The State of the Pronghorn Project

At this point, I’ve been working on what I’m calling the Pronghorn Project for about two months, with posts going up at 6 in the morning (my time; I’m in US Central) each weekday. Readership has been fairly decent, although I would, of course, like to have more. As a way to get some of that “more,” as well as to disentangle the Pronghorn postings from some others that I push out each morning from another website, I think I’ll be shifting to having Pronghorn Project Posts pop up at noon, moving them to lunch from breakfast. Some of the social media work I have been doing suggests that that is a better time to have things go up, anyway.

So, starting tomorrow (1 March 2017), Pronghorn Project posts will go up at noon. They will still go up in the accustomed location, so nothing will move other than the time, so far as Asa Pemewan and the folks he interacts with are concerned. I hope you’ll still read along–and tell your friends. I think they’d like it, too!

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

After treating concerns from the last class meeting and before, discussion asked after progress on the next of the essays, the DrEss. It then turned at last to the Second Shepherds’ Play, so it is somewhat behind its intent, but it proceeds even so.

Students are reminded of the following due dates:

  • DrEss RV (online before class begins on 3 March 2017)
  • DrEss FV (online before class begins on 10 March 2017)
  • PrEss RV (online before class begins on 31 March 2017)

Information about other assignments remains in development.

Section 02 met as scheduled, at 1000, in Weir 111. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since the last class meeting. Seventeen attended, verified informally. Student participation was adequate. One student 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. Sixteen attended, verified informally. Student participation was good. One student from the class attended office hours since the previous class meeting.

Pronghorn, Chapter 39: Local History (IV)

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

It has been remarked that the LeBeaux family undergirds education in Pronghorn; Guy LeBeaux was the first schoolteacher in the town, giving the school district its motto–and in his own conduct upholding that. He remained engaged in study and scholarship throughout his life, as his papers–held at Pronghorn Community College’s Pronghorn History Museum–attest. And he passed a love of learning on to his family–easily done early on, when families still tended to follow one another in trades and professions, and when the town and area supported the family well in its intellectual endeavors.

One of Guy’s great-grandsons, Richard LeBeaux, was one of the more vocal proponents of education as the town grew and throve. After marrying a daughter of the Zapata family–his Cajun descent and the Catholicism traditionally associated therewith made such a marriage more attractive to both families than another union with the Lutheran Hochstedlers and the Methodist Smithersons–he made several wise investments not long after the turn of the twentieth century and so found himself in the position of having a fair bit of wealth to apply to local and personal concerns. Much of that wealth went to enhancing the school, helping build it from a one-room schoolhouse to a larger building and into a full-on campus. (His brother, Chase, helped to establish the track and field teams that would become a Pronghorn hallmark. Richard was resistant to the idea, claiming it would be a distraction from the vital work of learning, but Chase had his own funds to apply to the task, and the town approved of the establishment, so Richard was obliged to relent.)

Richard’s one child, son Jacques, sought to follow in his father’s footsteps. The Great Depression hindered that pursuit to some extent; he could not, for example, afford to go east to study, not even so far east as Tulane, where his father and grandfather had both studied. But he did learn what he could where he could, and he applied it to good effect in World War II. When he returned, though, he realized that the emerging world would require more skilled and accomplished workers than had hitherto been the case, and he petitioned for permission from the city and county to set up a trade school, offering up no small part of the family fortune to do so. Permission was granted, unsurprisingly, and construction started in short order–providing jobs that were welcome even amid the post-war boom. The first building on campus, Meriwether Smitherson Hall, was completed within half a year, and classes began that fall. Jacques was killed in a car accident before more buildings opened; when he died, three more were under construction, names already spoken for, but the next one to be raised was named after him and the family that had made schooling in Pronghorn happen.

