I don't remember where I went after I left Dean Rich's office. I might have gone to play pinball, or eat. When I got back, my roomate handed me a note.
"Your english teacher left this."
It was hand-written on looseleaf.
"Dear Rich"- I was called Rich back then- "I apologize for the way I treated you in my class. You are registered for Creative Writing 101 and I look forward to seeing you on Thursday. If you have any questions I'd like to invite you to my house for dinner," and he gave an address in Brighton.
"He came here?" I asked my roomate.
"Yeah. About an hour ago."
I imagined the sequence of events that must have happened after I left the dean's office. Dean Rich called the dean of English and verbally keel-hauled him. Then that dean came down on my professor, who found out where my room was and came to apologize personally.
"He came here?" I said again.
It was too late for dinner but I decided to go see the professor anyway. I caught the green line T to Brighton, which was free outbound. I would be walking home rather than spend the 75 cents.
The professor lived in half of a duplex not far from the T stop. He opened the door himself. I thought he looked old, with graying brown hair and big round glasses. He couldn't have been more than 40. I caught a glimpse of a woman in a sort of loud orange caftan. She went into a back room and closed the door.
"You drink?" he asked, "Whiskey?"
I didn't, then, but I said yes anyway. He poured a glass for me and I had a sip. It went straight down, kicked my ass, then bounced back up and burned my nostrils.
"I got your note," I said when I could talk, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get you in trouble."
He shrugged. "Had worse. So, you're a writer?"
"Not really," I admitted.
"But you write."
"Short stories. Some science fiction."
He snorted a bit. "Of course you do. Everybody writes short stories. Why?"
"Why do you write?"
"Because I can," I said without thinking.
"And can you?"
I finished the whiskey. The second gulp was easier. I had made a life-long friend.
"Look, I'm sorry. Thanks for letting me take the class. I'll see you Thursday.". I put the glass down and left.
It was about a 20 minute walk home. Green T's clatterered past me. The outbound ones were filled with boys and girls heading to parties in the suburban student ghettos.
On Thursday I went back to the class. The professor never hinted that we'd met, or that Dean Rich had come down on him like the hand of God. The chairs were set up in a circle.
"Thursdays will be for reading your pieces, and having the class critique them,," he said, "I know it's the first week, but does anyone have anything to get us started?"
Silence. None of the English majors had written anything, or were ready to admit it.
I pulled a thin stack of paper out of my bag.
"I have a story," I said, "It's called 'Douglas Webster and the Ode to Joy."
I read it aloud. It wasn't great. Maybe it was at least interesting. But I had it, and I read it. In that moment the only writer in class was the engineer who didn't deserve a seat.
This story is about Half True.
Of Action and Ambition
5 days ago