Derek watches as the last group of undergraduates, including Wren English, leaves the party. Then he yells across the room, ‘Fugg you, Compdon, you fugging liggspiddle.’ He staggers towards Compton while holding his wine bottle. ‘You’re a fugging fashist. You should be drummed out of the depardmend for your disguzting views.’
‘I think you’ve had too much to drink, Derek,’ says Compton, who is fairly sober, as he intends to drive home. He realises before everyone else that this is not a joke, and Derek is deadly serious.
It’s the afternoon of the official departmental end-of-the-academic-year party. The students got their results a few days ago, and the graduating third-years have been invited to mingle and drink with the staff and postgrads in one of the larger departmental teaching rooms, with free wine and cheese laid on by the department. About fifteen to twenty bright and naive students usually turn up for this, happy students who have done well or better than they expected to. Occasionally a disgruntled one comes along who glares at the lecturers they imagine are responsible for them not getting the degree class they thought was their due. But generally it’s a festive occasion, with innocent, optimistic students dreaming their dreams of a glorious future, and feeling a little misty-eyed about the department.
One especially wide-eyed type is the eumorphous Wren English, who got a First, and who has been in several of Ren’s classes in the last two years. She’s been talking to him this afternoon, and if Ren isn’t mistaken, is aggressively thrusting her breasts towards him as if to say, ‘You’re allowed to play with these now.’ Thankfully her classmates have just dragged her away to go somewhere else, because Ren is getting very tempted to take her up on the offer.
There is more wine than anyone can drink today, but Derek is trying his best. So is Ren. And so are some of the postgrads. Grant and Adelaide, of course, are not here. Neither is Simon or Adalia, and Panos left absolutely yonks ago for the Spanish beaches, neglecting all his moderating duties, which someone else has had to do. Derek, for once, didn’t skip out on his marking, so perhaps he is feeling unusually morally virtuous at this moment. Or maybe he is pissed-off because he has had to do some drudge work.
The Continentals look delighted to see Derek lay into one of his fellow analytics for his political failings, but none of them join in. Derek can cop the fallout himself.
‘You’re a cund. A right-wing baztard,’ yells Derek, his ocular matrices of bloodshot veins blazing like two fiery mazes in Hell, impossible labyrinths which the occupants will never escape from. ‘We never should’ve hired you.’ Can you have two impossible labyrinths in Hell, Ren wonders. Maybe one’s a reflection of the other? ‘Shid knows what politics you’re filling your studenz heads wid.’
‘I don’t proselytise to the students about politics. Neither should you,’ says Compton.
‘You fugger. You Thatcher-loving fugger,’ says Derek, staggering and swaying and starting to foam slightly at the mouth. ‘You fug Pinochet up the arz at weegends. Workhouses and chimney-sweeps, that’s what you want, isn’t it? Goozestebbing, lev, right, lev, right, oh fug, my helmed’s come off, well, we’ll just have to shoot you for thad, won’t we? Oh yes, if you can’d keeb your helmed on then you’ll have to be shot like a dog.’
Derek is getting closer to Compton, and he starts stabbing his finger at him.
‘That’s whad it’s all aboud, you Nazi gunner man wid a gun and big knife to shood people who don’d do whod you dell ‘em. Cracken skulls with your gun cos you’d run oud of bulleds and pizzing on the dead bodies and biding fingas off to get at the rings onna the fingers.’
Derek takes a big swig from his bottle, three, four, five glugs.
‘You’re the disgrace, Derek,’ says Compton, who is for once not amused. ‘You’re the one acting like a fascist. It’s never far from the surface with you left-wing authoritarians.’
‘Don’d you fugging talka me like that, you’ll be oudda here, sag you tomorrow.’
Walter comes over to Derek.
‘Derek, that’s quite enough. Let’s break it up now.’
‘Nah, got to tell the right-wing cund some more home truths. We don’t wand him here. Drive out the Thadcherites.’
Walter tries to take Derek’s arm. Derek breaks free, and raises his arms (and the bottle) in the air, and shouts wildly. ‘Oooooh, ooooh, I’m the great Comdon and I say lefties are bad. I’m a bad man becoz Combdon says so. I only freed the slabes and gave all the workers enough money to lib on, but Combdon comes in and says we’re liars.’
Tony and Verna decide that that’s enough, and they help Walter to remove Derek from the room.
‘Ged him out now,’ says Derek as he’s taken outside. ‘If no-one else’ll do it I’ll throw him oud myself with my frigging pinkie.’
‘There you go,’ says Compton, ‘the left in action.’
‘He’s just drunk,’ says Bill Porterfield.
‘He’s not just drunk. That was political intimidation, a game the left plays all too well. Why is he allowed to get away with it?’
‘Will he get away with it?’ asks Ren.
‘Of course he will. What’s going to happen? Nothing. Even if he’s talked to, he’ll just say, oh, I was drunk, just made a few personal comments about someone I don’t get on with personally. And that will be that. Not even a slap on the wrist.’
‘Academics are only human,’ says Bill. ‘People fall out, get drunk, say a few unwise things.’
‘But this isn’t a personal matter. This isn’t just Derek and I not getting on. This is straightforward political thuggery.’
It’s obvious that what Compton is saying is not going down well with some of the postgraduates, particularly a group of three left-wing postgrads, Huey, Dewey and Louie, as Ren calls them (more specifically, Huey Long, John Dewey, and Louis Althusser), who look up to Derek. (Not that Derek is willing to be a supervisor to any of them. Derek doesn’t have postgrads because they’re too much work.)
It’s also not going down well with Zack Paddlemore, a graduate student from America, who Ren has labelled ‘Zack of Crap’. (Ren managed to convince people that he’d heard this from someone else. Now everyone calls Zack this, including Zack sometimes.)
Zack is a type who’s hard to avoid in a British Humanities department. He’s the very fat, loudmouthed, goateed, left-wing American who has come to Europe to escape the oppression of conservative America, and he will loudly tell everyone, at all times, of how awful and right-wing America is, and how you shouldn’t confuse him with George Bush, no sir-ree, he’s no fascist, and he loves Europe and its progressive culture and its cobblestones, in fact its culture full-stop, because America has no culture other than McDonalds. This sort of walking modern Humanities infestiche always sounds for all the world like he’s never lived in the U.S. and has got all his ideas about his own home country from one of those British TV documentaries where an arch-wit goes to America to make fun of enormous donut-eaters who think the best reading material is the TV Guide.
Zack desperately wants to hang out with Huey, Dewey and Louie, but his correct politics don’t make up for the fact that he’s an embarrassment, and they do not want to be lumbered with a girl-repellent. For all his love of all things British and European, Zack has no clue about what passes as cool in Britain or Europe. Or, for that matter, the US.
‘Derek’s just passionate about politics,’ says Zack, in his always full-bore voice. ‘I wish people in the States were that committed.’
Huey, Dewey and Louie don’t say anything, but Zack is too thick to know when his opinion is not wanted, not even by the leftists.
‘I remember when one of our Professors…’
‘Blythe, it’s probably best to let it drop,’ says Walter, who has come back, letting Tony and Verna look after Derek.
‘I’m going home,’ says an angry Compton.
‘Blythe?’ says Zack.
‘Fucking left-wingers poison everything,’ Compton can be heard saying as he leaves.