Celebrated (part nine)
Otherwise, Greenwalter was decently informative; he dropped jargon like IR and ingest, but offended thus no more than most computer guys. He had heard of Voluntary Motion.
“I started reading it.”
This meant either once and done, or yesterday when I found out I was going to meet the author. There was a habit his snarky juniors had of late…priding themselves on the ambiguous phrase. A development Tom blamed vaguely on the popularity of game theory. He knew almost nothing about game theory. But when a thing fell trendy, his students tended to write stories about it.
He was trying not to make a collection of these quibbles, to be one more old faculty member who couldn’t get along with Greenwalter. The dilemma’s other horn, perhaps the Hydra’s other head, made itself apparent once Tom let temptation have its way, and at Marco’s prompting, looked himself up.
“Yeah, that Haverton I don’t get. Is it just a fancy pen name?”
“My middle name.”
“But your middle name is Henry.”
“Well…” Caught, Tom thought for a moment, and let Marco know this was the case by fingering his chin. “I guess I’m not sure where I got it. When I was in the publisher’s office…I guess,” he said again, “I was a little intimidated. Or maybe feeling out of place there. Let’s see…1971, I was twenty-two…”
The facts of his career were not things he needed to labor recalling. He was offering Marco an excuse, the excuse of naivety. He was subordinate partner in this collaboration. He felt fairly idiotic.
“Sounds like a boat engine, or something.”
Tom shrugged, bent over the keyboard. Haverton had popped into his head. He might have seen it anywhere…he might soon discover he’d lifted some other writer’s name. American author, best known for winning the Ghoti Prize in 1973, for his debut novel Voluntary Motion. Since 1975, Mr. Wilmot has been an instructor in Contemporary Literature and Creative Writing at…
The Ten Most Lame-Ass Books I Had to Read in School…
This, ranking second, flattered Tom to a degree. He’d assumed no one taught Motion. Maybe a former student, or someone local.
“Okay. Here’s what’s cool.”
Marco tugged the mouse cord; having got control of this, he x’d out of Tom’s screen. A wheeled chair was between their legs, Marco steadily pressuring it to his left. Some saving recognition that jostling for primacy was unbecoming to a fifty-six-year-old, made Tom relinquish, with an apologetic single chuckle.
Marco sat. “You don’t remember any lines from your book.”
“Sure!” Too emphatic. “Let me see… Let me go. Let them kill me. No, I mean, allow it.”
It was dialogue. It seemed an inane passage to remember off the bat…Raina’s big movie moment that never was, her offer to play decoy. To Marco’s credit, or because he might actually have read the book, he got this, catching on at let them kill me, typing the letters in with an amazingly rapid one finger.
“Probably a little more… Or here…” He added Wilmot. “Okay! Well, that’s the whole point. Course, your complete text isn’t going to be online, but old stuff, out of copyright…”
Every sinner no doubt gets sent his personal demon.
At length, the internet owned everyone.
You could, after all, if you were a little famous, be an asset to the university. They had wanted Tom to pose for a headshot. His resume was on the faculty directory. Scroll down, see my classes, maybe sign up for Deconstructing the Vernacular.
“I picture myself as a schoolkid, if we’d had these ratings, this whole thing, back then. Tom tries, but he needs to pay better attention. One-and-a-half stars.”
This would get a laugh. He’d slue his hand through the air, thumb and forefinger making a cee, pointlessly the gesture for reading an imaginary line.
Then there was plagiarism.
His private resolution was, let all that go. The knell was sounding, and while reason weighed the likelihood slim anyone would discover both his sources (one maybe excusable as failed attribution)…still, in ways, the Wilmot was more visible now than before. He’d had to learn how to use something called Dropbox, because Jules used it, and he was supposed to notate her memos, if he cared (mostly not) about any new directive.
She sometimes said, “Tom, I like you. Why don’t you work a little harder?”
Out of paranoia, he’d got on Twitter, thinking the shadowy figure that would bring him down one day would find him there, and he’d have at least a heads-up. Time to give thought to his letter of resignation.
No, he did not propose to be a pompous jackass, a hypocrite of the worst order, catching kids out and flunking them. Caught out himself one day, boomeranged upon, justly. And it would be nice when the axe fell, if someone could say, Wilmot was a fraud…but I liked him.
He began with Dr. Motley’s original material, his own phrasing.
“The reason you’re going to feel nervous about writing is other people. It’s true…you’re not all equally good. And a few of you are just here to kill credits.” (Pause for laugh.) “Some of you have been writing all your lives. You may have taken a class like this in the past, so you’re thinking I’ll stand you up and make you read your stuff out loud.”
(2019, Stephanie Foster)