The Art of Love and War
The worst is over. They kept saying that. The Professors, the news lady in the pink and tan checked skirt, even the Dean when he sent out an e-video to the students.
But Ryder felt jinxed. And he didn’t really believe them. It only seemed to get worse.
He hadn’t appreciated the fact that college was a safe haven. But now, six months into his collegiate career, he missed those first few months where he was enclosed in warm, fuzzy school-propelled safety.
Since Jeremiah De’Praved, the student who had gone off the deep end and threatened them with a bomb, had been captured, the students were on edge. Like a door that had been pulled too often, when it should have been pushed - they were coming unhinged.
The numbers of bodies actually found in classrooms kept dropping. People were freaked out. Man, even the Profs were wigged. Half the time Ryder would show up to class to see the Cancelled sign glaring back at him.
The only Professor he could count on to show up was Dr. Acer. His War in Literature professor was hardly fazed by anything. Of course, one would expect his cool handedness. He had, as he reminded them often, survived Vietnam and could therefore survive, “a too scared to even detonate” bombing by “some pansy little turd.”
Most students were being educated online. They had been given the option to switch over to internet based lectures, and almost all had snatched it up. Ryder didn’t like giving into fear. He found a profound need to continue to show up. Proving to himself, more than anyone else, that fear isn’t bought and sold.
He made his way up the stairs to the open building known as Hap’s Hall. He walked around, and through, the marble columns and into the doorway that led him to Dr. Acer’s classroom.
Dr. Acer was seated at his desk attempting to balance an apple on his lemon shaped head.
He turned slightly when Ryder entered, causing the apple to teeter and fall.
“Son of a,” he said, bending sideways out of his chair, and scooping the bruised apple from the floor.
He smiled haphazardly at Ryder. “You still showing up?”
Ryder sat at the desk diagonal from him in the second row. “I am if you are. You oughta earn that paycheck you make somehow.”
Dr. Acer let out a gravely laugh and leaned back in his chair. “Well then. Let me work for the chicken feed.”
The door opened and a slender girl came rushing in. “Sorry I’m late, Dr. Acer,” she said breathlessly. “I had a customer that wouldn’t leave. They were, like, completely draining.”
Ryder smiled at her and she winked back at him. He blinked, uncertain how to respond. Forward girls scared the crap out of him. Fortunately, she had already turned back around by the time he realized this.
“Well Minerva, Ryder,” Dr. Acer said. “Shall we wait another minute or two for stragglers?”
Then, he gave a mellow chuckle. Laughing, Ryder supposed, at his own little joke.
Minerva rolled her eyes while Ryder stared at the slender way her calf merged into her ankle.
“Today we will begin our discussion on The Things they Carried. We read O’Brien’s Going after Cacciato,” Dr Acer said, pulling Ryder from his reverie. “So, having read both, what did you all think?”
“I think that Tim got to Paris,” Minerva answered.
“How so?” Dr. Acer asked as he propped Tiva clad feet on his desk.
“Well, Cacciato wanted to get there, but being trapped in Wonderland prevented reality from being, like, real. And Tim, lost in his mind, his own, like, wonderland, wanted to get home, but found home a real wonderland. So, well, I think Tim got to where Cacciato would have if he had gotten to where he wanted to get.”
Ryder had been struggling to follow her line of reasoning but, caught up at the end and interrupted.
“Yeah, but The things they Carried, is more about the insanity that war can bring, while Going after Cacciato is about the boredom, illustrated by the notion that all the war was, was walking.”
She pulled out a stick of gum and began chomping away. She snapped it and cocked her head.
“Yeah,” she said, drawing the word out like a child would the gum. “But there’s the element of insanity in Cacciato, too. I mean, like, look at Billy boy. He totally died because he wigged once he lost his leg. And really, the definition of insanity sorta sums up the whole walking dealie. I mean, ‘doing the same thing over and over again,’ is all those guys did, and they ‘expected different results’ even knowing they probably wouldn’t get them.”
“Interesting,” Dr. Acer mumbled - his eyes half-closed under crescent moon spectacles.
*Part One of my short story: The Art of Love and War
Today's word is: epoch
image: Writing Desk by Colin Page