Pronghorn, Chapter 20: About Maybe

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

Al Pemewan looked closely at his son. His wife, Matilda, did, too. “There’s something in that ‘maybe,’ son,” said Asa’s father. “I can hear it. What happened? What’s eating at y’?”

Asa shook his head and sighed heavily. “It’s not something I care to discuss, folks. And it doesn’t really matter. It’s done and over, and I’m here now.”

“Asa, y’re not in any trouble, are y’?”

“No! No. Nothing like that, not really. The cops aren’t coming after me; I’d hardly be looking for work in a place where I’m remembered if I were.” Asa shook his head. “No. Too many people know me here, and not enough of them’d lie for me.”

“Then what is it?”

“I told you, I’m not really eager to talk about it. So I’ll ask you to leave it alone, okay?”

Matilda pressed her lips together, but Al nodded. “Alright, Asa. I’ll leave it, at least for now. But if and when y’ decide to talk, we’ll listen.” He paused, then his eyes widened, and he snapped his fingers. “Maybe y’ can talk with Rev’nd Kerr. Maybe new ears to hear would help.”

Asa sucked in breath through his bottom teeth. “Yeah…about that.”

“What?”

“I actually have, well, I suppose it’s a date with her.”

Matilda interrupted. “You have a, a date with Reverend Kerr?” Her voice rose in pitch, singing incredulity.

“Yes, Mom, I have a date with Reverend Kerr. Twice unbelievable.”

Asa’s father put in “It is a bit of a surprise, son. Not back in town for, what, three days, and already landing dates. And with a preacher, no less. The first’d be a surprise for anyone, but the latter’s quite a shift for y’. Hell, gettin’ y’ to come to church to start with was a trick.”

“I know, I know. But I was getting gas, and she pulled up, and I figured ‘Why not ask?’ and she said that lunch on Thursday’d be good. So I have a date.” He paused. “I think so, anyway. It’s probably a problem to try to read more into it than it is; we’re just getting lunch, after all, and that could just be a minister looking to expand the flock and the offerings that come in with it.”

Asa’s mother interjected. “Asa!” The tone in her voice made her censure certain.

“What? You and I both know a lot of clergy do it. And I understand it; the bills have to get paid, and preachers make their money from the offerings they bring in. And I’m not saying Anna is being profligate–”

“First-name basis already?” asked Asa’s father.

“For a date? How not? But anyway, I’m not saying she’s being profligate, and I’m not saying she’s being mercenary, but I do have to think she might be since I’ve seen so many others actually be so. It’s like being wary around a hornets’ nest; the one might not cause you trouble, but enough do that you have to watch each one.”

Matilda put in again. “If you keep going like that, Asa, you’ll never find anyone.”

“Mom, it’s just lunch! It’s not like we’re about to trip over our soulmates.”

“Not if you keep talking like that, you won’t. You’ll never be happy if you keep looking for things like that.”

“Maybe, but I also won’t be blindsided by them as readily. Easier to duck what you know’s coming in.”

“I’m not going to have this kind of circular argument with you again.”

“By which you mean you know you’re wrong and just don’t want to have to admit to it.”

Asa’s father put in, then. “Asa.” His admonitory tone was clear, and Asa stopped, holding up his hands at his shoulders, palms out, and turning his head to one side. Matilda pressed on, however. “You get so wrapped up in having to be smarter than anybody else, Asa, and then you wonder why you have problems with people.”

“Matilda.” Al shook his head at his wife. “It doesn’t help. If y’ want him to be happy with things, y’ve got to show him happy. He’s got a date. She’s clearly a decent woman. Be happy for him–and if it goes somewhere, great. If not, our son’s setting up to have a decent time, and it could be a damned lot worse.”

Matilda huffed a breath before saying “I hate it when you’re right sometimes, Al.” Then she turned to Asa. “But he is. I do wish you’d try to be happier, though, Asa. Seeing you sad or angry so much hurts your old mother.”

Asa rolled his eyes, then his head, at her. “That’s quite the guilt trip, Mom.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Sure, Mom. But I’ll be happier when I have more to be happy about.”

“You’ve got plenty to be happy about.”

“And?”

“So you should be happier and more grateful.”

