WHO HE? Short Story

When Trish entered the Front Room, Cassie was already in the booth, waiting. Both smiled broadly, glad to see each other after being separated on this, their first day of classes as freshmen roommates. Being from the same small town in Ohio, they felt a special kind of comaraderie—or safety—in the others’ company. Both had been assigned to classes taught by Professor Johnson, who was listed as teaching both English Literature and Journalism. With Johnson being such a common name, they had wondered if they were going to have the same professor, but Cassie hadn’t thought there was much in common between the two academic subjects, and decided that they would be experiencing two entirely different professors.
The Journalism 101 class was already full by the time Trish tried to register for it. Cassie had already enrolled several minutes before the cut-off, and was feeling fortunate until she realized Journalism was at 8 a.m. Today they grabbed a late lunch from the cafeteria line and got down to it. “Well?” Cassie asked, “are they the same? How old was your professor?”
Trish frowned and rubbed her brow, thinking. “It’s hard to say….35? 45? Maybe 50.”
Cassie sighed as though in disbelief. “Surely there’s a difference between a 50-year old man and one 35! In what way did he seem young and what made him seem old?”
“His dress, for one thing. He wore blue jeans and a collarless shirt, and loafers.”
Cassie paused to drink her tea, and then nodded. “So did mine. Maybe there’s a kind of dress code the first day, to make the students feel more comfortable.…..”What about his hair? Did he still have it?”
Trish seemed to smile inwardly. “Does he ever! He has a full head of gorgeous dark hair with just a touch of silver in it when up close.”
Cassie stirred her tea and asked, “You were up close to him?”
Another secret smile. “Just when he walked back and forth among the students, and stopped to make a point.”
“His voice–was it easy to hear him?”
“Oh yes! He would expound in a loud voice when he strode back and forth in front of the class, often looking fervently at the ceiling like he was communing with God, or trying to. He really gets excited about the early civilizations, and knows Greek. Now that I think of it, maybe he was trying to communicate with the whole bunch of Greek gods.”
Cassie laughed. “Sounds like a winner…How do you know he ‘knows Greek’?”
“He told us, and said a few words in what I guessed was Greek.”
“So it sounds like your Dr. Johnson is an enthusiastic hippie type. He must love his subject.”
Trish nodded vehemently. “‘you got it. Maybe that’s what makes him seem 35.” She paused, playing with her spoon and fork before asking, “So what’s your Dr. Johnson like?”
Cassie closed her eyes in order to re-vision her journalism professor. ”He’s got all his hair all right, but I didn’t notice any silver streaks. And he seems to blow hot and cold. One minute he is trying to get the class enthusiastic about journalism and the next he moans about the loss of the “milk of human kindness,” and about how journalism is being straight-jacketed by the corporations. He kind of slumps in his chair while listening to the students, then jumps up and begins pacing back and forth. By the way, mine is about six-foot tall. How about yours?”
Trish said “He’s tall, too.”
“Well, is he good-looking?”
Cassie shrugged. “Yeah, if you like men who work out a lot. His muscles seem weird on a college professor.”
“Any tattoos?…Sorry, just joking. What color are his eyes?”
“Oh yes, I fogot. When he gets these ideas that make him stand up straight and begin to walk back and forth he opens his eyes real wide and you can see the whites of his eyes. Kinda spooky. And he has very dark eyes that scan the class a lot, as though he’s counting the students or looking for one who didn’t show.” Cassie smiled at her own words.
“Does he have a cough?”
“A cough?” Cassie puzzled.
“Yeah, my Johnson does. Like he smoked.”
“I didn’t notice. There was too much discussion going on in class.”
Trish perked up, curious. “Like what?”
“Oh, you know; liberal stuff.” Cassie paused. “I think we have to face it; they must be different Johnsons.”
Trish nodded skeptically. “Yeah, but how strange the university has two African American professors with the same name!”

 

About Nan Mykel

At 79, I was just about to stop keeping a journal, but that felt like accepting that growth was finished. I don't want to be finished, yet! I'm 80 now, and struggling to communicate with you, if you'll come and set awhile. P.S. My how time flies! I'm 82 now.
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One Response to WHO HE? Short Story

  1. Ha–ha-ha-ha!! Wonderful!!

    Like

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