For all their interest and involvement in education, however, both Richard and Jacques largely abstained from working in the field. Both believed that their financial influence on the institutions would have adverse effects on their ability to be part of the faculty–and both were likely correct. The same was not true of their cousins, however; Chase’s daughter, Heloise, was long an English teacher at the grade school, and his son, Henri, taught welding at the trade school. A more removed cousin, Charles Hochstedler–descended from one of Richard’s sisters–was an early administrator over the trade school and took over leadership of the project after Jacques died. With some financial and political support from the other Hochstedlers, Charles pushed through the transformation of the school in the 1960s from a trade school only to a junior college, using it as a means to help prepare the local students for attendance at four-year schools in San Antonio and points further removed from the small town. The efforts worked, although they had the unexpected consequence of helping to funnel the best and brightest people out of town; they had access to the kind of education that allowed them to move and establish themselves elsewhere. Even so, when he died in 1982, Charles’s funeral was attended by nearly a thousand mourners.

Other members of the LeBeaux family still remain involved in Pronghorn education. A fair number of the teachers at the primary and secondary schools are descendants of Guy, although the family has had a couple of generations run long on girls, and most of the family adheres to traditional mores–the women who marry, which has been most of them, take their husbands’ names. Henri has since retired, and his younger son “Deux” Lee works in retail, but his elder son, Abélard, is noted as a fearsome chemistry instructor at the college. (He is one of two, and while students want to take classes from his colleague, those who have completed their studies tend to look back with thanks at Abélard; he prepares students better for what they will have to do.) Another cousin, Everard LeBeaux, serves as the head librarian for the city. (He is working to align the schools’ libraries with the town, expanding privileges and research ability across the community; his efforts are meeting with limited success.) Many members of the school board are also descended from Guy, although, again, many of them do not carry the LeBeaux name (Smithersons abound, oddly enough), and the president of the school board has almost always been someone other than a LeBeaux.

The trend looks like it will continue. Many of Guy’s descendants are of college age, and a great many of those who are find themselves in one kind of educational program or another. And many of them make a point of coming home to Pronghorn, at least for a time. The schools therefore enjoy an influx of new teaching techniques and ideologies, helping make the town a glistening gem among the limestone hills.

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Class Reports: ENGL 1302, Sections 02 and 03–24 February 2017

After treating concerns from the last class meeting and before, including quiz answers, discussion asked after the PoEss FV, which was to have been submitted before class began. (More essays are coming.) It then addressed more concerns of drama.

Next week will begin to treat the Second Shepherds’ PlayEveryman will follow when Shepherds’ is done.

Students are reminded of the following due dates:

  • DrEss RV (online before class begins on 3 March 2017)
  • DrEss FV (online before class begins on 10 March 2017)
  • PrEss RV (online before class begins on 31 March 2017)

Information about other assignments remains in development.

Section 02 met as scheduled, at 1000, although circumstances obliged temporary relocation to Weir 120; a notice was left on the board in the regular classroom. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since the last class meeting. Fourteen attended, verified informally. Student participation was good. Three students from the class attended office hours since the previous class meeting.

Section 03 met as scheduled, at 1100, although circumstances obliged temporary relocation to Weir 120; a notice was left on the board in the regular classroom. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since the last class meeting. Thirteen attended, verified informally. Student participation was good. Six students from the class attended office hours since the previous class meeting.

Pronghorn, Chapter 38: Coming Home Again

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

Asa Pemewan walked into his parents’ home, his home for the time being, calling out “Mom, I’m back. And I have some good news. And I need to apologize for being an asshole this morning, because I was, and you didn’t deserve to have me be one.”

Underneath the murmur of the air conditioner working against the Hill Country warmth, there was only silence in the house. But Mom’s car’s here, Asa thought, and I didn’t think she’d be hiking out anywhere today. Maybe she’s just in the bathroom. But when he went to it, he found the door open and the room empty.

“Mom?” Asa called out again. Maybe she’s taking a nap? He began to move through the house, walking quickly, calling out for her again and again. But she was not in her bedroom, nor was she on the living room couch, and not many other places in the house admitted of good napping.

The flesh on the back of his neck tightened, as did that just below the hollow of his throat. What if she’s hurt? Or worse? She doesn’t talk about it much, but  know she’s got some health problems; did one of them rise up at her? He began to grow frantic as he went from room to room, his calls for her growing louder and more strident as he went. If something’s happened, I don’t, I don’t know what I’d, I’d–

He noticed that the back door was standing slightly ajar. He went to it, opened it, and saw that his mother was kneeling near the fence at the back of the backyard. “Mom?”