“And when I have more to be happy about, I’ll be happier. Where’s the problem?”

“You know what I meant!”

“Sure, Mom. Sure, I did.”

“I don’t know why you have to be so difficult.”

“You know, Mom, I don’t either. I really don’t. But I wish I did; I could stop it if I did.”

Asa stood. “But that’s enough of that crap. No sense wallowing in it. And I need to go check my email. I might’ve gotten something that’ll help with the current situation. Probably not, but maybe; I have to take a look at it, in any event.” And with that, Asa left the room–not stomping, to be sure, but not taking any pains to tread quietly. Once again, his parents looked at each other after he was out of the room. Then Al picked up a remote control and turned the painting show on again.

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Class Reports: ENGL 1302, Sections 02 and 03–30 January 2017

After addressing concerns from and questions about the previous class meeting, discussion turned to the day’s assigned readings. The idea was that students would begin to walk guided through an explication of the assigned piece as practice for the upcoming essays.

Students are reminded of the following due dates:

  • PoEss RV (online before class begins on 17 February 2017)
  • PoEss FV (online before class begins on 24 February 2017)
  • DrEss RV (online before class begins on 3 March 2017)

Information about assignments is still in development.

Section 02 met as scheduled, at 1000 in Weir 111. The class roster listed 20 students enrolled, unchanged since the last class meeting. Seventeen attended, verified by a brief written exercise. Student participation was reasonably good. No students from the class attended office hours since the previous class meeting.

Section 03 met as scheduled, at 1100 in Weir 111. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since the last class meeting. All attended, verified by a brief written exercise. Student participation was good. No students from the class attended office hours since the previous class meeting.

Pronghorn, Chapter 19: Home from the Store

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

When Asa Pemewan got home, his parents were sitting in their living room, and a quiet, soothing voice played out from their television, speaking of happy little trees and phthalo blue on liquid white. Asa put away the groceries he had gotten, completing the task just before hearing “Happy painting, and God bless, my friend.”

The television clicked off, and Asa’s mother called out, “Thank you, Asa. How much were the groceries?”

Asa walked into the living room. “Don’t worry about it, Mom.”

“Now, Asa–”

“Honey,” said Asa’s father, “just thank him.”

Asa’s mother pressed her lips together. “He doesn’t have a job, Al; he can’t be buying our groceries all the time.”

“Once isn’t ‘all the time,’ Tilly, and anyway–” and Asa’s father turned to him, “How did the interview go? You ‘ere gone quite a while.”

Asa sat. “I was, and it went decently, but it didn’t eat the whole day. Most of the rest of it, I spent pounding the pavement. I didn’t have much luck, but what I had was pretty good.”

“What d’you mean?”

“I mean that I only have a couple, three leads. One’s the interview. Another’s at the school; Mrs. Baker says hello, by the way.”

“That’s good. She okay?”

“She seemed to be. Anyway, I went from there to the college, and one of my cohort from grad school chairs the English department there, so I should be able to pick up some fall classes.”

“What about now, though?”

“Nothing yet. But it’s not likely Art can get me anything for the summer. I think the term’s started, anyway.”

“Art’s your classmate?”

“Yes, sir. Good friend, too. But he can’t hire for a job that isn’t there, you know.”

“Yeah. Still, sounds like you had some good luck, then, and I’m glad.”

Asa’s mother interjected, “I am, too, and I just know you’re going to get offers. How could you not?”

“Well, Mom, not everybody’s as convinced as you are about me. Especially not here.”

Asa’s mother made a dismissive noise, and Asa continued. “Well, Mom, I was a little shit when I was growing up.”

“Honey, you were a kid. Every kid’s a little shit sometimes.”

“Yeah, I know, but I was one more than my share of the time.”

“Maybe, but it’s not like you were a hooligan. Not like some of those other kids.”

“I think I’d’ve had more fun if I had been.”

“Or you could be like Ryan Mattison.” Asa’s father nodded sagely, and Asa, after a moment, nodded, as well. “There is that,” he said. “I could have gotten shot by cops. Or I could have had the clap several times, like some of the kids I knew. But then you’d have a chance at grandkids, so that might not be so bad.”

