Friday, November 18, 2005


Shirleen Tomasetti is perhaps my most attractive student. She's mid-thirtyish, athletic, divorced. In a pre-midlife crisis she left her copywriting career to pursue an MFA in writing fiction. While her writing rarely suffers the flaws that typically set me to frothing, neither do I expect she will ever make a serious writer. Her language is flat, and she limits herself to revisiting her droll suburban upbringing. The last thing the world needs is more coming-of-age fiction set in Schaumburg, Illinois or the outskirts of Cincinnati. I've tried to coax her out of this literary ghetto on several occasions over drinks. She really is quite pleasant to talk with, and the last time we were nestled into the corner booth at O'Shannon's she laughed heartily at my jokes, patted my beard and rubbed my shoulders while we conversed. She even touched my knee under the table as I admitted my recent dark moods. The imprint of this sensation still simmers against my leg, an ethereal love-scar. It seems ages since I've had conjugal relations with someone her age. I really am like a big teddy bear, so that might explain my inexplicable ability to connect with attractive women.

So today she stops by my office and drops off an application for our department's scholarship. She was wearing a tight white sweater which caused me to suck breath for obvious reasons. Her shortish-blondish hair was nicely done, and the vanilla-tang hint of perfume followed her into the room. I generally prefer the raw scent of pheromone sweat to that bourgeois, bottled decadence, but still it was a nice touch. As she placed her form on my desk I noticed that her nails were lacquered red and her wedding ring, which she still normally wears to deflect idiots, was missing.

Applicants for the scholarship need the endorsement of a faculty member. Each faculty member can only endorse one application per gradudate-level class taught. This gives me two. The award covers tuition for an entire year, plus a small stipend. I know that Shirleen hasn't been working and needs the money. I'm certain that she'd be incredibly grateful for my endorsement.

The problem is that Ms. Elizabeth Lowell, the cocker-spaniel-cute fundamentalist, is a much better prose stylist. She's already submitted her application. Likewise, Billy Clayhouse is more deserving and also desperately needs the money, though he hasn't even applied. (And given his stoicism, he probably won't without encouragement.)

But neither of these more qualified individuals is capable, for various reasons, of offering the sort of gratitude that I expect I might receive from Shirleen.

So, Brown Trout...what to do, what to do?

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