Leaks from Jabberwocky University’s Provisional Subcommittee to Investigate the Issue . . .
by Tony Zurlo
Reformed beatniks and hippies across America congregate in colleges and universities across America every day to concoct policies that will justify the next generation of committees that will be needed just to interpret the language of their recommendations, let alone the policies.
At great risk to my own career in academia, tonight at midnight I shall post the following “fly-on-the-wall” translation of a current committee meeting, which was leaked to me from a highly reliable source inside Jabberwocky University (JWU) I shall call The Cheshire.
A meeting to determine the need for a temporary task force to study the viability of forming a . . .
The droopy-eyed assistant vice president for public relations (AVP for PR) and Temporary Task Force Chair (TTFC) at JWU planted himself into his favorite chair in the lounge, adjusted his bifocals, checked his note pad, tapped his pencil on the desk for attention, and called the meeting to order.
“The Mouse of the House asked that we convene covertly,” he said, pausing to turn off the vibration from his cell phone in his pants’ pocket, “to discuss the rumor of a leak that has circulated in the hallowed halls of our academy. Certain campus factions are alleged to have hinted that we might want to launch a provisional subcommittee to investigate the issue of whether we ought to form an exploratory committee to determine if we should study the issue.” He paused to clear his throat, and anticipating a deluge of questions, he added, “Make up one. It doesn’t matter.”
His business done, the AVP for PR closed his eyes and imagined brilliant scenes of surf and sun in the Cayman Islands.
“Sir, shouldn’t we be more respectful of our president?” a baby-faced assistant instructor of physical education nicknamed Shot Put jumped in.
A middle aged political science assistant professor nicknamed Dread Locks pointed to Surfinson and said in a syncopated West Indies accent: “Respectful? Shot Put, you can take him and that mousey president and shot put them to . . .”
He was interrupted by the head of the physics department, a skinny, fidgety middle-aged man with thick glasses. He stood up and leaned forward to steady his hands. Popularly known as Neutrino because he seemed to appear and disappear at will, he said, “Seems to me we need to review the hidden variables in Mouse’s request first. Don’t you agree Dr. Surfinson?”
But Surfinson, his nickname shortened from the appellation “A Surfin’ Son of a Gun,” had already drifted off, dreaming of his Cayman weekend.”
“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” Shot Put pleaded. “We’ll get nowhere with this kind of hostility. I move we strike all references to the Mouse of the House.”
Parabolas, the newly-appointed math associate professor, tripping into the room. The faculty had quickly tagged her Parabolas because her substantial bosom stood out invitingly. She spilled a few dozen index cards onto the table and fumbled in her purse for her glasses, while giggles progressed around the table from the men. Parabolas blurted out in alarm, “A mouse?”
Shot Put swept his pudgy paws across his crew cut, centered his Western string tie, and said, “A temporary subcommittee might just be the answer.” He glanced around the table to judge the reactions of his colleagues. “Of course, I can certainly understand the opposing view that some of my colleagues must entertain . . .”
The designated parliamentarian of the meeting, Major Queen of Hearts, the commander of the ROTC program, banged her fist on the table, shaking the coffee mugs. When the six rows of medals on her drab olive jacket stopped rattling, she demanded, “Everyone shut up, you hear? We’re doing this by the book. Any objections?” A couple of people at the table raised their arms. “Speak, Tweedledum.”
A red-faced, fleshy art instructor with a thick head of red hair spoke up in a high-pitched voice “Excuse me. But why don’t we speak to the . . .”
“Old business. Why not tackle the old before the new?” his look-alike twin brother Tweedledee, chair of the Drama department, said in a theatrical voice. Together, Tweedledum and Tweedledee were interchangeable parts of one whole. People often had trouble telling them apart because they changed style and personality frequently and rode all the fences available in every university controversy.
“Tackle the old what?” challenged an elderly associate professor whose unfinished dissertation titled The Symbol of the Hump in Humpty Dumpty was buried beneath class guidelines for his course on Surrealism and Beyond in Nineteenth Century British Kiddy Lit Adapted for Film . The old English professor, universally known as Dr. Hump in spite of failure to finish his degree, fixed his beady eyes on Tweedledee, who was twiddling with his ponytail.
“What I would like to do,” began a popular sociology professor from Hawaii fluttering her long, black, artificial eyelashes. Legs, as she was aptly nicknamed, rose slowly from her chair, and all
the males tilted their chairs back to catch a glimpse of her silky black stockings.
“We know what you would like to do,” Dr. Hump teased. “But can’t it wait until sunset?”
Legs pretended not to hear Dr. Hump. “I want to second the movement that we proceed with the modus operandi first.” She sat down slowly, smoothing out a crease from the back of her skirt, stuck her tongue out at the group, and tossed a handful of peanuts into a gap between her purple-painted lips.
“As a matter of record, I’m in favor of movements, any kind of movement, whenever possible,” Dr. Hump said, his bones crackling as he stood up. Legs shaded her eyes from the glare emanating from his shiny dome. Dr. Hump turned, hitched his trousers, and excused himself to go to the bathroom.
