Barclay Zeno, yielding to gravity, lifted a Dixie cup to his lower lip, rested it, and poured a stream of Gibley’s gin and 7-Up onto his tongue and down his esophagus, which contracted like a garden snake.
“You gave me a book of poetry,” he said.
Aphra Ashton, thin, an incomparable 16-year-old beauty, daughter of an officer at Langley, daughter of a mother who listened to opera on Saturday afternoons as she cleaned the dishes.
“Yes.” She, too, pulled a Dixie cup to her lips.
“Why a stupid book of poetry?” he wondered.
Zeno started his father’s 1960 Chrysler, pulled it into drive, rolled along a ways, then turned to enter his prep school campus.
They were startled. The gymnasium where Zeno starred as an all-league basketball player was lit by a strobe. Streaks of light pierced off shards of mirror which were pasted onto a huge ball hanging from the rafters. The ball rotated slowly, like Pluto. Senior boys milled about. Their hair, defying school regulation, covered half their ears. Girls who did not understand how they inspired wore miniskirts which covered three or four inches of their thighs. They talked and laughed occasionally in groups of three and four. The Jefferson Airplane blammed from speakers on a stage at the end of the room.
“This is Kinsella’s doing,” thought Zeno.
Roddy Kinsella, the Jesuit who taught junior English and ran the school’s theater program, Roddy Kinsella who stunned Zeno in class one day when they were discussing a novel which Zeno did not understand.
“Should we have faith?” Kinsella asked.
“That’s odd coming from a man who is studying to be a priest,” thought Zeno. “Of course we should have faith.” He had been taught by the nuns for eight years.
Mr. Kinsella was a favorite among the boys. He drank Scotch with them at their parties and brought pitchers of beer to the boarders at night in their dormitory rooms. He got the beer from the priests’ cloisters, where ordained men retired and drank most of the night. The beer arrived in kegs at the school in a Budweiser truck each Friday afternoon at 3, which the boys found funny. Kinsella would not, however, smoke marijuana or swallow mescaline, psychedelics which seniors used on the weekends. It was May 1969.
Zeno and Aphra found seats in the bleachers.
“And if you go chasing rabbits . . .”
“Thank God I don’t have to dance,” thought Zeno. “No one could dance to this anyway.” He had never heard Grace Slick sing before.
As if planned, a freshman approached Aphra and told her that Father Cuneen wanted to see her in his office. She left and returned 15 minutes later.
Shocked, she exclaimed: “Something inexplicable! Something tragedy! Operation!”
Zeno pushed the fifth of gin far under the seat and sped the car off. Crying, Aphra jerked forward, bumping her head.
Her brother, the painter and English major at Bowdoin.
“He took. Five floors. He took. A window.”