“Well, I would like grandbabies, but, no, I don’t think you having some kind of disease is the way to go.”

“I don’t, either, but I do have to wonder how things would be were I otherwise. I have to think I’d’ve had an easier time of things.”

Asa’s father took up the conversation. “You might’ve. Might not’ve, though. Like your mother said, you could’ve gone like Mattison. Or you could’ve ended up like some of the Smitherson kids, spoiled rotten and feeling every bit of the rot. Or like one of the Hochstedlers. I don’t know if you know Rufus at all–”

“I met him today. He pulled a gun on me.”

Asa’s father rolled his eyes. “I know. Paranoid ass. Lots of money, though. Hasn’t helped him a damned bit.”

“He can afford a gun–and pointing it at people!”

“And he thinks he has to have one. Do you?”

“There are days, Dad.”

“More than ain’t?”

Asa thought for a moment. “Not yet, no.”

“Yeah, and Rufus’s scared of damned near everythin’. And his boy, Henry, is even worse. Can’t keep a relationship down; hell, he’s been married five times.”

Asa paused for a moment before beginning to laugh. His mother asked “What’s so funny, Asa?”

Asa shook his head and flapped his hand. “It’s nothing,” he managed to get out. “Just something I remembered from college.”He’s not dating a Catherine, is he.”

Asa’s parents themselves paused a moment as the joke began to break over them. “Not so’s you’d know it,” his father said after a bit. “And none of the wives is dead, so far as I know. Although one was named Anne.”

“Okay, okay. It would’ve been too neat, anyway.”

“Exactly. We always did have to stress to you that life’s not like one of your novels.”

Asa nodded. “I know, I know. And I’ve pressed on like it is, and it’s bitten me in the ass more than once. You’d think I’d learn.”

“Not so much,” said Asa’s father, prompting an aspersive “Al!” from Asa’s mother. He replied in turn. “Well, Tilly, if he hasn’t learned it by now, he won’t, and after coming up on forty years of it, you and I both know we’re not surprised.”

Drily, Asa put in “Thanks for the support,” and his father replied, “Son, I love you, but you know I’m not gonna lie to you. You’re a decent man, and I’m proud of you, but you’ve still got your head in the clouds as often as not. It’s probably part of your problem.”

“What problem do you think that is?” A slight edge had crept into Asa’s voice.

Asa’s father cocked his head at his son, closing one eye and looking at him over the top of his glasses with the other. Asa saw the look and repeated the question without the edge. His father nodded and answered “Holding down work. You get it in your head that things’ll be one way–and, yes, you’re usually right that they ought to be that way, or something close to it. But they aren’t, and you get pissed, and it shows in the work. Or you used to, anyway; maybe you grew out of it while I wasn’t looking.”

Asa’s father sat back. “Maybe.”

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Class Reports: ENGL 1302, Sections 02 and 03–27 January 2017

After addressing concerns from and questions about the previous class meeting, discussion turned to the day’s assigned readings. It also did more with questions of literary canon and moved into concerns of conducting readings.

Students are reminded of the following due dates:

  • PoEss RV (online before class begins on 17 February 2017)
  • PoEss FV (online before class begins on 24 February 2017)
  • DrEss RV (online before class begins on 3 March 2017)

Information about assignments is still in development.

Section 02 met as scheduled, at 1000 in Weir 111. The class roster listed 20 students enrolled, unchanged since the last class meeting. Nineteen attended, verified by a brief written exercise. Student participation was reasonably good. No students from the class attended office hours since the previous class meeting.

Section 03 met as scheduled, at 1100 in Weir 111. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, a decline of one since the last class meeting. Eighteen attended, verified by a brief written exercise. Student participation was good. No students from the class attended office hours since the previous class meeting.

Pronghorn, Chapter 18: After the Meeting

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

Asa left Arturo’s office after another backslapping hug and firm handshake, and he did so with a smile on his face. Damn, but it was good to see him again, he thought as he made his way back to the elevator and out through the Hill Country warmth–full heat, now, with the work of the sun through the day–and back to his car. Despite the sun-shade up in it, the car released a blast of hot air into Asa’s face when he opened the door, and he felt sweat stand out across his body as he sat in the driver’s seat. His smile did not waver, though. I actually have a chance of getting a job, even if it is only part-time work and in the fall, he thought.

