Anything Bunny wrote was bound to be alarmingly original, since he began with such odd working materials and managed to alter them further by his befuddled scrutiny, but the John Donne paper must have been the worst of all the bad papers he ever wrote (ironic, given that it was the only thing he ever wrote that saw print. After he disappeared, a journalist asked for an excerpt from the missing young scholar's work and Marion gave him a copy of it, a laboriously edited paragraph of which eventually found its way into People magazine).
Somewhere, Bunny had heard that John Donne had been acquainted with Izaak Walton, and in some dim corridor of his mind this friendship grew larger and larger, until in his mind the two men were practically interchangeable. We never understood how this fatal connection had established itself: Henry blamed it on Men of Thought and Deed, but no one knew for sure. A week or two before the paper was due, he had started showing up in my room about two or three in the morning, looking as if he had just narrowly escaped some natural disaster, his tie askew and his eyes wild and rolling. 'Hello, hello,' he would say, stepping in, running both hands through his disordered hair. 'Hope I didn't wake you, don't mind if I cut on the lights, do you, ah, here we go, yes, yes…' He would turn on the lights and then pace back and forth for a while without taking off his coat, hands clasped behind his back, shaking his head. Finally he would stop dead in his tracks and say, with a desperate look in his eye: 'Metahemeralism.
Tell me about it. Everything you know. I gotta know something about metahemeralism.'
'I'm sorry. I don't know what that is.'
'I don't either,' Bunny would say brokenly. 'Got to do with art or pastoralism or something. That's how I gotta tie together John Donne and Izaak Walton, see.' He would resume pacing.
'Donne. Walton. Metahemeralism. That's the problem as I see it.'
'Bunny, I don't think "metahemeralism" is even a word.'
'Sure it is. Comes from the Latin. Has to do with irony and the pastoral. Yeah. That's it. Painting or sculpture or something, maybe.'
'Is it in the dictionary?'
'Dunno. Don't know how to spell it. I mean' – he made a picture frame with his hands – 'the poet and the fisherman. Parfait. Boon companions. Out in the open spaces. Living the good life. Metahemeralism's gotta be the glue here, see?'
And so it would go, for sometimes half an hour or more, with Bunny raving about fishing, and sonnets, and heaven knew what, until in the middle of his monologue he would be struck by a brilliant thought and bluster off as suddenly as he had descended.
He finished the paper four days before the deadline and ran around showing it to everyone before he turned it in.
'This is a nice paper, Bun -,' Charles said cautiously.
'But don't you think you ought to mention John Donne more often? Wasn't that your assignment?'
'Oh, Donne,' Bunny had said scoffingly. 'I don't want to drag him into this.'
Henry refused to read it. 'I'm sure it's over my head, Bunny, really,' he said, glancing over the first page. 'Say, what's wrong with this type?'
'Triple-spaced it,' said Bunny proudly.
'These lines are about an inch apart.'
'Looks kind of like free verse, doesn't it?'
Henry made a funny little snorting noise through his nose.
'Looks kind of like a menu,' he said.
All I remember about the paper was that it ended with the sentence 'And as we leave Donne and Walton on the shores of Metahemeralism, we wave a fond farewell to those famous chums of yore.' We wondered if he would fail.