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Dr. Catherine Shockley

Dr. Catherine Shockley

There is no legal limit in Missouri to a fictional character’s soaring Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). So long as it soars on one’s own make-believe property. And if L.C. Knights tried to ask us in his 1933 brilliant and mocking essay, “How Many Children Had Lady MacBeth?”, who really cares what’s happening beyond the text, I wonder how exasperated he would become at our speculation over what’s happening within a character’s bloodstream.

Yet, folks here at the hay farm insisted that the text of The Hayfield itself offers “internal evidence”. At Line 48, the poet experiences a Doppler Effect while Arnie mumbles his prayer while falling backwards. Karen thought this worth exploring but wasn’t sure where to begin. Her boyfriend, our very own Thomas Pinkhurst, is a bright graduate student in the literature department who already has a PhD in physics. Professional student. He knows his science. His math. And has pitch perfect hearing.

So after deciding he wanted to help Karen with her recent post, he listened to those lines along with the prayer. Went to the hayfield to check out the acoustics. He listened until he could sort out the dopplering frequency and then, cross-checking with the dimensions of the depression in the ground created by big Arnie’s fall, and simulating that fall while holding accelerometers and 3D position detectors (i.e. iPhone and an obscure app), Thomas could estimate Arnie’s height to be 6′3″ and weight at 245 lbs.

With those estimates, and the reckoning Arnie drank the twelve pack in a couple hours, the staff deduced that Arnie and any timber ticks on him are dealing with a .23 BAC.

Karen, on the other hand, is dealing with worse. Her boyfriend has undergone a religious conversion to something akin to orthodox rural eclectic. The closer he got to Arnie’s fall and bedtime prayer, the higher and more compelling the frequency of sound and light waves became. Thomas got pulled in: the kid now sees Arnie as a messiah. Worships the ground Arnie falls on. Budweiser for the communion. Overalls for robes. Thomas and the sleeping Arnie (still fictional!) are entangled, as they say in quantum teleportation circles, and Thomas’s physics friends (now post-docs) back home are frantically trying to calculate an escape velocity.

Clearly, we went too far on this one. We need Mary Shelley to best describe the odd yellow gleam in Thomas’s eyes. In the meantime, we are making sure Karen has all the support and whiskey she needs.

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