At that point, his smile lapsed, and he said aloud “But what the hell am I going to do until then? I still owe on my student loans; I still have other bills to pay.” He shook his head. “How am I ever going to get clear and get moving?”

He started the car, relishing the cool, conditioned air that emerged from the vents shortly after he did. He drove out from the college, around the roundabout and back across the creek–there were still children swimming in the Caida de Roca–and turned back onto Park, heading west. Noting where his fuel gauge sat, he pulled into a gas station at the corner of East Park and South Main. As he began to put gas into the car, he called his folks’ house. His mother answered.

“Hi, Asa!”

“Hi, Mom. I think I’m done looking for jobs right now and am heading home. Did you need me to pick up anything at the store?”

“Where’re you at?”

“Getting gas, Mom. Did you want anything?”

“Well, I could use a half-gallon of milk–unless you’re drinking it, in which case, a full gallon. I need eggs, too.”

“Bacon?”

“Actually, no. Your dad can’t have it anymore; too much risk on his heart. All the salt.”

“Ah. I’ll keep it in mind.”

“Please do. And thanks for heading to the store.”

“No problem. Love you, Mom.”

“Love you, too, honey.” Asa’s mother hung up. The pump had stopped, as well, and Asa made ready to drive out. He stopped, though, as he saw someone pull up at the next pump: Reverend Anna Kerr. She wore a white shirt and a high-waisted tea-length skirt in the red-and-green plaid of her stole from the day before–Good look on her, Asa thought–and she noticed Asa’s attention in short order.

“Well, hello! It was Asa, right?” She stuck out her hand around the side of the pump. Asa took it; her handshake was strong and confident, and her smile as they shook hands was broad and warm. “Glad to see you around town!”

“And you, Reverend.”

“Oh, please, we’re not at church. ‘Anna’ will be fine.”

“Alright, then, Anna, I’m glad to see you.”

“I could tell,” she replied, and laughed. Asa’s cheeks flushed red again, and he stammered out “I-I didn’t mean any offense.”

Anna waved a hand. “None was taken, I assure you. It’s not like you cat-called or anything.” She started pumping gas into her own car, an older silver coupe. “You look like you’ve been job-hunting.”

“How could you tell?”

“You’ve still got on a tie. Not many reasons for someone newly back to town to wear one in the current mild warmth.” She laughed again. “How’s it been going?”

Asa leaned back against his own car, a teal hatchback. “Decently enough, I suppose. I handed out a lot of resumes, put in at the school district and the college. I actually used to go to school with the department chair at the college, so that’s good.”

“I’m glad to hear it!” The pump on her side clicked off. “Will I be seeing you again on Sunday? I got the distinct impression that you weren’t really into what we were doing–at least, not as much as the folks around you.”

Asa considered briefly. “It’s likely.” Ah, what the hell. “If it wouldn’t be too forward, I might like to see you earlier than that.”

“Oh, would you, now?”

Oh, I fucked that up. Asa stood silently for a moment. He could feel himself redden again.

Anna laughed again. “How does Thursday for lunch look?”

Asa did a double-take. “Really? I mean, yes, it looks good. Did you want to meet somewhere, or should I come pick you up, or–”

“I’ll be at the church. Come on by about a quarter to eleven; I usually eat early. Nothing fancy, mind, or too heavy; I have to work that afternoon, and I don’t want a heavy belly dragging me off to sleep.”

Asa nodded. “That makes sense. I’ve had so many students basically be zombies in the early afternoons that you’d think I was teaching a Romero flick.”

Anna laughed again. “I’m sure I’ll hear all about it on Thursday. See you then!” She climbed into her car and drove off.

Asa stared after her for a second. Then he smiled and got into his own car, starting it up and turning to head to the grocery store. It’s been a good day. I’ve got a solid lead on at least one job, and I’ve got a date for later in the week. Best day I’ve had in a while.

As he turned into traffic, merging onto South Main to head for the newer grocery store, his smile fell again. Of course, I have to wonder what’ll happen to ruin it. I know something’s coming; I just don’t know what it’ll be. And that worries me.

