreover, Umber Schultz had learned the art of intense and convincing verbosity from some fellow inmates who were over fond of jabber. He had thus perfected the art of total duplicity and had seamlessly, upon release from incarceration, found the way to hoodwink peer committees and transcript evaluators and weasel his way into the lucrative profession of being a visiting professor from universities located in places that he had never once visited. His magnetism and enduring charisma were undeniable, and struggling colleges like Cowhyde welcomed his application to their departments of philosophy with an appreciation only awarded to those mesmeric personalities who could attract uninformed students into their classes, thereby adding immeasurably to the financial solvency of the institutions he targeted. Naive students of all stripes were at once immersed in his theatricality and the irresistible cadence of his purposely muddled thoughts, and once he passed from the auspices of one institution into the bosom of another, his garb and general mannerisms changed, as did his approach to the uber-captivating lectures which he incessantly conducted. His trick was to move fast, get a paycheck, and reinstall himself elsewhere in the widespread college community. As for the substance of his poignant lectures, there was none. But few saw through it. Philosophy was an appropriately opaque discipline, one which accepted with ready embrace the onslaught of new approaches, one which struggled mightily at all venues to remain solvent, and the man now known as Nigel Mossbank was the untraceable and undisputed master of this timehonored university shell game. Mossbank simply fulfilled a need of many young people of the 21st Century to have something larger than themselves to believe in. In the absence of traditional religion, an impressive array of unobtainable vocabulary terms naming ineffable qualities became the ladder
upon which the disenfranchised youth of the times climbed almost effortlessly to what they felt were surely higher academic plateaus. The mental stimulation afforded by the likes of Mossbank transcended, therefore, any foundation in solid truth and became a faith of its own. Somehow Mossbank had realized that at any early enough time in life to use it to his ultimate advantage. In his own rationale, he offered the firmament of substance to areas where there had been none, a scaffolding of nothingness leading to nowhere, and it was devoured daily by the intellectually hungry hordes of early adults that flocked to his performances as they would have to those of a sideshow carnival snake oil salesman. That the king wore no clothes was far from being salient to everyone. Nor was that sort of revelation desired in an age of uncertainty. Mossbank, therefore, supplied a product to fill a need and aided in stabilizing the turbulent torrents of his troubled times. And when he received his university paychecks, he cashed them with glee, knowing full well that his was an important role and one which could not be performed by just anyone. Falling short of a career on the stage, he blithely settled for ephemeral importance in colleges where any man with a white horse and wagon load of buffalo liniment could have made a profound psychic dent in times gone by. His was the fine and venerable art of duping the rubes, and there was no greater nesting place for the latter than in the small colleges of early 21st Century America. As evening fell over the little university community on the day following the heartbreaking funeral of Calvin Rackstone, skydiver, Nigel Mossbank aka Umber Schultz rolled over in his bed and looked again in the dim light at the oval shaped spot of blood next to his bedmate. "In patently absolutist terms," he began as she woke up to his whisper, "the first time hurts the worst. They say the second time is far better, and I stand ready to console again should the need be welling up in you now. The pain, the small but pleasurable agony you
have suffered, is nothing next to the indescribable ecstasy that our mutual congress can further ignite. After all, you are twenty-one, and you probably have delayed this far too long." The lissome, large-chested girl stretched out beside him in his apartment bedroom examined his now somewhat aged face with glassy eyes peering out from tear-streaked cheeks and agreed that she was somewhat comforted by the energetic thrusts of the older man who lay naked beside her in bed. "I was waiting for the right man, I guess," she sighed. Mossbank put a finger over her ample lips and felt for the damp warmth of her erogenous zone. "It was an error," he whispered. "I have delivered you from an indisputable mistake. And I am ready to do it again. I hope I have made you forget that foolish boy. If not, I will this time." Totally resigned to whatever passion she found with her professor, Pampinea Tormini, hastened to his embrace and soon found herself again penetrated by the electric vibrancy of both his physical and intellectual being. Just before climax, she remarked that "Schopenhauer was right. Virginity is its own punishment." Arcing in the final explosive relief of his own slightly over the hill passion, Mossbank forgot himself momentarily and dropped out of character. "I'm not sure he really said that," he said, "but it will do." IX. Ross Jarrett cracks the code "Brilliant, absolutely brilliant," exclaimed Ross upon replaying several segments of the lecture recorded by Slade Napecrane earlier that day. "The man is utterly a master at what he does!"