She did not turn, but waved him away brusquely. Asa relaxed. At least she’s okay. He stood just outside the back door, watching her as well as he could. No garden tools and no wagon, so she’s not planting. But she was wearing a glove, so what the hell is she doing?

As he watched, Asa saw that his mother was wrestling with something–and, with the way the fence moved, it was something in or with the pipe-supported chain-link that separated the Pemewans’ lot from its neighbors. And the sound that reached him, a yowling and hissing, told him that it was probably a cat that had trapped itself in the fence that occupied his mother’s attention. And so I don’t want to bother her. But I think I can be helpful.

Asa ducked back inside and went to the medicine cabinet, grabbing an antibiotic ointment and bandages of several varieties. The cat’ll do what it’ll do; the only question’ll be how much of it it does to Mom. And he waited at the kitchen table with the supplies for a few more minutes, until his mother came back in, sweating. And, as he expected, there were several thin red lines on her hands and arms. “I’ve got the bandages, Mom.”

She went to the sink to wash her hands. “I’ll skip ’em, thanks. But if you’ve got the ointment, I’ll take it.”

“I do. It’s on the table. I’ll put the bandages away.” She nodded as he did so, washing her hands while he returned to the medicine cabinet. When Asa got back to the table, his mother was applying the ointment to herself. She looked up at him. “Well, how’d it go?”

Asa took a seat. “First, Mom, I’ve got to apologize. I was an asshole this morning, and you didn’t deserve it from me.”

“You’re right. You were, and I didn’t. But I forgive you.” She resumed the application. “Now answer my question, Asa. How’d it go?”

“I suppose it went alright” he replied flatly, meeting her gaze levelly. She stopped and cocked an eyebrow at him; he smiled broadly after a moment and added “if getting hired counts as alright.”

“That’s great, Asa! I’m glad for you!”

“Thanks, Mom. I start Monday afternoon–or I do if we don’t have another storm blow through, or the manager doesn’t die, or something like that.”

“You know, you don’t have to be so morbid all the time, Asa.”

“What? It’s a concern, especially since it happened to the last one.”

“But you can’t expect that it’s going to happen again.”

“Just the same, I can’t expect it won’t, either, since it has.”

Asa’s mother sighed heavily and shrugged. “I get so tired of you doing this, Asa.”

“Doing what?”

“Finding the cloud in every silver lining. I swear, sometimes you go out of your way to have it bad, even when you’re doing well. I mean, you just got a job off of walking in off of the street. You’ve going to have money coming in. And you’re talking about the job getting pulled because a storm blows down the building and kills the manager.”

“You’re kind of stretching a point, Mom. I didn’t exactly say that.”

“Close enough! And the idea’s the same, anyway. Every time you have something good come up, you look for how it’ll go wrong.”

“Well, Mom, it’s gone wrong often enough I have to look for how I’ll get screwed over.”

“That’s just it. You don’t. You really could just let things be good every now and again. You could let yourself be happy with how things are. But you don’t. And when your dad and I are happy for you, and you do that, you make us feel like damned fools for doing what parents are supposed to do. We’re supposed to be happy for you when you do well and when you get good things, and when you pull your ‘look on the bright side of death’ thing–”

“I didn’t know you knew that movie.”

“Asa, everybody knows that movie. And don’t distract me. When you pull the crap you pull, you undercut us, take away one of the things we need. And it hurts us, Asa. Your dad’ll never admit it, of course, but it hurts the both of us.”

Asa lapsed into silence.

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Initial Comments for the March 2017 Session at DeVry University

The University notes that I will be teaching a section of ENGL 227: Professional Writing during the March 2017 session at DeVry University in San Antonio. The class meets Saturdays from 0900-1250 in Classroom 110 of that campus; classroom time supplements online instruction that takes place asynchronously through the week. Office hours will follow the class meeting  for those students who feel the need for extra attention and consultation.

