The Fiction of Philip Kaveny
For Part I visit here
Laura knew that that was a little extreme; I mean getting hit by a bus especially when an open manhole would do the job and probably not kill him, beside Laura was a good Lutheran and knew she should not be thinking about doing Gods job in teaching people lesson’s, and Fenwick really needed a lesson in humility. Once she actually told that right to his big fat face, and all he could say was what could be more humiliating than teaching business ethics, to a bunch of MBA want to B’s whose careers would peak when they were forty and were made night managers of a Perkins. Actually he added since his contract was not renewable he would probably be applying to one of his former students for a job as a dish washer
Laura spent a lot of time feeling guilty about things she felt, and trying to cover them up. Fenwick, on the other hand, seemed to have no sense of guilty or shame, when it came to going after something he felt he was entitled to, and he had an almost overpowering sense of entitlement. Fenwick seemed to think of people only as a means to his own personal ends. Yes sometimes Fenwick could be quite charming when he wanted something, but seemed not to want anything from her, except to be an appreciative audience for his dumb stories.
Fenwick McLeod, the guy Laura was trying to banish from her mind had just stormed off to roust the setup of crew lead worker to unlock their meeting room, but instead he returned with the building director, Chuck Higgins who grudgingly admitted to his chagrin that it was not cleaned after a meeting of the gamers guild, and was full of empty pizza carton’s, soft drink cups, and smelt , of the armpits of young men who were total strangers to the personal hygiene section of the local Wal-Mart.
Fenwick McLeod did the one thing you must never do if you are from Northern Wisconsin he complained, loudly until the building director went off and broke up the maintenance crews game of sheep’s head up and made them vacuum, the floor, spray the room with air freshener, and empty and re-line the over flowing trash, and recycling containers, and ramp up the air handling system after fogging the room with Glade, so that they would not gag like Laura from the smells while they were having their writer’s group meeting, actually it became clear that the room was in need of being fogged with a pesticide and then air out made it clear that the group needed new venue.
Laura mustered all her courage and spoke up to Fenwick McLeod after the set up crew skulked off threatening to file a grievance for being forced to work on their two hour break, somehow they forgot that they no longer had a labor contract and could have been summarily, as did the building director as walked off shaking his head, and complaining about sparrow fart English professors. She was just too ashamed to know him, but she just couldn’t stop herself.
“Fenwick McLeod you act like you own the place, I mean after all we are getting the room for free, we could have cleaned it up and not made all this trouble for everybody”
Joan Caldwell , who had just joined them agreed and said ,
“Fenwick who do you think you are, nobody in the group likes your crappy novel. I mean a story about Viking warrior and a Byzantine Princess, how politically unaware. When don’t you write something with meaning like Professor Woodcock ”
Fenwick was about to answer but just at that instant Professor Byron Woodcock walked beaming around the corner because he heard the music of Joan Caldwell’s voice saying something nice about his work in progress called Nigel’s Cello, which was the story of the terror and angst that a young white rich protestant male freshman football player from New ULM Wisconsin feels after he confronts the stark revelation that because of the accident and privilege of his birth he can never lead an authentic life. The book tells the story of how tortures himself with a dream of living the authentic life of a handless Bulgarian cello player, who had to earn his living by playing on a street corners with his toes.
Professor Woodcock was also tall like Fenwick McLeod. He was well over six feet tall and imperially slim, with sandy hair and steel blue eyes, seemed to look into the heart of your soul when he listened to you. He muscles were like spring steel, and he was always well but a bit understatedly dressed. He was more the classic American made sports jacket and jeans type, and nobody complained when he taught in a well pressed natural fabric jogging suit. Another thing that everyone talked about was that he could actually afford to buy American made clothes.
The women in the group loved Byron as much as they despised Fenwick McLeod. Woodcock was single thirty three years old and had written a break though dissertation at Yale at twenty four, taught there for seven years, and then was hired with tenure at The University of Wisconsin Chippewa Falls when he left Yale, based on his brilliant feature article The Modern Association Language Journal entitled, “Teachers and Learners, a False Dichotomy, let’s all learn from each other in the Cooperative Pedagogy of the learning circle.”
Bryon was quite a catch for any woman Laura though the kind of man she could take home to show her mother to prove she was not just some losers with PHD doomed to academic spinsterhood. Fenwick McLeod however was the kind of man that if you hooked him by mistake, you make sure you threw him back.
