“Damn it!” Tabby muttered under her breath. She was standing in the hallway outside Professor Marco’s door, holding her final paper in her hands. Fifteen minutes past the deadline to turn the paper in was apparently 14 minutes too late . . . as promised. The man was a monster and had a horrible sense of humor to boot.
Professor Marcos had taped butcher paper blocking off the gap between the floor and the wooden door, with huge red cut out arrows leading up to a sign at eye level. It read in bold, black, all capitalized letters:
STOP! DO NOT SLIDE YOUR FINAL PAPER UNDER THIS DOOR. THIS MEANS YOU, Tabby and Jeremiah. IF YOU WANT EVEN PARTIAL CREDIT, YOU WILL HAND DELIVER YOUR PAPERS TO ME PERSONALLY AT MY HUMBLE ABODE. NO LATER THAN 5:00 PM THIS EVENING.
It was 4:45. Tabby gritted her teeth and yanked the envelope with her name on it off the door and ripped it open. It had a phone number and directions to the professor’s house on a small sheet of paper inside. Tabby turned on her heel and flew down the stairs of Hanby Hall to where she had parked and prayed campus security was otherwise occupied; and prayed again that the small town surrounding the college also had otherwise occupied police. She would need to hurry to make it in time.
Her wristwatch indicated 5:01 pm when she pulled into the professor’s driveway and she took the stairs up to his covered front porch two at a time. The door opened before she knocked and Professor Marco was standing there, grimly shaking his head.
“You’re late . . . again,” he said, and started to swing the door closed.
“Wait!” Tabby put her foot in the door jam to keep it from closing. “It’s just one minute. I could have gone twice the speed limit and been three times as late when the police pulled me over for speeding!”
The door eased open just a crack and the Professor peered at her suspiciously through thick glasses. Tabby sighed inwardly. The man was positively paranoid of female students, but then he was pretty much an ancient relic on campus, and probably still lived in the world of ‘girls just went to college to fish for husbands’. But, he was a brilliant lecturer. He didn’t just teach anthropology, he disinterred little known facts and pieces of trivia which more often than not sparked a longer interest in his students by drawing connections from the long ago and far away to what was current reality. Well, they did for Tabby, anyway. She liked building bridges of connection between her assorted classes.
Tabby looked him squarely in the eyes and held up her final paper. With a sigh, the man eased the door open and Tabby could see into the foyer which open and spacious with a curving staircase leading to the second floor. Professor Marcos lived in a grand old Victorian, which was not unusual for the homes in this part of the country. It was clean and tidy, and that was unusual for a confirmed bachelor, Tabby thought.
Professor Marcos hefted the paper in his hand and scowled. “Too thin,” he muttered. And started to hand it back to Tabby.
“Hey!” Tabby exclaimed! “You yourself said it’s not the number of pages or the volume of words — it’s the depth of meaning, the focused analysis, the creativity that counts. If you wanted weight, I could have triple spaced it and made the margins even thicker.” She smiled sweetly at the man.
“Troublesome girl,” he muttered. “You think I actually read these final papers?” He dropped the paper on the floor between them and folded his arms across his chest.
“Do you?” she asked, curiously. Someone had read her other three papers, and with a fine tooth comb, as well. Probably his graduate student, she belatedly realized. Who had left two weeks ago to go study abroad. No wonder Professor Marcos had been so grumpy.
“Finals? No,” he responded grumpily. “Take too long.”
“So, how do you grade ‘em?” Tabby asked. The answer ought to be interesting.
“Go up the stairs and toss them over the balcony. The thickest ones fly farther and get the top grade.”
Tabby narrowed her eyes, and tartly responded, “Well, surely mine would at least land in the B range. Give it a try.”
“Can’t,” a malicious grin started to twitch at the corners of the Professor’s mouth. “Already did that. You’re too late.”
“Oh, b.s.,” Tabby replied, “they’d still be littering the floor since they were due . . .” she paused and glanced at her watch, “40 minutes ago.”
Professor Marcos shrugged and started nudging her paper back towards her while swinging the door closed.
“C’mon,” Tabby cried, panic starting to nibble at her. “Play fair!”
“Life,” the professor intoned, “is not fair.”
“Fine,” Tabby left the paper and started back down the steps. “I turned my final in – you do as you please.”
She was almost to the car when the man spoke. “Wait.”
Tabby stopped and looked over her shoulder. Professor Marcos was looking at her car. She drove an old gas guzzling beater that served to get her to and from classes and work, but was definitely not cool. So, she had decorated it somewhat, with a variety of political action bumper stickers and had hung a pair of fuzzy pink dice from the rear view mirror.
“Come back here,” Professor Marcos gestured her back up the steps. Tabby noticed he was now standing on top of her paper and bit her tongue on pointing that out. He was a man who did not care for the obvious to be pointed out.
“For an instant A in my course – which you have NOT earned based on your lack of diligence in turning in written assignments on time – answer this question.” Professor Marcos paused and looked her squarely in the eye. “Why do young people have fuzzy colored dice hanging from their rear view mirrors?”
Startled, Tabby reared back and cast frantically about for the proper anthropological terms to describe youthful ideology and rebellion and the need to be different from the older generation, and knew with a sinking heart that all was lost as the Professor shook his head sadly and started closing the door.
“Nope – not good enough,” he mumbled.
“Wait!” Tabby said frantically, putting one hand on his door. “I’ll tell you the truth about why we have those fuzzy dice. See, it’s all about cymbals.”
Professor Marcos blinked in surprise and straightened up, “What about cymbals?”
“Well,” Tabby said, “when you are driving down the freeway at 80 mph with all the windows rolled down and the wind in your hair, and the stereo cranked up belting out heavy metal music, you sing along at the top of your lungs and play the drums on the steering wheel. The fuzzy dice are the cymbals for the drum set. Honestly.”
Professor Marcos nibbled on his lower lip and waved her away, leaning down to pick up her paper. “A” he intoned solemnly and slammed the door shut.
Tabby turned to walk back down the steps, her heart feeling a little bit lighter with sudden relief. As she got into the car, the door opened and Professor Marcos shouted at her, “And don’t crank up that horrible music in MY neighborhood, madam!” slamming the door on her as she backed out of his tree-lined driveway.