The Professor

The professor gave the students an assignment. The students watched him hand out leaves of paper with directions. They had their pens ready and their notebooks open. One woman at the back of the room yawned. A young man with a yellow ballcap took something out of his eye and used his jeans to rub it off.

“I’m going for a glass of water,” the professor said. “I’ll be right back. No cheating.” With that he left the room. He went down the hall for a sip of water from the fountain. Then he got his bag from the office, waved to a colleague across the quad, got into his car, and left the parking lot via the south entrance, where the day before two students had been caught smoking dope in a gully.

At the top of a hill, he saw birds wash over the stones. At home, he got a shovel and a ream of paper and got back into his car again and drove off once more. His cell phone shuddered at his hip pocker. He let it vibrate. He shook Ed’s hand at the hardware store. He said, “Ed, do you have any real good nails for wood.”

“They’ve had those for years.”

“For nailguns,” the professor said.

“You’ll need a nailgun, then.”

“Right,” the professor said. “And some two-by-fours.”

“Batterypowered or electric?”

He took the shovel, the ream of paper, and his new nailgun back to the college. This time, with what he carried, he couldn’t wave to a colleague he saw on the quad.

He went down the hall and opened the door to the classroom. A few students look up then got back to work. A woman was clicking on the buttons of her cell phone. One man had fallen asleep. He lay the shovel against the wall, put the ream of paper on the table with the computer, then went out into the hall and shut the door.

He placed the twobyfour across the upper half of the door so that the length of wood crossed over the left and right door frames, then nailed it in place with the nailgun, the sharp clap of the exhaust rushing against his face. He secured a piece of wood just above the door knob. He secured another piece across the lower half of the door.

He heard quiet behind the door. Maybe the sound of shuffling paper. Then he left the hall. He waved to a colleague on the quad. He found his car. He took a few slow breaths. So many roads out, he thought. Which to take.

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