The Fiction of Philip Kaveny
The silent scream of Oh my God shouted out in Assistant Professor Laura Larson’s consciousness, and it was followed an involuntary gag reflex as the wall of stale moist body odor sweat, fear along with the putrid smell of rotting pizza sauce smashed, into her nostrils as she unlocked the door to the meeting room . Immediately she knew what happened. It was because, housekeeping had forgotten to clean up after the gamer’s guild meeting three weeks before at the start of winter break. It was made even worse because the air handling System University of Wisconsin Chippewa falls was tuned off to save money and the building shut down to during the four week closed period between fall and spring semester, and of course the entire housekeeping staff put on unpaid furlough, since their union was busted.
Laura waited for Fenwick McLeod to return, she just wanted to hide go home or be anywhere else, she could barely stand to be near him. But she decided to wait for the rest of the writers group because somehow it was even worse to be alone with herself and her fears. Maybe that was why her mind drifted to her the title of her dissertation for which she was now desperately trying to find a publisher since she was half way along the tenure track, and without a published book, in the next three years, she would be lucky get a contract like Fenwick McLeod, that is to say, non-renewable contract teaching five sections of “remedial “dumbbell” English 101, with no retirement benefits and with no hope. That though lead her to torment herself with the results a clinical study she once read in The Qualitative Journal of Reflexive Pedagogy which results indicated, on an average day the average English Department junior faculty though of tenure about four times as often as they thought about sex, irrespective of face, gender, or national origin. That same study also mentioned that the average time from enrollment as a college freshman to the realized rank of associates professor with tenure and benefits including class and teaching time to the rank of associate professor was nearly two decades, or nearly three time the classic seven year period of indentured servitude for a medieval apprentice, and out of statistical cohort of one thousand high school graduating subjects who had declared a career choice of college humanities professor, any single subjects probability of success was less than a high school football player making it as a NFL player, even if they in the league played for less than three years.
It was that smell which evoked both guilt and shame she felt for which triggered one of her worst memories, and made it as real as if she was actually reliving a realized nightmare After all her working title of her book project was Marcel Proust, Odor, and Sensation the Semi Permeable liminal Boundary Between the Real and Remembered, aggravated by the effect of the purification process on subjective perception.
It was as if she had time traveled six years back to the worst day of her life. Which took place three days before she successfully defended her doctoral dissertation that was the day she was forced to return to her hometown of Saturn South Dakota for the funeral after her mother’s sister husband Uncle Ernie had had tried to run the hay bailer after he finished a fifth of Jack Daniels, and fell in. She could see Aunt rose incoming up her and saying with a smile like a great white shark, with ten thousands of dollars’ worth of gold dental work.
“Well at was a lot cheaper to cremate him and the hay bale than trying to pull him out. But those Goddam OSHA Democratic bureaucrats inspected the hay bailer and claimed that it was total loss and unfit food production, even for animals. That’s why I always vote Republican.” Incidentally, thought Laura Aunt Rose, was now chair of Saturn South Dakota Tea Party, and was using her government subsidy for not raising hay as seed money to finance her congressional campaign.
Laura recognized the contempt masked South Dakota niceness in Aunt Rose’s voice as she started in on her right in front of Laura’s mother Louise in the reception of funeral home as Aunt Rose said .
“Laura your twenty seven years old, when you going to quit this graduate school crap and stop trying to write about that French fag who lived in a rubber room?”
Then she added.
“Girl you got younger cousins with kids in middle school, and you’re not even married. Keep that up and you’re going to end up like one of those dried up old St Paul Lesbians that you like to hang around with and drink Lattes with, and talking about munching each other’s rugs “
I wish I could go back in time and ask tell Aunt Rose what a shame it would be when she died to cremate all that expensive dental work with gold at $2,000 an ounce, thought Laura, maybe I could knock it out for her.
Laura’s past was both absent and present at that moment and both instants seemed to claw at her sanity It felt as if every eye in the building was on her she kept thinking about Fenwick McLeod and getting madder and madder, then she got mad because Fenwick made her get mad. That was just the worst part about, she wanted nothing to do with him and he was in her life. Shame was eating out her heart. She thought to herself, how can that Fenwick McLeod be such an overbearing self-important jerk? He just thinks he can solve every problem by intimidating people, and yelling at them. I wish he would just get lost.
As she stood out outside of the room that that she had reserved for the faculty writers group in Laura struggled with what she had always prided herself in finding something good in everybody, but, Fenwick McLeod was the exception There was nothing to like about Fenwick she thought, even though he was Six feet three and a half inches tall, and had long Auburn hair which he held in a ponytail with a mother of comb and a pin. Robert also fat arrogant and self-centered, and he thought the whole world existed to do his bidding. She was just so glad that the Philosophy Department had not renewed his contract for next year to teach business ethics. Okay he did have a PhD from MIT, but, then her mind trailed off.
Laura felt just little guilty for wishing he would just walk in front of a bus or something, and then things could go back to the way they were before Fenwick barged into the Writer’s group and started reading his dumb Viking stories to them. Stories about Byzantine princess who fell in love with big ugly Vikings that looked like him, and yet nothing could stop Fenwick .