punch-line fiction, where writing becomes a joke.
|Time-Traveling Across the Dinner Table
By Colleen Brogan
“You know when I was in college, we never learned any of this smarmy wishy stuff. What did you say you were studying? Never mind…when I was in college, we studied the real thing. Conrad. Kafka. The best was philosophy—ah philosophy! The days of discussing Descartes and the nights with Freud by my side—one in the same we were, even my professor said so! I was his prized student, his most precious possession he said. Professor Brightman. Good man, good student. I mean that as no disrespect! The best teachers are the best students, never forget it. But Descartes! Socrates! Nights of heaven, who needs sleep or food when you have philosophy! Of course you probably haven’t advanced that far, you probably won’t understand this story, being only a freshman…but I’ll try anyway…Have I told you it before…? Well I’ll tell you again. Final of senior year, the last philosophy test I had to take before venturing out to mortgage payments and marriage annulments. We walk in, class of 100 or so, and the tests are at our desks. Professor Brightman is not at the front of the room like he usually is, but a straight-backed chair is in his place. We take our seats, sit down. The paper is blank except for one line, one question: Prove that the chair is in the room. People begin scribbling, breaking pencils over hypotheses and rushing for more paper to fill with theorems and theories. Well you know what I did? I wrote “what chair?” and walked out of the room. Professor Brightman told me he has never been so proud, never been so excited. A student after his own heart! A natural teacher to be sure! If only your mother hadn’t gotten pregnant so soon, I would have made it! Professor Thea, I would have been extraordinary! Well now that you’re off to college and out of the house, I can get back to my dream! When you come back from college next, you better plan on going to Pennsylvania to live with your mom, because I’ll probably be TAing at Columbia or something....plans for the future, make a note. Your dad is going to be big news! So no Descartes or Freud for you yet, too bad…but I guess you’re being distracted in other ways at night, huh, my boy? That girlfriend of yours, how is she doing?
His son looked up from his chicken and smashed potatoes. His eyes scanned the scratched linoleum floor, the pile of thumbed classified ads in the corner next to the trashcan, and the wall hanging clock with a cow that jumped over the moon. His eyes came to a rest on his father, still un-shaven and un-showered, smelling like the beer fest from the night before.