Dermot Dermot hung up the phone as gently as possible with a delicate push of his thumb. He even said, “No, no, thank YOU officer,” as if he appreciated the call from the FBI agent about the missing handgun. He leaned back in his limo seat and ran a shaking hand over his face. A moment later he reached for the limo’s dry bar. He reached for the whole dry bar, for anything, for whiskey, vodka, tequila, gin, or even the distillation of figs called aguardente his wife had sent from the Iberian peninsula: anything would do and his need was great.

The radio was tuned to the local news and, as he poured a dribble of tonic into his gin, Dermot heard that yesterday two Russians were found dead in a Brooklyn apartment in connection with the ongoing hunt for one Tatiana Kalashnikov who the police wanted for multiple accounts of vandalism and the graffiti of artwork. Dermot stopped pouring tonic and revisited the gin bottle: he would need all the gin he could get today.

“So, that’s why the officer called; I’ll bet she used my gun to shoot a Russian mobsters—”

And here Dermot said a really bad word, a word that I can’t even edit into crackers and balderdash or the like because it was so terrible; I’m just going to skip it completely and move on to other things.

The limo pulled into the university parking garage and swung near the elevator. Dermot poured the rest of the gin into his glass, sipped the last drops out of the bottle, licked the bottle, and stepped out of the car. He poked the elevator with his free hand and took another sip of gin. Gin, gin, gin, gin; the day was going to get better. The elevator arrived. Dermot entered the elevator. The doors closed. Dermot looked at the panel of buttons. There were a lot of buttons from which to select, but he focused through the gin and saw, yes, the button he wanted, the button to his floor, the button he wanted to push, yes, that button—no, not that one—yes, that one. He pushed it. He pushed it. The elevator rose up to the floor he selected and the doors opened. Dermot took another sip of gin. The elevator door closed. The elevator rose up more floors and arrived where he had wanted to go all along. Yes, this was where the office was located. Dermot walked out of the elevator and into the hallway. He walked down the hallway in nearly a straight line until he reached his office door. The doorknob was on the wrong side of the door today. He found the knob and opened the door with his free hand and pushed the door open with his shoulder all while sipping more gin from his glass. There were almost no drips of gin marking the hallway floor.

Oh, and by this time, the elevator door had already closed, but that isn’t really important for our story. What the elevator did next would be a story for another time, on a long winter night when there is nothing else to do and the fire is bright and the food all eaten and the dogs sleeping happily at the feet of the new Spanish girlfriend who is wearing little else but a calfskin nightie and a look of bright anticipation for whatever underwhelming experience might fill her evening, but she doesn’t know that yet, so overcome as she is by Dermot’s professorship-ness.

Dermot smiled at his office worker—what was his name?

“Student workers are cheap labor for the school, but annoying—did I say that aloud?”

“Yes, I heard you.”

“Oh, hi, Neville. Any calls?”

“Just your wife.”

“Oh, good, I was out.”

“My name is Andrew.”

“I thought it was Neville.”

“Not since I was born.”

“Oh, that’s right, it IS Andrew, isn’t it?”

“Rufus Pugh is in your office.”

“Good.”

Dermot Dermot opened his office door and stood on the threshold looking for Rufus.

“Where is he?”

“He’s in there; I let him in about twenty minutes ago.”

“Thank you.”

Dermot sipped his gin again and creased his brow; he wanted to look super serious for this interview with Rufus. He stepped into his office.

“Rufus?” Dermot called.

Silence. Then, as Dermot listened, he heard the sound of gentle breathing. Rufus was asleep somewhere nearby. After some searching, Dermot found Rufus curled up under his desk in the fetal position. Dermot nudged Rufus with a toe.

“Rufus, wake up.”

“What? Where am I? Oh, hey, professor…”

“What are you doing under there?”

“I must have fallen asleep.”

“I guess you did; what are you doing under there?”

“You won’t believe what happened.”

Dermot sipped his gin and creased his brow even more.

“Climb out of there and tell me about it; I’ll warn you: I’m having second thoughts about our mentorship. I don’t think I can forgive you for bungling the theft of that Hackney painting.”

