Reverend Jonathan Flynn laid himself in the same bed he has laid in for thirty-two years now. He prayed his prayers; the same words and the same hopes as all, as always. Chop. Thrust. Clap. Amen. He took the remote control and put on some Mozart in the background to fill the void of silence.
-Ah, his requiem.
With the light raised just enough to appease his eyes, Rev. Flynn picked up his copy of The Portable Nietzsche.
-Bookmark? Bookmark. Oh, there you are. Where did I leave off. Yes, yes. That’s right.
Here and there I come into contact with german universities: what atmosphere prevails among their scholars, what desolate spirituality – and how contented and lukewarm it has become!¹
Harghh! How true. Not quite absolute though. Still six hours until dawn. Not bad sleep before my run tomorrow. Maybe not quite
enough. Got a night class at nine. I can take a nap in the afternoon. Should turn out the light.
Rev. Flynn fluffed the two pillows beneath his head. He kissed his rosary and pointed his body in the direction of the crucifix. Jesus watched over him. Rev. Flynn slept with his arms at his side.
Dawn came quicker than expected. The brisk chill of winter winds drew the covers tighter around his aging body. Time consumes us all. Dawn turns to day and day turns to dusk and so on. Now it is dawn. Now Rev. Flynn is called to duty. In a somewhat reversed pattern he picks up his arms from his side, prays, and gets out of bed. He showers and changes.
-Oh dear, it’s time for my morning run already. Better get myself some long johns. It’s going to be a cold one today. Well, the good Lord will watch over me and make sure I don’t catch my death.
Got an hour to keep running. Class at noon, then again at two thirty. Gonna start teaching Moby Dick again today. What a novel. Ishmael. Condemned to wonder the earth. Sure could parallel that to Greek mythology. Call me Jonathan. Me, Jonathan, should’ve eaten some breakfast before this run. Can’t stop now. Still have got to find that lesson plan. Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return.2 grrrr!
After his run, Rev. Flynn returned to the rectory for a little while. Breakfast was still being served. Rice Krispies with bananas and milk. Nutrition at its finest. The bananas were already sliced and waiting for him when he arrived. There was even a glass of two percent milk poured and ready to saturate the cereal.
Hhmpheww. They treat me so well here. Always anticipating my next move. Sharp as tacks. Not me, though. Still can’t find that lesson plan. Might as well reread the first five chapters. Can probably print up some notes on Melville from the internet.
After an hour of web surfing and an in depth reread of Moby Dick, Rev. Flynn felt prepared for class. It was a long day already and he was in need of a nap. Duty called, though. Fifteen minutes and counting. It was Flynn’s passion to teach. He was blessed with a gift he needed to share. The words were always on the page. Sometimes eyes only see letters, though. It was his job to put those letters together and form something more than familiar sounds.
The class room was packed today. It must have been a good two months since attendance was perfect. The class room was quiet. The students gazed upon the reverend as he walked across the room. It lit a spark of promise in Rev. Flynn’s eyes.
He was brought to the days of his youth at Fordham’s Prep school. His pupils blurred into a vision of fifty years past. Third row
second seat. A vision of hope and sparkling smiles. School was a place of learning. He was there to learn. On the edge of his seat. Each word from the teachers mouth. Each letter, word, and paragraph of the book he studied. It kept him going. The fuel to his fire, burning hotter and faster. Anticipating each moment sure to come in hopes that one day he would be standing in front of another set of students so eager to to sit there in the blank darkness of utter silence.
They are here to learn. I am sure of that. Look at their faces. They are all staring at me waiting for me to begin my lecture. There is enthusiasm and a passion in their hearts of which I am the mediator. I am Ishmael. I am Queqeg. I am Melville. My words make that invisible connection to their ears. The bridge, making their education worthwhile. Today ends my search at sea. Today I fulfill the promise of that fifteen-year-old boy. A half of a century is given meaning.
The pupils continued to follow Rev. Flynn with their eyes as he walked across the room and opened the windows. He pulled up all of the shades so that the entire campus could see his pride and joy. His disciples.
-What a beautiful day. As you may have noticed, even the greatest works of literature must come to an end eventually. The meaning of that work may endure countless generations of interpretation but the page numbers are finite. So, today we move on. We leap backwards in time from Yossarian’s struggle in the gray area between sanity and insanity. Today we begin Melville. Another struggle for peace. a search for meaning.
Rev. Flynn’s eyes raised above the sea of indistinguishable faces. His eyes became fixated on the crucifix hanging from the back wall. God gave him this gift. God restored the smile on his face that was lost in the repetition of half a century’s breaths. He had reason to carry his students on his shoulders as someone once did for him.
