Short Story: Pnin Incites A Riot

May 6, 2016

 

Pnin Incites A Riot

 

 

 

*I'll send a free, inscribed copy of Beautiful Country to anyone who can spot 3 hidden jokes in this story OR anyone who figures out which novel I stole the passage that Pnin reads out loud from. Hint: it was made into a movie* 

 

 

 

It was with an all too familiar sense of unastounded dismay that our dear old friend, Professor Timofey Pnin, yet again found himself in a horrible situation. Due to a series of unintendedly unfortunate misunderstandings, poor old Professor Pnin was distinctly tardy for his apathetically anticipated guest lecture on Viktor Abakumov’s wonderfully titled if stupendously poorly written debut novel, A Shadow Behind the Heart. The novel, an unrivaled achievement in miserable mediocrity, had been terribly received by critics (“disgusting, third-rate vocational literature”) and, much to the future chagrin of Soviet subversives and political prisoners, the reviews had shamed Viktor (a distant cousin of mine) into abashedly abandoning his literary efforts for a decorated career at the Ministerstvo Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti. Recently Viktor’s novel had inexplicably landed on the reading list of Salisbury College’s Great Books of the 20th Century English course (a list that included novels by literary immortals such as Kafka, Proust and Zhivago), and Pnin’s lecture was to be the first ever given (anywhere) on the book (the exalted enormity of this monumental honor was not lost on our friend).

 

Pnin, his tonsured head shiny with sweat, burst bravely through the door and into the small atrium that acted as the waiting room of Salisbury College, a combatively sheepish institution of higher learning that could claim two former US Presidents (Rutherford B. Hayes and Jefferson Davis), and a well known polygamist (Joseph Smith Jr.) among its distinguished alumni, but in laminated brochures instead chose to highlight the campus’ eight hole golf course and prolific presence of community unity (an ideal dreamt up by Salisbury College’s previous Dean of Student Life, a man who, within the academic community of central Ohio, had been held in the highest esteem until it was discovered that he was responsible for the murder of his wife). Pnin’s desperate and tired eyes, sequestered behind tortoiseshell, furiously danced around the room before hysterically latching onto a pudgy, dark haired woman that Pnin assumed to be the school’s receptionist. She met his eyes with a look that matched the intensity of his only in the alarming amount of assailing apathy it managed to convey. 

       

“Where is to give lecture?” cried Pnin “Srochno, Srochno (Quickly, quickly)! There is no time!” To emphasize the desperate urgency of his situation, Pnin made what he had some years before (incorrectly, I might add) deemed to be the international gesture for ‘urgency.’

 

With the enthusiasm of a congressman forced into resignation due to an exposed love life modeled on that of former Salisbury College student council treasurer, Joseph Smith Jr., the woman raised a ponderously porculent arm and pointed down the long corridor towards a door at the end marked “Maffeo Barberini Science Hall.”

 

With welcoming eyes, Pnin saw the lecture hall’s door, Slava Bogu (Thank God)! There was no time to change clothes (Alas what misfortune! Our poor friend was still wearing his Bermuda shorts!), but at least he had arrived in time to still give the lecture! Unaware that it was the wrong lecture hall (Oh woe to poor Pnin!), Pnin’s spindly legs gratuitously scurried down the corridor and carried him through the door of the lecture hall where an abundant audience (expecting an entirely different lecture!) was seated.

 

 

Before I continue, allow me first to explain how our friend found himself in such a disastrous situation. Poor old Pnin, who had arrived at Salisbury College the previous night, had that very morning awoken to a spectacular view of the very unspectacular 3rd hole of Salisbury’s golf course and had regrettably mistaken it for an enormously elaborate and expansive post-modernist lawn for croquet (kroket as he liked to call it). With several hours to spare before his lecture, Pnin had eagerly discarded his tweed trousers for his somewhat scandalous, light blue Bermuda shorts and expeditiously opened the croquet set he had brought as a gift for an old friend and fellow croquet enthusiast on Salisbury’s faculty, Dr. Pavel Pavlov. Unluckily for Pnin, Robér Saint-Germain D’Amour (or “Bob” as his friends called him), the school’s security officer, a man whose life could be characterized by baseball cards, TV dinners, and a deeply repressed sexual attraction to kiwifruit, was not amused by the perturbing presence of an elderly eccentric on the 4th hole who, by reported accounts, had been mutilating the fairway and angrily threatening members of Salisbury’s junior varsity golf team.