A number of standard assignments are already in place. One of them is a set of discussion posts that must be completed each week. Due dates for them are as follows, adjusted to the local time zone:

  • Week 1, online before 0059 on 5 March 2017
  • Week 2, online before 0059 on 12 March 2017
  • Week 3, online before 0059 on 19 March 2017
  • Week 4, online before 0059 on 26 March 2017
  • Week 5, online before 0059 on 2 April 2017
  • Week 6, online before 0059 on 9 April 2017
  • Week 7, online before 0059 on 16 April 2017

Other standard assignments, with their due dates, are as follows:

  • Resume, online before 0059 on 5 March 2017
  • Quiz, online before 0059 on 12 March
  • Routine Message, online before 0059 on 19 March 2017
  • Informal Analytical Report, online before 0059 on 26 March 2017
  • Negative/Bad News Message, online before 0059 on 2 April 2017
  • Course Project (Draft), online before 0059 on 9 April 2017
  • Formal Proposal (Final Version), online before 0059 on 23 April 2017

As usual, reports of class activities will be posted after classes meet, and supporting materials will be made available as needed.

I look forward to the work of the session!

Pronghorn, Chapter 37: An Offer

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

Asa Pemewan shook his head to clear it. Jennifer dropped her hand and seemed to take the head-shake as a no, asking “What’s wrong? Is there anything I can do to help?”

Asa shook his head more definitively. “No,” he said, “nothing’s wrong. I was just taken a bit aback by how suddenly you made the offer. That’s all. And, to answer you, I can indeed come in on Monday. Is there anything in particular I’ll need to bring with me? Is there anything in particular I’ll need to wear?”

Jennifer resumed her seat. “Well, we ask that our drivers wear either khaki or black slacks. We’ll give you a couple of uniform shirts to wear. If you want more, you can buy them. They’re polo shirts, so you’ll probably want an undershirt for under them. I’ll get yours ordered for the next truck. What size do you take?”

“Usually a large.”

“Okay, then.” She made a note on Asa’s paperwork. “You’ll be on your feet a lot, so comfortable shoes will be good. They have to be closed-toe, though. Non-slip’s a good idea, too. Steel-toe is optional, but if you drop the mixing bowl or a box of cheese, you’ll find you want it.”

“Duly noted.” I suppose I have to go buy shoes, now. Probably slacks, too, Asa thought. “Is the cheese really so heavy?”

“Twenty-pound boxes, so more than most bowling balls.”

“I never knew.”

“Most people don’t. There’s really a lot more to getting this stuff put together than people think. You’ll learn it, though.” Jennifer pushed back her chair a bit. “Any other questions for me?”

“None at this time. I’m sure I’ll have more come up, though.”

Jennifer stood. “I’ll be ready to answer them.” She stood and extended her hand again. “Welcome to the crew!”

This time, Asa stood and shook the offered hand. “Thanks, Jennifer. I appreciate the opportunity.” And I do, although I’m hardly glad this is the only thing that’s come through.

Jennifer walked him out of the store and waved as Asa went to his teal hatchback and got in. He sat in the car for a bit after she went back inside. So I’m going to be a delivery driver. That should be interesting enough. And what happens if another job comes open while I’m doing this?

He sighed heavily and said aloud to himself “If it does, then I’ll worry about it then. But I’m not exactly swimming in job offers, and even if another comes in, I’ll see what’s going to treat me better. Nobody else is going to take my part, not really; Mom and Dad might, but they’re not hiring, and who knows what all my sister’s up to–but I’d be surprised if it was anything I could sign onto. So, yeah, I’ll be running deliveries for a while, at least. And who knows? It might be a good enough job to do.”

Asa started his car and turned back onto 411, heading west towards Pronghorn. The work of cleaning up the town continued, of course, as it needed to do; yards needed clearing of detritus and debris, vehicles needed restoration and replacement, and homes needed repair and rebuilding–and the people of Pronghorn were about each such task, plying diligently the skills that they had, even if those skills ran only to lifting and carrying. Asa drove past them all, heading through town as could not be avoided. But I suppose I’ll be relearning these roads. I learned to drive on them, true, but it’s been a while, and there are stop signs and traffic lights I do not remember being here when I was young. And I guess I’ll learn to get around quicker, too.