"It would take you to appreciate that bullshit," replied Slade with undisguised derision. "Care to explain it?" "Even though I can recognize good old Spinoza on the cover of your book, I don't know squat about philosophy, and I'm not sure this dude does either. But it doesn't matter. What he does is bigger than all these dusty ideas. It is a linguistic masterwork." "Linguistics again," groaned Slade. "What is he trying to say? He's not going to give us a midterm if we participate in the question and answer period. I need to have some understanding." "No wonder the women like him," continued Ross. "At least no wonder why some of them like him. He enchants with his words. There is a certain drumbeat, a tempo... I can explain it to you using some very simple terms from classical grammar." Ross turned back the dial on the voice recorder to a sound bite that he had played more than once. The utterly relentless fecal quality of traditionally deterministic duality. Slade looked and listened with disgust. "What in the fuck does that mean? I know that fecal has something to do with shit. That much I can tell you." "Yeah, shit," said Ross. "It means something like the shit is absolute and it ain't going to stop, but that is not the point. Look at the basic make-up of this phrase and others like it. It follows a pattern that you have probably never noticed. Your professor has discovered the time-honored art of true rhetoric. He has discovered that nearly any sort of bullshit sounds better when you use big words that apply to a certain discipline, but he has also found the
combination for putting them together into a neat linguistic crazy quilt that for some is very seductive because it bestows on the listener a sense of understanding something very crucial without a great deal of preparation or intellectual effort. In short, he uses the parts of speech---especially his adverbs and adjectives---with a consummate skill. Note the 'utterly relentless fecal' and the 'traditionally deterministic.' What you have here is super-modification on a large and grandiose scale. Adverbs that precede adjectives and cloak even the weakest nouns in garments of pure vibrancy." "You are starting to sound like him yourself," grunted Slade, annoyed. "Try it yourself. Take one of his favorite words 'masturbatory.' What part of speech is that?" "An adjective?" ventured Slade with some hesitation. "Exactly. Now an adjective by its very nature requires a noun to follow it somewhere, but let's delay that. Let's think of an adverb first. Most adjectives fall into word families that also include adverbs. Let's take the word 'deterministic' and make it an adverb. Do you remember how?" Slade, still exasperated by the unwelcome grammar lesson, thought for a moment. "Deterministically," he finally shouted as if catching on to a critical part of an unknown tongue. "And the noun?" continued Ross. "It has to be there in the same family." "Determination." "Okay modify the adjective 'masturbatory' with the adverb 'deterministically,'
and you get "deterministically masturbatory." Of course, we need another noun other than determination, so try 'absolutism.' That's a nice noun." Slade was, little by little, starting to catch on. "Deterministically masturbatory absolutism," he muttered somewhat relishing the spill of syllables produced by his tongue. "Still a bit naked," sighed Ross. "It needs either another adjective or another adverb. Let's take another of Professor Mossbank's favorites, "eschatological." I'm not even sure any more what that means, but it matters not. Let's slide it into the phrase like an adjective. Deterministically masturbatory and eschatological absolutism. Pretty, huh? It wouldn't pass on the street, but that's the whole point. It is fit and ready to serve in a general philosophy seminar. We have a kind of sense about 'deterministically' and of course 'absolutism.' The exact application of 'masturbatory' escapes us in this context and all we can say about 'eschatological' is that it is a further adjective sitting at the right desk, but the phrase is still a little bare. Let's attempt some phrasal post modification." "You attempt the phrasal post modification," muttered Slade. "Okay, I will. What we have here is a case of pure deterministically masturbatory and eschatological absolutism in the post-Kantian sense of the notion itself. Yet another adjective ('pure'...which can be thrown in anywhere) and a phrase containing the adjective form of some famous philosophical dude's name. But we need to attack the mundane verb 'have,' so let's graft on yet another replacement verbal synonym. What we behold here is a case of pure deterministically masturbatory and eschatological absolutism in the vivid yet unappealing post-Kantian sense of the very word itself. You see I have managed to stretch the tempo even farther by exploiting two more everyday
adjectives---'vivid' and 'unappealing' used in contrast in what we call an embedded modification, and note that there is always room for 'very' to sneak in and modify either a noun or an adjective in order to round out the haunting beat of the utterance." "People fall for that shit?" winced Slade. "Some people do," said Ross. "Those who have spent their tuition money and registered for a philosophy class especially. They are committed to understanding. If they admit to themselves that the declarations of a guy like Mossbank are artificial language tricks that probably amount to nothing much of real substance, they have condemned their own choice of an intellectual path as well as their own selection of a sage mentor. In short, they are too far in to back out, so they charge forward, enchanted and upwardly buoyed by the symphony of overmodified nouns bristling with lively adverbs and extraneous phrases that simply stack the crap higher and deeper. It is like walking in the door of a comedy club. Everyone is splitting a gut at every word spoken by the on-stage comedian because his mere presence behind the mic signals that everything he spews is robotically funny, and if it weren't, then neither he nor you, the paid audience, should be there to start with. How many lame funny men get a peal of laughter just out of farting on the stage and saying something dumb like "Getcher ice cream here before it melts"? "That's not even half funny." "But it would be if you were wedged into one of those clubs, say alongside of that girl Tory you like so much. You would be slapping your knees and her knees and laughing right along with the pack. The context would force it on you, just as it does in a somber philosophy class where life and death matters of great and universal import are being dragged into the light of discussion."
