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Young adult novel, p.8
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       Young Adult Novel, p.8

           Daniel Pinkwater
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  First was lunch. This was another fine experience for the Wild Dada Ducks insofar as everything served was Dada food. The most aesthetically advanced dish was Florff, a sort of pink whipped Jell-O dessert. Captain Colossal made up the name for the substance. The Wild Dada Ducks followed the example of the other students and hurled their Florff against the wall of the cafeteria, where the blobs of pinkish stuff made a satisfying noise and stuck among older desiccated blobs thrown in previous semesters.

  The Wild Dada Ducks, over cups of inky Martwist College coffee, viewed our fellow students, particularly the female ones. The girls, in turn, looked at us with distaste. This was familiar. The Wild Dada Ducks vowed to find out what changes in our manner and appearance were needed in order to make the Martwist College girls love us—and allow us to love them in return—or at least fondle and bite and slobber on them, as some of the other male students were doing.

  The only young woman to return my gaze was Pulkeh Rabinowitz, a very short girl wearing a hand-woven serape with whom I had exchanged a few words at breakfast. I knew her name because she was wearing one of those square cards covered in plastic and printed with the words HI! MY NAME IS PULKEH RABINOWITZ. She appeared to be the only person wearing such a card. Pulkeh Rabinowitz had a guitar slung across her back.

  Captain Colossal noticed the direction in which I was looking. "Yes, she is beautiful," the Captain said, echoing my thoughts. "She must be one-fifty if she's an ounce." Captain Colossal tends to judge feminine beauty in terms of pounds on the hoof. He has a subscription to Opera News. The Dada Ducks tolerate this perversion. My own appreciation of the glamorous Pulkeh Rabinowitz began with her very thick eyeglasses, an accessory which never fails to turn me on.

  "Do you suppose that one such as myself could win the favor of a girl like that?" I asked half to myself.

  "If I don't get her first," Captain Colossal said. "What a fatty!"

  I ignored the Captain's vulgarism. What I felt for the beauteous Pulkeh was something mostly spiritual. And, as our leader, the Honorable Venustiano Carranza (President of Mexico) pointed out, this was no time to allow ourselves to be distracted from matters of study. El Presidente and I opened our registration packets, and the Wild Dada Ducks gathered around to choose our courses.

  The idea was that the Honorable Venustiano Carranza (President of Mexico) and myself, Charles the Cat, would pick the courses, and our three brother Ducks would sit in if possible, do the reading assignments, and write papers—which would occasionally be handed in under the name of one of the officially registered Ducks. It turned out from our reading of the material in the registration packets that as freshmen we didn't have very many choices. There were a number of courses we were required to take.

  College Writing dealt with writing papers, and developing good style, and some fiction and poetry. We all liked this because there would probably be lots of papers, giving all the Dada Ducks a chance to hand in work. Interpersonal Relations, we soon learned, was generally regarded as a "dork" course. It had to do with expressing oneself, and speaking effectively—which made College Speaking, another dorker, even more superfluous than it would have seemed from its title. We thought that we would work up some good topics related to Dada. Freshman Survey was a course that dealt with all of human knowledge in one semester. It was a lecture course, which meant that all the Ducks would be able to attend.

  In addition to these required courses, freshmen could also take an optional fifth course. We found a dandy—Mozart, The Man, His Time, His Music and His Eating Habits. A natural for the Mozart-loving Wild Dada Ducks. The Honorable and I hurried off to the gym to get our cards signed.

  The Mozart course, it turned out, was canceled because only two students signed up for it. By the time we found this out almost all the other courses were filled, and the only one the Honorable Venustiano Carranza and myself, Charles the Cat, could get into was something called Introduction to Communications. This, as far as we could figure out from the description in the course list, was to deal with things like radio and TV, and newspapers and that sort of thing. It didn't sound too bad, and the professor, Dr. Horst Whistler, was an interesting-looking guy. He wore a tiny snap-brim hat, pointy shoes, blue jeans, a sleeveless yellow T-shirt with a picture of Twisted Sister on it, and one black glove. Sort of sporty.