-Ladies and germs, he said with an unconscious smile on his face. That unsound ocean you gasp in, is life; those shark, your foes; those spades, your friends; and what between sharks and spades you are in a sad pickle and peril, poor lad.3 Consider this Melville’s own warning to you. Moby Dick will not be easy on you. You will have to search, endlessly, with nothing but the serenity of blue waters surrounding you. Don’t drown. There is an end. This, in my opinion, is one of the few books that need to be taught. You need a guide. and I, your humble servant will do my best to fulfill that role for you. You deserve no less.
The reverend bowed graciously before his class. Here, everyone is, was, and forever shall be equal.
He continued his lecture well beyond the limits of the bell. Five minutes at least. He discussed Melville’s relevance as an American
writer; the niche in history he carved into the transcendental movement; and his reasons behind writing Moby Dick. the whole time, he praised God from the bottom of his soul for putting everything into perspective. His eyes did not leave that crucifix until every last student in the class room was gone.
-This room is a fucking mess.
-Shut the fuck up, Jimmy. It’s only a dorm room. We don’t pay for the shit. It’s April, anyway. We’ll be out of here in a month.
-Why are you always such an asshole?
-Move out of the television’s way. I’m in the middle of a game. NHL ’95. A classic. Hartford’s beatin’ Detroit eight zip. How many times do you get a chance to see the whale with a lead like that?
-How many opportunities did you ever have to see the whale with a lead period?
-Not often. That’s probably why they don’t exist anymore. Anyway, move the fuck out of the way.
-You are such a dick, Rob.
Jimmy left the common room and slammed his bedroom door behind him. He was bitter and alone. It didn’t matter, though. He was
behind that thick oak door now.
Rob kicked aside some of the clutter to stretch out his legs. There was three minutes left in the game. It had his undivided attention.
Fucking Jimmy. The kid can never relax. School. School. Fuckin’ school. Nine zip. Buck fifty left. Can’t believe the whale is pulling this one off. Where does he get off slammin’ that door in my face? Against Detroit too. Stanley Cup Winners. Maybe I can get him drunk this weekend. He can be good for Saturdays. If he is around. Probably has to work or some shit. The rest of the time he is a bitch. Need another lager. Yuengling. Sixteen a case. Not bad. Gotta loosen up before class tomorrow. Hinton. Flynn. <cKain. Easy day. Out by three.
-Rob, can you lower that tv? I am trying to read. I don’t mind your playing but I’ve got my Melville class at noon tomorrow
which, by the way, you are in. some of us will be doing our work tonight. You know, reading Moby Dick.
-Yeah, yeah. I’m going to bed anyway. I’ve got class at eleven.
Nah. Think I might skip it. No real need to go. Hinton’s only gonna blab about somethin’ off the topic. Probably politics. Kinda strange for a math class. did he say we were doing Moby Dick tomorrow? Good movie. Funny. Ahab chasin’ that whale all over the place. Never quite catches it I think. Crazy shit. Reminds me of the Three Stooges in some strange artsy way. Never saw anyone with a pegleg before. Might give Jimmy one if he keeps acting like this. Hmph. Jimmy with a pegleg. I would pay money to see that. Got post-modernism too. Never thought I’d get caught for plagiarism in that one. I thought my midterm was an awesome parody of Jimmy’s. McKain wouldn’t buy it, though. Don’t think Jimmy did either. Who cares? He’ll forgive me for the F. Wonder what’s on the ol’ boob tube.
The common area was covered in posters. The television shone its proper spotlight on them. Robert’s idols rested on these walls. There were no nails in their hands. Pictures of naked super models and beer were nowhere to be found. I’m going to be the next Tarantino he would say. Little did he know. About anything. His pupils dilated. His breathing rate dropped. the subtle look of apathy raised north from his lips.
Egghhh. Egghhh. Errgrhh. Errgrhh. The alarm clock had been going off since nine. It was quarter after eleven when he finally heard it from the couch.
Guess I missed math. Don’t really need it much in the film business. That’s why there are accountants. Got a while. There’s another snooze in store for me. Can’t sleep, though. Head hurts too much. Neck’s kinda stiff too. Seven, eight, hmm, twelve. yes. Had twelve beers last night. Can see just as straight now as I could then. Slowly. Slowly. Okay. The alcohol did not all rush to my head. Burning eyes. Bet they’re red. Can start moving now. Think Jimmy’s done showering.
-What the fuck are you doing, man?
-Not so loud, all right.