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Pronghorn, Chapter 17: Meeting an Old Friend

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

Asa made his way across the campus of Pronghorn Community College as he had been directed, skirting the school’s library and heading into the three-story LeBeaux Hall where the English department head, Arturo Martinez, awaited him.

If it’s the same Arturo, I think he owes me a beer, Asa thought. He thought back to graduate school, when he and a man named Arturo Martinez had shared office space for several years and worked on no few projects together. They had also had many beers together, and there were a few nights when…

The ding of an elevator’s bell before him broke Asa’s reverie. He entered the waiting car, pushed the appropriate button, and in half a minute walked out onto the third floor of the building. A sign indicated which way he would need to go to get to LeBeaux 321, and he went that way, walking briskly and soon coming to a door with a nameplate reading “Arturo Martinez, PhD; Chair, English.” It stood slightly ajar, and Asa knocked.

From within came a call of “Come in,” and Asa recognized the voice. It is him, he thought as he walked through the door.

From behind a paper-festooned desk emerged a man of Asa’s age, thin in the shoulders and paunchy, skin the color of rosewood and hair dark and kinky. A broad smile split his face as he came around the desk, arms outstretched, saying “Asa! Damn, man, but it’s good to see you! How’ve you been?”

Asa returned the back-slapping hug and took the seat towards which Martinez gestured. “It’s been tough, Art, but it’s good to be back home, and its good to see you, too. How’d you land this job?”

Martinez seated himself. “Well, you know that I went off to that one job right after grad school, right, that one out east? Damned thing closed its doors.” Martinez shrugged. “Financial stuff, of course. But I was still looking at the end of the job, and I saw an ad for this one pop up–full-time continuing job, you know. And you were from here, I figured, so I might have some kind of connection to the place. I put in, got hired, and the chair rotated out; nobody else wanted it, so I took it. And now I’m living the dream!” He laughed, gesturing towards the piles of papers. “Wading through student papers and student complaints. And student complaints. And student complaints. And the occasional community complaint. So there’s that.”

He leaned forward. “What about you, Asa? I recall hearing you swear up and down you’d never come back here.”

Asa sighed heavily. “I landed the job teaching at the technical school, right? Things were going well; the school was heavily unionized, and we had a hell of a contract. Then we had some changes come down from Washington, screwed with funding. Between that and some embezzlement going on in the administration, the school was able to declare financial hardship. I got laid off–the flip-side of the contract was a last in, first out policy, and I was last in.”

Asa shook his head. “That one caught me mid-semester in a fall term. Trying to find work after was a trick I did pull in some adjuncting, and I managed to do some freelance stuff now and again, but those months…they were tight months. I pulled in some visiting jobs off and on after that, but the last one of those ended and the school decided not to renew me. Budget problems again. I didn’t really have any other place to go–but I’ve only been here for a few days. I’m hopeful.”

I actually am. That’s a surprise, thought Asa.

Martinez replied, “Damn, that’s rough, man. And I don’t know what all I can do to help you on it. I am looking for adjuncts for the fall, and if you want a spot, you’ve got it; I’l give you as many classes as I can. But I’m also looking at budget pressures, and I can’t offer you a continuing spot at this point. I also don’t have any summer classes open.”

Asa shrugged. “Anything you can do, I’ll appreciate.”

“Of course, man. I’ll need you to leave a CV; you can email it, but I have to have it on file. I also need you to fill out the application; it’s online. And I have to keep the post open for a couple of weeks–but I’m the only one who reviews applications usually, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Asa nodded. “Sounds good.”

“And we do need to catch up.”

Asa nodded again. “That we do. But I haven’t been back in a while; where’s good?”

Martinez laughed. “Hell, I don’t know. I live in San Antonio, or just outside it; I’m outside of 1604, off of 471. I drive in most days.”

“I can get to SA.”

“Cool. Here, let me give you a card; I’ll put my personal email and phone on the back. Let me know how things work out with other stuff, okay, and if you need a letter for something, just ask; I can have it up on Interfolio or something like that within a day.”

“Thanks, Art.” Asa took the offered card. “I really do appreciate it.”

