Story Time

At Risk of the White Plague: Children at the Preventorium (1925)I came into my office on Monday morning, January 6th, 7:45 am. It was my first day back after the holidays. I was so jetlagged that I had begun understanding Radiohead lyrics. I wanted to be dead. Coffee.

It was still dark. I could hear the occasional student shuffling into our classroom next to my office with all the vigor of a Walking Dead extra. I booted up the computer, which groaned to life and started crying. My mind was only consoled by the fact that this is the last week of classes before our exam period. One more week.

I opened my university email: 19 messages.

Sigh. So, this year it’s illness.

The week before exams is a fascinating time at a university. The teachers and professors are doing review lessons, closing in on the light at the end of our tunnels. Happening upon an academic lost in euphoria as they stare at that light is not an abnormal occurrence. Sometimes we cry. The photocopier is printing nonstop – at 7:45 am on Monday, it was already pumping out exams. And it’s the week you start hearing from and meeting students that you didn’t know existed.

And then there are the stories. We call this week Story Time.

As a man who enjoys reading and writing fiction, the week before exams is a glorious opportunity to hear some of the outlandish tales that explain why this person couldn’t visit a ninety minute lesson once a week. Or visit office hours. Or send an email. Once. To anyone.

The overall theme of these stories rotates. A year ago it was injuries, and not just injuries, but injuries that couldn’t be proven. “My dad broke his foot in a motorcycle accident,” or “My mom’s sister (aunt) bit her tongue when she was eating mushrooms.” Two years ago it was personal animal tragedies. “My third cousin’s dog was eaten by a wolverine,” or “My Chihuahua was molested by a large rodent.” It was something like that; I have completely stopped hearing them.

This year it’s illness.

Wednesday. As my emails mass like Larry Flynt’s hate mail, I realize that there has been a medical epidemic of which I was unaware. Many of the students have been in the hospital; others have been hit with the lesser known three and a half month flu. Some have been so sick that they have only been able to scan Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, Pornhub, and Stumbleupon, with no strength left over to write a one sentence email to the man who’s going to hand them a test and force them to conjugate shit in January.

Oh well. It serves me right. I have a vague recollection of telling a professor something about a possum mauling. So these weeks are when what comes around meets what goes around. Still, next week at the exams, I will surely be surrounded by the diseased and the ill. My classroom will be full of ragged, pale people barely strong enough to slip their cheat sheets out of their pockets.

Maybe instead of the exam I’ll give them a story contest. Fiction. 250 words. Why haven’t you been in class this semester? First prize wins a passing grade and wolverine spray.

  1. #1 by Andy on January 9, 2014 - 5:21 pm

    “My Chihuahua was molested by a large rodent.”
    I’m going to start using this as a euphemism.

    • #2 by Damien Galeone on January 9, 2014 - 10:31 pm

      You might be the only person I know who can use that statement not as a euphemism.

  2. #3 by sean o'hara on January 9, 2014 - 9:00 pm

    Conjugate shit, you say?
    I shit. You shit. He, she, it shits. We shit. You(pl) shit. They shit.

    Nailed it.

  3. #5 by greg galeone on January 10, 2014 - 12:10 am

    partially in latin-to say he knows shit would be-scit shit. just saying.

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