-What do you mean, not so loud? We’ve got Flynn in half an hour and you’re still in a beer stained t-shirt. I hope it’s beer, anyway.
-I’ve got a fucking hangover, dude.
-It’s safe to assume you did not make it to your eleven?
-Be thankful I’m going to my twelve. What are you so damned curious for?
-Dude! You haven’t made it to that class since late January. Do you ever plan on graduating? A year behind. You’re a fucking year behind.
-Who cares? Hand me those jeans. Thanks. I’m in no rush. Who’s gonna be waiting for me on the other end of that graduation line? I’ve got nowhere to go. Gonna be working in the restaurant until my acting career takes off. Have you seen my school bag?
-Where did you see it last?
-When did you have it last?
-You really make me laugh sometimes. You can share my copy if you just promise to come to class. Do you even own the book?
-What book? Right. Dick. Forgot it was a book. Nope. Maybe I’ll skip.
-Just put on your jacket and get in the car. I don’t have time to deal with your shit.
Jimmy never had any time to deal with shit. If it wasn’t work, it was his high-maintenance girlfriend. Factor in school, schoolwork, his nervous breakdowns, and so on. Jimmy was always behind that big oak door when he was home. Rob’s second controller wasted away under the clutter of empty beer bottles. NHL was much more interesting when played against someone.
-All right. Alright. I’m coming.
Silence fell over the car ride to school. There was a bitter unspoken tension that kept the two room mates together in their hydrogen and oxygen bonds. It was that useless clutter in which their lives were wrapped. It was the time consuming nonsense which keeps buried the questions you have long intended to answer.
-I’ve gotta take a piss. I’ll meet you in class, Jimmy.
Yeah right. I think I’m gonna get some lunch first. The class is an hour and fifteen minutes. I can waste some time. I’ll hit up Steve’s room too. I bet he’s got some Tylenol for me. Ehh. My head’s feelin’ a little bit better now that I’m up and movin’ around. Maybe I should just go to class. Ppprrbb. Yeah,right. Pizza Hut it is.
After fifteen minutes of stalling, Rob finished his pizza and began to head over to Broman’s Hall. That elusive feeling of guilt left the pit of his stomach in the air pockets of the pizza’s quick fix.
-Sorry Rev. got caught up in traffic. The car overheated. You know how temperamental my hooptie can be.
The class let out an uproar of chuckling, the first signs of life since free period. Rev. Flynn did not even notice his dramatic entrance. Jimmy, on the other hand, was infuriated. Rob sat next to him and looked over his shoulder. He looked across the room to Gina, his freshman year crush. She sat there as beautiful as ever. The long blond flowing hair. The tan, tan skin. What amazing contrasts to those deep blue eyes. He pictured himself swimming in them. In her. Oh, he would never stop. He would cherish her for everything she was worth. He had his whole livelihood stored up for someone like her and he was determined that today would be the day he found out if she was the one.
-…in the transcendental period, Herman Melville is the next significant writer to come into play after Thoreau…
All the words were jumbled in his head.
-…Moby Dick was and still is Melville’s quintessential work…
I wonder what she is doing tonight.
-…Melville very much represented Ishmael’s character…
Maybe she has a boyfriend. Look at those long sleek fingers running through that silk hair. Mman, what I would…
-…in a letter to Hawthorne, Melville said….
…for four years now I have been thinking about this moment. I have to do it now. I have to ask her…
-….that the secret motto behind…
…that’s an interesting doodle. It kind of looks like a space ship. Grade school. I always used to draw these crazy cars that could fly and hover over water. Man I miss those days. Life was so simple…
-…this book was located in the forge chapter…
…I miss nap time. Cookies and milk. Watching movies and singing songs. I should have been an Elementary Education major. They learn how to play the recorder and shit. Life continues in this endless cycle of simplicity for them…
-…e go non bapteezo tea in nomini patris, said in nomini deabole…
…I would show her who her daddy is. I’ll lay the smack down on that candy ass. Like french vanilla ice cream. So sweet. She is so hot. Man what I wouldn’t do to her. With her. I would spend an eternity with her. She would be my Goddess. I would be her slave, catering to every wish and desire… she will be mine.
-Ahab. he truly wants to be struck down to prove that there is a God. so sad. There is such despair in him…
-Rev. Flynn, how are we going to cover this book? It seems like so much material for the end of the semester?
The reverend seemed not to notice his question.
-Will this be on the final exam?
He continued further with his lecture.
-Shut up, dude.
There were some things that Rob could never understand about Jimmy.