“It wasn’t my fault!”

“One does not apply to be my mentee: I select my students carefully. I have a rigorous vetting process ever since the formal inquiry into my student-teacher relationships two years ago; I’m extremely careful about when and how students sleep in my office.”

“I didn’t mean to sleep here!”

“Come sit on the sofa with me. Did you find Tatiana?

“Did you find Tatiana?”

“Not at first… ”

“What happened…?”

“Her brother was there with… a twelve volt battery; I was only saved because he refused to look at my naked body while attempting to connect the wires…”

“And…?”

“She arrived,” Rufus shivered. “She shot him, and some other mobsters.”

“And the painting?”

“Oh, the painting; no, I don’t have the painting.”

“Did you bring Tatiana with you? Is she under the desk, too? Perhaps you both were having a little tryst in my office? It wouldn’t be the first time. Trysty, I call her.”

“Who?”

“My desk. I named her Trysty.”

“Dermot we have a problem; I need your help.”

“I am aware of that; I’m your mentor for a reason.”

“She already sold the painting.”

Dermot spilled gin on himself.

“She is picking up passports for us today—right now—and I’m supposedly,”

Rufus pronounced the word sub-pos-ed-ably.

“at my mother’s packing a bag for our I.T.A.”

Dermot let the gin seep into his shirt.

“What is an I.T.A., oh, student mine?”

“Indefinite Trip Abroad. A lifelong honeymoon, she calls it. I came here and hid under your desk. I feel so safe here.”

Dermot rose and went to the wet bar. He poured himself more gin.

“Do you want anything? A coffee?”

“Oh, yeah I do.”

Dermot busied himself with the coffee. His hands were shaking a little, but his voice was steady when he said,

“Cream or sugar?”

“I always take cream and sugar. Black coffee is so uninspired. Cream and sugar are like the define aspiration, you know, imbuing the, you know.”

Dermot dropped a coffee mug on the floor and then said:

“Divine inspiration?”

“No, no, I think it is ‘define aspiration.’”

“Why don’t you tell me what happened?”

“Are you going to clean up that broken coffee mug?”

“No, I’m going to take off my shoes and walk on it.”

“Why?”

“I’m not really going to do that.”

“Oh.”

Dermot leaned against the kitchen counter and waited.

“Dermot, you have to help me escape. I have to lay low; I have to go on the lame.”

“On the lam.”

“On a lamb, a cow, a horse, anything.”

“It is called lam, L-A-M, not lamb.”

“I don’t care what animal takes me out of town: I just have to escape.”

Dermot dropped another coffee mug on the floor.

“And you’ll just leave? Leave New York City? Leave art school?”

“Yes; I have to; I have to disappear.”

“You don’t have a degree, Rufus; you haven’t even taken the nominal threshold electives to explore yourself. You haven’t explored your sexuality or psychoanalyzed your childhood traumas—there are a wealth of essential electives required before you select a degree path. You aren’t fully developed; you are just burgeoning, Rufus. Don’t destroy the work we’ve done!”

“But I can’t stay! How can I explore my sexuality or analyze how mean my mommy was with Tatiana stalking me!”

“Well, maybe you aren’t really an artist at all.”

“But, I have to be; I have to be an artist. If I’m not an artist, I’m just—what am I? Normal? Just a normal consumer?”

“Maybe you are just one of the cattle of the majority.”

“But that’s impossible. I mean, just look at my hair!”

And here Rufus vigorously fluffed his hair.

“That is true; you have artistic hair.”

“See, so, nothing will change, but I have to leave America even. I have to go to the third world countries and just lay low.”

“The third world countries?”

“You know countries like Afghanistan, Brazil, and Europe.”

“Oh, yes, those countries.”

Dermot poured coffee into two mugs.

“And your school loans? Are you prepared to start repaying those?”

“What?”

“Loans: when you leave school, you have three months, you know, after leaving, to find a job and start paying off your loans?”

“I thought to sell my artwork.”

“You aren’t an artist yet; who will buy your artwork?”

The end.