In the beginning the mouth the tongue in trough formation wet pressing to palate pinching at the pill a pharyngeal propellation with proprioceptive reflex viz contraction of orbicularis oris and adduction of labia yielding the involuntary spasms of peristalsis the bolus inching oesophagusward bypassing trachea via shunt of the epiglottis all egress occluded etc as we take our leave of the nasopharynx, the levator palatini, the oropharynx, and so on.
The short of it being that Walter has taken the opioid.
At last he may mount the time machine. Yes, Walt refers to it in these very terms although it is less an object than a function of mind. He is in bed, always in bed, but of the firm prejudice that no preferable locus subsists. The grocery store pleases him not, ibidem the street, the woods, the littoral, the sacristy. Utter the name of any place that is neither a bed nor its cognates and rest assured, no pun intended, Walt will patter you with obloquy. The nurse, on hearing this commotion, will materialize to supplicate our hero with the few phrases known to please—the placebo, as it were:
“A long time ago”; “Far far away”; “À la recherche”.
Walt notes the spreading of universal warmth from the epicentre of hypogastrium. Perhaps it is ketoacidosis? There is a stench of acetone. He rehearses the aetiology—
– Starvation? Probable.
– Diabetes? Most certain.
– Alcohol? Res ipsa loquitur.
Well not for him, this mere idle curiosity gracing the fringe of an hour when he ought to be embarking the machine! This jabot! Enough of such trifles, says the inner voice, a rich baritone not at all like his outer way of speaking. It is the voice of inner catechism, deliberation, affirmation of eternal verities, denunciation. There are other voices also, obviously, voices for the making of lists, flashes of candour, animal repose. The chief among them is Valt, a personage of wit, a true bon vivant:
– “To the time machine,” says Walt.
– “As to the mellifluous honey of Hybla!” says Valt.
As you can see, Mr. Walter Blund is blessed with a rich inner life. It is for this reason he abjures the streetcar and the shopping mall and the horrors of oxygen and sunlight. People are not his doing, and they are, thus and inferentially, not his problem, quod erat demonstrandum. They are of no consequence, affirms Valt, for just as the solstice they come in an ape and go out an ass—or words to that effect. Sapiens, indeed.
The truth however is that Walt is grossly obese and unable to rise from the bed. The truth is that he has fashioned the virtue of silk from the necessity of the sack. Thusfore he summons the time machine to deliver him to the Most Serene Republic—not as the Doges of Venice in puke-stocking but rather as the Duke of Detroit in overalls. Obviously, one speaks of America and not of Venice. Nor of any random America (that would never do) but of the Golden Age heartland itself, the glorious mid-west middle-class 1950s.
– “In your Chevrolet, drive the USA, etc” says Valt.
– “Duck and cover” replies Walt.
He draws the linens across his pate and the time machine launches. He dreams of Levittowns, chrome and taconite, of formica countertops, skirted carhops cantilevering trays of coneys, the heft of steerage, the barking Jukebox, pomade. Soon he is quite gone to that glorious other place, let us call it Paradise, or better yet Elysium.
How much time has passed he can not say when he is aspirated to the present by the stirring of the nurse. These assaults on his masculine pride won’t do, grumbles his inner voice, with authority. Deference to the male principle, an endangered species! To suffer such indignities! A breadwinner! Why, back in the day! And so on and so forth: he dilates internally on this delicious theme of Man, the Victim of Circumstance, stoking the final belly-embers of an attenuating pyre. What else is there to be done? Let the emasculated weep and show weakness. The real man lashes out from a position of strength, obviously. He finds someone to blame, he lashes. As it is adumbrated in the Good Book by Saul of Tarsus: first Timothy, chapter two, verse twelve.
The nurse cocks somehow the neckless lump of his head and applies the opioid. Her fingers sink into a lipid quicksand of ordure. Again, the mechanical miracle of peristalsis pulls off the trick. The bolus, an intermezzo of futile rage, the spreading warmth. How long has it been now? Years, decades. In the beginning, Walt propped himself up to read, a mistake he now bitterly contemns. What good did it do him, filing his head as it did with words, the best words, so many bootless words. And ideas. Oh, the ideas! He turns to liquid at the thought.
In his time machine reposes all hope of relief, and how he loves this engine of recompense. He loves his wife, to be certain, but with an abstract love that is more a standing upon ceremony. In fact it has been years since he’s seen her, immobilized as she is in the next room over, confined to an overstuffed wing-back chair, rendered dehiscent as a milkweed pod in September. The chair, please note, and not the wife. It will be some time yet, god willing, before Mrs. Blund at last splits open and discharges her floss to the winds. No matter, thinks Mr. Blund. He will visit her in his time machine.
This is all to say that the future may seem hopeless, but such is not the case. Mr. Blund in his wisdom is reclaiming the past, bit by bit, like a Delian diver lurching into it to rescue an earnest. He is firmly tethered, going down and rising up again, his arms loaded with sententia as well as with sentiment. The glorious past holds the answers, and so Mr. Blund holds on to the glorious past.