An arrogant professor discovers the best writer he's ever read is one of his students.
| Professor Vogel sighs and in red ink grades the story he just read a “B-.” He writes a few comments about how the story could be improved with stronger characterization, reduction of the use of passive voice, and more “showing” and less “telling.” What he would have written if he had been truly honest, and didn’t care about any repercussions, was that the main characters were two dimensional and the story itself was farfetched, as well as just plain stupid. Despite all this, it is probably the best story he read so far that evening.
He leans back in his chair and debates in his mind if he should read another story or pluck his eyes out. He chooses the former and regrets his decision immediately, groaning in despair as his picks up the next story from the vile stack of ungraded papers. It’s a doozy; looks like old Brittany Park here apparently felt she needed the entire 10,000 maximum word count to tell her epic tale. It's 5,000 to 10,000 words Brittany, 5,000. Lord, her name itself smacks of banality. Throughout the course of history has anyone named Brittany ever written anything worth reading, besides maybe a recipe for cookies or a grocery list?
Twelve minutes later Professor Vogel sits stunned. That piece was…brilliant. He was immediately pulled in by the protagonists, particularly by the quirky female character. The pacing was excellent, the story was very readable, and the whole hospital emergency room scene was just so well done. The dialogue sparkled; it was witty and clever, yet believable too. Even the jokes were funny. And the ending was just perfect. How could I have not seen that coming? It was poetic justice for all.
He looks at the student’s name again. Brittany Park. He can’t picture her. He isn’t one of those professors who befriends his students (although he could if he wanted to - Professor Vogel is handsome, an entertaining teacher and his acerbic humor is well received by his students). It doesn’t surprise him he can’t put a face with the name, this is a lowly 101 introductory class (creative writing), so it has a lot of non-English major freshman and sophomores taking it just to fulfill their basic curriculum requirements. Dregs, all of them. He might be able to recognize two or three of them out of class. They’d be lucky if he even acknowledged their existence at all.
He does something he hasn't done in a long time...he reads Brittany’s story again. He smiles wryly, realizing he missed an allusion of hers the first time around. This girl knows a thing or two about literature, and the piece only reads better the second time through. Professor Vogel leans back in his chair, stares at the ceiling and thinks.
He sits up and writes an “A” on the top of her paper and is about to gush how he loves the piece when he stops himself. Let’s not go overboard he thinks. He puts in a minus behind the A. This story is masterful, but hell - no 101 puke is getting an A from me on the first story she turns in, no matter how good she is. It's a matter of principle, or maybe it's a matter of lack of principle. He writes a few very complimentary and approving comments. He decides he needs to balance these with a little constructive criticism. He can’t think of any. Finally, he writes that the characters could have used a little more conflict to deal with, even though her story was obviously meant to be more of a character development piece, not to mention that plot-wise she had him in the palm of her hand the whole time anyway.
The next day in class Professor Vogel hands back the papers, calling out their names one by one, but all the while he is anticipating handing back one in particular – Brittany’s story. He finally gets to it and calls out her name. A willowy, non-descript, girl with mousey brown hair, hideous glasses, and bad posture raises her hand. As Professor Vogel hands her story to her he thinks, No shit? I didn’t see that coming at all.
“Well done,” he tells her expecting to see the grateful smile a peasant gives a king when he deigns to acknowledge her with praise from on high. Instead of smiling, she just glances at him with a vacant look on her face. Professor Vogel suppresses the urge to tell her to stop slouching. He thinks, this girl is the author of that?
Later that day Professor Vogel takes his tray of food and makes a beeline for his usual table in the campus cafeteria in the way back, well away from the Great Unwashed. On his way there he notices Brittany at a table eating alone. He pauses for a moment, changes direction, then asks if he may join her. She looks uncomfortable but says, “Um, OK.”
He attempts to make small talk with her, but he might as well have been trying to engage a brass doorknob in conversation. He wants to ask her about her story, but he doesn’t, although he does mention again he really enjoyed it. A listless “thank you” is all he gets in return. Jesus, if I tell any other student I like something they wrote, invariably they’re off and running about which parts were true and which parts were made up, what the inspiration for the story was, how many Red Bulls they drank while they wrote it, blah, blah, and blah. Now, when I finally genuinely want to know something extra about a student’s work, she clams up. Quite the little enigma we have here.
He notices she has a large zit on her nose that couldn’t be more in need of popping. Doesn’t this girl ever look in the mirror, for God’s sake? He looks at her again. No, she probably doesn’t much. I mean why would she? She is drabness incarnate. And her attire is atrocious. Her beige pants (corduroy no less) are ill-fitting and unflattering. It looks like she got them at a garage sale for three dollars. If she paid a dime more than that, she was swindled. It jars him to view her want amid such affluence. And her hair - it looks like she cut it herself...with lopping shears...with her eyes closed. His last thought as he finishes his lunch and says goodbye is the same thought he had in class, this sad sack of a girl is the author of that sparkling story?
After Thursday’s class he sees her in the cafeteria, in her same spot, again by her self. He asks to join her and she says yes. She still doesn’t say much, but she definitely looks more comfortable, and there is something about her, besides her writing, that he finds intriguing.
He joins her again on Tuesday. On Thursday he snags her before she even leaves class and they walk over to the cafeteria together.
She starts to open up to him little by little. He finds out these things about her. She's loved to read and write since she can remember. She's always been pathologically shy. She had only a handful of friends in high school. She has no friends here. She’s homesick. When no one is around, she likes to sing. She’s on academic scholarship. She doesn’t have a speck of athletic talent, but through persistent effort she says she’s become a "half-way decent" tennis player. None of her personal revelations are all that earthshaking, but she interests him. He is surprised to find he enjoys her company.
“When’s the last time you played any tennis?” he asks.
“Last summer with my friends back home. I don't play with anyone here. I miss it.”
“How would you like to play me sometime? I’m friendly with Dr. Mullins. He has his own clay court in his backyard that he says I can use anytime.”
Brittany smiles and says, “Sure, when?”
“Does tomorrow at 6:00 work for you.”
“Yes, but I don’t have a car. Is his house close?”
“You could probably hoof it there, but it’d be easier for me to pick you up here.”
“OK, I’ll meet you here at 6:00”
Later that day, Professor Vogel turns his house upside down looking for his rackets. He finally finds his tennis racket bag in the back of one of his closets. It’s covered in a thick film of dust. It’s been a while he thinks.