 

Pnin, who had not been able to understand why the students of Salisbury College took such offence to his game of croquet that they felt the need to assault him with miniature missiles, was similarly confused by the nature of Officer D’Amour’s hostility and the sudden appearance of handcuffs around his wrists.

 

“Nyet! Nyet! You must not!” cried Pnin as Officer D’Amour applied the handcuffs “I am Professor Timofey Pnin!”

 

“I’m not gonna say it again! Shut your mouth!” said Officer D’Amour.

 

“But I have important lecture!”


Officer D’Amour looked suspiciously at Pnin. “Say… what kind of accent is that? You some kind of communist?”

 

“Who communist?” Pnin asked suspiciously. Then realizing the man was referring to him, he cried out desperately, “No-no-no! No to communism! Only croquet! Where is Dr. Pavlov? He tell you!”

 


Unfortunately, unbeknownst to Pnin, Dr. Pavlov had been dead for almost seven years (he passed away during a session of auto-erotic asphyxiation that did not go quite as intended). Pavlov perished just after completing what he considered to be his pi‪èce de résistance, an extensive study into the hashish smoking habits of Cuban fishermen (a study that was later to be pervertedly plagiarized by Tristan W. Thomas, Professor of Anthropology at Waindell College (both studies concluded that exactly zero Cuban fishermen smoked hashish with any regularity)). As a result of his death (and his being buried six feet underground), Dr. Pavlov was in no position to help his friend. Poor Pnin's predicament was not helped by the fact that Pavlov's death occurred long before Officer D'Amour began working at Salisbury College, and as a result, the name Pavlov did not ring any bells, and Pnin's predicament was made even worse when several seconds after Pnin’s utterance of his deceased friend’s name, Officer Rober D’Amour’s mood was further soured as a result of being struck in the back by a golf ball that had been launched at the obstructing, improvised croquet lawn by a middling member of the Salisbury junior varsity golf team (this was one of the more accurate shots said member had ever hit and he later went on to a vaguely successful career on Salisbury’s varsity team due to his innovative technique of targeting an imaginary elderly Russian man in Bermuda shorts playing croquet in the middle of every fairway). Despite his climatically clamorous cries of protestation, our poor old friend Professor Pnin was brusquely dragged away by the now irate Officer D’Amour to face further questioning.

 

Pnin was taken to the Salisbury College OFFICIAL SECURITY OFFICE (capitalization per the sign on the door), a small room in the basement of the library, which had recently been a bathroom, before Officer D'Amour had courageously commandeered it for use as his "base of operations." D'Amour forced Pnin to sit in a most uncomfortable chair with both hands sequestered in metal bracelets and ordered him to sit still and keep quiet. Eventually Pnin was allowed to reach into his pockets to produce his certificate of naturalization, but this only confirmed D’Amour’s suspicions (an elaborate Soviet forgery designed to deceive!). It took several hours of protracted Pninian persuasion, and a superior’s confirmation that a Professor T. Pnin was expected to give a lecture that day, before Officer D’Amour doubtfully released Pnin with that caveat that any further suspicious activities (particularly croquet) would result in immediate arrest and probable deportation (“But I am a citizen!” Pnin exclaimed). Upon his release, our friend realized his lecture had been scheduled to begin several minutes prior (“Oh! Catastroph!”), and with a surprising sprightliness enabled by the Bermuda shorts, Pnin scampered out of the office and up Salisbury’s famous long hill, a hill that the school’s brochures termed regal and magnificent (no one other than the author of the brochure’s literature had ever used those two words to describe the entirely ordinary hill), to the central campus building that Pnin prayed held the lecture hall assigned to him.