“Asa,” Martinez leaned forward, elbows on his desk. “You’re my friend. You have been for years. You’ve been about the best friend I’ve ever had. Of course I’ll do what I can for you. Why the hell wouldn’t I?”

Asa started to reply, stopped, and then said “No good reason. And I probably ought to get out of your way. I’m sure some of those complaints will need some attention, right?”

Martinez barked out a laugh. “Only because I’ve got a small trash can!”

Did I bring you as much pleasure as a beer does? Could you kick in as much for me as you pay for that so I can keep doing what you like? Click here, then, and thanks!

Class Reports: ENGL 1302, Sections 02 and 03–25 January 2017

After addressing concerns from and questions about the previous class meeting, discussion returned to assigned readings and began to treat issues of literary canon–the “great works” question. It is expected to be a recurring theme in the course.

Students are reminded of the following due dates:

  • PoEss RV (online before class begins on 17 February 2017)
  • PoEss FV (online before class begins on 24 February 2017)
  • DrEss RV (online before class begins on 3 March 2017)

Information about assignments is still in development.

Section 02 met as scheduled, at 1000 in Weir 111. The class roster listed 20 students enrolled, unchanged since the last class meeting. Nineteen attended, verified by a brief written exercise. Student participation was improved. No students from the class attended office hours since the previous class meeting.

Section 03 met as scheduled, at 1100 in Weir 111. The class roster listed 20 students enrolled, unchanged since the last class meeting. All attended, verified by a brief written exercise. Student participation was good. No students from the class attended office hours since the previous class meeting.

Pronghorn, Chapter 16: Moving Up to School

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

Asa drove from the Pronghorn Independent School District campus back east, crossing over the southern branch of Pronghorn Creek and skirting the park on the south side of Pronghorn Pond, following the aptly named Park Street (State Highway 411 when outside of town) across South Main (State Highway 701–true of North Main, too) and across the low bridge that crossed Pronghorn Creek just after Shallow Branch joined it, just upstream from a small lake that had formed from a rock-fall early in the Zapata settlement of the area.

I remember swimming in Caída de Roca, Asa thought as he drove by–and there were still children swimming in it, risking the bites of turtles and probably snakes of one sort or another as they did. But just over the bridge was Asa’s destination: Pronghorn Community College. A roundabout–the only one in the town, really–caught the end of the bridge, as well as East Water and College Streets. It also received what an impressive front gate the the motto Discimus, “We Learn,” inscribed on it, and Asa drove through that gate, following signs to visitor parking.

Parking the car and putting up the sun shade, Asa grabbed his folder of resumes and CVs, and he looked around, trying to find a person to direct him to the central offices. A few students passed him by, earbuds in place, walking quickly; Asa followed more slowly. They’re clearly heading to classes, and I probably don’t want to look like I’m accosting them. Soon enough, though, he found himself amid squat, two- and three-story buildings, and more students–and some clear faculty–were striding about with purpose, not lingering in the febrile warmth of a Hill Country late spring day.

As Asa looked about himself, someone approached him from behind. From a stentorian woman’s voice, he heard “Can I help you?”

Asa turned about, somewhat startled, nearly dropping his folder. He saw a formidable woman in the cadet blue uniform of the local police, a badge on her left breast proclaiming her an officer, a nameplate on her right identifying her as Gonzales, and three chevrons on her sleeves showing her as a sergeant. “Y-yes, ma’am,” Asa stammered out. “I was looking for the central offices.”

Sgt. Gonzales came closer, and Asa found himself looking up at her. She was a powerfully built woman, solid and seeming to bend the world around her. Her face was set in something of a scowl as she asked him “Why?”

Asa, still not having recovered, continued stammering. “I-I was told that the college might be hiring, and I wanted to put in for a job.”

The sergeant nodded brusquely. “I’m headed that way. Come along.” She gave a jerk of her head towards a two-story building set off to one side, and Asa took the direction thus given. Gonzales fell in behind him, a few steps behind and to his left. He felt his back clench as he walked with her behind him, his face flushing in the warm day and with the added warmth of embarrassment. I feel like I’m being marched to the principal’s office–and that happened often enough, he thought as he and Gonzales crossed the open middle of campus and entered into the refreshingly air-conditioned office building. Asa noted the name of the building–New Meriwether Smitherson Hall–as he entered.