The next day Professor Vogel pulls up in front of the cafeteria at 5:45. Brittany is already there waiting, sitting cross legged, Indian style on the brick wall. She’s wearing shorts. Damn, check out the long legs, very fucking nice…how the hell did I miss those up until now? he thinks She sees him, gives one of those small, low hand waves designed to get his attention and no one else's, and excitedly hops down from the wall, but in the process gets tangled up in her tennis racket bag’s strap. She falls and ends up splayed out, face down, in the grass. He laughs. She eventually manages to free herself and hustles over to his car slouched over with her head down. As she gets in he makes a concerted effort NOT to stare (anymore) at her legs, and so he looks at her face. It’s flush from embarrassment and from the running. Damn, now it’s her face that looks pretty and is moving him as a man.
“That was humiliating. I’m such a hopeless spaz, and did you see those frat guys laughing at me?” Professor Vogel tries to not laugh, but he can't contain himself. "Great, you're laughing at me too. I wish you could know what it feels like not to be cool, even for just five minutes." She notices him looking at her. “What?” she asks the way a woman (particularly an overly self conscious, young woman) asks when she mistakenly assumes that the reason a man is looking at her is because there's something wrong with the way she looks, when in actuality he's looking at her because there's absolutely nothing wrong with the way she looks.
A chuckling Professor Vogel looks away and says, “Nothing. Everything’s fine. Let’s just take a moment and get ourselves composed,” and he thinks actually everything in my little world at the moment couldn’t be better.
The evening is pleasant and mild. Professor Vogel is hitting leisurely back and forth with Brittany. He moves fluidly and without effort. His graceful strokes bespeak natural athletic talent, good conditioning and lots of expensive lessons as a child. Brittany is not anywhere as good as he is, so he hits it right back to her, nice and easy.
After a time Brittany stops hitting and says, “Professor Vogel, I had no idea how good you were. You must be bored hitting with me like this.”
“Au contraire. I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. Brittany…I’ve been meaning to tell you. I wish you wouldn’t call me Professor Vogel. Call me Ethan, please. I’m only twenty eight for God’s sake.”
"I don’t know if I’m comfortable calling you by your first name," says Brittany smirking. "And I have news for you - twenty eight is old, old man. That’s it! I’m going to call you Old Man. It suits you perfectly. I mean you have to admit you’re very contemptuous of all of us students, plus you’re always muttering and complaining, just like an old man. What do you think of your new nickname of Old Man, Old Man?”
“It's thrilling; I love it,” says Professor Vogel who is actually rather disconcerted with how fitting it is for him. Yet somehow when she says it, there’s fondness in her voice that he likes. "I'm happy to see you're finally coming out of your shell around me. The new wise-ass you is very charming."
"Glad you like it," Brittany says as she curtsies daintily.
He waves his racket toward the court beneath him. "We’re going to lose the sun soon. Mind if we get back to some actual tennis here? You need all the practice you can get; half-way decent tennis player my ass."
Brittany snort laughs. “Sure thing, Old Man. That is if you’re up for it and all.”
Sometime later a voice calls out to them from beyond the chain link fence. “Hi, sorry to intrude, but I wanted to come down and say hello,” says Dr. Mullins.
“Hey John, you’re not intruding. I hope it’s OK that we’re using the court.”
“As I’ve said many times, you’re more than welcome to use anytime. Is that Brittany?”
“Yes, Hello Dr. Mullins.”
“You two have met?”
“She was in my American Literature class last semester. A very talented young lady, wouldn’t you agree Ethan?”
“Are you kidding? She’s terrible!” Professor Vogel screws up his face into an expression of feigned surprise. “Oh wait, you mean talented writing wise. I thought you were talking about her tennis game. As far as writing goes I wouldn’t know. Do you even know how to write?” he asks Brittany.
“Brittany, I’ve found it’s best to just ignore him when he acts out this way,” says Dr. Mullins. “I’ve been trying to get Ethan to play me for years and he always says no. How did you manage to get him on the court?”
Brittany hesitates and she looks at Professor Vogel as if to say ‘do you want to field this one?’
“I asked her,” says Professor Vogel as Dr. Mullins raises an eyebrow at him.
“Ethan, you’re usually such a hermit. It’s not like you at all, to extend a social invitation to someone like that,” says Dr. Mullins.
“I know. Actually, it’s the first time I’ve ever done that, but let me assure you it had nothing to do with friendliness of any kind on my part. I simply needed someone to spar with before I take you on.”
“Always such a card, Ethan. Brittany, did you know Ethan actually played tennis professionally for a time?” Ethan winces at this, Brittany notes. “Well, I will leave you two to your game. Enjoy the lovely evening,” says Dr. Mullins as he departs.
They play until dusk, and then walk to Professor Vogel’s car. “Ethan?” Even the dour Professor Vogel can’t suppress a smile when Brittany uses his first name for the first time, “Can I ask you a personal question?”
“Why did it bother you that Dr. Mullins mentioned you played tennis professionally?”
“Because I didn’t play tennis professionally. It was more like I spent a couple of years attempting to play professional tennis while actual professional tennis players kicked my ass.” Brittany laughs.
They get in his car, pull out of the shoulder and start down the lane, “Want to see my house?”
Instantly Professor Vogel jerks the car to a stop. “Whew, that was close, we almost missed it,” he says as he points to a stone cottage next door to Dr. Mullins’s house. Brittany laughs. She drinks it in. “It’s very charming and pretty.”
“I guess I should be flattered, but it’s not like I built it. I don’t even own it. It’s the college's. I rent it. I’ll show you the inside, but only if you promise to keep your hands to yourself.” Brittany laughs as he pulls into the driveway.
Brittany gasps as she has an idea. “Can we have some drinks? You know, cocktail-type grown up drinks I mean. I never have those and I feel like I’m missing out on the whole college experience thing,” she says as they get out of the car.
“Are you twenty one?”
“Nope, not yet.”
“Then absolutely not.”
Brittany laughs as she makes her way up his walkway. “Seriously, I really can’t?”
They stop at the door. “Come on, it’s Friday. I’ll keep my lip zipped about it. I need my horizons expanded. Can we please have some, Ethan?”
Professor Vogel rolls his eyes, “I’m not even sure if I even have anything alcoholic.”
Brittany laughs, “Jeez, you really are the most boring Old Man alive, aren’t you?”
