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by Martin Golan

The door cracks open and Lynn appears, timid in her habitual tardiness. Her arms slash to a chair, cutting through air as if it were jungle undergrowth. She sits across from Stephen, swinging off her backpack and pulling out books. His poem is on top, already open. A green felt-tip pen is ready in her hand.

"Yes," Sam says. "Flowery's precisely the word. And it was kind of hard to follow."

"I could follow it," the Toad says. "Stephen - I mean the 'I' of the story - is walking around trying to accept the death of this girl, I mean this woman, Lenore. And those streets he names take on her presence, a ghostly presence, if you will."

"A précis will not be necessary," Dr. Robson says.

The comment is noncommittal. It augurs hope by clearing away idle remarks.

Darmon labored in obscurity, an anonymous student at a huge public university, until his work came to the attention of a famous English scholar who made Darmon the darling of the literary world. No one before had seen work so luminous, so

Look," Lloyd is saying. "You don't have to be a writer to tell when someone is trying too hard."

"Oh?" Dr. Robson says. "Give us the lowdown, please. How you can tell?"

This was a favorite ploy: goad students to make absolute judgments, then pick out the flaws in what they've said.

"When someone writes a poem or a story or whatever this thing is where nothing happens," Lloyd says. "When there's no plot to speak of."

Stephen feels for Lloyd, who had confessed to him that he felt out of his depth in a writing class. Lloyd is not being cruel, he knows, only cornered.

Dr. Robson, as expected, moves in for the kill.

"You should have a look a Joyce's 'Araby,' Lloyd," she says. "You'll say nothing happens there either." She tilts up her head. Her intellect inspects the statement for accuracy and sends down a stamp of approval. "But I must ask, is this the same?"

"It's just a kid who goes to a bazaar," the Philistine squeezes in.


Copyright © 2007 by Martin Golan

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