February 24, 2011

Happy Thursday

In the world-weary words of everyone’s favorite homosexual Disney villain; “Life’s not fair, isn’t it?” (Scar, by the way folks.  Scar.  The Lion King.  Yea, I know, figuring he was gay was a mind-blowing event for me, too).

I very frequently describe my workload as an ocean.  It is vast, uncountable, uncontainable, and the best I can ever hope to do is tread water within it.  At a certain point in the semester, this treading water becomes strategic drowning.  Where can I take a break?  How long can I hold my breath?  Where do I really need to break the surface, how much is that going to take out of me, and in the long run will the effort to do so equal the greatest rate of return?

Generally, this feeling begins right around midterms time.  If I’m lucky, I can keep it at bay until I begin research for my finals.

Well I’m two weeks out from midterm number one and already I’m gasping for air.  I blame the common reading exam.  You see, usually when my work is done for the week I have a few hours with which to relax with the knowledge that I have nothing to do (unless I want to be an over-achiever and start on next week’s reading).  With the exam, however, all that time is diverted into (gasp) more reading.  It never ends.  As soon as I think I’ve caught a break, another wave comes by and shoves me right back under the water.

So I’m tired.  And stressed.  And my brain feels like oatmeal (maybe with little chunks of bananas because there are still a few bits that haven’t liquefied yet).  I’ve started getting the stress-headaches and all the wonderful things that erupt from them (tired eyes… migraines with aura are AWESOME let me tell you), my traps feel like someone stuck a fist in them and clenched and has refused to let go, and of course there is the ever-lurking threat of becoming sick yet again.

With that in mind, I’m having trouble being coherent this week.  Here’s a list of random stuff that has crossed my desk recently.

1)    I’m reading Northanger Abbey for aforementioned Best Professor Ever’s Gothic class.  I love this book.  I LOVE this book.  Have I mentioned how much I love this book?  I wrote a paper about it for my Austen class last semester which then became my PhD writing sample and I’m hoping to whip it into publication shape as soon as I have a moment to breathe.  I have to say despite everything reading this book feels like coming home again.  Shhhh.  Don’t tell Will I said that, he may be jealous.

2)    I’m giving a talk Saturday at the inaugural Rutgers Newark MA Consortium.  I haven’t looked at the paper I’m giving in months.  I haven’t looked at the notes on the paper I’m giving in months.  Luckily, I have a presentation written up I just have to brush the dust off of it and remember my Nietzsche.  Easier said than done I think.  Hey, by the way, come to the Rutgers Newark MA Consortium on Saturday!

3)    In a month, I will be past the roughest spot of this semester.  I’m torn on whether this is an awesome thing or a horrible one.  According to www.thegradcafe.com, Columbia’s decision letters usually come out the first week in March (or at least they do for my program).  My first midterm is due 3/9 (I will be begging an extension though so that I have Spring Break to work on it).  Spring break is 3/12-3/20.  MA exam is 3/21 and 3/22.  After that, I’m not gonna say it’s all smooth sailing, but at least I can ignore the extra reading that keeps weighing me down like a big regency dress on a chick who was forced to walk the pirate plank into some exotic gulf in Bermuda. 

4)    I am not where I want to be with my short story that I’m writing for my writing group.  I have a draft.  I want to have several drafts.  Pens down on this story is in three days.  Several drafts is so not going to happen.

5)    First stack of grading came to me yesterday.  I both adore and loathe the first stack of grading.  I am always eager to jump back in with my red pen in hand and learn them undergrads good.  On the other hand, putting a grade on the first assignment innately limits the potential of the students.  Before that first grade, they are all A students.  As soon as I mark this paper, lines are drawn as to the quality of the class and the work which should be expected from them.  This point of view may grant me, the grader, a little too much agency in what is really a problem precipitated by them, the students, but I can’t help but see things this way.  I want them to do well.  I don’t want anyone to do poorly; there’s no reason for them to do poorly.  The assignments aren’t mind-bending hard, we have resources for students who aren’t stellar writers to get help, and it’s not like they didn’t have warning about the workload for the course.  With proper time management skills and resource utilization, there is absolutely no reason why these students should do poorly in the class.  And still, I can nearly guarantee, at least a third of these papers will exhibit piss-poor quality (possibly poor enough to fail).  Sigh.