“Yes, and that's the way I like it. Wait, I just remembered. I have a bottle of Vodka in the cupboard that I got as a Christmas present. Does Vodka go bad?”
“It’s only a few months old, so I’m thinking its fine.”
“Um, I need to clarify. I got it as a Christmas present about four or five years ago.”
Brittany laughs. “Well, let’s see. It has alcohol in it. Countless cultures throughout the ages have used alcohol as a preservative, so my guess would be it’s still fine.”
“Hey, watch that tone. I’m an English, not a History, professor. And let’s get another thing straight Missy, I’m the one who has the market cornered on biting sarcasm around here. You’re the shy, nice one. Know and respect your role.”
Brittany laughs. “How come you haven’t had it yourself, Old Man?”
“I was saving it for just such an emergency situation like this as when an undergraduate student of mine might be trying to beg some booze off of me one evening because she feels as if she’s ‘been missing out on the whole college experience thing.’ Wait, we’ve hit yet another snag in this saga of yours to expand your horizons. I don’t have anything to mix it with, and I’m not serving you straight booze, so the vodka is out.”
“Do you have any orange juice?”
“Why yes, yes I do! You can mix those two things?” asks Professor Vogel as he unlocks his door. “Hmm, that does sound refreshing, especially after some tennis. I think maybe even I’ll partake of one. They should give that drink a name sometime. And you can have one too, but only because you’ve conducted yourself very maturely this evening.”
“Wait,” Brittany chirps out excitedly as she steps into his house. “I said ‘drinks’, not ‘a drink.’”
“Lord, fine…you can have two screwdrivers. Why does it feel like I’m bargaining with some rabid Arab merchant, for God’s sake?” Professor Vogel asks exasperatedly as he steps into his house too. “And since you seem hell bent on getting inebriated tonight, I just want to stress and reemphasize the whole ‘keep your hands to yourself’ precept I mentioned earlier.
“I’ll try to keep control of myself” says Brittany looking around as Professor Vogel closes the door behind them.
Dr. Mullins stands at his window watching Ethan and Brittany leaving. He sees Ethan stop his car in the lane. Keep going, keep going he thinks. He sees Ethan’s car pull into his own driveway. Not good. Ethan and Brittany get out. They are chatting back and forth. Brittany laughs. They walk up to Ethan’s door and stand for a time on the front step. More talking and more of Brittany laughing. Not good. Finally, they enter Ethan’s house.
Not good at all.
Later, Professor Vogel sits in his living room in a recliner. Brittany sits cross legged, Indian style on Professor Vogel’s couch. She is positioned directly across from him, obviously and unabashedly enjoying his company.
"I wish you were this attentive to me in class." Brittany laughs. "Plus you're laughing at all of my stupid jokes, it's bad for my ego." Brittany starts to laugh, tries to stop, but ends up laughing all the more, until even Professor Vogel joins in. He gets to thinking and asks, “Why in the world haven’t you made any friends here?”
“I had friends at the beginning of freshman year. Then they vanished one-by-one.”
“Well, let’s see. Adeline was the first to go. She transferred to another school at the end of the first semester. Mel was already pregnant at that point and she dropped out a month later. Lizzy left last, in February. Her mind snapped. I was actually there with her when it happened. She started crying and wouldn’t stop. She was talking incoherently. It was scary, and even now I still have bad dreams about all that. Her parents came and got her. She never came back. I talked to all of them a couple times after they left, but none of them really wanted to stay in touch. They all hated it here. With them gone, now I hate it here too."
“Do you really want to hear all this? I can't imagine any of this interesting you."
"I'm hanging on every word. Why do you hate it here?"
"I understand this isn't supposed to be summer camp, but as far as institutions go, this one is particularly cold. It rewards the strong and grinds down the weak. I’m being ground down. I’m cracking from trying to keep my grades perfect to keep my scholarship. I'm not smart at all, so I have to study and work all the time to do that. Even so, my GPA's been slipping. Couple that with my isolation and it's all a recipe for disaster. It's not going to be much longer before I go the way of Lizzy.”
“Why not make new friends?”
“It’s not that easy, especially for me. Most of the girls have already joined sororities or have themselves in firmly established clicks. Even the geeky girls have grouped together and don’t want to be friends with me. A lot of it is my fault too, since the feelings' somewhat mutual. I think the girls who are low on the pecking order around here are just as snobby as the popular girls are, in their own way. I don't even know how to begin to try and explain how important socioeconomic status is to the students here.”
"Come on Brittany, this school isn't made up entirely of stuck-up, shallow girls."
"I know, but it's not just that though. If you think I was shy when I first met you, that's nothing. I can't ever remember getting so comfortable, so fast with anyone else. I'm excited about that, by the way. I'm hoping it means I'm making progress in dealing with it. Anyway, a lot of people take my shyness as cold indifference. On top of that, I stopped reaching out. I've slipped into depression and hopelessness. It gets dark down there. Once you're there you twist everything around. If a student were to want to be friends with me, I might not even notice. Even if I did, I probably wouldn't respond. My self-esteem is so low I wouldn't want to burden them with my weariness. What do I have to offer a friend? Of all those girls I mentioned I was the closest to Lizzy, and look what good my friendship did for her. My misery doesn't want company. Take right now, for instance. I'm hating myself as I drone on like this, but I can't help it. It's a relief to finally be able to tell someone about all this, I'm just sorry it had to be you. Don't you just want to slap the self pity out of me?"
"No, I don't. Brittany, it sounds like you need to get a therapist."
"A therapist? What I need is a team of experts working around the clock on me. I can't afford a therapist. Therapy's for rich people."
"What about medication?"
"I tried that. All the prescriptions they put me on just made my already fuzzy mind even duller. I need to keep my grades up, so that's out."
Professor Vogel doesn’t know what to say. What can you say to all this? he thinks. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
“You know, it’s funny. Ever since you started to have lunch with me after class, a lot of the students have started to take notice of me. I was actually stupid enough to think I could parlay your friendship into some sort of street cred – you being the handsome, popular, young professor and all. That didn’t happen. The girl students say us eating lunch together is weird, even though what a lot of them actually are is jealous. Sometimes I get laughs and whispers when I walk by them. I’ve gone from being ignored, to being a known pariah. I’m sorry, Ethan. It’s not right for me to unload all this on you. Anyway, as far as help goes, the drinks are helping for right now. They’re killing the pain quite nicely,” she says as she finishes her current one. “That was number two. I won’t beg you for a third.”