The bell resonated deep into the hearts of the students.
The books slammed shut. The left arm grabbed the school bag. The right arm grabbed the books and inserted them. Zip. Stand. Proceed in single file, like a grade school fire drill. Anonymity. Everyone headed for the front door in line with a passionate intensity to reach the outside. That’s the way it seemed, anyway, While Rob made a beeline for Gina.
-Rob, what the fuck is wrong with you?
Jimmy grabbed him and pulled him aside.
-Why can’t you just do something the normal way for once?
-Listen, mom, I don’t have time for another one of your bullshit lectures right now. Why don’t you just accept the way things are and deal? Fucking deal, man.
Rob pushed him aside and ran to the smoker’s quarters outside of Broman’s Hall. He knew she would be there. She was always there. There she was.
She is so gorgeous. I can picture us walking hand in hand through the Forge Valley Park. It’s such a beautiful day. Maybe she will come with me. Maybe she would if she wasn’t standing next to Deborah. Jesus Christ. You date one girl on this campus and the rest of them are ruined for you. It figures. Oh well. There is always tomorrow.
Rob resigned himself to the possibilities of the future conditional. There was always a tomorrow. There is always a tomorrow. And there always will be a tomorrow.
Someday she will be mine, he thought as he walked back towards Broman’s. The rain that began to fall outlined the harsh stubbled contours of his face and fell to the ground. For a brief moment in time, he was not alone.
a story of one
Place: Sean’s bedroom.
Somewhere in middle america.
[Sean sits with his back to the audience as the curtains open. he is on his bed. he is reading from a notebook as he writes.]
Saw you sitting there in front of me, more bronzed than before. Something just wasn’t right. Expected snow on golden highlight strands. Could never understand. You could never be the same. I took you apart. The clues are in your roots. You have brown glass eyes behind the blue translucent coatings.
Remember when we were poor and comfortable? Remember when we were rich? Plastic poor and leather comfort on the chair. Used-to-be’s dissolving before me.
No. No. No. Scratch it all. This writing is horrible. Could never quite capture the feeling of being found out. Peeling off the layers to find the loneliness and desolation behind closed doors. Like Hearst’s character in Citizen Kane. I can see right through people but I don’t know how to say it. Let’s try something a bit more familiar.
[Sean enters a stream of consciousness and writes a poem.]
Better. Not so blunt. Never force yourself to do something. It will never happen that way. The poem’s not exactly perfect but it works better than the first one. Don’t expose them. Hit them with what they feel inside. I feel it too. Makes it easier. Everyone’s got that sense of loneliness inside.
-Thanks. Hello. Oh, Jimmy. No, no. Just messing around with something. Nothing serious. Yes. Read up to chapter twenty-three. The Lee Shore. Not hard reading. We’ll probably only cover the first five tomorrow. good book. I think you’ll like it. See you tomorrow.
-Was that Jimmy?
-Yup. Poor fellow.
-How is he taking the breakup?
-Better than expected. He and Sarah were going out for six years now. He planned on asking her to marry him next month. the day of graduation. Good kid. Smart as hell, too. It’s a shame he’s got so much stuff to deal with. I don’t blame him being so stressed out.
-So true. It’s been a steady decline since his mother’s death freshman year. And to find out she was an alcoholic! So
depressing. Beautiful service, though.
-Anyway, I have to get back to my reading. I took out a few critiques on Melville’s writing. Flynn is introducing Moby Dick tomorrow. I’m working out more of the political meanings and allusions in the book.
-Okay. Can I catch a ride in with you tomorrow?
-Sure. I’m leaving at eight.
-Bitch. Shame I can be so lazy. Oh well. A ride is still better than walking. The weather is getting nice, though. See you at eight. Peace.
[We hear Sean’s thoughts as he paces across the room with a copy of Moby Dick in his hand.]
Pequod, the ship of a nation. How interesting. Oh the quest for meaning. Ishmael. So transcendental. Ahab. So existential. Very romantic overall. If Melville can hit it right on the nose after such a rocky start, I’ve got nothing to worry about. It’s all a question of motive. Sure would like to read that one book. Damn. Can’t remember the name of it the one deemed illegible and incomprehensible. Believe Melville said that they wouldn’t be able to figure it out for at least five-hundred years. Nonsense. I’d like to give it a shot. Not tonight. It’s already late.
Sean put his walkman on and laid in bed. He played his band’s demo tape. He read the next set of poems from his collection of T.S. Eliot. The Inventions of the March Hare. His band will be going into the studio next month. They are putting out there first album. Just got signed to Gloria Records. He shut off the light and turned in his bed.