6)    I would very much like a massage, an honest-to-god day off, a good-looking man to come feed me chocolate-covered strawberries, and a pony.  Is that so much to ask?

February 21, 2011

The Parable of the Cupcake

I would like to tell you a little story. 

I am not the most strong-willed person when it comes to tasty treats that are horrible for me, and I do try to take care of myself.  As such, I went to the gym this morning.  The gym is a wonderful, magical place that can make most any of your problems fade into a luscious melting of sweat and endorphins.  I love the post-gym-shower feeling of contentment, satisfaction, and righteousness.  I usually go to the gym when I’ve finished a good hunk of reading in the morning so that righteousness is double-fold: homework is worked on AND I’m an awesome person because I gym-bunnied!

On my way home from the gym, all sweaty and tired, I ran into a girl on the elevator.  I live on the thirteenth floor, so it’s not exactly a short elevator ride.  She was holding a pan of something wrapped in foil so I pressed the button for her floor for her.

After a bout of silence, she asked if I would like a cupcake.  She explained that she had been heading a bake sale, but there were cupcakes left and she didn’t want them all in her room.  I knew that I should say “no, thank you” (especially as I had just been to the gym to work off the very calories that cupcake held), but I felt bad turning down her generous offer.  I gracefully accepted and we chatted a little bit about the bake sale before she had to get off on her floor.

Now I was stuck in an awkward situation.  I had been gifted, very kindly and generously, with a baked confection of yuminess which, despite its instant gratification would no doubt be the cause of future guilt and an upset stomach if I yielded to the temptation to devour it.  On the other hand, what was I supposed to do with this cupcake?  I couldn’t just leave it somewhere… it would get thrown out.  What had it done to deserve getting thrown out uneaten?

Conundrum in mind (and slightly disappointed with myself for yielding to the sugar temptation), I walked into my apartment.

My roommate was standing in the kitchen making coffee.  We exchanged our usual round of casual greetings.  She asked if I would like coffee, I said yet.  I had a brilliant notion!  Another human!  A human who hadn’t been to the gym!  A human who may, also, like tasty treats!  I asked her if she would like the cupcake.

She said no, she probably wouldn’t, but her brother who (conveniently enough) was visiting probably would!  I set the cupcake on the table and told her that I would ask no questions if it met an untimely demise. 

I walked into my room feeling satisfied.  I hadn’t turned down a gracious (if simple) gift, I hadn’t succumbed to the sugar crush, and I hadn’t thrown out the home-baked confection.  Random acts of kindness were passed along, and I was still righteously gymed!

I realized as I lingered in my post-gym shower that this was a perfect example of the way my life tends to work.  One should always accept the cupcake, even if she has no idea what she is going to do with it.  Inevitably, a situation will present itself (usually very soon after the initial cupcake reveal) in which said resource will be utilized.  The path makes itself clear, one need only tread upon it.

That’s how I wound up with some of the best (and worst) things my life has so-far offered.  I came to Rutgers because of a cupcake incident.  I met my bestest friends due to metaphysical cupcakes.  And now, here I am, waiting to see whether a red velvet cupcake will present itself (though I already have a chocolate peanut butter one in hand). 

So I’m still on line at the bakery counter.  Or waiting in the elevator for random bake-sale girl to emerge.  There are definitely worse places to be.

February 17, 2011

A Brief Interlude on Why I Have Been So Out of Sorts of Late

Let me begin here: I love my iPhone. 

I love it.  I really don’t know what I did without it.  It holds my life within it; schedule, contact information, instant access to the rest of the world.  It’s like having a secretary who doesn’t talk back or call in sick or misunderstand me.  It goes with me everywhere and on the odd day when I accidentally leave it somewhere where I am not, I feel like a part of me has been unceremoniously lopped off.

Yes, I know, this says something deep about my generation and our indoctrination into the dependency upon technology to live.  You know what?  I’m okay with that.