 

 

 

 

It was not until ten minutes after her brief encounter with our friend Pnin that Susan B. Anthony, the unfortunately named and precociously plump receptionist of Salisbury College, was struck by an awful suspicion that the frantically flustered tweeded and tortoiseshelled gentleman she had somewhat flippantly directed to the Maffeo Barberini Science Hall was not in fact the scheduled speaker for that hall, Professor Douglas Laid. This suspicion had been prompted by the recent materialization of a mousy bespectacled man purporting to be none other than Professor Douglas Laid in front of her unhurriedly tidy desk (this was not due to Susan B. Anthony having a particular affinity for neatness – rather it was due to the fact that the desk of a discreetly provincial college’s receptionist tends not to have many items on it). The man babbled an apology for his lateness and then, to Susan’s utter horror, felt it necessary to provide her with a full explanation. She quickly interrupted what was turning out to be an excessively elaborate travelogue centered around the apparently traumatic experience of missing a train connection and attempted to deflect the situation by assuring the man who presently stood in front of her that he could not possibly be Professor Douglas Laid, because Professor Douglas Laid was currently in the Maffeo Barberini Science Hall, delivering a fascinating lecture on the (she checked her paper) color preferences of differing breeds of squirrels.

 

            Susan’s firm confidence in this matter momentarily convinced the man that she must in fact be correct, and he apologetically apologized and took a seat in one of the waiting room’s disarmingly uncomfortable chairs (Susan had purposely selected these chairs in order to discourage lingering visitors). Susan eyed the man with a tickling nervousness and spitefully wished that this unwanted stranger would depart.

 

            Much to Susan’s dismay, the man reappeared in front of her desk seven minutes later. Despite the oblique obviousness of the man’s presence and his repeated throat clearings, Susan kept her head down and stared surreptitiously at the day’s itinerary (the one paper that graced her desk), pretending to be unaware. The man, with a regained confidence in his own identity, presented a business card with the words “Professor D. Laid” printed quite clearly upon it, slid it on the desk towards her and mumbled something about missing his train and how if she looked at the card she could see he was who he said he was and that he was very sure that he was not currently giving a lecture as he was currently standing at this desk speaking to her.

 

Susan, whose morning had already been unpardonably punctured by the man with the tweed jacket, ridiculous shorts and murderous English, decided that said occurrence, along with her desperate and ongoing personal struggle to come to terms with the fact that she bore the same name as a famous propagator of woman’s rights, was more stress than any one woman should have to bear, and with startling efficiency she rapidly devised a genius method of handling the situation. Without raising her eyes from the itinerary, Susan extended a fleshy finger in the direction of the Maffeo Barberini Science Hall, and in a flash the man, who had been a source of infinite irritation, disappeared and Susan B. Anthony was finally free to wrestle with the enormity of her given name in peace.

 

            Professor Douglas Laid was a hamster of a man and, although he had had tremendous academic success (his recently published paper on the color preferences of squirrels had been heralded as “pure dare-devil genius” and as having “untold promise for the future of cancer research”), his personal life was not nearly as successful. Ever since he had been a young boy, Douglas had nervously shied away from people and having found himself without any people in his life that he could accurately define as “friends,” Douglas had thrown himself with an inspired passion into his studies. While other boys were playing basketball or baseball or kissing girls, Douglas delighted himself with the exquisite words of Joyce and Hubbard (although he personally considered the former to be overrated), and studied Pythagoras’ theorem and the physics laws of Newton and Murphy, and swallowed up Crowley’s wonderfully wholesome Holy Books of Thelema. Knowledge had become the core of his existence and without the essential joys of pursuits like geometry, Douglas would have considered life pointless.

It was due to this intense inner shyness that Douglas was filled with a frantic panic as he hesitated before the door of the lecture hall. His terror of the awkwardness that would arise from a late entrance into a packed lecture hall was trumped only by his greater terror of the awkwardness of the conversation he would have to have with the Dean to explain why he had not been present at his own lecture. He was struck by a sudden sense of horror as he realized that, due to his recent interaction with the school’s receptionist, the administration would have positive proof that he had been in the building at the time of the scheduled lecture. The thought of having to explain this was too much for Douglas to handle and, on the verge of tears, he opened the lecture hall door and walked in to find a completely unexpected scene. 