"Great and universal import," repeated Slade. "You just did it. Two adjectives and one noun. And 'universal' would make a great adverb as well." "So go ahead and run with it." "Life and death matters of great and universally...universally...universally...." "Try 'poignant,' suggested Ross. That is another of his all time favorites." "Life and death matters of great and universally poignant import." "Go on. We need further modification in the form of what we call an adjective clause. Don't just let little old 'import' stand there half dressed. 'Great and universally poignant import, which....' "Which impacts!" shouted Slade now really getting into the swing of the lesson. "Impacts what?" "Impacts upon the...the...deterministically and vacantly eschatological absolutism of the blah..blah..blah." "You get another point for doubling the adverbial adjective modifier with 'vacantly.' You did that by yourself. Proof again that all you have to know is the pattern. Learn to say all the big words in the glossary of your textbook. Learn their word families, how to shift them back and forth as parts of speech, and then look at the name index of your book. Nietzsche, Plato, Hobbes, Pascal. Most of them form convenient adjectives like Nietzschean, Platonic,
Hobbesian, Pascalian. And the ones that don't can be transformed into adjectives with the mere addition of an --ish or better an --esque, as in Spinozaish or Schopenhaueresque. Never forget -ish or -esque. It takes practice but each one of those famous dudes has an available adjective attached to his name. That is what fame gets you." Slade mumbled to himself the phrase they had both just constructed, substituting other terms he had vaguely distinguished from the lectures. Suddenly, his eyes brightened. "I think I have it," he beamed. "I think I know how to study." "And to talk," concluded Ross. "But not to everyone. Only to those who are on the field and playing first string in the game. Like your Tory for example. But remember my analogy to the comedy club. Those lame jokes are only good once you've paid your admission and are sitting in the seats. They don't fly an inch outside of the club. Ipso facto, my friend, I shall give you a poignant, to coin a word, demonstration." Ross pushed the speed dial on his cell phone and immediately a feminine voice answered. "Emily, can you come down to the room for a minute? I need you for something. Yes, I know its that time... I need you for something else. Can you drop in here for just a moment right now?" In seconds, Emily, her long hair pulled up into a wet towel, padded down the dorm corridor in bunny slippers and the requisite bathrobe. She entered Slade and Ross's room without knocking. Slade noted that she was essentially a pretty girl with perhaps a little too much flesh around the waist. She had only casually buttoned her bathrobe so that hints of very round and fleshy breasts abounded in undisguised jiggles as she walked through the door. "Wazzzup guys?" she asked. "I have a test tomorrow. Need to study. Structural semantics and all."
