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The Professional Student (part IV) ~ 1300 words (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
Well, after another extended absence I shall submit part four for your perusal. I've decided to change my original plan from getting it all up complete to subdividing this climax from the ending. So, here goes:

The Professional Student
Part IV

The Tank (cont.)

“Please Henry, no dramatics,” said Wilson staring at his colleague. “Anyway, I would like to move on to questions of a more personal nature.”

Jon opened his mouth to protest but Wilson quelled him instantly. “Jon, if you don’t agree to participate, nothing good will come of it.”

“Okay,” Jon said as he compliantly folded his pudgy hands in front of him on the table and waited for the next onslaught. His eyes moved from one inquisitor to the next, wondering who would open.

“Mr. Pillsbury, How old are you?” It was Dr. Sharpe. She spoke in a gentle voice but there was no love there.


“Are you married?”

“No, but I have a girlfriend.”

“Yes, we know;” said Dr. Sharpe, “The one you had the fight with. How long have you been together?”

“About nine years or so,” he said.

“Do you have children with her or any other woman?”

“No.” This was getting even more personal than he expected. He unfolded his hands and started to probe the roundness of the oak molding that bordered the laminate tabletop.

“Have you contemplated starting a family?” she asked.

“Not really – I don’t think so.”

“You don’t sound very sure. So, you’re not sure if you’ve ever contemplated settling down?” She was ruthless, in the politest sort of way.

“I didn’t think it would be wise until I finished my degree,” he said.

“How old is your girlfriend?” She leaned forward.

“She’ll be twenty-eight in July.”

The septuagenarian professor raised her eyebrows, her colleagues did not react.

“So I guess you thought she still has some time for that, eh?” There was a bit of a sneer in Dr. Sharpe’s tone.

“I don’t really think I gave it much thought.”

“No, it appears not. In any case, you haven’t made that commitment, just as you have reneged on your commitment to this department which, until recently, has remained committed to you.” With that, she sat back.

Sorensen spoke next: “Jonathan, what did you plan to do with a PhD in classical archaeology?”

“I plan to write,” he said.

“We’ve gone through your early papers. You do write very well, yet you haven’t finished your dissertation. In fact, you haven’t even started it. You haven’t been published in any journal, unless something is in the works and you have been saving it as a surprise. Please surprise us, Jon.”

“I don’t have anything.”

“Did you wish to do popularizations? Our field always needs that; with public interest comes funding.”

“I’m not as photogenic as Michael Woods, I’d have to lose a few pounds.” Jon laughed at his own little joke.

The table was slapped again, this time with no rebuke. “This is serious!” said Sorensen, raising his voice in its sing-song Minnesota baritone. The other two stared at him completely still, like busts of Athena and Zeus made of the finest cold pantelic marble.

“Jonathan,” the focus of the floor moved to the center as Williams spoke, “what do you usually do on a Thursday night?”

“Not much really, it’s my night off.”

“So, you don’t use this night off to work on your thesis?”

“Usually, I’m too tired to do anything,” he said.

“Hmm,” droned Wilson, “that’s not what I’ve been given to understand. I’ve been informed that you spend nearly every Thursday night at a grotty little coffee house on North Street, where they hold poetry slams that evening until very early in the morning.”

“You’ve been spying on me!” Jon shouted, fuming with righteous indignation.

“Please calm down, Jonathan.” Wilson continued, “Let’s call it necessary research.”

Pillsbury seethed. He felt his face heat up and his eye began to throb again.

“Isn’t it true that you present two and sometimes three original poems there each week?” asked Wilson.

“Yes,” he sighed.

“Dr. Sharpe happens to have one of these poems.” The elderly woman passed a sheet of unlined paper to Jon. There was verse printed on it. His verse, he recognized it. Wilson said: “Would you please recite this for us now?”

“I would prefer not to, Dr. Wilson.”

“Unlike Bartleby, you do not have the option.”

Jon took a deep and painful breath. His poetry had come home to roast.

Fried on catnip the feline played.

Slaked with dog chow, the canine lazed.
Domestication hung like a beer-belly on
these creatures content with their dissolution.

“Must I continue?” asked Jon.

“Yes,” said Dr. Sharpe, “You must.”

Feral instincts cannot enter the crania perched on
collared necks.
Hunting skills atrophied to rudimentary play.
Pussy prefers her fabric mouse stuffed with narcotic herbs.
Rex brings the evening paper to his master.

Ex-patriots from the wild kingdom,

servants and playthings of their two-legged masters;
they call themselves animal lovers.
I call them slavers.

“Mr. Pillsbury, is this a good poem?” asked Dr. Sharpe.

“It’s not bad,” he replied.

“Is it worthy of an A from your Alma Mater, where you did indeed study poetry composition?” she pressed.

“I wouldn’t say so,” he said, wishing the triangularly chinned witch would get to her point.

“If you thought that this endeavor was worthy enough for you to take time away from your primary responsibilities, why didn’t you take the time to compose better material? According to your undergraduate transcript, you received an A in Modern Poetry Composition, hence my question: is this ‘A’ work?” Dr. Sharpe stared through her horned-rimmed bifocals and down her aquiline nose into the innermost depths of his flawed humanity.

“I was working under a self-imposed time constraint: I try to write each poem in under thirty minutes. This way, I can write and present more work. The people there really like it. I try to give them what they want.” He was getting very nervous. He daren’t address the fact that he was stoned when he wrote the stuff.

“With regards to this particular work, I think you deliberately mangled a somewhat competent piece. You start with a definite meter and rhyme scheme and then proceed to disrupt both with bloviated language and incongruent imagery. As for content, aren’t you keying into the sensibilities of a largely vegan audience with overtly emotional and evocative language when you do not, in fact, share these same views?” Dr. Sharpe’s eyes, at first lively and sparkling, now became fiery. “Almost all of your poetry presented at Nelgri’s is in the same vein. Does your audience know that they are snapping and applauding the false sentiments of a lapsed vegetarian? A carnivore? How do you think they will feel when they eventually find out that their kindred spirited poet-hero is a fraud. Also, the poems are lesser then you are able to compose. You are writing down to your audience making yourself appear to be on their level, when you are, in fact, capable of genius; so above them on an intellectual level that you are afraid you will not be understood or admired. So, in an effort to be liked, you become one of them but just a little bit better, someone that they can look up to and even idolize. Mr. Pillsbury, you are a hypocrite, a sycophant, a liar and a man who ridicules those less sophisticated for your own private amusement. I do know what I am talking about. I have witnessed it with these two eyes,” she pointed her gnarled but strangely delicate index finger at her glasses. “Quite frankly, it disgusted me.”

Jon hung his head. Then he remembered the elderly woman at the same corner table each week with the obstructed view of the stage. She was there for the past several months. Babushka, peasant skirt and wooly scarf worn to conceal the telltale shape of her face was the attire. She took notes during the readings and if it wasn’t for the pot of tea on the table, he would have thought she were homeless.

Ferdy! Rat bastard. Dr. Sharpe was his advisor.
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