 

 

 

When he entered the Maffeo Barberini Science Hall and found a feverish audience of several hundred people, poor Pnin was devastatingly drowned in a flood of emotions (the contingent of Russian literature devotees in the United States is not large, and even I have never given a lecture in front of so many people!).

 

First Pnin was seized with total shock at the audience’s size, then surges of jubilant joy at his recent discovery of a previously unknown but gargantuan population of Abakumov disciples, then petrifying anxiety at the thought of lecturing in front of so many, and finally chilling embarrassment as he remembered that his spindly legs were still excruciatingly exposed by his risqué Bermuda shorts . Furthermore Pnin reacted with a deserved confusion at the presence of what appeared to be a sizable tribe of bizarrely anthropomorphicly taxidermed squirrels stationed around the lecture hall. He felt disrobed and defenseless. He felt lightheaded. His heart rippled and poor Pnin punctually collapsed onto a small congregation of kayaking squirrels.

 

The spectators’ desperate cries were not heard by Pnin, and as he lay flat on the hardwood floor he could not even feel the squirrels’ pointy paddles pressing into his back. There was only the butterflying of his heart and the horrifically rendered rendition of Caravaggio’s portrait of a young Cardinal Barberini (the ceiling’s version had been painted by an extremely confident, but extremely untalented student in Salisbury’s Introduction to Painting course) that stared down at him from its pretentious position in the center of the hall’s ceiling.

 

Pnin felt the all too familiar sensation of his subconscious assuming reality and the deceivingly soft features and gentle eyes of the young cardinal melted into the cuspate cheekbones and severe stare of Adrian Prokhorov, the First Gymnasium’s physical education instructor, a man of average build and a distinctly mean face. It was a bright cold Wednesday in April and Timofey Pnin had just turned thirteen. It was the day of their annual physical fitness exam (Timofey’s least favorite of the year) and Prokhorov was screaming at poor little Timosha (Tim) to finish the rest of his otzhemaneye na rukakh (push-ups). The other boys, who had developed sooner than Timofey and were much bigger, fruitlessly attempted to suppress fits of laughter at poor Timofey’s situation. Little Timosha, dressed in their thin white linen shirt and shorts and itchy wool socks of their physical education uniform, lay there crying on the cold, wet asphalt and struggled to push his torso through the air (an impossible task). His pale, twiggy arms urgently strained, but poor Timosha’s muscles were exhausted and his arms shook side to side before they gave out completely. Prokhorov bent down and shouted in his ear, and the other boys’ laughter was halted only when Prokhorov turned his furious glare in their direction. Earlier that morning Little Timosha had begged his mother not to make him go to school and now as he lay pressed against the cold, wet asphalt, he longed for the warm nest of his bed. Prokhorov crouched and pressed his face right up to little Timosha’s face and screamed at him that he was an embarrassment to the school. But Prokhorov’s voice began to sound increasingly less Russian and then it suddenly morphed into English, and Pnin wasn’t lying on the asphalt anymore but found himself lying on the floor of the lecture hall. Much to Pnin’s relief, Prokhorov had disappeared and had been replaced by a man who was bent over Pnin and looked not only concerned, but positively petrified.   

 

The aforementioned man, Dr. Bonanno Pisano, had begun life as an architect, but after a series of horribly constructed buildings left his reputation in ruins, he did what all those who succeed in failing do, and took up teaching. The “Dr.” in front of Pisano’s name (quite misleadingly) implied that he had a doctorate in something. However, this was not the case. At the age of sixteen, Pisano abandoned his studies in order to run off (hobbled might act as a more apt description) with his wooden-legged sweetheart, Joy Hopewell (he was suicidally shattered when later on, she abruptly broke it off to pursue a passionate yet tempestuous romance with a nefarious nihilist), and as a result he held no degree from any academic institution.