However.  It does mean that this entire process of waiting for decision letters (which have now become e-mails in our aforementioned age of wondrous technology) is a constant, frenetic, on-edge, nail-biting thing.  Between the hours of nine and five every day, every time my little phone vibrates with a new e-mail I feel compelled to drop whatever it is that I may be doing, take a deep breathe, steady myself, and prepare to receive the news.  It also means that whenever said event occurs, I experience a rush of relief and frustration that the e-mail is just another update from my knitting list serve or godiva trying to sell me chocolate (not that I don’t love yarn and chocolate, but they certainly aren’t decision letters).  When I get e-mails outside of normal work hours, I have to remind myself not to get excited.  No decision letters will go out at ten PM.  I can relax.  I don’t need the phone at my elbow while I’m at karaoke on Wednesday nights.  The weekends are utter limbo.  I picture piles of applications sitting on desks in some big room with oak bookshelves and justice-league-like spinning chairs at long tables, dormant until the committees return on Monday.  Yet still I have programmed myself to check, every time, without fail.  It’s well near impossible for me to actually unwind these days.

The strangest thing about this entire situation was that I couldn’t encapsulate the feeling succinctly for the longest time.  I knew that I was on-edge, I knew that I wanted to hear back, but without a paragraph of exposition I just wasn’t able to describe why I was feeling this way.  Yesterday, as I was reading The Turn of the Screw of all things, it came to me.  I had to refrain from posting immediately on facebook (like the good twenty-first century girl that I am) so I could mull the idea through for a while.  However, after a few workouts and some thinking, I’m ready to share this light bulb with the greater online community.

I am, slowly, attempting to come to grips with the fact that sometime in the next few weeks I will receive an e-mail that will, one way or another, change the rest of my life.

Woah.  Big stuff.  Scary stuff.  Like facing down a five-headed monster of chomping, grinding, half-sensible, rabies-filled teeth armed only with a sword, shield and your past experience.  It’s like standing on the brink of eternity, staring down into a deep dark abyss of your own potential and knowing that it will manifest but uncertain as to how.  It’s like repeatedly flagellating yourself with the notion that you are good enough and have done the best you can but damn it’s going to hurt if someone else doesn’t recognize that, but why should you need that recognition anyway because what does the rest of the world know they’re just an ivy league institution that already denied you entrance in your undergrad so why should they change their opinion about you now it’s not like you’re a different person than you were seven years ago and oh god I just want them to like me already.

….But at the same time there’s a serene acceptance that a plan is already in place.  With one acceptance letter in hand (and funding to boot) I know that I have somewhere to go, I know that I will achieve my goals in that somewhere, and I know that that somewhere is pretty kick ass.  But I can’t get too excited about that somewhere in the off chance that something better comes along because really it’s not over until the fat fellowships sing.

I just want to start looking for apartments.  Is that so much to ask?  I would love to start filling in the barest brush-strokes of the next five to six years of my life.  Pondering neighborhoods.  Applying to supplementary teaching positions.  Trying to figure out how to fit my budget together.  Not to mention mentally preparing for a move either closer to or farther from certain friends and relations…

It is, officially, past the middle of February.  Any day now, I will know.  Any day?  Any moment.  It could come at any time.  Sneak attack me while I’m in class.  Creep up on me while I’m at the gym.  Bombard me while I’m at work.  It could come from any corner, any cranny, any nook, and I just have to be poised to receive it.

Yea, poised to receive the landscape of the rest of my life.  No big deal, right?

February 14, 2011

Don't Mess with the Bard

Let us take a moment to talk about arguing.

Premise one: there can be no evolution of academic inquiry without argument.

This premise is entirely what the academy is based upon.  We scholars can hole ourselves up in our towers and libraries, but on our own and with no one to talk to this is where our work ends.  Even by reading a text we are entering into dialogue with whomever wrote it.  Our ideas and evolutions of the text are contentions that must have a basis in previous intellectual thought.  Ideas don’t come from nowhere, and without people to read them or tell them to they become nothing.

Friction and stress created by two minds duking it out is the mother of the evolution of thought.  Even if I have a brilliant idea, by defending it to my peers I can deepen and lengthen it.  It will not change merely by my thinking upon it, but rather by the pressure exerted upon it by others.  In this instance, two minds are definitely better than one.  And an institution full of minds is better than anything.

Premise two: every academic has an area of expertise.  This area, however, is merely representative of the majority of the individual’s reading and writing experience and thus said expertise’s value appreciates with time.