“You don’t have to…go ahead and help yourself. Would you make me another while you’re at it too? No OJ in mine, just the hard stuff over ice, please,” he calls out to her as she goes into the kitchen. “Have you eaten dinner? I don’t want you getting sick.”
“Honestly, I haven’t eaten at all today. I was too nervous and excited about playing tennis with you this evening.”
“Hey, whoa. Too much information.”
Brittany laughs. "Really, Old Man? After everything I've told you tonight, that's what you take exception to as too much information?"
Professor Vogel chuckles. He thinks a bit and says, “As far as food goes, I don’t have much here. We could order a pizza, but I bet you’re sick of that, right?”
“I’d love a pizza. I never have that.”
“Jesus, you weren’t kidding when you said you’re missing out on the whole college experience thing, huh?”
“Nope. Hey, I wiped out the last of the orange juice, just to let you know.”
Professor Vogel stretches out and kicks back in his recliner. “Listen woman; pull that Mild Wally's menu off of the fridge. Order a large pizza with whatever you want on it. If they have orange juice, get some. And cranberry juice too.” He looks at Brittany leaning over his counter as she dials. Again he admires her legs, but he thinks she’s looking a little thin too. “And order some desert. They have everything there, including cheesecake. Order whatever you want, of anything. This is all on me, of course.”
“Is this for delivery or pick-up?”
“Does it look like I’m going anywhere soon?” he says. Brittany laughs.
She places the order. She gets it all straight, including his address. “It’s going to be forty one dollars and fifty cents. Cash or charge?”
“Cash, of course.”
She hangs up the phone and brings him his drink. “Ahhh, thank you. Nothing beats being brought a drink by the little woman. Hey, while you’re up. Would you be so kind as to fish out fifty bucks from that top right desk drawer? And would you be a doll and turn on the front porch light on for the pizza delivery guy?”
Brittany laughs. “Anything else, Old Man?”
“Well, I suppose you could spend some quality time whisking about here tidying up the old domicile for me. Or better yet, you could come over here and rub my shoulders. I’m still a little sore from tennis.”
“You know I wish I could because I’ve been just dying to do exactly that all night, but you made me agree, twice no less, to keep my hands to myself, remember?"
“Hmmm, I did didn’t I?” says Professor Vogel, and as he checks out Brittany’s legs for the umpteenth time this evening as she’s walking across the room to turn the front porch light on, he thinks Probably best that was firmly established from the get-go.
Later that evening Dr. Mullins' wife calls out to him, “John, come here and listen to this.” She is standing by their open front door. He comes over and steps outside. He hears music.
It’s coming from Ethan’s back porch. It's partly electric guitar. Ethan is a little rusty, but he’s getting the gist of it. The other part is Brittany singing gaily in accompaniment. The singing, on the other hand, isn’t rusty at all. She sounds pretty damn good, albiet a little husky.
“It sounds like they’re having a grand time,” says Dr. Mullins wife smiling.
Dr. Mullins purses his lips. “It sounds like she’s half in the bag,” he says and he thinks not good at all.
A little later Professor Vogel and Brittany take a break from the music. "Brittany, you have a superb singing voice. Were you in choir in high school?"
Brittany laughs. "No way. The only places I sing are in the car and the shower, and I won't even sing in the shower if anyone is around."
Professor Vogel laughs, "You aren't talking about home home, right? I mean certainly your parents have heard you sing before, right?"
"Only a few times when they caught me by surprise, and nobody else has ever, including my friends from back home. I tell you Old Man, I feel very comfortable around you. Plus, I'm getting pretty sloshed too, which I think is helping." She brings the music folder over to him. "Ewww Ethan, can we do this song too? Do you know it?" she says indicating to another song in the book.
Professor Vogel is stunned by her admission and sneaks a look at her face to see what he can glean from it. This time, however, she is oblivious to his gaze as her attention is focused on the song she is pointing too. He takes this opportunity to drink her in and she is looking very pretty in her excitement. Her admission and her prettiness move him. He feels his heart well up in that pleasant, strange way it does when a man is starting to fall in love with a woman, even though he doesn't know it himself yet.
She takes some time to go over the lyrics. Eventually, she looks over at him and says, "What?"
He rouses himself and looks at the song for the first time. It's Harvest Moon. He knows it, it's one of his favorites. "Sure Brittany, we can do this song," he says quietly.
"I don't know all the words. Can I come over here and follow along in the book with you while you play it?"
"All right, I guess that'd be OK," says Professor Vogel jokingly and Brittany laughs; yet what he really thinking the whole time is I absolutely have no fucking problem with that at all.
The next morning Professor Vogel pulls up with Brittany in his car a discreet distance away from her dormitory. She turns to him and says a little sheepishly, “Sorry, I ended up being such a drunken mess last night. Thanks for letting me stay over.”
“It’s quite all right, you were an endless source of amusement. I didn't mind at all,” says Professor Vogel as he looks around for students.
She laughs. “You look so guilty. It isn’t like we had sex or anything. Nobody’s up yet anyway. They’re all in bed hung over too." Nevertheless he still cranes his neck around looking for students. After a moment he realizes Brittany's stopped talking and he looks her way. She's looking right at him, smiling. "What?" he says trying his best to imitate her voice.
Brittany laughs. "Thank you Ethan, I had such a fun time. I can't remember ever laughing that much, and you were so nice to me too. I needed all that in the worst way." On impulse, she leans over and kisses him on the cheek, then immediately regrets it, blushing. She fumbles for the door handle for a bit and her face goes crimson. She finally manages to open the door and calls out "See you in class on Tuesday,” as she runs (with her funny little knocked kneed run) to her dormitory, waving her hands a little as she goes, the way young women sometimes do when they are disgusted by how uncool they've been.
Professor Vogel chuckles, and sits for a moment in his car feeling good about himself. He drives back to his house thinking all the while that he had ‘such a fun time’ himself.
A week later, Professor Vogel sits in his office correcting the next batch of his creative writing class's stories. Terrible, terrible, terrible. All the while he is thinking that Brittany’s latest is in there. He fights the urge to rifle through the pile for her story. He resists for a time, but after a few more abysmal stories he can hold back no longer. He goes through the stack until he finds it. He reads it. He loves it. It's even better than her first story she turned in. It’s one of the best things he’s read in quite a while, by anyone. How could anyone this young write something this good?
