Monday, May 26, 2014

In the Dean's Office

"Did they bite you or beat you?" the dean was saying to the slender woman seated before him.

The woman, head down, frazzled, was rubbing her temples. She mumbled something inaudible.

"I didn't hear that," the dean said. "What was it: bite or beat? Bite, you know, has a long vowel, a long i, because of the silent e at the end."

The woman raised her head.

"I know it has a long vowel," she said curtly. "I have a PhD. from Berkeley!"

"Yes, yes. . . . So what was it: bite or beat?"


"What do you mean both?"

"I mean both," the woman said. "They bit me and they beat me."

The dean's eyebrows went up. He really seemed almost shocked.

"No," he announced decisively. "They either bite you or beat you, but they never do both."

"Well, they did both," said the young academic, holding up her forearm to show him the two gauze bandages, then pulling aside her collar to show a dark bruise arcing round the base of her neck.

"You want to see my belly?" she asked, making as if to stand up.

"No, no, that won't be necessary," the dean waved dismissively. "Was there . . . Were there any offers to tattoo you?"

"One kid said he wanted to leave something tribal on my thigh," the woman said. "That's how he said it: 'I wanna leave something tribal. Right on your inner thigh.' Then he made a clicking noise."

"That's tattoo talk," the dean said.

"No kidding," the academic said.

The dean sat thinking a moment.

"And they bit you and beat you?" he said finally. "All the students? All of them did both?"

"Yes, they all bit me and they all beat me, all nine, repeatedly. It was the whole last thirty minutes of class!"

"Amazing," the dean said. "Really amazing."

The woman said nothing, went back to rubbing her temples. A moment passed.

"I think you've got a serious future here," the dean said in conclusion, closing the folder on his desk. "Really. This is unprecedented. In my experience at least."

"Great," the woman said, in a tone that was impossible to read.

"I mean, if they're biting and beating you already, after only a week! Well, let me tell you. With a strong start like that I wouldn't be surprised if we were already paying you something by the end of semester. Just symbolic of course, but something."

"Great," the woman said flatly. "Even symbolic is helpful. Great."

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