I’m an Early Modernist (and, to be very technical, a Shakespearean with an eye towards performativity and theatricality).  All this means is that I am very well read in this area and have spent a great deal more time thinking about them than about other areas of scholarship.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t read other things, it doesn’t mean that I don’t write about other things.  It doesn’t mean that I know everything about this and nothing about anything else.

It says something about how I think and what I think about.  The specialty is a way to summarize a scholar’s values in short-hand to come to some greater understanding about what a scholar does and what courses she teaches.  It is not a way to encapsulate everything said individual knows.

Premise three: the value of an idea does not depreciate when critiqued by an individual whose area of expertise is unrelated to the idea itself.

And here, good reader, is the core of this entry.  Though I may have an idea about Shakespeare, simply because I had that idea and Shakespeare is my specialty does not mean that my idea should be bullet-proof.  It does not mean that I am the Unconquerable Knower of All Bardy Delights.  It just means that I had an idea. 

Those premises in mind, let me tell you a little story.

I’m taking a class which is very Shakespeare-centric.  I am back on cloud nine, let me tell you.  However there is one problem with this.

This is a problem that has occurred in other classes, but hasn’t been as pressing since those other classes centered around other literature.  My department is small.  People with big mouths get noticed.  Smart people also get noticed.  As a smart person who talks a lot, I find myself hard-pressed not to meet someone in this department who does not know me.  You know at the beginning of the semester when everyone goes around and introduces themselves?  You have to give a little bit of your background and what your interest is in the class, etc?  English majors, being bookish nerdy types, tend to do this haltingly with half an eye on their notes the whole time.  I, on the other hand, will stare down the class, introduce myself, and say that I’m a Shakespearean before filling them in on whatever it is I happen to be working on at the time.

I am also an academic pit-bull.  I will take an argument and shake it until it’s dead.  In class, this means a great deal of talking, taking hits, adjusting my shield, striking again, and rolling with whatever it is the class has to say about my argument.  I have been known to take on a whole teeming roomful of pugnacious bookish types when I get some idea rattling around in my head. 

However.  I have a secret weapon (although I guess when I tell it to you, it won’t be very secret anymore, will it?).

To many people, invoking Shakespeare is like invoking God.  It’s why he’s referenced so frequently in political speeches; he has been made into the ultimate authority on just about everything.  As I have found, this also works in the classroom.  If I’m really in a corner, all I have to do is call down the heavenly light of My Man Will and suddenly everyone backs off and shuts up.

Seriously.  It works like a charm.  No one argues with the Bard.  And apparently no one argues with a Pitbull Bard Scholar either.

Which, don’t get me wrong, is great in a pinch.  But it’s not great in this class.  Since almost all we talk about is Shakespeare, and since nobody will argue with me about it, it means that I tend to dominate class discussion and get nowhere with my thoughts.  So I talk, but it’s more me lecturing than me getting a resounding response. 

Resound.  Re-sound.  To say something and have it come back to you slightly altered.  Resonance is so important to the development of thought.  I am so excited to be in a Shakespeare class, but without the resonance that I so value in my other classes, I’m finding it difficult to engage.  I really wish I could just shake some of my classmates and remind them that, despite the fact that I speak loudly and with definite purpose, I do not (in fact) know everything.  Their input into my thoughts is valuable to me, and without it, I may as well be stuck in my tower reading my books and talking to myself.

…not that that doesn’t have a time and place, mind you, but that time and place certainly isn’t during class.

Maybe if I come to class looking disheveled and hung over I’ll be less credible… but then I’d have to figure out how to look disheveled and hung over.  So not worth it.

February 10, 2011

Into the Abyss

Most of this actually happened.  Names have been changed, once again, to protect the innocent.  Though really, if you think you know who these people are you are likely right.

“I got my first rejection today.”  Lisa said as she plonked her bag in the corner and hugged each of us in turn.

“Yea, I got my first one Friday.”  I said, “I sympathize one hundred percent.  Order a drink.  When did yours come in?”

“About ten minutes ago.”  She replied and asked for a glass of wine.  I don’t know why we switched from drinking beer at the dive bar to drinking wine at the dive bar, but clearly it was just a merlot kind of day.

“I’m sorry.”  I said. 