"How very Saussurean of you," chuckled Ross. "How ultra-semantically adept with regard to the class you wrestle with at hand." Emily frowned at Ross. "What's got into you," she said quizzically. "You sound like a freshman lost in a laundromat. Is this general bullcrap week on campus?" Ross grinned and tore a sheet from his notebook and read it to her: What we behold here is a case of pure deterministically masturbatory and eschatological absolutism in the vivid yet unappealing post-Kantian sense of the very word itself. And then, Life and death matters of great and universally poignant import. "Huh?" said Emily somewhat baffled. "Is that crap stolen out of some book or in a paper one of you are writing?" "You wouldn't be so quick to condemn it as crap if you were sitting in the right place among the right people, " said Ross. "Remember what you semanticists say about the human context." "Well, it does sound kind of good if I knew what it meant, but right here dripping wet from the shower, I'm not even vaguely interested. I need to get dressed and get on with tonight. Jill and I are going out for a few. I'd ask you to join us but let's make it a girls' night, and you and I can wait until my little visitor has gone home. Okay?" Emily kissed Ross lightly on his pimply and erupted cheek and left the room as rapidly as she had come. "You see it's all context," said Ross. "Now take the rest of the weekend and hit that book. Don't try to understand what it means. Look for the adverbs, noun modifiers, descriptive phrases and form adjectives out of as many of the big names as you can. Remember the code: an intellectually toxic fallout of
compounded descriptors laced with fillers like "as it were" and "effectively," and, above all, don't try using that shit anywhere else but in your class." So Slade, almost obediently, did as he was directed, taking his weighty philosophy text not as a guide to the history of human epistemology but rather as a new and strange language that he was only beginning to acquire. Passing a nearly sleepless Saturday and Sunday night at his desk for the first time in his three plus years of college, he began to crack and reformulate a verbal cipher that had been there beyond his ken during most of his life. "The key to all intellectualism," he grumbled to himself, wiping his tired eyes with a tissue. "The ultimate answer to all things. Language. Language in context." At one point Ross returned to the dorm room after an evening with Emily and found his acolyte hard at work scribbling down extended and drawn out phrases built upon the lexical vocabulary of philosophy and its great masters. "Context," he said brusquely. "Let's see if you have mastered context. You're back in the locker room in the eighth grade---back there in that California that doesn't exist---and someone calls you a fag. What do you say to that person?" "You're a fag too!!" snapped Slade. "It's a matter of the context. You taught me that." "Now your math instructor, for example, confronts you publicly will being illprepared and intellectually deficient. How do you respond?" "I'm striving daily to ascend the challengingly exhilarating learning slope that you have laid before us, and my degree of preparation is syllogistically allied with my rate of successful ascent." "Not bad," said Ross. "Before long, you'll be tossing the balls with the big
boys and will have gained the reputation of an intellectual which, someday you will, alas, need to shed." "Not until I've aced this class and fucked Tory Spangler," beamed Slade, well pleased with his own progress. "And the student also transforms the teacher," said Ross cheerfully. "The word 'fucked' is officially admitted to the lexicon of this room, thanks to your sterling efforts with context. In fact, I have just fucked Emily. And I hope that you fuck Tory this week. And if you don't, it will be a fucking shame. Do you fucking get what I'm fucking saying?" Both boys, in mutual comprehension, shook hands and laughed. The linguistics lesson had been successful up to this point. It would soon be time to put it into direct application. X. Conclusion And so on a sunny late April Monday, Slade Napecrane, imbued with a new sense of confidence, squared his usually stooped shoulders and crossed the central campus park on his way to his philosophy class in the Humanities Building. Along the way, he chanced to glimpse into the cloudless sky above the chapel meadow. A yellow bi-plane crop duster wobbled at a low altitude through the sky, depositing a mottled flock of parachuted divers into the lightness of the springtime air. Fecklessly irresponsible doltish cretins, Slade thought to himself, gathering confidence with his ability to manipulate descriptors and flex a bolstered sense of vocabulary. I wouldn't fucking dive out of plane if they paid me by the downward inch. Context, he mused to himself. At the alcove entrance to the Humanities Building stood sculptured Pampinea
Tormini undoubtedly waiting for Tory Spangler to arrive. Something slightly tragic struck Slade as he caught a quick image of the once daunting girl. Something seemed to have aged in her face. There was a definite sense of unsmiling sorrow there now, something that seemed to be the harbinger of Pampinea growing suddenly older and less childlike. But launched on a mission, he dashed past Pampinea without so much as a nod and took a seat well ahead of the other students in the front of Professor Mossbank's classroom. He crossed his legs and extracted his notebook, now replete with phrases and modifications and sentences of all sorts that he would use during the question and answer part of the class. A certain sense of bland insouciance washed over his body. Perhaps he too had grown older. He had learned to play a game, a word game, but perhaps this would be the one and only time. If he failed, he could always find work as a carnival barker or whatever. Pampinea, still somber, took her seat farther back in the lecture pod alongside of Tory. The two were still inseparable. Nothing had changed in that. Both nattered in low tones about things in their notebooks, and the name Calvin was not even mentioned. Both girls were, however, still wearing the obligatory black armbands which students so inclined toward this sort of protracted mourning had not yet felt the need to shed. As Professor Mossbank made his usual theatrical entry into the classroom, Slade noted out of the corner of his eye that Pampinea, usually enraptured by the teacher's enthralling arrival, seemed less than eager to make eye contact with the man and accordingly lowered her head slightly as if still gazing into her capacious saddlebag of copious notes, equally observing that Mossbank seemed to be avoiding direct eye contact himself with Pampinea. He must have fucked her, mused Slade with a sudden unexpected flash of newfound insight. Out of this context, of course.