  Having charted our academic course for the semester, the Wild Dada Ducks visited the bookstore. Here the virtue of coming to college as a group was demonstrated again, as each Dada Duck had to pay for only one textbook, thus cutting the individual burden to a fifth. We were impressed to find that the textbooks we were required to buy had in every case been written entirely or in part by the very professor who was teaching the course.

  "Wow! These must be some smart guys!" the Indiana Zephyr said.

  "These courses are going to be great," Igor said. "I mean, the guy teaching it is the guy who wrote the book."

  This distinction tended to offset the fact that the books were quite expensive—between thirty-five and forty-five dollars each—and printed (actually Xeroxed) on cheap paper, and held together in loose-leaf binders.

  The Wild Dada Ducks also purchased ballpoint pens, and notebooks with MARTWIST COLLEGE printed on the covers. We then returned to our dorm, where fate had ordained that we should meet the amazing John Holyrood, the Beast of Nixonn Hall.

  We found the Beast sitting in our room, munching on an enormous hunk of megasalami. His sandaled feet were resting on a record album on one of the desks, and his rumpled tan raincoat fell loosely about his hips, revealing that he was completely naked underneath.

  Noticing the direction of our gaze, the Beast said, "Never fail to permit circulation of fresh air about the testicles—it's exhilarating, and healthful." Then the Beast sprang to his feet, digging his heel into the album, crumpling it slightly, and sending it skittering across the desk. "Gentlemen! Brothers! I was sitting here, pondering, wondering who the occupants of this citadel of taste and culture might be. Actually, I was wondering which of us has the greater mind, Nietzsche or myself. Sometimes I think it's me. Allow me to introduce myself. I am John Holyrood, genius, lover, and philosopher—and you are?"

  Sensing that we were in the presence of an extraordinary intellect, we introduced ourselves formally, using our Dada names.

  John Holyrood bowed, farted loudly, and gently shook the skirts of his raincoat. "Gentlemen, you are philosophers, and my brothers. I offer you my protection. You will hear things about me. You will hear that I am violent—that I am apt to bite, both in a loving, playful manner, and in earnest, depending on whether you are woman or man. You will hear I am brilliant—that I am importunate, romantic, sentimental, and unsanitary. All of these things are true.

  "I am on terminal probation. The dean has his eye on me. One more attempted rape or assault with intent to kill, and I will be suspended but not expelled—and can you guess why? Can you guess why this college does not send me packing? Why Harvard threw me out? Why my parents have gotten an injunction against my coming home? And yet Martwist College tolerates me? Can you guess why?"

  John Holyrood was pacing up and down, grinding his teeth and tugging at his beard, which appeared to commence just beneath his eyes. He looked like nothing so much as a movie werewolf about three-quarters through the transformation. We couldn't guess why.

  "It is because I am the only really distinguished intellect in this place—except for my mentor, Professor Xavier Wellington, whom I admire and revere about all living men, even though he avoids me. I am the only person here who was ever admitted by Harvard University, not that I have any respect for that elitist shitpile. I am the only genius here—that is, I was, until you came.

  "I will guide you, and mold you in my image. You five will also attain greatness. Also I will eat your food, and drink the wine I can't seem to find in any of your luggage, and advise you in matters of philosophy and love."

  By this time John Holyrood was squatting on one of the desks, smoking one cigarette a
fter another, and throwing the lighted butts on the floor, on the beds, everywhere. The Ducks picked up the butts and snuffed them in the wastebasket.

  "I must tell you of my great love for Pulkeh Rabinowitz," John Holyrood went on. "Some swine informed her that I had been untrue to her—a great lie. In my heart, at least, I have never wavered. Lust is inconsequential."

  It developed that John Holyrood's principal interest in Pulkeh Rabinowitz centered not on her rotundity or her myopia, but on her tiny feet, a feature neither Captain Colossal nor myself had particularly noticed. Holyrood was expounding endlessly on this particular attribute of Pulkeh Rabinowitz when someone passing the open door caught his eye.