Brian looked miserably over the top of his club soda.  “Is it this time already?  Really?  I was just beginning to think that I was okay with not knowing.  I was just starting to not check my mailbox every two seconds in hopes that some answers would be there.  I was just getting over the constant compulsion to over-think what I shouldn’t have said in my personal statements.  I was just hitting my zen spot!”

“I know,” I said, taking another sip of wine, “Me too.  But!  I got into Tufts!”

“Congratulations!” Lisa said.  Brian had known last week, but Lisa had been MIA due to her rigorous other-stuff schedule.  I felt bad busting the news on her like that at the height of her fresh disappointment, but I had to say it sometime.  I had been waiting to tell her so that I could post it on my facebook.

“Yea.  I’m a little nervous that they don’t guarantee funding for your full time there… but I’ll wait until I hear back from Columbia before I twist myself up about it.  And it would be kind of awesome to move back to Boston.”

The table vibrated as Lisa reached for her phone which she had placed face down next to her elbow, as was her wont.  We both had iPhones.  Whenever one made a noise, we instinctively both reached for ours.  We were so well trained by the little beeps that came from the machines that, like good mothers, the very sound of them urged us to action.  She had even adjusted the noise hers made when she received a text so that we didn’t have to both reach when one of us got one.  It’s the little things that make some friendships great.  “I’m sorry,” she said, “I’ve been compulsively checking my e-mail ever since I got this letter to see if anyone else has sent me a decision.”

“Crap.”  I said.

“What?” she asked.

“Now I’m going to be compulsively checking my e-mail to see if anyone else sends me a decision.”

“Sorry.”  She replied.  She glanced at her screen then sighed.  “No, not a decision, just the same reaction everyone else gave me about the place that rejected me.  ‘The University doesn’t know what they’re missing’.”

“Yea, I got that too.”  I commiserated, “I think it’s just because people who love us want to say something but aren’t sure what else to say.”

“Cold comfort.”  She muttered, and put her phone back down.

“I just… don’t even know what to do with myself.”  Said Brian, head in his hands.  He didn’t have a smart phone.

“Wait.  Hope.  Pray.  Order another drink.” I said, “It’s like Death, it will all happen eventually.  Worrying about it isn’t going to make it happen any faster.”

“I know.”  He said, “But that doesn’t make me want to stop worrying about it, you know?”

“Well, the way I see it we have two choices: we can either give ourselves ulcers fretting over the inevitable, or we can zen it out for another month or so and worry about what to do with our lives from there.”  I took another sip of wine, thinking I had done well.

“How’s that line of reasoning working for you?” Brian asked.

“Sometimes I convince myself better than others…”

“You know what the messed up part is?” He said.  Lisa and I indicated that no, in fact, we did not.  “My advisor told me the first time I met him that I was wasting my time.  He told me, without even knowing me, that I might as well quit.  There are no jobs for me.  John, you know, John?”

We all knew John.  He was our God.  Our Savior.  Our Boss.  Our Mentor.  The best professor in the world.  He had been a still point in the turning world of academia for the three of us and had taken us under his wing as Graduate Students of Promise.  At this point, he was also a friend.  He had a list of publications longer than I am tall and he popped one out every six months or so.  He also kept busy on more committees, boards, peer-review panels and scholarly organizations than any one person had a right to even know existed. 

“Dr. F said that John was ‘the Voice of his Generation’ and Rutgers had to VOTE to see if they would keep him or not.  If they have to VOTE about John, then… really… what are any of us doing here?”

Lisa and I grunted our indication that we had conceded the point as we drank more.  Somehow, drowning our sorrows just seemed like the right thing to do.

“You know what’s really messed up?  So many places are going to wait to send out decision letters until they receive word back from people they’ve admitted and notified.  That way, in case their first choices say no they have the option to let others in instead.”  Lisa said.

“Wait, isn’t that what a wait list is for?” I asked.

“You would think!  I just want to know already!  Yes, no, I don’t care, I just want to get on with my life!”

“…but what is my life?  Really, I’ve spent all of it working up to this one moment and now… if this is the end of the road I don’t know what to do.”

I reached over the table to pat Brian on the shoulder.  I didn’t blame him.  I felt the same way.  Luckily, my safety net in place, I wasn’t fearing the freefall anymore.