Asa found himself driving by the church where Anna Kerr preached, passing by it more slowly than the road allowed or that the drivers behind him enjoyed. He thought he caught a glimpse of her just as he passed it, a flash of red and green plaid, but the passing wind of a jacked-up pickup ripping by him and the blare of its horn pulled his eyes back to the road, and the receding image of the pickup driver’s upraised finger reminded him where he ought to focus. And he did focus thereupon for a while, but his mind began to wander yet again.

I probably ought to apologize to Mom, he thought. I really was an ass to her this morning, lashing out the way I did. She really was trying to help, and she did help, and I, well, I yelled at her like I was a stupid teenager again. I’m supposed to know better, to be better, to do better, and I wasn’t, and I didn’t. Why she and Dad still put up with me, I don’t know. So I suppose I’ll be working to move out as soon as I can; having the job will help, I think.

And I guess that’ll mean I’ll need to start looking at rental listings. There’s no way in hell I can afford to buy, not for a good long while, yet. But I’d guess that rental’s about to become dear, what with the Tuesday Storm ruining the homes it did; folks’ll be looking for places to live, and there aren’t as many as there were before. So maybe I’ll have to stay with Mom and Dad for a little longer, but I’ll be able to put some money back if I do, so that’ll be decent, at least.

He sighed again and shook his head as he turned onto his home street. I need to find a way to make it good. And I need to find it pretty fairly soon.

Did you get as much from reading as you do from an order of wings? 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 03–22 February 2017

After treating concerns from the last class meeting and before, discussion turned to laying out concerns of drama and beginning to apply them to the week’s assigned reading, the Second Shepherds’ Play. Discussion ended in a quiz.

Students are reminded of the following due dates:

  • PoEss FV (online before class begins on 24 February 2017)
  • DrEss RV (online before class begins on 3 March 2017)
  • DrEss FV (online before class begins on 10 March 2017)

Information about other assignments remains in development.

Section 02 met as scheduled, at 1000 in Weir 111. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, a decline of one since the last class meeting. Sixteen attended, verified by the quiz. Student participation was adequate. Five 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. Seventeen attended, verified by the quiz. Student participation was reasonably good. Two students from the class attended office hours since the previous class meeting.

Pronghorn, Chapter 36: A Walk-in

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

Asa Pemewan drove east on Texas State Highway 411 from its junction with Texas State Highway 701, soon passing by the Caída de Roca and the end of what got called East Park Street to where big-box stores and fast-food franchises clustered as near to San Antonio as they could be and still be in Pronghorn. Most of the national chains’ local branches had cleared the local tree branches out of their parking lots, and many were open and operating again–although to look at them, business still seemed to be down, as people in the county were more interested in setting things to rights than going out and having hamburgers or shopping for cheaply made imported goods. So there was plenty of parking at the pizza delivery place–there was only one in Pronghorn; one restaurant downtown made pizza, but it did not deliver, and the Tuesday Storm might well have closed it forever–when Asa reached it, and he pulled smoothly into a spot. And, on the door, was a sign that read “Hiring drivers.”

Asa went in and was greeted with a “Welcome to the Pizza Place! What can we get you today?” from a youngish woman he thought he recognized. And he replied, “I’m here to see about getting a job. I saw the sign up; are you still hiring?”

“We are, indeed!” The young woman came around the counter. “Hi, I’m Jennifer. I’m the manager here.” She extended her hand; Asa took it and replied “Asa Pemewan. It’s a pleasure.”

Jennifer gestured towards the back of the restaurant. “If you’d like to fill out an application, you can come on back with me; we’ve got a couple of tables back here, and my office. Have you got a resume with you?”

