I hasten to say that I do not believe the two-by-four had anything to do with my present malady. Had the student applied more force, more pounds of pressure per square inch, I might see my way clear to attribution of some sort, but the woman — a girl, really — was a lightweight. Besides, there's no room in my office for a full baseball swing. Sadly we must look elsewhere for root causes.
It is difficult under the circumstances to render a full accounting. The dizzy spells play havoc with my note-taking, and I keep forgetting where I've put the pencil. If I stand up too quickly from my desk the room upheaves like a tattling of bees, my eyes buzz, my ears dwindle. If I shout out for my younger colleague in the office across the hall, he hides behind his bookcase, the bastard, and plots ways to retire me. He owes me a favor, that son of a bitch, for ten years he's owed me a favor.
It helps somewhat to shut my left eye and lift my right leg six inches off the ground.
It would of course be apposite if the vertigo coincided with my wife's departure from our home. Nevertheless this is not the case. In August she took the 6:15 Greyhound to Toronto, as well as all three of our canaries in their cages, not to mention my supply of breath mints and her collection of biblical verse needlepoint. She left the divorce papers in the kitchen sink. Still, my first episode didn't occur until October. Granted the house seemed very large after that which necessitated this change of venue to my office. I am quite comfortable here except for this unmerciful dizziness. Also, it's difficult to shave in the men's room.
Sometimes I imagine myself throttling that woman in the August heat.
Purists would have us point to our childhood, the father with the penchant for untimely thwacks to the buttocks, the mother with bedsores, the siblings and their endless dirty underwear. Or they would press us to regard the series of small fires we set in and around the old elementary school, where that dullard of a teacher accused us of plagiarism. Or they would point us to the girl in high school who agreed to go to the movies but on the night in question went bowling instead. Went bowling with that bastard O'Connor who flicked wet towels at us, me, in the locker room.
I am surrounded by purists and dullards and bastards.
All of my colleagues are sons of bitches, in point of fact. A critical mass opposed my chairmanship in '73, a plurality opposed it in '81, a unanimity torpedoed me in '96. Every man-jack of them has it in for me. In my dreams I see them tossed helter-skelter in the air like grass clippings, their little legs and arms listing and lurching in pointless circles. Just the other day a confederacy brought me a silver retirement pen wrapped in white drug store paper-and good lord! I have no plans to retire, far from it.
My head spins, it spins.
Spins when I am sitting in my office chair, the one with the wheels on the legs. Spins when I am standing in my office, left eye shut, right leg raised. Spins when I try to count the bricks obstructing the view from my only window, although a man of my tenure deserves two windows, one unobstructed. Perhaps shut the right eye, raise the left.
Let me be frank: the thwacking helps. Just a while ago I thwacked old Peterson with my left fist, which had a centering effect, though moments later it seemed necessary to thwack the secretary who came to his aid-open-handed, for I am aware of the consideration due to the ladies. I would thwack that bastard across the hall if he hadn't barricaded himself in there. When security came (one man, a boy, really) I gave his crabapple head a thwack, and then there were Jenkins and Cisco, the Shakespearean-thwack, thwack-and after that I gave a few indiscriminate thwacks in the ensuing melee, all very salutary, all very centering.
I realize the last stand will occur right here in the men's room. At first glance the shiny silver and white fixtures set my head to reeling, but in this stall, my buttocks set firmly on the porcelain, I believe I am as balanced and settled as I can be in this shivering interval. When they come I will not surrender with grace. I can hear them outside the swinging door, scuttling, organizing, murmuring instructions to each other. When they come I will not surrender myself to them, I will not relinquish my hold, I will not yield any ground whatsoever in this vertiginous place. Instead I will thwack them until they are forced, even against their own wills, to consider my position. I will thwack them until they needs must think twice, think again, have another think coming. I will thwack and thwack and thwack until they are all as dizzy as I am.
For I consider this axiomatic: It is not I, but the world, that lists.
Leigh Allison Wilson is the author of Wind: Stories and From the Bottom Up. Her flash fiction has appeared on NPR"s "Selected Shorts."