I was sitting and reading David Sedaris' incredibly funny book, Barrel Fever, when she showed up to ruin my perfectly okay mood.
I swear this is how it went:
Kirsti, a junior psych major, has long blonde hair and is inclined to wear clothes that look like they are either wet or very shiny. Her regular speaking voice is nothing to write home about, but she carefully practices with a whispery Marilyn Monroe voice that sets my teeth on edge. She is smiling in a purposeful bashful way as she enters into my department room. I am the only one in there except for Morton Philmer who sits in the cubicle next to mine and is eating a sandwich that reeks of garlic.
I look up and motion for her to take a seat.
Maria: So, what can I do for you today, Kirsti?
Kirsti: Well, I am here because...um...I don't think my grade was fair on the test.
M: Oh? What are you challenging?
K: It's just that I'm not a B student! Ask anyone!
Short silence while I figure out just how to answer this. I decide that I will go into a just-the-facts-ma'am approach.
M: Ok. Let's take a look at your test.
We do this.
M: Well, Kirsti, there were 35 multiple choice questions, worth two points apiece and you missed ten of them. There were two short answer questions worth 15 points apiece and you got full credit for those. So...you have a grade of 80. Are you disputing some of your answers?
Kirsti is trying to look flustered, shy. It is not working. She has far too canny of a face to even try this shit.
K: Well, no. I did get those questions wrong, but they were pretty hard!
M: Do you feel that the questions were not covered in your textbook or in my lectures?
K: No. I mean, they were covered, yes, but I wasn't expecting them to be so hard!
M: I'm sorry that you are disappointed, Kirsti, but I stand by this grade. Now, if you wish to dispute it further...
K: NO! I think it was fair. It's just...I am not a B student.
WHAT THE HELL? JAYSUS...WILL YOU IDIOTS JUST LISTEN TO YOURSELVES? I AM SUPPOSED TO GRADE YOU NOT ON YOUR PERFORMANCE BUT ON THE FACT THAT YOU SAY YOU ARE NOT A B STUDENT???
M: Kirsti, I'm not sure what your point is....
K: I was wondering if you might consider changing my grade to an A.
M: No. I would not. You earned a B.
Kirsti goes into a kitten face and smiles winningly at me. She really does look amazingly like a cat.
K: I was hoping that we could maybe....make an arrangement...Maybe, I...would you like to go to dinner sometime? We could talk. I would buy...
I stand up immediately. Walk to the outside of the cubicle and say that no, I would not and she needs to leave. She shrugs and smiles at me as if to say that she had to try and leaves, doesn't even have the intelligence to look sheepish.
After I hear her boots click clacking down the hall, I lean over to Morton's cubicle and ask him if he heard all that. He says yes and that he has my back if something should come of it.
Morton and I talk about whether to notify our department head. I am inclined to do this, he thinks I should not. That she had her shot and failed and I should just let it go. I decide to think about this later. Later, I will decide to act on it just to cover all of my bases and Morton will write a witness account for me.
For now, he goes back to his sandwich and I go back to my book. I keep cracking up at the sheer wit of David Sedaris. Every time I laugh, I go into a coughing fit.
Finally, Morton can stand it no longer and says, "Um, excuse me, Typhoid Maria, but what the HELL is so hilarious?"
I tell him about the book, say that the essay, The Last You'll Hear From Me, is just about the funniest thing I have ever read. Morton, who also likes Sedaris, asks me to pass him the book so that he can read the story. Then, the smart ass asks me to please spray it with Lysol before I pass it over, though, as he doesn't want to catch whatever I have.
I pass it to him unlysoled. I hear him turn a page and then burst out laughing.
I can't stand it and ask him where he is in the essay.
"I'm at the point where she is asking her mom for sympathy and is told that she can find sympathy between shit and syphilis in the dictionary."
We both chortle. He goes on reading and every time he laughs, I make him read me the part that got to him.
"When she says that her ex boyfriend's dick is the size of her little finger and that's when it's hard..."
"When she asks everyone to stone Randy and Annette with paperweights..."
By the time he hands the book back to me, we are both cackling like the two witches we are. He offers me half of his gross meat and garlic sandwich and I think what the fuck about my breath and take it.
I notice that it is nearly time for my class, get up and start getting my stuff together. Morton offers to go with me and kiss me in front of the class to show Kirsti that she is SO barking up the wrong tree. I decline and he says he is relieved because, man...I sound so toxic with that cough. Will I be able to lecture? I hold up a DVD about the Haight Ashbury free love summer and another one on The Feminine Mystique.
I stop at the student lounge on my way to class and get a large cup of chicken broth. I have had it before and it was surprisingly bracing.
When I get to class, Kirsti is right where she always is in the second seat in the second row. She doesn't look like a girl who just tried to sell herself for an A an hour earlier. I don't look at her, but I don't NOT look at her either.
The class goes off without a hitch and on the way home I keep thinking that October has been a very strange, difficult month and that I need November to be better. I say this out loud while I listen to a Les Paul with Mary Ford cd that Bing told me was worth listening to. I listen while Mary Ford sings of losing her darling while The Tennessee Waltz was playing as Les Paul accompanies her.