The Bad Project

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Chapter 36. Crystal Is a Forscher Finalist/ Marianne

Marianne threw down her backpack and reached under her bed for a bottle of water. She opened it and sat on her bed. Crystal looked up from her biology homework and said, “Hi. Whassup?”

“Not much. Got an A on the skit about Buddha in religion. Stupid.”

“Good for you.”

Marianne looked at Crystal. She kept patting her hair and her leg bounced regularly against the bottom rung of her desk chair. “Hey, is something bothering you?”

“I don’t think… well I’m not supposed to say. But we’re the Room of Our Own, so I will.” Crystal rubbed her arms and then picked at her cuticles. “I’m one of two finalists for that Forscher Award, the big scholarship that pays full expenses for the rest of Carson College. I’m excited but it’s not money yet. It just increases the pressure.”

“Admins have no sense. Why tell you until it’s the award itself? It’s not like you can do anything to help yourself get it, is it?”

“No. Now they send the two finalists’ names to this committee and it has a student on it and it’s…”

“It’s Mandy,” Marianne finished her sentence.

“How do you know? I’m pretty upset. Of all the students to choose.”

“I was walking behind her when she got the appointment note. At first I thought I might try to tell the dean about her but I couldn’t think how to do it so it would work and not make me look like a jerk.”

“Right. Same here.” Crystal’s eyebrows almost met in the middle, and her jaw was set. “I need that money so bad. I can make sure my grades stay good. But there’s nothing I can think of to do about Mandy except pray. She can ruin it for me. I hate knowing that she’s on the committee.”

“How did you find out?”

“Cass was there when I opened the letter out in the living room and started jumping around screaming in excitement. When I told her what was up, she broke the news about Mandy. The letter gave the names of the faculty members. No way I can be comfortable around those people until they’ve finished deciding. Why did Associate Dean Catorello tell me?”

“Who else is on it?” Marianne leaned forward.

“It’s Sandstrom, Zuniga, and Dean Shope plus Mandy.”

Marianne swallowed hard. “Andy Sandstrom. Oh, geez. Well, I don’t think he knows you but he—I think he will be fair. It’ll be okay for you in Zuniga’s class, he mainly just lectures, and you probably won’t see the dean, right?” Marianne drained the water bottle and pitched it into the trash. She got up, trying to seem casual. She hated the fact that just hearing Sandstrom’s name could send her heart racing. “Going to lunch?’

Crystal nodded, got up, and they left for the dining hall.

Marianne chewed the corner of her lip, trying to decide whether to talk with Dean Shope about Mandy’s appointment to the Forscher selection committee. She didn’t want Mandy to ruin Crystal’s chances, but as she tried out various ways she could tell the dean she thought Mandy had racist attitudes, she realized it would not be convincing. She might call her own motives into question more than Mandy’s, since she would be trying to skew the choice in favor of her roommate. She thought about asking Jim to do it, but then it would seem like a gossip chain, she gossiped about Mandy’s appointment to Jim after all. She saw no good way to let the dean know.

The next day, she met Jim at the Carson Circus office. Lindsay wanted them to choose art for their pieces. She and Jim sat at the long table looking at illustrations for the pieces they had chosen. Jim said, “Did you decide to talk with the dean?”

“No, I can’t think of any way to do it so it won’t rebound and make it harder for her to win.” Marianne frowned and swept together three prints that she thought wouldn’t work, slipping them into a manila envelope. She pulled out several photographs and sketches, and looked at the top one. It showed a nude woman looking in the mirror. Kind of trite, she thought, but had nice lines. “Does this work for the pregnancy essay?” She passed it over to Jim.

“No way. My friend Libby would be totally freaked out by a nude. What else is there?” They rejected a photo of a train and a sketch of swirly pattern of lines. There was one black and white drawing of a girl with a tear in the corner of her eye. “This one might do,” Jim said.

“It would do for Shaila’s piece too,” Marianne said. “Look, she even looks a little bit like Shaila.”

“I don’t know her, remember. But Shaila’s piece was angry while Libby’s pregnancy one was sad because she no longer has a relationship with Joe.”

Marianne shrugged, “Do what you want. I don’t really care. None of the rest of these work for any of ours.”

“Poetry and fiction can use some too. Are you okay with using this one for Libby and not Shaila?”

“Yes, I guess so. I wonder if it could be printed between the two stories.”

“That would be cool. Let’s find out. Meanwhile, I’ll put it with our stuff and leave Lindsay a note.”

“I’ll put the rest of them in Bella’s box so she can choose what she wants for the fiction.”

“I can talk with the dean if you think it will help,” Jim said.

Marianne’s eyes snapped open. “I don’t know if it will. What will you tell her about how you found out about Mandy’s appointment?”

“Do you want me to keep you out of it?”

“Don’t you think it looks bad if I argue for my roommate?”

“Yeah, I guess so. Could I say I overheard her talking about it?”

“Well, that’s more or less what happened with me. But you weren’t around. It’s not really kosher, is it? Watch out, I think Bella just came in.”

“Hmm. I think I could handle the little white lie. Although I hate that terminology. Is a black lie worse because black itself is bad? Dumb expression.” Jim slapped his own wrist.

“Let me think about it some more,” Marianne said. “I don’t want to make matters worse.”

Okay, I’ll wait until you say. But it could be urgent, you know?”

“I agree, I’m just not sure what to do.” Marianne packed up her pens and note pad and smiled at Jim. “Either way, thanks for your concern.”

“See you.”

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