  With a growl which truly sounded other than human, John Holyrood flew across the room and out the door. We then heard an impact, a scuffling sound, and a scream of anguish. We rushed into the corridor and found Holyrood all over a boy more than twice his size. Dragging the Beast of Nixonn Hall off the unfortunate took the best efforts of the five of us.

  "A trifle," the Beast said. "This lout once insulted me in some way or other—at least I think it was he. I'm quite all right. Please don't worry about me." With that, John Holyrood, our first friend at college, the Beast of Nixonn Hall, sauntered down the corridor and out of the building, whistling a tune from Don Giovanni.

  The Beast's victim, one Ned Calgary, rolled around moaning for a while, and then was helped to his room by a couple of friends. Meanwhile, Ronald Rubin, our dorm president, appeared. He draped his arms over the shoulders of the Wild Dada Ducks, and said, "If I were you, fellows, I wouldn't have anything to do with Holyrood—it will hurt your chances to be popular with the other students." Associating with John Holyrood, the Beast of Nixonn Hall, as well as the flamboyantly homosexual Dick Lupin, the unbelievably smelly Eric Levine, the obnoxious Kent Sweeney (who always wore a suit and tie), and the four-hundred-fifty-pound Bootsie MacIntosh had no effect one way or the other on the social status of the Wild Dada Ducks.

  The majority of the students at Martwist College tended to ignore the Wild Dada Ducks. We sensed no hostility—we just felt invisible. For our part, we found it difficult to understand what the other students were all about. Their jokes and greetings and raucous slogans seemed to go right over our heads. Gradually, at mealtimes, we found ourselves sitting with the other freaks. Ronald Rubin ceased to caution us.

  It should be stated that the Wild Dada Ducks neither sought the company of these outcasts, nor did we object to them. They were quite simply the only people who were willing to associate with us.

  In truth, there were times when we might have objected to John Holyrood, but since he was in the habit of forcing the lock and bursting into the room at any hour of the day or night, and since he also was in the habit of standing outside the door for long periods listening, the Dada Ducks automatically refrained from expressing any negative comments about him. To give John Holyrood offense was a straight road to the infirmary.

  Had we expressed our reservations about John Holyrood, they would have dealt exclusively with his social deportment, his personal habits, and his violence. We all respected his intellect.

  Another observation the Wild Dada Ducks made during the first couple of weeks of the semester was that our courses were not as stimulating as we had hoped. We anticipated that things might get better in the second semester, or the second year, but for the moment there wasn't a great difference between Martwist College and the four horrible years we had spent at Himmler High.

  Encouraged by John Holyrood, the Wild Dada Ducks began to engage in wine drinking. It would be more accurate to say that we engaged in wine purchasing. We seldom got to taste more than a drop before John Holyrood, who appeared to have some kind of sixth sense in these matters, would appear with his private mug, which hung around his neck on a leather thong. We continued to acquire wine because it pleased him, and because he tended to become antisocial when no wine was offered.

  I also bravely courted Pulkeh Rabinowitz. This was triply brave because of my inexperience with women, Pulkeh's expressed desire to experience carnal love (which I shared, but first wanted to get my hands on a good book on the subject), and, of course, the matter of John Holyrood's affection for Pulkeh. In the first weeks of the semester I got as far as having some conversations with Pulkeh always in the presence of another Dada Duck, or one of Pulkeh's circle of friends, which was more or less the female counterpart of ours. In these conversations, which were general and polite on my part, Pulkeh would usually make some reference to being a junior in college and still never having experienced pleasure. "Someone is going to make his move one of these days and receive the riches of my body," Pulkeh Rabinowitz would say. Her other interest was folk music.

  One night, when all the Wild Dada Ducks were sleeping, John Holyrood kicked open the door of our room. He sat on my legs, flicking hot cigarette ashes on the sleeping bag of the Indiana Zephyr. He spoke for a while of Nietzsche, as usual, and then said, "Charles, old pussycat, I know the secret of your heart. I've seen you with her."