The professor, dressed today entirely in red, and sporting a brimmed fedora complete with a European style brush tucked into its band, opened today's lecture with some random rhapsodizing about the "stunning clarity of Hegelian vision and the unassailable edifice of the phenomenology of Hegel's cherished dialectic." Slade studied his notes rather than take new ones. He had already learned the denominate adjective 'Hegelian' simply by putting the most logical adjectival endings on each of the names in the index of his textbook. By this point in his studies, that was becoming a unthinking snap. The professor raged on and on about the "forceful iniquity of misplaced intellectualism which debased pure, unsullied Hegelian thought into the lifedraining murkiness of robotic Marxism." Slade settled back for the usual request for questions and clarifications at the end of the lecture. All topics discussed or un-discussed were on the table, and the kinetic professor graded those who actively participated in this segment of the class. Truth be known, Mossbank had no desire to assign and or correct mid-term essays, and he would find an oral participation way out of the final exam as well, leaving all students to earn at least a C by their attendance alone. It was as if another voice from another person was echoing through Slade's brain when he thrust up his hand and blurted "So...!" "So what?" said the professor to the nondescript boy who had remained so uncommunicative during most of the previous sessions. "So what is real and what is illusory? Like your California, for example." Slade continued without pausing to acknowledge the comment: "So, one thing you have so ardently stressed, Doctor Mossbank, is that on a purely pragmatic and imminently practical level one---meaning a thinking and reacting human unit---must strive to remain epistemologically steadfast vis-à-vis the
maddening torrent of relativistically apocalyptic input from the scions of rationally grounded and ill-informed scientific endeavor. If I am right, I applaud you heartily for this and join with you in that exact and unwavering sentiment, which is both post-and pre-Kantian by the very nature of its innate essence." The fake teacher beamed a broad smile of satisfaction at the hitherto unnoticed boy in the front row. A slight gasp of disbelief wafted over the student audience, and Slade could sense without blushing the rotation of many if not all heads in his direction. The professor, far from being mocked, was being fed a part of his own ambrosia by this seemingly precocious lad, and he lapped it up like a starved alley kitten. These were more or less, but not quite, his own words coming back to him, although they were, in effect, relative to nothing he had thought he had previously said, but they were framed in language...his language, and he willingly assented to the "precise and immutable correctness" of the comment, concluding by an admirational repetition of the term 'epistemologically steadfast.' "Yes," he shouted, "finally one who understands! We must guard our innermost sensibility during the genesis of new and untried ideas to the point of remaining, as you say, epistemologically steadfast. I could not have expressed it with more clarity than you just have." On his neck, Slade sensed the burn of Tory Spangler's amazed eyes. Within the context of the class, he, Slade Napecrane had emerged not only a hero but a solid ally of the spectacular professor. Together they would conclude the rest of the term, wrapped in a state of mutual admiration for the rhythm and cadence of their own words. Together they would achieve what one ersatz educator faced with a bovine herd of common cattle could never reach, the perfection of the word and the exactitude of the phrase. The union was now soldered. Slade basked in the obvious and glowing esteem bestowed on him by this verbally dynamic teacher, with whom he had now become both a brother and,
unknowingly, a co-conspirator in a plot larger than he would ever care to imagine, for his thoughts now centered on Tory and the imagination of what she must be thinking. Later that night in a quiet campus ale house, Pampinea, who had had very little to say in the first place, suddenly retreated to the restroom and gently disappeared, leaving Tory and Slade alone for the first time ever at a candle-lit table over finger-smudged glasses of white wine. It was only a discreet and barely discernable transition from this table back to Tory's room, which by design had been emptied of roommates by an earlier telephonic communication. As Tory and Slade recovered from what can only be defined as a glowing episode of physical rapture, Slade lit two cigarettes in his mouth and passed one to Tory, who continued to stroke his chest in the delicious afterglow of mutual conjunction. She gazed admiringly into his eyes, her voluptuous body shimmering in the faint glimmer of the campus security lights. At length, she propped herself up palm on cheek by an elbow revealing the splendor of her well-crafted bosoms. "So what was all that about," she asked tenderly, "you really stunned all of us, especially Dr. Mossbank. I loved it but you lost me at a point, my bad I guess, can you explain what you really meant?" Slade threw off the flimsy blanket which covered Tory's sleek body and smoothed his hand down the length of her silky torso. "Damned if I know," he said. "It all depended on the context of the moment. We're in a different milieu now, but I suppose you know that." "I do," said Tory, nestling herself like a spoon into the curvature of Slade's body. "I really do." _________________________
Devon Pitlor --- April, 2011 ///*
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