“What is the viability and longevity of such a study?” a fidgety philosophy professor asked as he sketched caricatures of his colleagues on his pad. He struggled to cover his drawing pad with his boney fingers to conceal his racy sketch of Legs from her view. “Confucius once said . . .”
Neutrino, who had mysteriously disappeared, reappeared with a fresh pot of coffee and said, “Forget about it, Confusion.” Students and faculty alike tagged the philosopher with the nickname after he returned unannounced from a multi-year sabbatical in Asia.
“Taking into account the theory of wave function collapse,” Neutrino continued, “and assuming the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, and measuring for possible beta decay, I say . . .”
“I’d say you’re full of antimatter,” Dread Locks butted in.
Into this scholarly air, swayed a tall, angular Hotel & Hospitality instructor nicknamed Wings because she was constantly flying around the country to grand openings of luxurious hotels and adult fantasy parks.
“Well, look who’s here,” exclaimed Legs in a sarcastic tone.
“Miss your flight?” added Parabolas, joining Legs in disapproval.
Wings was dressed in a tight red-leather cowgirl outfit with red, white, and blue tassels fluttering with her every gesture, and pink micro suede cowgirl boots. “Just stopped in on my way to Reno.” She looked around the table and then at Legs and Parabolas. “Why I do declare. I think ought to stick around for a while.”
Tweedledum offered a new proposal: “We could initiate an unofficial investigative team that could discuss the viability of recommending that an exploratory subcommittee. . .”
“Canvas and surf the issue and return with proposals,” Tweedledee completed the thought.
Wings reached down and tugged Tweedledum’s fluffy red hair. “Draw them a picture, honey, so they can understand.”
“I nominate Wings,” Dr. Hump shouted out from the door frame, as he steadied himself and caught his breath before sitting down. “I want Wings.”
“I de-mand a re-count,” Dread Locks hissed in a trochaic meter and a defiant glance around the table.
Legs stirred from her seat and offered, “Invest in cattle.”
Parabolas spilled coffee on her ovals and blurted out, “Cattle! I lost big in cattle.” The men drooled as she wiped the coffee from her blouse. “What?” Parabolas demanded. Impish grins from the men answered.
“That’s not the question on the table,” began Tweedledum, his double chin tripling as he fumbled around for his notes.
“You had them a minute ago,” Tweedledee said.
“Do you mean that you think you can find out the answer to it?” said the March Hare.
“Exactly so,” said Alice.
“Then you should say what you mean,” the March Hare went on.
“I do,” Alice hastily replied; “at least--at least I mean what I say--that’s the same thing, you know.”
“Not the same thing a bit!” said the Hatter. “You might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see’!”
“You might just as well say,” added the March Hare, “that ‘like what I get’ is the same thing as ‘I get what I like’!”
“You might just as well say,” added the Dormouse, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, “that ‘I breathe when I sleep’ is the same thing as ‘I sleep when I breathe’!”
“It IS the same thing with you,” said the Hatter, and here the conversation faded.
“I move for an adjournment,” Dr. Hump demanded.
“Point of order, point of order,” the Queen shouted as she stood up abruptly.
Surfinson, his slumber disrupted, raised his hand and said, “Order? I’ll have an order of curly fries, Sweetie.”
“Ancient wisdom dictates that you must begin at the end and read up to the beginning,” Confusion said.
Dr. Hump began distributing crispy, coffee-stained handouts. “If you’ll take a look at this copy of my dissertation . . .”
“I’m confused,” said Shot Put. “Is ‘begin at the end and read up to the beginning’ the same as ‘begin at the beginning and read up to the end’?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter.
“Nor I,” said the March Hare.
“Nor I,” conceded Dr. Hump. “Let’s retreat to the Jabberwocky Patio for tea and croquet? The first person to say correctly, ‘How Doth the Little Busy Bee’, gets to dance with Parabolas.”
“‘How doth the little crocodile / improve his shining tail,’” an excited Tweedledee began.
“No, no,” Tweedledum yelled out. “‘Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! / How I wonder what you’re at!’”
Queen of Hearts screamed at the top of her lungs, “Attention! Subcommittee Dismissed.”
The subcommittee members left the room chanting in unison: “‘Up above the world you fly / Like a tea-tray in the sky. / Twinkle, twinkle—’”
All but Surfinson, that is. The AVP for PR had already retired to the surf and sun of the Cayman Islands.
Tony taught for two years in Nigeria with the Peace Corps in the carefree 1960s. In 1967, he was summoned by Uncle Sam. During Lieutenant Tony’s service, the communists avoided confrontation in Germany. Since then, he has taught in schools and colleges in the US. In 1990, he began a year at a teacher's university in China. There his students convinced him that his writing suffered from too much negative karma. For his penance he was transformed as an American trapped in Texas. To conceal from editors his age, gender, size, race, religion, politics, and other private predispositions, Tony survives folded up in a back room in Arlington, Texas, working on Alice in Cyberland, his anxiously-awaited history about 21st century American foreign policy.