Asa nodded as he followed Jennifer back and she called out “Dave, keep an eye on the counter for a minute, would ya?” Something sounding like an assenting grunt came back, and Jennifer preceded Asa into a largish breakroom, one wall of which was hidden by stacks of pizza boxes, both folded and yet to be folded. Another wall had tables and chairs leaning against it; Jennifer pointed at one and said “Have a seat. I’ll be right back with an application form.” She exited through a door opposite that through which she and Asa had entered, and Asa thought It’s a better reception than I expected. But I haven’t filled out any paperwork yet, so we’ll see how long that lasts.

Jennifer returned a few moments later, a thin sheaf of papers in hand. “So I’ll need you to fill out some basic information, a work history, and a background check authorization. I’ll also need a copy of your driver’s license, Social Security card, and insurance card.” She smiled. “If you’re going to be a driver, you’ll be going lots of places. We’ve got to make sure you can go anywhere, and we’ve got to check to make sure you’re a safe driver.”

Asa nodded. “Makes sense,” he replied as he pulled a pen out of his pocket. “Oh, yeah, I know you’ll want the resume to fill out the work history bit, but I’ll need you to leave me a copy, too.” Asa nodded again and bent to the paperwork. For the address, he wrote his parents’. Hardly a point of pride, but it’s what’s true at the moment. Phone number, date of birth, email address were all his own, and on his work history, teaching job after teaching job. Adjunct work, visiting professorships, assistantships, fellowships, but all teaching, all the time, going back more than the four jobs for which the application form left room, more than the seven years common for job applications on the resume he had in hand. And all of it for nothing. All of that work, and the work that went into doing that work, all for nothing; I could’ve gotten a job delivering pizza straight out of high school.

He smirked a bit and snorted a laugh. Maybe it would’ve been a step up from working at the donut shop that first year of undergrad.

Jennifer returned from where she had been running copies of documents and checking on Asa’s background. “So that’s good. You’re clean. No tickets, no accidents, no criminal charges we need to worry about. One old charge of public intoxication, but that’s, what, ten years back? I think it’s okay. Clean driving record, good insurance record. So, yeah, that all looks good.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Asa replied. “And I think I’ve got everything filled out that you need.” He pushed his application forms and resume across the table to Jennifer. If you need anything else, I can, at least, try to get it to you.”

“Let me see.” Jennifer scanned over the forms and the resume. “You have reliable transportation, right?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She looked at him with an eyebrow arched. “Kind of weird to have you call me ‘ma’am,’ you know.”

Asa shrugged. “You’re the manager.”

“Well, yeah, but you’re still, what,” and she looked at the application form again, “a little older than me.”

“Probably more than a little.”

“Yeah. So. Weird.”

“‘Jennifer,’ then?”

“Only if you don’t want me to ‘Dr. Pemewan’ you all day.”

Asa cocked his head. “You know, I’ve not thought about that and dealing with it.”

“It’d be weird for a driver to go around getting ‘Doctor, Doctor’ all the time, right?”

Asa did a double-take. “Excuse me? I’m not sure I caught that right.”

“Oh, yeah. Pay starts at eight, plus a dollar per delivery. Claim your mileage, claim your tips. Can you start Monday, come in around 2 in the afternoon?”

“Full-time or part-time?”

“Part-time for now. After six months, if you’re doing well, and if you want it, and the store can use it–and it probably will–then, yeah, full-time. Paid vacation after a year either way. Medical and 401(k) if you’re full-time, partial matching contributions starting at two years, fully matching up to seven percent after five years. But all that’ll be in your packet on Monday, if you want the job.”

She stood and looked at Asa, her hand extended to shake his. After a moment or two of him not moving, she asked “Are you okay?”

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Pronghorn, Chapter 35: Some Advice

Continued from the last chapter, here.

A voice came from behind Asa Pemewan as he hunched over his laptop, reviewing job applications he had sent in and marking off updates to them. It was his mother’s, and it asked “What all are you up to, Asa?”

Asa turned in his seat to answer. “I’m looking over job stuff, Mom.”

“Any luck?”

“Only because bad luck counts as luck.”

“Oh, come on,” said Asa’s mother as she sat down across from him. “It can’t be that bad.”