Then it dawns upon him; she’s stealing these stories – plagiarizing. They're just too good. He doesn't want to believe it, so he goes back over her story hoping to find one, just one, one grammatical error. It's as polished as Washington marble. He can't even find a misplaced comma. His heart sinks, yet, he's still hopeful. He is well read and he doesn’t recognize who she is pilfering her stories from. Her style is very unique, so it should be easily recognizable. Maybe someone else will recognize the style. He goes down the hallway looking for a a colleague to share his suspicions with and get a second opinion. He finds Dr. Burgess in his office and he reads Brittany's story.
“I don't recognize this as anyone else's work. It’s good, but it isn’t necessarily so good as to think it’s out of the realm of possibility it can’t be her work. I think a talented undergrad could write this on her own.”
Professor Vogel is surprised that his initial response is to vehemently disagree with his colleague’s assessment of the quality of her story. He just manages to catch himself before he launches into a rebuttal. He plays it coy instead.
“Yes, you’re right. How stupid of me. Of course, a smart young lady could conceivably write something this well,” but what he is really thinking is that there is hardly anybody out that there that writes this well. And there certainly isn't anyone out there her age that can write this adroitly; that’s for damn sure.
His next class, as he is droning on about John Keats, Professor Vogel has an epiphany. As he glances over at Brittany, who looks so distant and far away she is practically drooling, he has the solution that will clear up this mystery.
“And so despite his early death which limited the volume of his work, John Keats remains one of the most revered and recognized romantic poets in English Literature…but this isn’t an English Literature class, this is a creative writing class; and so right now, I want you to write your own love poem. It can be fictitious or not, from the point of view of someone else, or it can autobiographical if you prefer. It can be in any style, so long as it is a poem, and so long as it deals with love. You have the rest of class to complete your amorous masterpiece. Turn in your work before you leave.”
Class ends and the students turn in their papers. Professor Vogel restrains himself from running to his office. He closes the door, locks it and fishes out Brittany’s poem. He suddenly has the strange sensation he is doing something dirty.
How wrong he is. There is nothing sordid about any of this. The poem is sublime. It is about an unnamed female’s unspoken and unrequited love for a man who barely knows her. It’s delicate and beautiful as it explores the themes of self-worth, attractiveness, platonic respect and lust. Any man would be honored to have such a beautiful poem written about him. Although it isn’t specifically mentioned, Professor Vogel believes the poem is indeed autobiographical. He is shocked to find himself feeling a pang of envy of whomever this poem is written about. He chastises himself - What the hell is wrong with me? Let's try to remember she’s just a child.
Anyway, he now has his answer. She is without a doubt the author of her stories, unless of course she memorized the most beautiful love poem he has never read for just such an occasion as when a college professor might require she write one on the spot one day in his class.
Professor Vogel contemplates writing a restrained comment, but changes his mind and decides to write the truth. He writes at the top of her paper, “What a lovely and moving tribute. It’s not easy to sway a cold-hearted malcontent like me, yet you’ve done so here. I hope someday you’ll have the opportunity and courage to share this with the fortunate, young man who is the inspiration for, and subject of, this wonderful poem, assuming it’s autobiographical, of course.”
He leans back and takes a moment to enjoy the feeling of relief and enjoyment her poem provided for him. This moment is destroyed when his gaze falls upon the stack of other love poems he must now read and evaluate. Look at what your impulsiveness has done you ass. He ponders if he will get in trouble if he were to throw them into the trash.
A few days later Professor Vogel is walking down the hallway of the English Department. As he passes by Dr. Mullins office he sees he’s inside. He says “Hey John” as he walks by.
“Ethan, is that you?” Dr. Mullins calls out. “Just the man I want to see. Can I have a few minutes of your time?”
Professor Vogel comes back, “Sure,” he says as he steps inside the office. “What’s up?”
“Close the door please, Ethan.”
Professor Vogel frowns and closes the door. He looks at Dr. Mullins expectantly.
“Sit down Ethan. This might take a while. Let me cut to the chase here. What’s going on with you and that young girl?”
Professor Vogel laughs, “Jesus, John don’t scare me like that. You had me worried.” He notices Dr. Mullins' face remains stern. “Nothing, nothing is going on between us.”
“I’ve heard you two eat together regularly in the cafeteria.”
“Yeah, it’s called lunch. Really, this is unbelievable. Who’s the petty gossip monger that told you that?”
“The question shouldn’t be who told me that, the question should be who hasn’t told me that.”
“Oh, for God’s sake this is ridiculous.”
“Normally I’d agree, but you remember what happened three years ago with Dr. Beckman.”
“Yeah. of course I remember, but his circumstances were a tad different in that he had sex with a bunch of undergrads and gave herpes to two of them. I, on the other hand, haven’t transmitted any venereal diseases to Brittany, which makes perfect sense because I haven’t had sex with her. I may have given her a cold a couple of weeks ago though. Should I alert President Duncan about that?”
“Yes, well I’m afraid that you, as well as the rest of us, will have to suffer some of the consequences of Dr. Beckman’s poor judgment and indiscretions. We’re all under the microscope now.”
“Don’t worry yourself needlessly, John. I’m the least sexually active man on this campus, and that includes you, you old dog. It’s been so long since I’ve had sex with a woman, my dick is actually dusty from disuse.”
“All right then. If you aren’t having sex with her, mind if I ask what are you doing with her? She sounded half-crocked when she was singing at your house the other night. Not good.”
“John, I’m not sure I like where this is going. Are you asking me all this as the Head of the English Department?”
“I’m asking you as someone who’s trying to figure out if a colleague and friend of mine is about to make a disastrous career move, while simultaneously hurting a student at the same time.”
“All right, fair enough. We’re just friends. I think she has the potential to be a great writer. I mean that. She’s that good.”
“How do you think she feels about you?”
“Jesus John, I don’t know. She thinks I’m arrogant, boring and old before my time. She likes to discuss writing and literature with me. That’s my appeal for her. Nothing more.”
Dr. Mullins chuckles, “Sometimes I forget just how young you are too, Ethan. Such naivety. She’s growing very attached to you. It’s plain to see.”
“Well, so what if she is? She’s had a lot of difficulty making friends here her own age and so she’s made friends with me. Sometimes these out of the box friendships happen between eccentric and abnormal people like us. And what about me? I’ve been here for four years and look how many friends I’ve made. I need friends too, John.”
“I wish you’d take this all a little more seriously, Ethan.”