Laura thought Robert Fenwick McLeod was just so different. He was an angry difficult man. He looked to Laura more like he should be leading a motorcycle gang than showing up to annoy everyone one at the University faculty writers group with his novel about Vikings and princesses. He had a one year contract to teach Business Ethics, as an adjunct professor, with no intention of rehire. Sometimes academic go on for years in the kind of limbo of Fenwick’s status. However in Fenwick’s case nobody had intention of rehiring him. Unlike Byron at least fifty percent of his student evaluations were negative, though a few of the better students on campus were his close friends, and helped him in his furniture moving business.
If the Philosophy Department could have found anyone else even remedially qualified to teach Business Ethics they would have fired Fenwick McLeod at the end of the first semester. They would have fired him for telling his students that it was his job to teach them enough about business ethic’s to keep their ass’ out of the slammer when their corporate bosses tried to leave them holding the bag and fend off their three hundred pound cell mate Bruno’s advances when he told them what beautiful long lashes they had, and asking them if they would like to hear some of his love poems. The thing that got him into trouble was that the department told him that his that his one page one sentence syllabus entitled Business Ethics, a contradiction in terms? Was inadequate, and he would not be paid until he produced one, he required , his students to read selections from Mark, Milton Freedmen, and Lenin, and Chomsky saying they were all writing about power.
Byron Woodcock sort of slyly cleared his throat and said,
“Let’s adjourn the meeting early, I have something wonderful to share with all of you, and I would love to buy us a couple of pitchers of beer at Laugins’ pub, in celebration of my… ”
He paused and looked Fenwick McLeod straight in the eye with a compassionate and manly sincerity which made Laura, and Joan think how kind he was and, made Fenwick McLeod want to barf in the wastebasket.
He, said as he hugged Robert. Who with only great restraint kept himself reacting like someone who had an angry ferret dropped down his shorts, gritted his teeth and returned Bryon’s gaze.
“I must thank you for your brutal honesty about my work. I got a Guggenheim Fellowship for fifty thousand dollars for next year to get to New York and Finish Nigel’s Fiddle. Fenwick without your honesty and support and frankness I would not have had the courage to apply.
Robert applied for the same Guggenheim Fellowship, but in his case he only got a form letter rejection stamped with bulk mailing permit.
Fenwick was as tall as Byron but nearly a hundred pounds heavier, though he was not a complete lard bucket since he was or claimed to be an ex college heavyweight wrestler. He that had found too many all you can eat buffets. Once Byron had asked Robert to practice martial arts with him, and Fenwick had to admit the third time that Byron slipped his grip and nearly spiked his face through the mat that, whatever else he was Byron Woodcock was he was no wimp. Actually Robert though Byron’s grip reminded him of literary character, that is to say a certain count that made Transylvania famous.
Byron seemed almost sincere as he said to Robert.
“Without the integrity of your comments I would never have made the necessary revisions, I thank you from the bottom of my soul for your brutality.”
Fenwick looked at Byron trying to wriggle out of his grasp and said,
“You mean you took my comments seriously when I said Nigel’s Cello was just the kind of self-indulgence tripe filled with vicarious suffering that academics love to promote, as a substitute for the hollow lives they live.”
“Why yes of course I put your anger suffering and pain in to my Ollie who was trapped in the miasma of the smothering expectations of Midwest small town mediocrity, in spite of all his apparent privilege.”
Fenwick Jaw dropped as he said,
“You mean I was right and you made the novel even more pathetic”
“Yes. And I have you to thank for all it. Now we need to find your voice, because your frankness has given me mine if you show me your work I will help you make your pain real for the world, because Robert the world needs to hear your stories.”
Byron is so kind but Fenwick hates himself so much he can’t accept Byron’s Gift. No she thought I don’t feel sorry for him.
Joan took Byron’s hand and snuggled close to him and said,
“Lets skip the writers group tonight and just go to Laugins’”
It all happen so fast Laura had her eyes in Byron since the group started meeting last semester but she had always been afraid to make a move. Now Joan tart was walking off with Byron and all her dreams, her last best hope to prove herself to her widowed mother. She though Joan was my friend, she even told me I should not be forward with Byron, because it was an intellectual group, with a high literary purpose.
Then she could not believe what she said to Fenwick, it was just so unlike her, maybe somebody else had said it. Maybe she thought she was somebody else.
“Fenwick do you want to go with them Laugins, but I warn you if you try any funny stuff I have mace in my purse.”