  I braced myself for the wild swarming attack I knew was coming. I could practically feel John Holyrood's little white teeth. "I just want to warn you, old fellow," John Holyrood said. "She's a temptress. She's a succubus. She's a vampire. She just wants men at her feet. But, you have my blessing. Take her, Charles, she is yours—I only ask that you steal one of her tiny sneakers for me."

  Then John Holyrood lurched forward, and appeared to be sobbing—but he was throwing up in the wastebasket, as he seemed to do exclusively in our room. "Never mind me," John Holyrood said between eruptions, "I'll be fine."

  John Holyrood's nocturnal visit left me with mixed feelings.

  Igor had taken to going for long, solitary walks in the woods and fields which surrounded the college. The Wild Dada Ducks, respecting his need for privacy, did not offer to go with him. We assumed he was depressed, or homesick, or disgusted, or crazy—or perhaps just needed to be alone to do those things which are difficult to do when you sleep five in a room. In truth, none of us thought anything of his ambulatory proclivities.

  One morning, a Saturday on which there were no classes, Igor addressed his brother Ducks. "You all have to come with me."

  "Come with you where?"

  "Come walking with me."

  "It looks like rain, and we have to study."

  "You have to come with me."


  "Because there's something I want you to see. Actually, I want to see if you see it."

  "What is it?"

  "I don't want to say. I don't want to prepare any of you. If you know what you're going to see, and you say you saw it, I won't know if you really saw it or if you're humoring me, or maybe responding to mass-suggestion."

  There was a chapter about mass-suggestion in our communications textbook. It seems that large groups of people can imagine amazing and impossible things simultaneously. The book said that once the entire country believed for eight years that Ronald Reagan had been elected president.

  "You saw something on one of your walks?"

  "On all of my walks."

  "And you want to see if we see it?"

  "Right. Coming?"

  We pulled on our jackets and left the dorm with Igor. He led us across the fields and into the woods that bordered the college. We soon picked up a little path through the woods. It was nice in the woods. I wondered why I hadn't come out here myself. I could ask Pulkeh Rabinowitz, I thought. I was imagining myself ripping her guitar off her on a pile of dry leaves, when we saw the little old man.

  "You see anything?" Igor asked.

  "The little old man?"

  "What's he wearing?"

  "A brown corduroy jacket, a sort of golfer's cap, sneakers, eyeglasses."

  "That's him!" Igor said, excited.

  "Ja, gentlemen, and vhat may I do for you zis morning?" the little old man asked.

  "He's always here," Igor whispered.

  "What do you mean, always her
e?" I asked.

  "I mean he's always here, no matter what time I come. He's always hanging around in these woods."

  "So? Maybe he likes it here."

  "No, it's something else. There's something strange about him."

  "Maybe he escaped from the looney bin up the road—but he doesn't seem dangerous."

  "He's no looney," Igor said. "I think he's supernormal."

  While we were standing around discussing him, the little old man looked on pleasantly and smoked a cigarette out of an amber holder, which he held as if it were a pencil, the burning end of the cigarette pointed at the sky.

  "Who are you?" the Honorable Venustiano Carranza asked the old man.

  "I am Heinrich Bleucher," the old man said. "Ich bin—zhat is, I am—a leprechaun. Alzo! Please come viss me now, and vee commence vit zuh pot of goldt."

  The old man had a pretty obvious German accent for a leprechaun. He was evidently pretending to be a leprechaun. Or he was pretending to have a German accent. It came and went. Or he was crazy and escaped from the looney bin—but he didn't seem crazy.

  "Ja, it iss not zuh sort of pot of goldt you can spend at K Mart," Heinrich Bleucher said. "You cannot buy a Sony Vahlkmahn viss ziss goldt. Ziss goldt goes between zuh ears. Come!"

  We followed Heinrich Bleucher through the woods, and soon came to a Ping-Pong table surrounded by eight or nine mismatched kitchen chairs and a couple of wooden crates set on end.

  "So, gentlemen, please sit and vee start."

  We took chairs around the table.

  "Goot! Now, you must all know zhat in prehistoric times man vass evolving from apelike creaturess—ja? You all know ziss?"

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