“I know, that was hard to say that with a straight face. That reminds me, she also thinks I have a mean sense of humor and that my distant personality is due to an undiagnosed case of asperger’s,” says a laughing Professor Vogel as he remembers Brittany's playful ragging on him.
“You like her sense of humor, don't you Ethan?" Professor Vogel rolls his eyes. "And she seems to spend a lot of time thinking about you. It's funny, despite your autistic condition, you aren’t opposed to being friends with her.”
“She’s gifted. She as a real chance at being one of the greats someday. Relax John, I can guarantee she has no real feelings for me. Just the other day I read a love poem written by her about another student. Doesn’t this assuage your fears at all?”
“A little bit, but a woman can have feelings for more than one man you know.”
“She doesn’t. She’s not built that way.”
“Somehow I think you’re right. She shares her love poems with you?”
“No. It was an assignment of mine.”
“You’re assigning love poems now?”
“I’m evolving, just like Obama. It's the warm, nurturing environment around here - it's changing me. I love you, John.” Dr. Mullins says nothing and thinks. Eventually Professor Vogel says, “Is this inquisition just about over, John?”
“Almost. Let me just tell you this. I truly hope that the next woman who has the honor of dusting off your dick isn’t Brittany, but if it is then I pray you have the common sense to make sure that as she’s spraying down your wood with a can of Pledge she’s holding in her one hand, you making sure she’s holding her diploma from here in the other.”
“Wow, what a graphic and disturbing metaphor you just conjured up there, John. That was like some weird mixture of Polonius meets the Marquis de Sade. I’m so proud of you.”
“What can I say? I’m not the head of the English Department for nothing you know.” And as Professor Vogel leaves his office Dr. Mullins wonders what the hell is it specifically about the English Department that seems to attract these types of messy relationship problems.
Brittany and Professor Vogel make a routine of tennis on Friday evenings. A Friday rolls around that’s rainy. Professor Vogel calls Brittany. “Hey, it’s raining. We can’t play.”
“I know,” says Brittany. “I’ve been moping around all afternoon in my room because of it. At least you get a break from me for a change.”
“I don’t want a break from you. Let’s go shopping tonight, there’s a few of things I’ve been wanting to get for you.”
“Ewww, how exciting. Like what?”
“Well, let's see. You need new glasses - ones that look like they're from this decade. Um, a top notch haircut. I'm thinking we could shoot for one that actually flatters your face. And a whole new wardrobe...you know, clothes? As opposed to those sorry rags you call clothes.”
“Really? Glasses, a haircut and all new clothes. That’s all?”
Professor Vogel thinks. “Well I’m hungry, so if you are too I’d like to take you out to eat first. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. A new tennis racket too. Yours is criminal. No wonder you're so horrible. It must be like trying to play tennis with a flying pan. And we’ll also get you contact lenses, if they’ll work for your eyes.”
“Are you serious?”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“What’s to say? Just tell me I can come over and pick you up and we’ll get started.”
“I’d feel weird with you buying me all of those things, Ethan. That’s a lot of money.”
“It’s a lot of money to a poor person like you. I’m rich, so to me it’s not much at all. It’s just like Lil Kim says, “Shake up the dice, throw down your ice – Bet it all playa, fuck the price - Money ain’t a thing, throw it out like rice – Been around the world, cop the same thing twice.” Brittany laughs. “Come on, it will be fun. It’ll be just like those corny montages in those stupid movies you love; you know where the cool, rich girls make over the ugly duckling, outcast of a girl, except you’ll be living it, not watching it. Don’t you want to be magically transformed?”
“Not really, but I do want to hang out with you.”
“Awww, that is so…well, needy and pathetic actually.” Brittany laughs. “If you want to hang out with me, then that’s what we're going to do. I’m going to play with you like you’re my little doll.”
“Ewww Ethan, I like the sounds of that.”
“Easy, settle down, you know what I mean.”
Brittany laughs. “There’s no way we’ll be able to get all of those things done tonight.”
“How about we’ll start tonight and finish tomorrow? You can sleep on the futon again, and that way we can get cracking in the morning right away.”
Brittany asks, “Can we jam some more tonight? She gasps excitedly, “Can we have drinks tonight?”
“Lord, here we go again. Fine, if that’s what it takes, yes I’ll buy you whatever hooch you want when we’re out shopping for later when we get back.”
“Then my answer’s yes, you can come and get me.”
“This all has such an immoral and unsavory feel it, like I just convinced you to come inside my windowless van to play with my puppy as we eat Skittles."
"Ewww, I love Skittles. Can we get some of those too? We should go to the animal shelter tomorrow and pick out a dog for you."
"OK Brittany, time to focus now. Why don't you bag up your clothing and we’ll have a clothing bonfire in my backyard tonight while we get hammered. If we get too carried away and end up burning all of your clothing, then we'll dance around the fire naked like the savages do.”
“Again, I like the sounds of that. My clothes aren’t really that bad, are they?”
“They absolutely are. Come on Brittany, you know how we do - we’re all a bunch of elitist pricks around here.”
“OK, they’ll be bagged by the time you get here.”
“Outstanding, see you in fifteen.”
It’s Saturday night and Brittany stands in front of the mirror in Professor Vogel’s bathroom. She is looking at her face. She has new glasses, a chic, pixie haircut, hip clothing and is wearing make-up. She looks gorgeous. She hates it.
Professor Vogel calls out (obviously proud of his work he did this afternoon) to her from his back deck, “What are you doing in there? Are you still gazing longingly at your own reflection, Narcissus? Just wait until the students get a gander at you. Your “street cred” will be through the roof, you’ll need a baseball bat to fight of the guys. We should have bought you one today, instead of a tennis racket.”
“I don’t want to be friends with anyone, boy or girl, just because now I look…however it is I look now.”
“The word you're looking for is attractive," says Professor Vogel as Brittany laughs. "And Groucho, it's fine if you don't want to be accepted into any club that wants you as a member, but at least you can look appealing in your solitude. And hey, would you hurry the hell up? I’m ending up doing all the grilling out here, and you know I detest such menial labor. It’s women’s work, so get out here woman and get cooking, literally. I want to relax in my chaise longue; while I watch you prepare my sustenance. You’re my indentured servant now. I bought you today.”
“Ewww Ethan, I like the sounds of that.”
“Easy, settle down, you know what I mean.”
