Flash Fiction: May 1968


“If those damned students — you know, those pot-smoking USA-hating Viet Cong-loving long-haired hippy-drippy seniors from Lincoln Hall, those damned students; if those damned students drag the damned flag across the dirt again while they gather for their… their…” (his eyes widened, his voice went up half an octave, and he drew quotation marks in the air) “their Be-In and wander stoned-eyed and aimless across the campus meandering from one quad to another chanting that bloody guru goo-goo and trampling the flowers, I’ll need a tranquilizer, I tell ya, I’ll need a goddamned tranquilizer. It’d be the last straw!”

He paused in his pacing rant just long enough to pull an old Kleenex tissue from the depths of his gown, and to wipe his nose, and then he was off again, striding and shouting.

“You know their posters?” He glared at me accusingly, unblinking. “Those obscene posters they stick up everywhere, all over the damn place, full of colour and hair and radical shouting?” His arm swung indecisively toward some faculty buildings in the east, and then at a group of trees to the south. It didn’t seem to matter, everywhere was infected it seemed. “They ran them off on the Dean’s own roneo printer when they invaded his office last month! Can you believe that? The Dean’s own printer! And what they did to the Founder’s photograph! My God, you remember that?” He didn’t need an answer and raced on. “No, no, no! This Be-In is just too much after all that!”

He stopped suddenly and turned to face me, an earnest look on his face. I thought he was actually going to grasp me by the shoulders like some angst-ridden character in a James Dean movie.

“In all these years, you know, this is the first time I’ve ever found myself staring at the calendar, praying for the term to end.” He shook his head sadly, and then out of the corner of his eye he saw a group of students, apparently ‘stoned-eyed and aimless’, turn the corner and enter the quad. He shook his head again with weary despair.

“I used to see Curiosity and Wonder. Now, for the most part, it is just Self-Absorption and Cynicism.” He sighed with the depths of the Pacific trenches. “I know some of them will pull through. It’s like my old Dad used to say about his nasturtium seeds year after year: Somes’ll come up, and somes’ll not. But I’m worried, Dick. Worried damned sick about what the nineteen-seventies are going to bring us.”

He shook his head and we wandered off again, a little more slowly this time, making a wide detour to avoid the students who, it seemed, hadn’t even noticed we were there.

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