Rather not. Jeremiah slid into his seat at the back of the lecture hall and prayed that the scrawled message on the board referred to a campus cult’s lack of original thinking rather than a preview of his professor’s worldview.
A tall thin spectacle with a man-bun on top, a tie-dyed shirt, bloomers-like shorts, and flapping bedroom slippers sauntered up to the podium.
I should’ve taken the online class.
A young woman, mid-twenties, long brown hair, wireframe glasses, small build but toned legs dropped her bulging backpack by the third empty chair to the right of him.
But then again…
The room filled to capacity and Jerimiah opened his notebook, flipped it to a new section, and tapped his pencil.
The young woman slid a recorder to the front of her desk, then leaned back and closed her eyes.
What’s this? A lazy beauty who gets through class by replaying the lecture when it suits her fancy?
Jerimiah shoved the thought—Wish I’d thought of it—far away. He rubbed his eyes. Between his mom’s recent liver transplant, the store downsizing and leaving managers like him in the dust, and the new graduation regulations, he’d come to think that the Universe was in a sour mood. He wasn’t too Sweet himself.
The professor started—digging into societal ills, cultural concerns, hot button issues, even picking on the front row students like lab rats who couldn’t escape the taunting labels expelled from his gut based on their hyperventilated one-word answers. “When you leave this class, you won’t know yourself! Kiss mommy and daddy’s straightjacket goodbye!”
Jeremiah dropped his head on his hands. “At least online I could’ve muted him.”
“What? And missed all this fun?”
Jeremiah glanced over.
Beauty, still leaning back with her eyes closed, appeared very much asleep.
The professor sucked in a lungful for another charge. “How can you say you know anything—you believe anything—until you’ve heard all sides? I’m here to bring you into direct contact with ALL SIDES!”
Beauty sat up, a frown making her nose wrinkle in an alarmingly adorable fashion. “He’s a circle?”
The gut-busting laugh that exploded from Jeramiah made him clutch his notebook and pencil as he fled the room.
Two days later, Jeremiah hurried down the hall after his last class of the week. He had a ton of work over the weekend, his mom needed someone to fix her end table, which tended to send her books and medicines crashing to the floor by evening no matter how well she propped it up each morning, and he had an interview for a part-time manager position on Saturday. If he could finish the year with the stellar grades he started with, he’d be sure of a full-time position before the year was out.
Only one class stood in his way.
Beauty strode along with him into the library, her bulging backpack pressing her shoulders into a stooped position.
A million introductions flashed through his mind, creating a linguistic maelstrom, not unlike ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs on steroids. Lacking any rational brain cells to call upon, Jeremiah simply stepped in front of the pretty woman, halting her in her tracks.
She looked up and stared blankly.
“He’s a circle?”
Astonishing how long she could maintain that blank expression.
“In class? The professor promised to bring us in contact with all sides…”
Comprehension filled her eyes. Light broke over the mountains. Beauty smiled. Then the gate slammed shut. “It’s an English class! What’s he doing—social engineering?”
The puppy inside every man has moments when he desperately wants to run around in wild circles with his tongue lolling out and a wide grin encompassing his face.
The library would not be the appropriate setting.
“You free? I’m about ready for a cup of—” He shrugged. “You name it, and I’ll get one for you too.”
Three hours later, Jeremiah took the steps to his parent’s house two at a time. He stepped into the living room and caught his mom napping lopsided in a chair and his dad pacing in circles.
“Hey, Dad. Everything okay?”
His dad’s tear-filled eyes glinted in the afternoon light. “She’s slipping away, son. Won’t be long now.”
A day and a half later, Jeremiah finished the arrangements for his mom’s funeral Mass and then ran as fast as his legs would carry him into class.
Well into the first hour, the professor was in his element, extolling the freedom of thought that would lead to well-formed lives and true humanity. With pounding steps, he labored across his personal stage, excoriating the fools who marched in lockstep with old traditions, unmindful of the variety of options available.
Beauty slouched in her seat, one hand covering her eyes.
Jerimiah slipped into his seat and for the first time since his mom’s death, felt the crushing loss that he knew he’d live with for the rest of his life. Only the words of scripture, the hymns, and songs, the candlelight comforted his aching soul. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God…
“Let go!” The professor hammered the podium like a preacher swearing hellfire to the damned.
“Where? You only offer a void.” Beauty’s face glowered, anger and hurt glaring through her eyes.
His chin up and hand raised, the professor demanded obedience. “Open your minds!”
So low, Jeremiah barely heard her words, Beauty’s spirit screamed, “So, the wind can blow through?”
Snatching her hand, Jeremiah helped her grab her bag, and they hustled outside.
Beauty flopped against the wall. “I need that class. But I don’t think I can stand his rants for another day.”
Jeremiah nodded. “My mom just passed away. All I can think of is how much I wish I had her back—and he keeps screaming that I have to let go.”
Beauty’s eyes reflected from twin pools of grief. “I’m sorry.”
Jeremiah sucked in a deep breath and took her hand. “Perhaps we should take his advice.”
“There are other classes.” He shrugged. “It might mean a summer school, but instead of this—”
“We can actually learn something.” Beauty grinned. “We’re more squares than circles, eh?”
His mom’s endearing smile before his eyes, Jeremiah nodded, took Beauty’s hand, and let go.
A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
Make the most of life’s journey.
For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page
A collection of short stories to enjoy and ponder.
“There are many excellent stories in this collection.” ~Steven R. McEvoy
A collection of contemporary short stories involving families, friends, and distant relations. It is the hazards of daily life that test the soul.
A delightful collection of short stories that draw you in, wanting more. ~Discovery, Gale Kaufman