Friday, December 2, 2005

Prof. Trout's secret mission

Ms. Elizabeth Puppycute showed up at my office yesterday. This always causes Nawaz to sit at attention despite his gorgeous fiancée. He's got a crush on the girl, and for good reason. My first impression of this fundamentalistic lass was that of a schoolmarmish director of the youth choir. She is the spawn of a Baptist minister, so it fits. But she's changed during the course of the semester, or perhaps I have. I once sat on a cypress stump in a sulphurous, tick-infested Missouri swamp for so long that a mating pair of blue damselflies landed on my nose. After five hours it became the most beautiful place on earth despite the mosquitoes. Time and proximity can make you appreciate a place, and the same applies to people. Elizabeth's writing has also improved immensely during the course of the semester...she's started to stretch out thematically in a way that complements her dexterity with language. Creative talent, as mentioned in my previous post, is also an aphrodisiac.

So Ms. Lowell showed up and took off her overcoat. She's freckelfaced and curly-headed. She's no bombshell, but she's got a compact cutishness that she showed off by wearing a frumpy-yet-tight outfit entirely unsuited for the weather. She sat down in my guest beanbag chair. She sniffed and crossed her legs.

Puppycute: (expectant) You wanted to see me?

Prof. Trout: Ms. Lowell, I've got a mission for you.

Cute: You do?

Trout: Yes. It concerns another student. Billy know him?

Cute: (deflated) Oh. Yes. Not well...just from class.
Allow me to interject that Lowell is a self-conscious writer, though the term is an oxymoron. She needs reinforcement and support to continue working well. She's perhaps one of those rare creatures that can actually flourish in an MFA program, though I still think writing degrees are largely pointless. As she chewed her lip I realized that, in order to work with me to help someone else, I needed to grease the wheels a bit.
Trout: This is important. I'm asking you because I don't think anyone else in the class writes well enough to relate to Mr. Clayhouse. You're both similar in that you strike me as diamonds in the rough.

Cute: (brightening) You think so?

Trout: Sure! In any case. I'm worried about Billy. Haven't seen him in some time. Did you know he was in Iraq?

Cute: I heard that.

Trout: I've chatted with some of his friends in the ROTC. Seems he's kind of a loner. In any event, he hasn't shown for the past few classes. I've called him at answer.

Cute: (leans forward) So you want me to track him down?

Trout: (pretending not to examine cleavage) Yes.

Cute: Then what?

Trout: Ask him out to coffee.

Cute: Ask him out?

Trout: Not on a date. Just coffee. Or anything innocent and social. The library. A guest lecture. You know..."I'm a writer, you're a writer, let's talk about it..."

Cute: (cautious) Okay.

Trout: I just would like to know if he has any...concerns. And if there's anything I can do to help. Let me tell you a story: My cousin Hartmut served in Vietnam. He was a plumber and a fine duck hunting partner. He was quiet, carved his own decoys, enjoyed waxing his truck. A stoic woodsman, the kind of guy to build his own house without asking for help. When he got out of the service, he married, had three kids. He's making a good living. He’s a deacon in his church. One day he takes off into the marshes to build a duck blind. They find him three weeks later, smelling like road kill and strung up in a red cedar. He hung himself with his belt and left a note. It was three words: "It doesn't stop."

Cute: So you think Billy is the type to wig out like that?

Trout: Probably not, but I don't know. With his disposition, it's hard to say if anyone does. War sucks. It's hard on people, especially those who bottle it up. None of us who haven’t been there have any idea.

Cute: That's why we need to support the troops.

Trout: (swallowing a snort at the notion that platitudes and bumper stickers will keep someone from biting down on the business end of a shotgun) In so many words...

Cute: Okay...I'll do it. I'll find him.
She left the office resolute. She's the pedantic type to follow through on an assignment. After she left, Nawaz looked at me and asked me what I would do if Billy truly needs help. I told him that I have no fucking idea.

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