 

The provenance of Pisano’s prestigious prefix was in fact something far less labor-intensive than seven to ten bothersome years of formal medical training. Shortly after the birth of their son, Mr. and Mrs. Pisano had realized (quite ingeniously) that appending “Dr.” to their son’s given name on his birth certificate was considerably cheaper than paying a university seven years worth of tuition just so some pompous professor could fill their son’s head with heaps of dangerous knowledge that was probably useless anyway. It was one of many of the curiously creative decisions that characterized Mr. and Mrs. Pisano’s novel parenting method, and a decision that had resonating ramifications for their son’s future.

For one thing, his first name caused Pisano to pleasingly progress quite far in professional life with minimal effort (he was after all Vice-Deputy Assistant Chairman of Salisbury’s Zoology Department, and captain of the faculty softball team), as he had found that most institutions (decidedly irresponsibly) accepted his nonexistent qualifications without any form of due diligence.

 

However, occasionally Pisano’s elevation to roles and positions that he lacked any sort of training for had severe drawbacks. For instance there was the time that Pisano (somewhat less pleasingly) was indirectly responsible for the deaths of an entire conference of cigar aficionados when he had regrettably been asked by a group of Chinese businessmen to design a twenty story hotel in Sichaun province and somewhat curiously decided to account for the added expense of constructing the entire building out of extravagantly expensive and famously flammable bamboo by forgoing the construction of fire escapes. The combination of the bamboo construction and the presence of pyromanical cigar coinsures resulted in catastrophe due to the fact that, while selecting his building materials, Pisano had regrettably forgotten the existence of Sichaun’s large native population of panda bears, a population he reluctantly remembered after a troupe of marauding panda bears chewed their way through most of the first floor lobby, causing the catastrophic collapse of the building and the crushing demise of forty-seven devotedly devout cigar fanatics. The Sichuan Panda Bear Hotel Incident, as it came to be known, was an incident that forever left Pisano in a perpetually present state of insecurity in his own abilities.

Predictably, Pisano also knew absolutely nothing about biology or zoology, or indeed what exactly either was, and after a disastrous first class, he had resorted to impulsively importing armies of guest lecturers to ensure that he never had to teach his students himself. So it was with grave concern for his own lack of a lesson plan that he monitored the recovery of Pnin’s health.

 

Pnin stared up at Pisano’s unfamiliar face, and for several seconds, our friend had no idea where he was. Then he recalled the enormity of his lecture and he leapt to his feet and dashed to the lectern and wildly withdrew his lecture papers on A Shadow Behind The Heart from his tweed jacket pocket and violently smoothed out the creased papers on the surface of the lectern. Rapturously relived, Pisano turned to address the audience.

 

“Good afternoon everyone. Today we have a very special guest lecturer,” Pisano said cautiously and glanced around the room, suspiciously gauging the reaction to his comments. Encouraged by the passionately ambivalent looks on all of his students’ faces, he continued. “I think it is safe to say that this man hardly needs an introduction...”

 

Pisano abruptly stopped.  Out of the corner of his eye, he was fairly certain he had seen someone grimace at his last remark, and rather than continue at the risk of exposing his lack of expertise, Pisano decided that it was better to end the introduction there. Unsure of how to make his exit, Pisano attempted a bow but the awkward result was something closer to a curtsey. And with that, Pisano, thrilled that his duties for the day were over, returned to his seat in the front row and sat down.

Pnin had finished adjusting his papers and had applied his reading glasses to eyes that were firmly fixed on the typed sheet of paper in front of him, Pnin breathed heavily and began his lecture in a grave, onerous monotone.

 

“A Shadow Behind the Heart by Viktor Abakumov, born 1908, executed, guillotine 1947,” Pnin began, (Ah, so this lecture is about the heart, Pisano thought, and then wondered why the professor had explicitly requested so many stuffed squirrels but then realized it was perhaps better not to wonder about such things) “to make a long story short,” Pnin continued, “is the splendid story of a poor peasant boy who falls in love with a most beautiful Russian princess. The action of the novel begins at the start of the…” Pisano had decided he had learned enough about the cardiovascular system for one day and slumped in his chair and fell into a determined state of unconsciousness.