Brittany laughs. She washes off her makeup in the sink. Her blemishes and facial imperfections reappear. Good, I’m still here, she thinks. I do like the glasses though. And they fit nicely and I see so much better…and the haircut is cute. She looks at all of her new make-up lying around the sink. That crap’s not getting any future use though…on second thought.
A little later Brittany steps out onto the back deck. “I’m ready to cook for you now, my lord.” Professor Vogel self-satisfied smile melts into an expression of surprise as he looks at her.
“What? says Brittany trying to maintain a straight face.
“That’s hilarious,” he says. Brittany used her mascara to smear two large, thick eyebrows on her face. For good measure, she also gave herself a gigantic black rectangular mustache.
“Got a cigar for me, Harpo?” she asks him. Professor Vogel throws his hands up in mild disgust, relinquishes the grill to her and sits down. She finishes cooking their burgers and prepares their plates. She delivers his to him, as she hands him his plate she surprises him by giving him a kiss on his cheek, “Thanks for all the nice things you bought for me day, including the make-up. I had a wonderful time with you today, Ethan.”
Professor Vogel is surprised how strongly he is moved by her kiss that a “You’re welcome, Brittany,” is all he manages in return. She sits down across from him, crosses her legs and begins to work on her meal in her patented deliberate, delicate and girlish way. He thinks it's amazing - somehow she looks all the more pretty and womanly with those ridiculous eyebrows and mustache plastered on her otherwise make-up-less face. He starts to worry that he's falling in love with her.
After a time she asks, “You’re awful quiet. Is there something wrong?”
“No, nothing’s wrong,” he says softly and without the least bit of sarcasm. “Everything’s perfect.”
Next Friday rolls around and it’s raining again. Brittany calls up Professor Vogel. “I’m sorry Old Man, it’s raining. Tennis is out.”
“I know,” says Professor Vogel. “I’ve been moping around my house all afternoon because of it. At least you get a break from me tonight.”
Brittany laughs. “But I don't want a break from you! Let’s do something else tonight. How about we go see a movie?”
“I hate the movies. I haven’t been in years.”
“Yeah, but you hate everything, Old Man, so why don’t you hot rod it on over here in that expensive flivver of yours and treat your gal to a moving picture show.”
“Ugggh, all right. What do you what to see?”
“The Great Gatsby.”
“No, no, no. Anything but that. I can’t watch that. The only thing I could imagine more distasteful would be if Hollywood had corrupted a novel of real literary worth. I’d rather spend an evening grading students’ writing than sit through two hours of a subpar, pointless novel transmogrified into an even more subpar, pointless movie, if that is logically possible.”
“But it has Leonardo DiCaprio in it.”
“Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place? My answer is now irrevocably no. Your infatuation with him gives me jealous fits.”
Brittany laughs. “You really don’t want to see it, do you?”
“Not really, but I do want to hang out with you.”
“Awww, that is so…frightening and alarming really. Or is it needy?” Professor Vogel chuckles. “All right, what do you want to do, Old Man?”
“If my gal wants to see The Great Gatsby, then The Great Gatsby it is. I just wanted to vent about it for a time first. You know, to mentally prepare myself for the pain and disappointment to come. I’m steeled for it now. What time is it playing?”
“8:05 at the Spectrum.”
“OK, I’ll pick you up at 7:45. You owe me big time though.”
“Ewww Ethan, I like the sounds of that.”
“Easy, settle down, you know what I mean.”
It’s is 8:37 and Brittany and Professor Vogel are at the Spectrum. Professor Vogel’s head hangs limply, back and he is snoring…loudly.
“Shhh,” says someone behind them.
Brittany shakes him gently whispering, “Ethan, wake up. They’re going to kick us out.” She tips his head up gingerly and he flops over on her, ending up with him leaning against her. His snoring stops, but he remains asleep. God, he’s heavier than he looks she thinks, and he wasn’t kidding earlier when he said he been suffering from insomnia for the last few days. She props him up and repositions them both so that they are more comfortable. He ends up with his head resting on her shoulder, which she likes. His arm still hangs down in an awkward position. She takes his hand, places it her thigh and puts her hand over the top of it. See how that works for both us she thinks. She smiles and settles dreamily back into the movie, enjoying it all the more because now, every few seconds, his warm, exhaled breaths are softly caressing her neck.
As the semester progresses Brittany turns in more stories, essays, poems and compositions; each of which Professor Vogel enjoys more than the last. As he reads them he comes to many realizations. He shows her work around more, and while all agree her writing is superb, none relish her stuff quite as much as he does. At first this only confirms his long held suspicion that most of his colleagues do indeed have terrible taste in literature, and no grasp of what quality writing is at all. Don't they recognize greatness when they see it? Yet he has to admit, there is something unique about her writing that seems to specifically evoke a strong response from me. It's her style - it's just the right combination of insight and humor, delivered with nary a spare or misplaced word that he loves in a writer. It's a lot like how I write he thinks, but there's an element she adds to it that makes it better than my stuff. It's heart, she's more kindhearted than I am, and so her stories, her characters, her poems and her essays, they are all the better for it. And so young - to be this good already. Wait until she ages some, lived a little. Lord, when she's older she’ll be even deadlier. It was almost scary to think about.
He takes Brittany under his wing. He gets her to join the poetry club He is delighted when his persistent efforts to convince her to join the campus choir bare fruit and she finally agrees. She enjoys both groups and starts to make some friends. Professor Vogel tells her I told you you'd like, and be good at, those activities. Brittany is not surprised to find out Professor Vogel is a "I told you so" type guy.
And, of course, he praises and encourages her writing to the hilt. It comes easily to him. All he does in order to do this is honestly speak his mind.
He makes one last realization about her. As he reads more of her work, as they lunch and spend more time together he begins to view her differently. She first becomes less plain, then more appealing, until finally he begins to see her as quite pretty. How could he have not noticed her beautiful, curly hair? How did he not see her gorgeous flash of a smile and her pretty dark eyes? How did he miss all this before?
It is with a touch of sadness that after the final day of class Professor Vogel leaves with Brittany as they head for the cafeteria to eat together, perhaps for the last time.
“You’ll be a junior next semester. Have you decided what you’re going to declare for your major?”
“I’m going to dual major in English and Anthropology.”
Professor Vogel smiles. “I’m pleased you decided to major in English, but Anthropology? I don’t get it.”
“Figures. A misanthrope like you wouldn’t understand its appeal.”
“Very funny. Have you decided which professor from the English department you want to be your advisor?”