“HR’s up the stairs and down the hall on the left.” Gonzales pointed. “Have a good day.”

She strode off, and Asa found his eyes following her. I do not want her mad at me, he thought before shaking his head and following the finger that had been pointed previously. The stairway was quiet and empty, not the sweeping cascade meant to impress, but one tucked off to the side and meant to get people from one floor to another quickly and unobtrusively. The hallway was another such construction; painted and carpeted in plain, neutral tones, a couple of paintings hanging to add some sense of elevation. A plaque beside one caught Asa’s attention. They use student art for decoration. “Hm.”

Asa reached a glass door with “Human Resources” etched into it, and he went through it. He was quickly greeted by another voice–quieter and happier than Gonzales’s–asking “Can I help you?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Asa replied to the woman; the nameplate on the desk at which she sat read “Arlene Davis.” “I heard in town that the college might be hiring, and I’d like to put in for the job, if I may.”

“Sure! What position were you looking for?”

“Well, I’ve got degrees in English and have taught it; I figured a teaching job in comp or lit would be the best fit. But I’ll apply for most anything you have open, if I can.”

“You’re in luck, then. Dr. Martinez, the English department chair, just sent over a job announcement. Let me see if he’s in.” Davis picked up her phone and dialed a number. It as evidently answered; Asa heard her say “Dr. Martinez, this is Arlene in HR. There’s a gentleman–” She paused, and Asa said “Asa Pemewan.” “–Asa Pemewan, here asking about a teaching job.” A pause. “I’ll send him over.”

Davis hung up the phone. “Dr. Martinez says he’d like to see you. His office is LeBeaux Hall 321. So that’ll be on the third floor of the building just the other side of the library–and that’s the one out beside this one.” Davis paused. “Actually, would you like me to talk you over?”

“I think I can get there, Ms. Davis. But I do have one question.”

“What’s that?”

“Is Dr. Martinez Dr. Arturo Martinez?”

“Why, yes, yes it is. How did you know?”

“Lucky guess.” And maybe a lucky break for me. “I think I might’ve gone to grad school with him.”

“Oh. Then I’m sure he’ll be glad to see you again.”

Did I bring you as much pleasure as a pizza does? A slice or two? Could you kick in as much for me as you pay for that so I can keep doing what you like? Click here, then, and thanks!

Pronghorn, Chapter 15: Looking at a School

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

Asa drove west from the city offices, following the curve of Water Street along the drop-off on the north side of Pronghorn Pond–it is technically a lake, since plants cannot grow all the way across it, but the name was given early on, and it stuck–and crossing the low bridge that stretched across Pronghorn Creek’s northern branch. Turning right, he pulled into the single campus that contained the whole of the Pronghorn Independent School District. I never did think I’d be back here, he thought, as he passed a long-familiar sign and statue, a rampant pronghorn some ten feet tall standing over a motto coined by Guy LeBeaux early in the town’s history: Requiro ut melius, ostensibly “I seek to know that I may do better.”

Passing it, Asa drove to where he knew visitor parking for the district was located, and he was soon enough standing in the front offices, where an elderly woman looked up at him and asked “Can I help you?”

Asa stepped forward and answered “Yes, ma’am. My name’s Asa Pemewan, and I’m just moving back into town. I was wondering if I could apply for a job.”

“All that’s online anymore, young man.”

“I thought it might be, ma’am, but I was also out and about, and I figured I’d drop in and ask.”

“That’s nice, young man. Is there something else I can help you with?”

Asa paused for a moment, then smiled. “Actually, ma’am, there is. I went to school here some years ago, and the thought occurs to me that one of my old teachers might still be with the district. You wouldn’t happen to know if Abe Johnson is still working high school English, would you?”

The older woman thought for a moment. “He is, but since it’s summer, he’s not here. I believe he’s off in Louisiana, visiting his grandchild.”

“Grandchild? He can’t be old enough to be a grandfather!”

The older woman nodded. “Brand new baby over there. Cute little thing, too.” She smiled a bit. “And Mr. Johnson heads the department, anymore. When did you say you went to school here?”