Looking over that cliff into the endless abyss of uncertainty isn’t easy or pretty.  There is nothing nice about not knowing.  Walking the tightrope across it is probably the most uncomfortable thing that I have ever done.

But… really… when you know that nothing else will make you happy, when you are certain of what you want and that this is the only way to get it… looking back just isn’t an option.  And it was something we were all feeling and had been for some time; none of us wanted to fall, but we knew that turning tail and running wasn’t an option either.

So I keep checking my e-mail.  And so does Lisa.  And Brian will whenever he gets a chance.  And we know that, no matter what happens, we will have each other, a table at our dive bar, and a waitress who really likes us and may bring us free drinks if we all come in in tears.  I, for one, am stocking up on those little travel tissue packets.  You can never have enough of them, they are totally portable, and in a month or so I’m pretty sure I’m going to need a good long cry.  My nerves only stretch so far.

February 8, 2011

Podcast of the Black Swan Episode Three: BRAIIIIINNNNSSS

Since my brain is a little fried this week (and I'm feeling crushed by reading), have another podcast!

Extra thanks to my brilliant brother and our native zombies for their help in this one.

Check it out here.  Enjoy!

February 4, 2011

Just Another Week at Rutgers

The following account is based upon real events of the past week.  Any resemblance to characters living or dead are likely purposeful.

I sighed and pushed the elevator button again.  That was the one downside to living on the thirteenth floor; it took forever to get anywhere (especially at prime traffic hours).  Luckily, due to the fact that I was leaving early to attend a certain pre-class event, I had not hit prime traffic hours; the elevator was just slow.

I had been in Dr. Lynch’s classes long enough to call him “Jack” over “Professor” or “Doctor Lynch”.  I had worked closely with him as a grader and general mentee ever since my arrival on campus.  Jack habitually hosted pre-class “saloons” in which he invited his graduate students to come and bullshit socially for an hour or so before we dug out our books and started talking literature.  This semester, however, due to a long and varied series of circumstances, was the first time he had been able to hold these regularly since my acquaintance with him.  And, though it was the third week of class, this was the first one that any of us would be able to attend.

Just as I began to wonder about the merits of button-mashing as a come-hither tool on elevators, my cell phone dinged announcing that I had a text message.   I smiled knowingly as I dug for my phone.  I had wondered when I would hear from Ben that day.  Steadfast comrades at arms against the deepest darkest armies of literary theory, Ben and I had similar taste in classes and thereby saw a lot of each other.  We also both love Joss Wheedon.

I managed to juggle my already-full mug with one hand and my bag with the other as I fished my phone from its depths.  I glanced at the screen to see that I was correct; it was Ben.  However, instead of the “want to get coffee before we meet Jack?” text, my little screen read “there’s a fire in Robeson and Hill Hall is on lockdown.”

Robeson was the building where Jack was to hold court.  Our class was in Hill Hall.  The course had been cancelled last week due to snow emergency.  It was the beginning of the semester, we couldn’t lose two weeks!  “Where are you?” I replied, mashing the elevator button despite myself.

“Outside Hill; campus side.”

“Jack with you?”

“No word from him yet.”

“On my way.”  I fairly jetted through the doors when the darn thing finally arrived and used everything I knew about being a New Yorker to get myself to Hill as fast as possible with only one thought pounding through my head: the building which Jack was supposed to be in was on fire.  I had to rendezvous with Ben as quickly as I could so that we could use our wonder-twin powers to swoop to the rescue through the towering inferno.  Jack was but a Professor, without his graders he could easily be burnt at the stake or crushed to death!  Part of our job description was “brute force muscle” and “personal rescue squad”.  And besides, I had questions to ask him about submissions for publication!

I arrived in the quad to large groups of people milling about in front of the two connected buildings.  Though I saw no smoke or flames licking the sides of the brick, I knew the situation must be dire to evacuate in this fashion.  I scanned the crowd for Ben.

“Danielle!”  I looked to find a small group of my colleagues had spotted me and were milling about in a small group. 

I nodded at the one who had called my name then shouted back “I have to find Ben and Jack!”