[Lights up on center stage. curtains open to radiating light from window.]
Eight hours later
Sean: [In a sing-songy voice]
I rise with the sun. I wipe the tired from my eyes to see it in all of its magnificent glory. I am naked in its presence (bowing to the window). It guides me west under the gentle wings of its rays. And I am twenty-one years facing infinity. Infinity lighting my path. Giving reason to sight. Sight creating that vacuum in my mind. Capturing it in the glimmer of my eye. Bottled up to enjoy forever. To appreciate at night.
[Twelve noon. the bell rings. Rev. Flynn enters the class stage right.]
Drab, dressed in black. Swallowed by the wall behind you, absorbing the sun for all its worth. He is our true father. You are the messenger of a false God. Staring at the idol behind my head. Do I even exist? Do I make a difference in your world? Are these nothing more than margin notes, passing the time away? Filling in the words my ears were never trained to hear. Sometimes you filter through.
-And i, your humble servant, will do my bthe wheels and gears call me on being late. And that is what I do.
What did I do to deserve this fate? Why do I go through the motions day in and day out. I am fucking sick of it. Fucking sick. Do you hear me? Of course not. No one ever hears me. I am stuck behind this God damned oak door wallowing in my misery day in and day out. I can’t take being alone anymore. I can never let that show, though. Never.
I wish it was easier. My slacker of a room mate has it right. He lives in this fantasy world. The marvels of modern technology. He drools. I’ve seen it. He can barely see straight half the time. Maybe that’s what I need. Maybe I need to get away from it all. I need an escape. I have had it up to here. Ouch. I forgot these damned ceilings were so low.
I can feel the cells scraping off the bottom of my feet as I walk. I am losing myself to the ground. The last place I want be remembered. Maybe it’s for the best. If I keep walking, I can scrape the skin off my feet, my legs, my torso. I can dissolve into the ground. no one would notice anyway. No one would care.
I can’t let it show. I have to walk through that class room door and take my seat. Flynn deserves my complete undivided attention. My parents deserve that four point owe for sending me here. I owe it to them.
Okay. Here we go. Class is starting. Flynn is walking into the room. I can do this. I can do this. right. My stomach hurts. I didn’t take my Prilosec this morning. Nobody’s perfect. No excuse not to try, though. We’ve made it to the moon.
There he goes. Look at him in all his glory. Embracing the subject. I can see the love in his eyes. each author and work. His children. Man of the cloth. Man of knowledge. Beautiful. Wonder how he does it. What an honest smile on his face. I wonder.
There he goes, that fucking bastard. Disrupting class as usual. I’m sick of caring for him. So little does he know. About anything. Looking over my shoulder. Probably doesn’t even know what class he’s in. Fuck it. Stop.
Listen to the silence in the room. There’s something eerie going on.
I can feel it. They are all naked. Yes. Maybe it doesn’t matter. I do have fingers. And feet. And eyes. And ears. I can feel them all. My breathing. It slowed. My asthma is not bothering me. Oh the peace and serenity. And there is reason to cherish time. For it is.
The bell is ringing in my ear. Fucking bastard. There he goes again. Introibo ad altare diaboli. She’s all he pays attention to. Infuriating. Why? What do I have to do to gain his attention?
Pathos surrounded the spaces behind his forehead. A pool of dripping apathy collected on the ground. He wiped the sweat from his brow and exited the class room. He never knew a day of peace in his entire life.
The events of the day were a bit harder to explain than expected. For years the people who were involved will look back and only be able to feel. No words will explain it, only a deep-seeded burning inside. Days will pass and each person will go on to live out the path set in front of him or her. Still, they were given the choice to change direction. From my view above, here is how the story ended:
The class let out. One by one the students left the room in silence. No one was quite sure what happened that day. Some unexplainable tension was released. It was quite orgasmic. Each student left with his or her head down, staring at his or her feet, noticing them for the first time. Something pushed their legs. Left. Right. Left. Right. Their feet were surrounded in rubber and leather, moving forward through each moment in time. There was a sense of shame in that. The day, for lack of better word, was humbling.
1.here and there I and lukewarm it has become.
from Friedrich Nietzsche’sThe Antichrist.
2.push not off can never return.
from Herman Melville’sMoby-Dick.
3.that unsound ocean and peril, poor lad.
from Herman Melville’sMoby-Dick.
1.ego non baptizo in nomine diaboli.
from Herman Melville’sMoby-Dick.
Dulce et decorum est
1.introibo ad altare diaboli.
from James Joyce’s Ulysses.