“I don’t care what you say. I think he’s a creep.” Nancy tossed her long auburn hair back over her shoulder and dropped her books on the table in final resolve.
Loran looked up from her reading and casually pushed the pile of books aside. “Who are we talking about?”
“Professor Ipswich... He thinks he’s God’s gift to education.”
“Sounds like you don’t like his latest assignment.”
“He thinks he can assign a whole bunch of crap just before spring break and I’m supposed to drop everything and do it. I have plans. I’m going to the beach, and he can’t stop me.”
“Well, actually, I think he can. Unless, of course, you want to drop his class.”
“Yeah well... He can just stuff it. He knows I can’t... I need the credits.”
“Well, there you are... Just buckle down and do it. You can read at the beach.”
“I know. It just irks me that he pulls this. He knows people have lives. Just because he doesn’t, doesn’t mean he should pull this kind of crap.”
“What’s up guys?” Steve put his lunch tray on the table and sat next to Loran pulling her close for a quick hug.
“Don’t ask.” Loran gave him a peck on the cheek. “Princes Nancy doesn’t want to do Ipswich’s homework over break.”
“You knew old Ipswich would load you up. Why’d you take his class in the first place? Everybody knows he’s a prick.” Steve poked dubiously at the mystery-meat smothered in thick brown gravy.
“I need three more humanities credits and his anthropology class was the only one still open.”
Loran stole a french-fry form the tray. “There’s a reason for that. What’s the assignment anyway? Maybe you can get it done before you go.”
“I don’t know. Something about defining the ‘dominate species’. I mean, what’s to define? Everybody knows ‘man’ is the top species. He tried to confuse everybody by quoting a bunch of statistics about political failures and stuff, but I think he’s just full of himself. He just likes to force everyone to sit and listen to his line of socialist propaganda.”
Steve took a piece of gristle out of his mouth and dropped it back into the puddle of gravy. “It’s a snap... Just pull a species out of a hat and come up with a line of BS. That’s all these academics want. They don’t care what you say. He won’t even read it. He’ll have one of his aids grade it based on word-count and punctuation. Give them what they want and get your ‘B’. You can still get your tan and get the credits you need.”
Nancy grabbed a french-fry that had strayed across the tray. “Yeah, you’re right, I guess. I just wish it meant something to me. I mean, come on... What kind of crap is this?”
Loran used her half-eaten fry as a pointer. “Did he give you any kind of hint what he’s looking for? I mean, usually the Prof. will stay on his pet topic far too long. Does he like cats, or bears, or whales, or something?”
Nancy used her fry as a sword to fend off the assault. “I’ll ignore the ‘pet’ pun for now, but no... I don’t think he’s ever said anything. He just pulled this out of his ass at the last minute because he hasn’t done anything all semester. He thinks it makes him look smart and he gets off on making people miserable.”
Loran popped her fry into her mouth. “I know! Invent a new creature. You know, interbreed a dolphin with a crocodile or something. That should get you a couple of points for creativity. Put all the important things in one package and dress it up with some of your art. He might like that.”
“I don’t know... That’s too risky. I need the credits. I can’t afford to take the chance that he has a sense of humor. I don’t think he does. I can’t imagine him even smiling, much less laughing. No. I’m going to have to spend the week doing research in his damn catacombs. That’s what he wants. He wants people down in the basement of the Humanities building looking up extinction profiles to rationalize all the money they’ve wasted on his stupid lab.”
“Suit yourself. I’ll be at the beach. Let me know if you need anything.”
“Very funny. I’ll remember this...”
The basement of the Humanities building was closed and locked. “It figures.” Nancy grumbled at the sign on the door: “Humanities Laboratory restricted access.” I wonder who I have to see? Let me guess... Doc. Ipswich. I don’t want to have to kiss his ass, maybe the janitor will let me in.
Jiggling the door one last time, she returned to the main floor and began wandering the halls looking for anyone that might be able to open the door. Halfway down the third hall the sign read: “D. Ipswich PhD, MS, BS. Professor – Anthropology. Business hours ___ - ___.”
“That figures.” She grumbled at the blank spaces and knocked sharply on the office door. Pulling a blank sheet of paper from her notebook, she considered a note. It should be business-like, but he ought to at least have the courtesy to put his hours up. Let’s see, “Dear Professor.” No, he’s not a ‘dear’, and I suppose he wants to be called ‘Doctor’. “Doctor Ipswich, I would like to gain access to the Humanities Lab. Please advise. Nancy Philips, Anthropology 302, third period.”
“That should do.” She folded the paper and looked in vain for a mail slot. She considered stuffing it behind the plastic of the sign or under the door, but protocol won out, and she decided to find his mailbox in the reception hall.
“Ms. Philips, It would have been better if you had included a phone number.” Donald Ipswich stood erect and somber in his sharply tailored gray waistcoat and matching trousers befitting a professor.
“Yeah, sorry, I forgot. I was kind of busy and well...”
“And upset at the prospect of having to do the work.”
“Yeah... Ah, I was kind of wondering why you waited until spring break to dump this on us.”
“You don’t appreciate my poetic flair in ‘springing’ it on you?”
“Yeah... I guess not. I just want to get access to the lab. Your assignment calls for a comparative assessment of evolutionary trends, so I figured the lab might have something I can look at.”
“You’re the first person this semester to associate ‘comparative assessment’ with the lab. Do you feel you’re qualified to do your own assessment?”
“Sure. Why not? I mean, it may not be graduate level work, but it’ll be an honest assessment. That’s got to be at least as good as finding someone else’s opinion in a book. Right?”
“Yes, at least...” He handed a single key across the counter of the senior teachers’ lounge. It dangled awkwardly from a cord attached to a rustic block of wood with “Humanity Laboratory” etched into it. “Tray BH-37 may be of interest to you.”
“Thanks, when can I return this? You don’t have your office hours posted.”
“I’ll come and get it in two hours.”
“Two... I was going to go get something to eat and maybe see if I can dig up a lab partner first.”
“Two hours... I have things to do and the lab must be secured when not in use.” He gave a dismissive smirk and turned to leave.