They followed in my wake as we made a wedge through the crowd, not pushing per se but not being entirely pleasant either.  I spotted Jack out of the corner of my eye; tweed suit and all.  He was well-attended already with two other professors walking at his elbows.  Ben wasn’t far away and I made eye contact with him as we swooped into bodyguard formation.  I readied my tome of Gothic novels in case rioting ensued and we had to clear a quick path for the good Professor to escape. 

We had just moved into flanking position when we noticed another colleague of ours assembled with a group of his fellows nearby.  Perfect, a good way to cover the fact that we had Jack so well in our sights.  Nothing throws off would-be Professor-muggers like nearby students having discussions. 

“How’s your semester going!?”

“Great!  But we haven’t had a serious class session of this Wednesday class!”

“Yea, this day seems to be cursed.”  It was then I realized… it was cursed.  Gothic literature.  A Graduate course Jack had never taught before.  First the skies opened up to prevent our meeting with tumultuous snow, then we had been stricken down with fire.  Clearly there was no other explanation.  Much like the castles and abbeys, graveyards and labs, monks and aristocrats we read about, this class was cursed.  Doomed never to meet.  Always meant to be barred from assembling by some freakish intervention of nature.

I caught Ben’s gaze and I knew he had come to the same realization that I had.  We didn’t know what was to be done, but we were sure it had to be something.  A fire in a municipal class building was one thing, but what next?  Carpenter ants attacking the library in droves?  EMPs outing all of campus?  Or worse, an attack on Jack himself?

Jack had, by now, finished his conversation so we politely said goodbye to our friend and moved to stand closer to our charge.  He glanced to each of us, then sighed heavily.  “They are saying that you may as well go home if you have class in those buildings.”

“Well… we’re here anyway.”  I said, adjusting my grip on the tome in case anyone got any ideas about bum-rushing potential exits. 

Jack scanned the faces of the assembled quorum.  Not the entire class, but enough of us.  “Can we reach the others?”

“We can begin to.  I think between all of us we should be able to spread the word to most of the class.”

He nodded.  “Well then.  Class at the pub today?”

Ben nodded and gestured briefly with his hand.  In an instant, cell phones were whipped out and the chain of communication had begun.

When Ben confirmed that the calls had been completed, we fell into line for traveling.  I took point and he guarded our rear.  We weren’t exactly with a group of vets and greenies in situations like this could get people killed.  I would feel better when we had crossed University place, the great dividing line between Campus and the rest of the world.

We turned the corner of the library and walked right into them.  They must have been waiting for us.  Expecting us.  It wasn’t exactly like you could be silent with all that ice and snow crunching beneath your feet.  There they stood, armed to the teeth and angry as the hell they came from; Foucault, Lacan, and Derrida.  I swung into action and immediately produced a pencil weighted (and sharpened) for throwing from my hair.  I had several of these pencils, actually, but this would start us off.  Foucault was massive so I knew he would be slow, but Derrida had gotten the drop on us and was quickly approaching.  I aimed for his eye.

With a small “whoosh” noise, the pencil flew from my fingertips and landed clean in the socket.  Derrida screamed and clutched his face, falling back to where Lacan was preparing to attack with a flail made from what looked like a steel umbrella, a length of chain, and a paperweight.  I readied my Gothic tome to use as a shield and reached into my bag to pull out something to use as a weapon.  The first thing my fingers closed around was my netbook power cable.  Not perfect, but it’d have to do.

Lacan swung the flail and I blocked it squarely with the book.  The business end slid off and he swung it behind himself again, ready to go for another hit.  In that instant, I looped the power cord around my head like a lasso and  circled it around Lacan’s feet.  There wasn’t much weight to the swing, but it was enough.  He tripped and fell, crumbling to the ground which gave me enough time to advance on him and bludgeon him with the book I held.  He fought.  Hard.  Scratching, biting, as contentious as his work was.  He kicked out with his feet, looping around my calves and taking me to the ground with him.  We grappled for a bit and, though he was much larger than I, I had better balance.  I threw my head back, uttering my war cry (a dramatic rendition of Sonnet 109).  As I hit those last lines of Iambic Pentameter, the throwing pencil I had managed to grab hold of glowed in my hands.  A divine beam shone down from the sky, empowering my strike.  I used all my might to heave the weapon into Lacan’s jugular, and the wound exploded with blood and the white light of my faith.  I held Lacan down until he ceased to struggle.

