The offing of Nitty was a terrible, terrible thing. Calamitous, according to some. Listen, for example, to what Monsignor Pivot had to say.
Oh, this is awkward. I thought I had a tape recording, or at least a transcript, of that good man’s peroration, delivered after Nitty was offed but before all the papers were signed and registered and copied and placed on the public noticeboards. But where I thought it was, in my desk drawer, now there is only dust, dust and the detached leg of a beetle, dust and the leg of a beetle and a single paperclip.
I find myself wondering about the beetle and the paperclip to the exclusion of Cadet Nitty. Yes, cadet, for before his offing he had been stripped of his captaincy. His badge had been crushed and his epaulettes burned. But he went to his offing with all his arms and legs intact, unlike the poor beetle. How had its leg become detached and fetched up in my desk drawer? Where was the rest of the beetle? Did it live, lame, or had it died? And what did the paperclip have to do with anything? Had it clipped together papers which, like the incomplete beetle, had since gone missing? Would Monsignor Pivot ever deliver a peroration upon the beetle and the paperclip?
No, of course he would not. He is not that kind of man, and it is not that kind of world. Instead, it is a world where Nitty has been offed, good and proper, never to return.
That saddens me, of course it does, but somehow it is not so sad as a maimed beetle and an abandoned paperclip. I do not set the priorities, I simply feel them, and terrible as it is I know in my bosom that Cadet Nitty will be forgotten, and sooner rather than later, perhaps even before the cows are driven into their byre for the night.
I have said nothing of the dust in the desk drawer. What should I say? Dust is dust. Nitty will be dust soon, if the procedures are followed correctly. As I recall, in his peroration, Monsignor Pivot took pains to stress his hope that they would be. It would only add to the tragedy of Nitty’s offing if, in its aftermath, correct procedures were neglected, or faffed with, as can happen sometimes, shamefully, though it is nobody’s fault. Say it is “the system”, and have done with it. At the end of the day, the cows will still be driven in to their byre.
Now Nitty is no more, and the world, or at least a small corner of it, is reduced to a beetle’s leg and a paperclip. The more one examines them, the more they sing of something, something motley and intangible, as intangible as the Monsignor’s lost peroration, now that I have mislaid the tape recording and the transcript.
I have, somewhere, some glue. If and when I can find it, I will glue the leg of the beetle to the paperclip. While they are still sticky, I will sprinkle them with dust, so that the dust adheres. It is said that the Dude abides, and likewise, the dust adheres. Nitty would have known that, and perhaps, wherever he is, may know it still.
I push the desk drawer shut, and light my pipe, and gaze out of the window at the crows on the lawn. If the crows know anything, they know there will be both a harrowing and a reckoning. Fetch my gumboots. I am going to the dormitory of monkeys.