“It was about twenty years ago–Johnson’s first, if I remember right. And he helped me quite a bit with putting my college applications together–and with a few other things, too.” Asa noticed a plaque on one wall and gestured towards it. “I think my name might still be on one or two of those around here.”

The older lady turned and squinted at the plaque. Then she turned back to Asa. “I thought your name sounded familiar. I used to live next to you off of 411, east of town.”

“Wait…Mrs. Baker?”

The older woman gestured at the nameplate on her desk, which read “Martha Baker,” and nodded, smiling. “My, it has been a while, hasn’t it, Asa? I remember babysitting you more than once when your parents had to work late.”

Asa felt himself flush a bit. “I like to think I behave a little better now. Or I’m better at not getting caught, anyway.”

Baker laughed. “I hope so! And how are your parents?”

“They’re well. I’m staying with them for a bit while I get my feet back under me. Time away wasn’t as helpful as I could hope, but home is home is home, right?”

Baker nodded. “It is. And how’s your sister?”

“Last I heard, she’s doing okay. I haven’t seen her yet; the folks say she’s still in San Antonio. I might have to shake free and go see her.”

“You do that. She was always such a nice girl. Clearly didn’t take after her brother.” Baker was smiling impishly at Asa.

“Clearly.” Asa’s reply was ostentatiously flat. “Not at all responsible, that one.” He laughed a bit, unable to restrain it. “No, of course she was. And it’ll be good to see her, too.”

Baker nodded again. “Most likely. Tell you what, Asa; I’ll go ahead and take your information and pass it to Mr. Johnson. I think he might be able to find you a spot, if there’s one to be found. Funding’s not been the best around here of late, though; property values are still alright, but tax-rate freezes’ve been something of an issue.”

“What freezes?”

“Well, the city and county’ve both decided that they’ll cap local property taxes and the like. Folks hit retirement age, their tax rates stop wherever they were at that point. Makes a lot of folks I went to school with happy, of course, but costs go up even if revenues don’t.”

“Ah.” I hadn’t known that about the town. But it’s not a surprise.

Asa handed his CV across the desk to Baker. “I really do appreciate it, Mrs. Baker. And I need to ask, how’re things with you?”

Baker shrugged. “I’m living alone, now, since Jim passed on. Tommy comes to see me every now and again, and he calls regularly, so that’s good; his kids do, too, which is also good. I volunteer at the food bank, and I still have this job, so I stay busy enough to suit me.”

Asa nodded. “I’m glad to hear it, really. Although I didn’t know about Mr. Baker.”

“It was about five years back. Cancer took him. All those years of smoking, you know.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Not to worry, Asa. It is as it is. And I miss him, but I figure I’ll join him again when it’s time–and I have grandkids, so I’m not eager for it to be time quite yet!”

Asa chuckled, and Baker continued. “Now, I’ll pass this on to Mr. Johnson. You probably have other things you need to do today; I know I do.”

Asa stuck out his hand. “Thanks a lot, Mrs. Baker.”

She came around the desk and hugged him. “Don’t be a stranger, Asa.”

Did I bring you as much pleasure as the 64-pack of crayons did? The 24-pack? Could you kick in as much for me as you pay for that so I can keep doing what you like? Click here, then, and thanks!

Class Reports: ENGL 1302, Sections 02 and 03–23 January 2017

After addressing concerns of the diagnostic exercise from the previous class meeting and any questions from before, discussion turned to assigned readings, beginning to look at how literary scholars write about literature.

Students are reminded of the following due dates:

  • PoEss RV (online before class begins on 17 February 2017)
  • PoEss FV (online before class begins on 24 February 2017)
  • DrEss RV (online before class begins on 3 March 2017)

Information about assignments is still in development.

Section 02 met as scheduled, at 1000 in Weir 111. The class roster listed 20 students enrolled, unchanged since the last class meeting. Eighteen attended, verified by a brief written exercise. Student participation was adequate. No students from the class attended office hours since the previous class meeting.

Section 03 met as scheduled, at 1100 in Weir 111. The class roster listed 20 students enrolled, unchanged since the last class meeting. Nineteen attended, verified by a brief written exercise. Student participation was good. No students from the class attended office hours since the previous class meeting.