 

The reaction of the students however was vastly different. The majority of the students were genuinely fascinated by the genius of Professor Laid’s work and had marked this lecture in the calendars months before, and they were rapidly realizing that the man before them was not they’re intended lecturer and a mixture of feelings of confusion, betrayal and disappointment swirled through the hall and gradually built into a shared hatred of this horrible imposter and his ridiculous outfit. Pnin’s eyes vigilantly stared at the lectern, wholly absorbed with his lecture papers so as not to lose his bearings and he was completely unaware of the audience’s blossoming bellicosity.

 

It was at this moment that Dr. Douglas Laid entered the lecture hall and saw that: for some reason the audience resembled a frenzied mob, his colleague Dr. Pisano was curled up, asleep on the floor (he had unconsciously slipped down out of his chair), there appeared to already be a Dr. Douglas Laid (although this one seemed to be Russian) lecturing the class, and judging by the crushed carcasses on the ground, there had evidentially been several squirrels involved in a terribly tragic kayaking accident. Unsure of what to do, Douglas stood in the doorway and watched on, trying his very hardest to keep his presence definitively unknown. He stared at Pnin and saw that he looked oddly familiar, but he could not think of how he knew him (those who knew Douglas well often remarked that he had a photographic memory which had never fully developed).

 

Then Douglas realized that he and this man had briefly both been members of the faculty at together Waindell College before Douglas had left to join the faculty of Belmont College. In any event, it was becoming more and more apparent to Douglas that there had been some sort of terrible mix-up and that this man was delivering some sort lecture on literature to what should have been Douglas’ audience. Douglas briefly thought about intervening in the situation and then promptly shuddered with horror as realized what exactly that would entail. After weighing all of his options, Douglas decided that it would be better not to make a fuss and slipped unseen out of the lecture hall. 

 

The situation in the lecture hall took a sharp turn for the worse when Pnin began reading passages from Abakumov’s novel (a tragic miscalculation). Even before Pnin graced the ears of Salisbury’s best and brightest with the dazzlingly dreadful prose of Abakumov, a number of aggrieved students had begun to form into a threatening throng and were hurling verbal challenges and insults at our poor friend (Pnin was so fully engaged with his lecture that he did not hear them). The insults and threats grew louder as passage after passage was greeted with unanimous cries of outrage and disgusted horror and genuine shock that any prose could be as cliché and appalling as Abakumov’s. Pnin’s decision to read the novel’s obscenely overwritten climactic scene proved to be the final straw.

 

“Before you, Bella, my life was a dark moonless night. Dark. Dark,” Pnin droned on monotonously, “ So, so dark, but there were stars - points of light and hope... And then you shot across my sky like a brilliant, divine, meteor of love. And everything became illuminated and everything was beautiful. Just like you.”

 

It was more than the outraged students could handle. A student in the back of the hall screamed out “For the love of Christ! Somebody make him stop!” A second student took to that be the mandate that she had been waiting for and hurled a nearby squirrel ferociously at poor old Pnin. The squirrel, which had been dressed up in a miniature cowboy outfit with two miniscule revolvers glued to his hands, hit Pnin hard in the center of his exposed baldhead and his eyes shot up from his papers and he looked into the crowd in a state of wild confusion.

 

Bogu! (God!) What is this?” Pnin exclaimed as he became suddenly aware of the rabid rabble that had broken ranks and was approaching the stage at a disquieting pace (Oh poor Pnin!). Someone launched another squirrel (this one in full 18th century British military regalia) and it almost knocked the reading glasses from his face. He ducked down behind the lectern to shield himself from incoming missiles. “Surrounded by madmen!” He cried out desperately. Where had these crazed radicals materialized from? They must be the communists the policeman had spoken of, thought Pnin. “Oh! What to do?” He cried out and clasped his sweaty hands over the shiny dome of his baldhead. Poor Pnin was sure this was the end and that he was about to perish at the hands of these crazed communists without ever having the chance he needed to win Liza back (a terrible thought!).