“It can, indeed. Dozens of applications out, not one positive result. If I batted like I apply for jobs, I’d be cut from tee ball teams.”

Asa’s mother looked at him quizzically. “That’s a strange thing to hear from you.”

“What, that I haven’t been able to get a job?”

“Yes. That and a baseball simile. You’ve never really been into sports.”

“I know. But you have, so I figured I’d use it.”

“It doesn’t suit you. And something will come up for you.”

“Evidence would seem to deny that assertion. Hell, the only firm job offer I’ve gotten since I started applying came from the one person killed in the Tuesday Storm. It’s enough to make me think the universe is against me.”

“You know it’s not.” The tone was somewhat exasperated.

“You’re right. I’m not nearly important enough to attract that kind of attention.”

“You can stop that self-pity crap any time, Asa.”

“Am I supposed to be so arrogant as to think the universe cares, then?”

“No, but you’re also not supposed to wallow in feeling like you can’t do anything.”

“I fail to see why not, since all appearances are that I can’t do a damned thing. Hell, I can’t get hired to answer phones or to work a candle-shop counter.”

“Well, you just have to start at the bottom and pay your dues.”

“Retail counter-work isn’t exactly high-level employment, Mom. And you’d think that more than a decade working would count as ‘paying my dues.’ Especially since I actually paid dues for a lot of it.”

“Well, have you tried calling places?”

“Yes. The answer’s been ‘no’ every time there’s been an answer.”

“Did you call back again?”

“Why would I?”

“Persistence matters.”

Asa snorted. “Mom, nagging at you never did me any good, and you love me. Why would it work on people who don’t?”

“Maybe they’d give it to you to get you off of their phone.”

“Yeah, and starting off with a pissed-off boss is such a good idea.” Asa’s sarcasm dripped from his tongue.

“Asa, I’m just trying to help you.”

“I get that, Mom, but think about it. When was the last time you applied for a job? How many times in your life have you looked for work? How many applications have you put in? It’s been years since you’ve been on the market, Mom, and even when you were, you only had to put in, what, three before you got a call back and a job offer. I’ve put in dozens since the beginning of the year alone; I put in well over a hundred last year, and at least that many the year before. Not one has worked out. Not. One.

“Well, then, have you looked at unemployment?”

“Yes. But since I was on a term contract, I’m not eligible for it where I was, and since I didn’t work here, I’m not eligible for it here, either. So that’s right out.”

“What about a job agency?”

“The only one in town’s at city hall. A tree fell through it, or close enough. Now’s not a good time for it.”

“I think I saw that the pizza place east on 411’s hiring.”

Asa opened his mouth to reply, paused, and said “I hadn’t seen that. When did you see it last?”

“Maybe last week or the week before?”

“Okay, then. That, I’ll go look at.”

“Good. And maybe you’ll think that your mother still has some idea what’s going on in the world, even if it has been a while since she’s had to look for work.”

Asa paused again. Then he offered “You know, you’re right. Of course, you’re right. And you always have been.” He began to speak more quickly, more forcefully, angrily. “I should never have headed to graduate school, should have taken the job that was waiting for me when I finished my bachelor’s. Or I should have majored in business or something actually useful, because it’s not like it matters that a poem can be read in such and such a way, or that a novel is borrowing from one source or another. No, you’re right again. And so I’ll apply at the pizza joint, and I’ll go in with the smile on my face that you’re going to suggest even though I already know to do it and you know I know it or would if you paid attention, and I’ll hand them my resume. They’ll see the cluster of letters at the end of my name, and the application will go in the garbage like damned near every other one I’ve put in in since the year started, and I won’t hear from them for weeks. And when I do call them to follow up, I’ll get the same kind of answer that I’ve been getting all day today and that I’ve been getting for months. They’ll have hired somebody else entirely, and I’ll be worse off than I am now, because I still won’t have a job, and I’ll have expended the effort in trying to no good end once again!”

By the end of the rant, Asa was nearly spitting his words. His mother stood and said “I really hope you get to feeling better, Asa.” And she left the room.

Asa sat in sullen silence.

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