“I’ve already asked Dr. Sinclair. She said yes.”
Professor Vogel’s heart sinks a little. “I won’t lie; I’m disappointed you didn’t pick me. Well I hope that you will be signing up for more of my classes anyway. I’m teaching British Literature next semester, hint hint.”
There is an awkward pause and then Brittany says, “I’m sorry, but honestly I had a hard time concentrating in your class. I don’t think I’ll be taking anymore classes from you.”
Professor Vogel feels his heart sink more. He stops walking. “Difficulty concentrating? You made an A easy. You’re the best student I’ve ever had.”
Brittany looks uncomfortable. “You don’t understand.” She looks around avoiding his eyes. “I’ve something I need to show you.” As she rifles through one of her folders Professor Vogel sees her hands are shaking a little. She seems to be regressing into her shyness mode she had when they first met. She pulls out a piece of paper and hands it him. It’s her love poem, the one she wrote in his class.
“Remember this?” she says.
“Yes, of course I do.” Professor Vogel’s eyebrows knit.
“Read what you wrote.”
“What a lovely and moving tribute. It’s not easy to sway a cold-hearted malcontent like me, yet you’ve done so here. I hope someday you’ll have the opportunity and courage to share this with the fortunate, young man who is the inspiration for, and subject of, this wonderful poem, assuming it’s autobiographical, of course.”
Brittany looks at Professor Vogel expectantly. Professor Vogel’s brow remains furrowed.
Brittany laughs and some of her nervousness evaporates, “God, you’re so dense sometimes. You were right. It is autobiographical. You said you hoped someday I’d have the courage to show this to the young man it’s about.”
“Well, that’s what I’m doing right now, except he isn't a young man. In fact he's a rather old man at that, and apparently he's even slower on the uptake than I thought.” Professor Vogel is surprised to feel a warm sensation run through core. He is at a loss for words.
“There’s another reason I don’t want to take any more classes from you.”
“Yes. What’s that?”
“Ah, I was hoping you’d, um…God, this is going to sound so stupid. I was hoping you’d be my boyfriend. You can’t be my professor and have a romantic relationship with me, right? I mean imagine you're grading a paper of mine with me lying in bed right next to you, possibly right after you’ve had your way with me no less. How inappropriate would that be? And how could you not give me anything other than an A+ and expect any more action from me in the future? See the conflict of interest all that would pose for us?”
Again, Professor Vogel is too taken aback to say anything. Brittany misinterprets his silence as rejection. Her apprehension mounts and she continues almost pleadingly, “You’d be my first boyfriend you know, and my first…well…you’ll be the first for that too. Surprise, surprise, right?” She forces a smile, but her eyes are welling up, “I’m very excited about the prospect of all this I’ll have you know. I think you should be too. It isn’t every day a stodgy Old Man like you is offered, or rather begged, to deflower a beauty such as myself.” Brittany rushes through her words and tries to deliver all this all humorously, but by the end she is crying. Professor Vogel has her veer from their path from the cafeteria and leads her to the inside of his car, so no one will see.
“Brittany, Brittany. I’d like that too. I really would, more than you know…but that can’t happen. It could mean my job and my career.”
“Well, you’re just going to have to risk it. We’ll do it all on the sly. You really don’t have any choice in the matter anyway. I’m going to seduce you. Don’t bother trying to resist, Old Man. It’s a done deal.”
Despite his alarm over her crying, Professor Vogel chuckles and asks, "Why so confident?
“With any other man I wouldn’t be. I mean look at me,” Brittany says as she motions to her curveless body and then draws an imaginary circle in the air around her face with her index finger, “but with you it’s a different story. You’re going to fall in love with me because, in addition to being charmed by my winning personality, I know this about you - you love my writing.”
And with those words Professor Vogel knew it was indeed a “done deal,” because as far as seducing and and falling in love with her and her writing went, well she had already thoroughly accomplished all that quite some time ago.
“Are we still going to try and eat lunch?”
“I’m not hungry. I can’t stop crying anyway. I’m such a pathetic mess.” Professor Vogel starts his car and begins driving.
“Where are we going?” asks Brittany.
“My house naturally. Please excuse my speeding. I’m very excited about the prospect of being your boyfriend I’ll have you know, and it isn’t everyday a stodgy Old Man like me is offered, or rather begged, to deflower a beauty such as you.” Brittany laughs through her tears. “Hey, did you hear that? That flushing sound?”
“No? What sound?”
“That was the sound of my career going down the toilet.”
“I’m not going to tell anyone about this. Who would I tell? You’re the only friend I have here, and this isn’t risky for just you. My scholarship is on the line here too. It’s simple, all we do is deny, deny and deny any accusations. They can’t touch us if we do that. Nobody really cares anyway. They just don’t want this to come out in the open. All we have to do is keep our mouths closed.”
“Wow, very impressive. When did you get so Machiavellian?”
“A little while after you started to have lunch with me regularly. You got the old wheels turning in my head.”
“Brittany, as far as today goes, I’m not prepared. We’re going to have to stop somewhere for condoms. It's at times like these when I little wish I was more of an optimist.”
Brittany laughs. “I’m sorry, Old Man. You're going to have to wait a few days. I’d like consul to admit exhibit A into evidence, the defendant’s excessive and uncontrolled blubbering.” Professor Vogel chuckles. “Ethan, can I sleep over tonight anyway, and in your bed this time?”
“That might be the stupidest question I’ve ever heard, of course you can.”
“I’m so wiped out emotionally. Can I come over there and lean against you? Or would that bother your driving?”
“I stand corrected. That’s the stupidest question I’ve ever heard. Come hither, Daddy's got you.”
Brittany laughs and slides over against him. Professor Vogel arrives at this house. He's surprised how much he likes the feeling of her pressed up against him. He says, “Do you want to ride around a little more? Nothing beats driving around the countryside with a pretty girl, you know what I mean?”
“I’d like that.”
They drive on. After a time Professor Vogel comes to a road he’s never been on before. He decides to chance it and he takes it with Brittany. It’s a little bumpy here and there, but it’s very beautiful, and with her next to him, daydreaming and leaning on him, he can’t remember a ride he’s ever enjoyed more.
After a time he breaks their pleasant reverie and asks, “Brittany, in a few days, when we get the condoms, would you remind me of something?”
“I’ll try to, what is it?”
“Remind me that we'll need to get a can of Pledge too."
Word Count 10,794