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by Martin Golan

Stephen scans the room. He notes Lloyd, a biology major for whom writing was a "hobby," and Sam, who imitated Dr. Robson's disdain for every work discussed. He also spots students whose real names he never learned (Dr. Robson used names rarely): the Tie, the Toad, the Philistine, the Aesthete, the Guy with the Horses, and Braless Josie Nipples. Lynn is not there but she was frequently late. As the term progressed she had become more alluring with every class. She wrote of setting off on "safaris of the heart," where deadly snakes "coiled like roses," and had garnered praise from Dr. Robson for its fearless depiction of the death of love. In the parched climate of the room as he awaits what is sure to be the most momentous day of his life, he accepts Lynn's voice as another that could certify his destiny as a writer.

My dearest Stephen,
All I do is wander the streets you made famous and dream. I still can't believe the poem was about me! I know you're busy with the book tour and the awards dinner and that whole movie thing, but don't leave me alone, singing the phrases you made part of the language: Juniper, Kalmia, Laburnum, Negun -

Dr. Robson sweeps in. She does not look at the class.

"I have an announcement," she says, speaking to an invisible spot on the ceiling, "and then we're going to do, I think, Stephen's po-em."

Stephen's heart thumps, a machine that pumps anxiety into his elbows and thighs.

"There are meetings in the Dome at the free hour Friday, of anti-war committees too numerous to mention, which I suspect are related to Southeast Asia and environs." She purses her lips but loses interest in smiling. "And now, Stephen's po-em."

A loud and heartless shuffling of papers.

"Initial reactions, class?"

Backpacks unzip. A chair scrapes in a corner.

"I think it was, well -" Lloyd smiles at Stephen; they talked often in the cafeteria, laughing at Dr. Robson "- not too good. Though emotionally moving. In the final analysis, I suppose, it was sort of - "

The Tie cuts in, settling Lloyd's uncertainty. "It was sort of too flowery, if you'll forgive the pun."

Dr. Robson smiles, either in distaste at the pun or agreement with the comment.


Copyright 2007 by Martin Golan

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