“This is probably how Theodore Roosevelt would have wanted to be remembered. Probably.”
During the day, the door remains unlocked—the lights flicked on by a sleepy department head and flicked off by a custodian whose back vac makes her a ghostbuster.
A general lack of students keeps the air icy and free of the muck-must of human bodies, a scent corrupted by cheetos and the cheese of feet, although the room occasionally feeds on students looking for a place to study, romantic couples with forged hall passes, and, once, a red-nosed assistant principal who napped by the cabinets.
Some grease and wet spray still lies on the carpet.
Since classrooms have no natural predator, the room sits, and sits, like a forgotten box of baking soda in the fridge. Its stomach grew between Science classes and a weedwork of wires and pink-feather insulation. Feeding on rats.
Now the stomach sits, hungry.
There was a man once. The first pang of its profession came with the appearance of a bearded teacher. Shaggy, shortsighted as a bear with spectacles, the creature lumbered through the door and fell on the desk.
The room waited, hoping the teacher would attract others.
But the teach hid there, received his paycheck, watched for enemies at the door, put up posters that read, “You never fail until you stop trying,” and “It’s okay to not know but it’s not okay to not try.” Perhaps he operated under that mantra of bibles and baseball movies—if you build it, they will come.
No one came. The room ate the man, absorbed his funky odors. And life returned to the humdrum of air-conditioned lungs.
“It doesn’t matter” was his mantra.
“It doesn’t matter.”
In the bar, Dr. Bysshe clung to the utter frivolity and therefore futility of human life — its meaninglessness, its atoms, its empty spaces. He would witness a woman pulling gum off her shoe or a video of a school shooter offing himself after offing his class with the same perplexity, the same inquiry of who cares?
Every name, he argued, would be erased. No love, sorrow, contact, or conflict could endure the eternal siege of Time and Entropy.
So we have remembered him. It is our one countermeasure, or consolation.
Although Dr. Bysshe lived a hundred years ago, we remember, and we transmit his crushing spirit forward across state lines and timelines.
We will immortalize his shattered visage, his wrinkled lip, his frown, and his philosophic vision that so neatly suspends us over the Pit, so that all may look on his Works and Laugh, before completing their flight and lying down to sleep in lonesome sands.
Senator Hurpkins walks into his office. He looks unhurried, self-assured. All of his secretaries, even the male ones, are huddled around Janet’s desk. Janet looks at him urgently. “Bill, you got to see this.” Hurpkins takes the document she’s holding and looks at it closely. “No,” he says. “That’s not possible.” Janet explains what he’s seeing because movie audiences don’t read good. “They want to delete God’s name from the Constitution. The Constitution.” (The film takes some liberties.) Hurpkins is visibly upset: “NOT THE FUCKING CONSTITUTION. Not on my watch. NOT ON MY WATCH.”