As I had predicted, my presentation was a rousing success. But then, academics are like swine. As long as the farmer with the slop-bucket seems confident of himself they’ll happily eat up any sort of swill and grunt for seconds. Thirds if the farmer is named Foucault.
To confirm this theory, several members of the audience came up at the end of the session and presented their compliments.
“I just want to tell you,” started a dumpy young woman in a J.C. Penney’s twin-set, her name badge indicating a second-tier liberal arts college in the northeast, “that was one of the best presentations I’ve heard here. You really understand…”
Blah, blah, blah.
Of course she wasn’t at all interested in my “work”. They never are. It’s all about personal status, these questions and comments, all about jockeying for position through the ostentatious display of intellect.
“..don’t you agree?” the young woman concluded her lengthy statement/question.
“Yes. Quite. Please excuse me.”
I broke free of her dull gaze and made my way across the room to bid farewell to my host, the distinguished Professor X, who stood in a small group of admirers.
“Ah, Professor von Korncrake, a marvelous session. Will you be joining us at the dance later this evening?”
“Yes. I am very much looking forward to it,” I replied truthfully, “I am quite fond of dancing.”
“Well, save a place on your card for me,” said Professor Sally of North Dakota, who’d somehow slipped up alongside of me unnoticed.
What could I say, dear readers? I couldn’t tell her that I’d prefer to be dragged behind a speeding roadster, not with Professor X standing there smiling like a fool. Graciousness, well feigned, that was the only proper reply.
“Yes, of course,” I lied, adopting that idiotic American smile as my own, “I’d be delighted.”
And then I fled, the taste of bile fresh in my mouth.
The rest of the afternoon I spent in search of a liquor store, a place where three small bottles of brandy–one for each coat pocket, and an extra for the road–might be acquired. A successful completion of this task, and it was back to my hovel for a sulk.
“Good afternoon, boy-o,” said Father Ó Fhlannchaidh as I rounded the corner into the dormitory, “and what might ye be having in your pockets there?”
Like all religious drunks, the old Jesuit had a keen eye for the hidden bottle. I produced one of the brandies, twisted off the cap, took a drink and passed it over to the priest.
“You’re fine lad, von Korncrake, none of that high-handed Kraut nonsense about ye.” He crossed himself and took a long draught, the gin blossoms on his cheeks turning bright red, like a coke fire when the bellows pump.
He made as if to pass the bottle back. I waved him off.
Back in my room, I set about the second bottle, mixing the brandy into a plastic cup with a delightful carbonated elixir known by the unlikely name of “Dr. Pepper”.
“Wunderbar! The best Amerika has to offer,” I said to no one, “Herr Doktor Pepper, I salute you!” From the next room I could hear Father Ó Fhlannchaidh starting the second chorus of “Whiskey in the Jar.”
By nine o’clock, I and the half bottle of brandy that remained were ready for the dance. My social inhibitions had been sufficiently lowered and I was light of foot and feeling melodious.
Tomorrow, dear readers, we dance!