Monday, November 21, 2005

Mystery of Mr. Clayhouse

No black ass today for the first Monday in quite some time. It was a bright morning, if brisk, and I took a stroll around the quadrangle to take in the trees in their bare winter glory. Started puffing after only a couple miles, and felt a bit dizzy. Aging "sucks ass," as my daughter Billie might say.

Still no word from Mr. Clayhouse since he stormed out of my class. When passing the ROTC office on campus, I entered on a hunch. I struck up a conversation with the pimply kid peddling brochures:

B. Trout: How's business?

Officer Zit: Slow.

B. Trout: Imagine!

O. Zit: That Cheney's a smart guy, but he's got to learn to keep his fuckin' yap shut.

B. Trout: You're half-right. Anyhow, have you seen Billy Clayhouse around?

O. Zit: Billy?'s been a few months. We had a little ceremony for all the vets at the beginning of the semester...

And that's how I confirmed my suspicion that Billy served. And did he ever serve...two seven-month tours in Iraq as a Marine sniper. Purple heart and all. I would never retract my classroom tirade on the war, as self-censorship in the service of pleasing others is the greatest of writerly crimes. But if Billy ever does return I must somehow take him aside and acknowledge his service. While I've opposed this war from its incipience as a pre-9-11 neo-con wet dream to its current disastrous state, and I've got the usual peacenik misgivings about militarism in general, I do respect the uniform. I've had too many students and friends over the years who served. Whenever I see kids in uniform in a bar, I'll always buy a round. In any case, I've decided to make Mr. Clayhouse my special project during my tenure at this program. He's got too much raw talent and compelling experience not to write.

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