Pomp & Circumstances: Breaking Bread

Fishnet Girl had cast herself upon the floor, perhaps in the hope of catching stragglers. It was just past twelve, and Percy had drunk far too many pre-drinks, drinks, and post-drinks. He waved his key card exuberantly at the door, but to no avail. Fishnet Girl emitted a high-pitched giggle.

No Rodney, I want to go now.

Percy was desperate. The extroversion of the MCR made his breathing erratic, and he could hear his own heartbeat. Pushing past a sea of bowties, he lunged at the medieval door. The cool night air slapped his face, and he breathed a sigh of relief.

O Night! O beautiful, glorious night! O if only I weren’t so drunk...

It was in this perfectly balanced state of free-floating anxiety and melancholic reflection that Percy began to reach for a Schimmelpenninck when, to his horror, Fishnet Girl emerged from the door-within-the-door to the South Wing, sans fishnets, giggling.

☞ NB. The one sporting fishnets is particularly renowned for giving lap dances after a certain brand of whiskey, and has the unfortunate quality of believing herself attractive in the most inebriated of states. *Note: while it is largely accepted that matter has five phases, or states (solids, liquids, gases, plasma, and Bose-Enstein condensates), recent studies have shown that there is, in fact, a sixth state, tentatively termed 'inebriates', (from the late Middle English, stolen from the Latin inebriatus, the past participle of inebriare or 'intoxicate', based upon ebrius, i.e. 'drunk' far too many pre-drinks, drinks, drinks, drinks, post-drinks, and post-post-drinks).

Another Important Interjection: Percy has never found loud women attractive. Indeed, while most men gravitate towards them like vultures circling a carrion, he finds himself repulsed – and, according to some unknown law of physics, rolls up his TLS, puts on his gown and dashes from the room in a gesture of pity and disdain. For his interview at Magdalene, Percy submitted a five-thousand-word essay arguing that platonic is to erotic love as wine is to beer: infinitely superior. As this extract from his diary (14 Feb. 2001) notes:

“What is more pleasurable than writing a fifty-thousand-word dissertation on Herodotus? As a schoolboy, I was more enamoured by books than by women; as an undergraduate at Oxford, nothing would change. I would rather spend an evening with that ancient historian than with a member of the opposite sex.”

This monologue, he supposed, would convince the tutor at Magdalene of his seriousness and aptitude for the course. His mother often worried about Percy’s asexual tendencies, and expressed her concern during mealtimes. Percy’s answer was always that 'women' (here defined as: 'wives', 'girlfriends', 'dalliances', or 'lifelong mistresses') were financially and emotionally insupportable; further, that Once Upon a Time, celibacy was celebrated as the highest of virtues – and that he was determined, absolutely determinaverat to avoid anything which might disrupt his meal schedule or sleep pattern.

Fishnet Girl had the word ‘disruptive’ written all over her legs. Like Jesus, she was distributing her buns to anyone who would have them. Unfortunately for her, Rodney had concluded that there were better fish in the sea.

Rodney, is that you?

Fishnet Girl tottered from the door-within-the-door to the central square where Percy, awestruck, was lighting his sleeves on fire.

Oh Rodney. You’re so unfair.

She came like a high-pitched whine, like the Canadian Pacific Railway or a tractor due for an oil change – sounds wholly unfamiliar to Percy Bertram Danforth, son of the renowned Royston Pennington Danforth, former Supreme Court Justice for the State of Washington and now US Senator.

Before he could react, Fishnet Girl, under the influence of a certain brand of whiskey and some cobblestones, had flopped into his arms.


Percy was in a state of shock. 'Shock' can be defined as a sudden upsetting event or surprising experience, such as the discovery of a partially-clothed stranger in your arms, or a grammatical errors in a published blog post. It is also an acute medical condition associated with a fall in blood pressure, caused by blood loss, severe burns to one's shirtsleeves, bacterial infections, allergic reactions, or sudden emotional stress, and marked by cold, pallid skin, irregular breathing, rapid pulse, and dilated pupils: he died of shock due to massive abdominal hemorrhage.

Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you – I meant that only generically. 

Percy attempted to disentangle himself from Fishnet Girl like a drowning toddler from water: by flapping his arms up and down and making his eyes as big as the moon. Ironically, he could see nothing – nothing but the Arnolfini Marriage (1434) before him, and he could not help but wonder . . . who was that man in the tiny mirror at the back of the room?


 Percy spun round on his coattails.

Sarah HertzComment