“What was that?” came a voice from in front of me. 

I looked up and realized it was Ben, “Bardolotry ain’t just a source of inquiry anymore.”  I tilted my head back and uttered a thank-you prayer to my God Will and felt my faith swell within my heart.

…just then, I felt it.  He snuck up behind me so quietly that I didn’t even have a chance to gasp.  Foucault had me by the throat, the pencil that I had thrown through Derrida’s eye held menacingly at my temple.  “Nobody move.”  He uttered.  “I’ll do it!”

My hands went instinctually to his forearm to try and pry him off of me, but it was no use.  He had me in his clutches.  I tried to remain calm, looked to Ben to see if he had any plans.  His eyes told me that he was just as surprised as I was. 

“Let the girl go.”  It was Jack.  One of the greenies had known enough to get him covered and keep him out of the altercation.  “It’s me you want anyway.”

Jack took a few steps forward, but Ben read it in my eyes.  “Do not let him do this” and put out a hand to signal him to stay back.

Derrida laughed.  “That easy, old man?  I’d have thought that there would have at least been some bartering before the offer was made.”

“What can I say, I’ve grown soft in my Full Professorship.  She’s nothing to you, she hasn’t even finished her MA.”

“Oh but young blood is so much sweeter.  At this level they aren’t yet indoctrinated into some university’s backwards school of criticism.  She has potential; worlds of potential; unlimited potential.  I could teach her.  Show her my ways.  She’s fresh meat.”

“She’s an Early Modernist, you two won’t get along too well.”  Ben reminded.  I could see that he was trying to buy time, but I couldn’t tell why.  I guess as long as I wasn’t going to get one of my own throwing pencils through my head it didn’t really matter, right?

“All the better.  I can bend her scholarly inclinations to my own work and then – oh and then – she will be mine!”  He threw back his head and laughed diabolically.  His breathe stank of cheap red wine. 

I cringed at the scent and the sound, but the laughter was cut short by a small squish followed by a grown.  Derrida’s grip on me relaxed, and I was able to wretch myself free.  I spun, ready to do hand-to-hand with the Frenchman, when I saw what had Ben and Jack willing to buy time in such a risky fashion.

There he was, my Man Will, the Bard himself, wielding an iron quill as long as my forearm and a copy of the first folio.  The quill was currently sticking out of Derrida’s chest (though Will was standing behind him).  Derrida sank to the floor, blood pooling at his feet.

“Goodnight sweet Prince.”  Will said, “May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

Will stepped over the fallen Derrida and I sank to one knee, head bowed to the ground.  I didn’t know what to say.  It was like all my words had been taken right out of my mouth along with the air from my lungs.  I felt his hand on my shoulder, and I looked up at him, trying not to gape.

“Thus ever do I keep my faithful.”  He said, gently helping me to my feet.

“I… don’t know what to say.”

“Silence is the perfectest herald of joy.  You were but little happy if you could say how much.”

“I can no answer make but thanks… and thanks… and ever thanks.”  I quoted back at him.  Two could play at this game.

“Doubt not that wherever thou art in this world’s globe, I’ll have an iris that shall find thee out.”  His face looked set, but kindly.  I felt the warmth of his gaze wash over me and comfort me.

I said the only thing I could think of.  The only way I could express the depth of my emotion at that moment.  So it’s from a sonnet, not a play, sue me.  You try quoting Shakespeare with Shakespeare at Shakespeare.  “If the while I think on thee, dear friend, all losses are restored and sorrows end.”

“I go.”  He said, and gently kissed my forehead.

“And take my heart with thee.”  I said, quietly.  He turned and walked purposefully down the path into a waiting beam of white light which seemed to swallow him up and, like a flash, he was gone.

I stood for a moment just breathing before I turned to face the assembly.  The greenies were giving me that terrified look that meant they would never argue with me in class again.  Jack was smiling knowingly and I wondered if he had ever met Swift or Pope that way (if he had, god bless him).  Ben was giving me that look that meant he didn’t quite know what to believe (but he’s a secular critic so really that comes with the territory I think).

“So,” I said, “Beer and Vathek?”