 

But luckily for our friend Pnin, the monstrous mob had turned the focus of their fury to Pisano, the man they held responsible for this disastrous debacle.  Pisano, who had until recently been having a delightful nap on the floor of the hall, was awoken abruptly by his crazed students and violently hoisted into the air and carried out of the back of the lecture hall and out to the 3rd hole of Salisbury’s famous golf course where some preposterously prophetical students had already constructed a large bonfire on which they presumably intended to burn Pisano at the stake. Pisano sighed; it was not a situation entirely foreign to him (the spouses of the cigar aficionados had shared their husbands’ affinities for lighting things on fire).

 

Pnin, consummately confounded, reeled and emitted the international exclamations for terror and relief. Horrendously scarred by the events of the prior five minutes, yet also blusteringly bewildered by the marvelously miraculous departure of the mob, Pnin clasped a hand to his fragile heart and prayed it would not succumb to another seizure. He leaned his head back against the lectern and sobbed, “Eto boleye! Slava Borgu, slava Borgu! (It is over! Thank God, thank God!)” He felt the lightning strikes of his heartbeat slow beneath his moist hand and breathed deeply to slow it further.

 

Poor old Pnin longed to remain there with his shiny bald dome pressed against the comfortingly impermeable wood of the lectern, but he felt the magical agony of thorny realization as he knew were he to remain in this hotbed of hostility masquerading as a college much longer, he would undoubtedly suffer a similar fate as his dear friend Dr. Pavlov. He collected his lecture papers and without a hesitation lurched towards the back door of the lecture hall in the direction of the deceptively affable accommodations afforded to him by Salisbury College. Before he could leave he must collect his valise from his room!

 

Pnin zipped up the long fairway of the golf course and passed the bonfire where Dr. Pisano was at that very moment being secured to a tall wooden stake. Officer D’Amour, who was furious to find himself dealing with insolent insurgency on the golf course for a second time that day, was desperately attempting to diffuse the situation and seemed to be having some minor success (the situation had escalated more quickly than the mob’s ringleaders had foreseen, and the looming likelihood of the lamentable lynching of a senior faculty member resulting in probable post-factum disciplinary action made the stakes of the situation rather too high, and they ordered Pisano’s stake lowered to the ground). With one battle won (for now), D’Amour turned his aggravated attention to Pnin as he saw him zip past and emphatically enraged, he shouted, “You! Don’t move! Stop! Inciting a riot on MY CAMPUS! I’ll have you deported for this you Goddamn Communist! Stop!”

 

Confronted with the frightful prospect of having to endure a second spell of indecent internment and possible torture (a portentous promise made by Office D’Amour a few hours earlier), Pnin deserted his valise (a terrible shame! It had been left to him in the will of a beloved uncle) and rashly redirected in the direction of the train station (unfortunately for poor Pnin the station was nine miles away).

 

Officer D’Amour followed in hurried pursuit, but did not get far before Pisano’s frenzied screams sounded from the golf course and D’Amour turned to see that categorical carnage had once again erupted on the 3rd hole. In the absence of D’Amour’s commanding authority, a cumulative burst of justice-demanding fervor had exploded through the murderous mob, and the bloodthirsty students, furious at their leaders’ pusillanimous pacifism, dispatched them in the manner of Robespierre and Saint-Just, and with a vicious vehemence, the barbaric students returned their full attention to the savage annihilation of their shamefully vile professor, causing a torrential rain of mortifying terror to cascade down and drown Pisano’s already defeated soul.

 

Officer D’Amour found himself at a crossroads (specifically the intersection of Library Lane and Salisbury Path), and he also had a very difficult decision to make. On the one hand, if he failed to intervene in the campus riot there was a good chance that a senior member of the College faculty would imminently be incinerated. On the other hand, if Officer D’Amour failed to pursue Professor Pnin, he was surely faced with embarrassing escape of the greatest threat to campus security since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Faced with his own Sophie’s choice, Officer D’Amour did the responsible thing and abandoned Dr. Pisano to be burned at the stake and sprinted after Pnin with all the determination of an Olympic sprinter running the race of his life and all the speed of an out-of-shape, middle-aged campus security guard who was never very quick to begin with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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