This story is by John Teel and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
‘You can’t do that?’ Jack squeaked the words out of his bright red face.
“I can and I will. I’m tenured.” He paused a moment to let it sink in. ” Now you may go.” Morrison pointed to the door then returned back to the podium and continued his lecture where he’d left off, completing his thought in his aloof professorial voice as if nothing else had transpired. “Remember, we really don’t and probably won’t ever understand why outcomes occur the way they occur. We just have to accept that they do and that they will.”
Jack walked in no particular direction. Nothing seemed familiar. Everything was grey and ugly. His head pounded with thoughts and emotions as if an audio/visual tech cut sound bites into layers and played them over and over, each replay cutting off another chunk of his confidence. He wanted to scream out at the injustice of it all. He wanted to blame Tim but he knew it wasn’t true. Jack found himself wandering in what looked like a park. He sat down on the first empty bench. He was worn out. ‘I’m tenured,’ Dr. Morrison’s voice rolled back and forth across his mind. ‘FUCK YOU,’ he screamed aloud. He’d been true to his values, true to knowledge and true to humankind? What went wrong? ‘Fuck you fuck you fuck you,’ he hadn’t noticed that he’d begun smacking himself in the head.
‘I’m only human,’ he said at last. It took a moment, but the irony of his only justification set in. All this time doing his best to avoid instinctual motivations in favor of conscious decision making, ignoring how strong the silent urge was for what lurked under Wendy’s dress, watching as his conscious decisions led to the end of his academic/professional dreams, his only defense being what he’d spent most of his brief adult life ignoring – he was only HUMAN. Human’s were animals. Jack’s laughter echoed through the park. He slid off the bench holding his gut. He was laughing so hard he could hardly breath.
‘Oh my God,” what’s wrong with him said a sweetly sincere voice. Jack looked up to see a couple of Wendy’s sorority sisters staring at him. I can see up your dress too, Jack blurted out. Instinctively the girls stepped back. “He’s gone crazy, see I told you not to major in science, look at him his brain is mush, what could she possibly see in him’ she whispered.
‘He’s alright he’s just trying to live in a world that doesn’t exist.’ Jack recognized the voice, it was Tim! ‘Tim you’re right, I am an animal. How did you find me?’
“Not hard pal, you’re in the school courtyard.”
Jack sat up and looked around, ‘Huh,’ he said. ‘ I ruined my future.’ Tim was instantly alarmed. ‘What did you do?’
‘I pissed off Dr. Morrison and he said he would fail me if I take any of his classes and to graduate I have to take at least one of his classes.’
Tim immediately lightened up, You believed that old nut job? He’s been spewing that crap at students for years. He won’t even remember it happened . Your future is safe, buddy.’
“You think so?”
“I know so, everyone knows the guy is a loon. You aren’t the first and won’t be the last.’ You know what else? Wendy told me to tell you she thinks you’re cute.”
Tim helped Jack to his feet and brushed off the debris. Jack rubbed his tired eyes, amazed at the sudden lightness of his mood. “I’m hungry,” jack said. “You think Wendy will meet us at the cafeteria?”
‘I don’t know, give her a call.’ “I will,” Jack said “but first I need to stop by the restroom.”