People at the school where I recently taught would call me laid back; easygoing; the faculty members getting on in years might even say, “mild-mannered.” They don’t know me very well. They certainly wouldn’t expect what Dr. Stine calls, “problems with duality;” whatever the fuck that means.
I didn’t always have such problems. Once upon a time, I had a fine grasp on who I was; I guess I could even say, on who I am. After all, comparing my current state to the way I was back then, I hadn’t permanently changed that much. I had it under control. And then one day during the first month of this year’s fall semester, a skinny sophomore with delusions of grandeur had to cross the line.
His name was Eddie Allen; a psych major with a minor in creative writing. I didn’t know much about psychology back then. I’m no expert now, though I have done much more research on the subject since then… and, of course, learned a few things through personal experience. I always taught my students that personal experience was the best resource for tapping into the creative well. I tried to teach Eddie Allen that, as well, but he believed that the Internet was his easy outlet to experience.
I could go on and on about the little grievances, as there were dozens of them. The final straw was when he decided to use his Psychology 101 knowledge on my class to test one of his more creative hypotheses; the basis for his “breakout horror novel.” Until recently, I felt like I could understand why he chose my class; I taught literary theory in the horror genre. My students more often than not preferred horror movies to the literature and only took the course to satisfy both their mild curiosity and, of course, their English major credit requirement. Even if they weren’t the most attentive of students, they were still my students.
So when Eddie Allen freed the science department’s collection of live arachnids (yes, including both tarantulas and scorpions) and unleashed them in my classroom, it infuriated me. I was in the hallway when it happened and Chief of Security Gary Brahms heard the screams before I did. We ran single-file into the room and saw Eddie Allen recording the chaos on his iPhone. I wanted to strangle him, but Brahms had him cuffed against the wall before I could get near him. By then, several custodians had begun pulling on latex gloves to carefully pick up the live specimens. After the rage wore off, I couldn’t help but feel bad for the science majors whose specimens were crushed beneath a frightened female student’s boot.
I wasn’t the only teacher pissed at Allen; Biology Department Chair James Stoker single-handedly got the punk expelled… but that wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted him jailed for reckless endangerment. Apparently, the kid had an ally on the faculty; Psychology Chair Tracy Shelley, in what he claimed to be a moment of poor judgment, had encouraged Allen’s experiments. He intervened to prevent the school from pressing charges. I was now angry with both of them, and I accidentally let it show at Allen’s probationary hearing to settle the future of his attempts at receiving a proper education in the state of South Carolina. I had a pretty strong grip on my anger… until the little prick decided to psychoanalyze me.
Allen was quiet until the moment it was my turn to relate the events leading to his expulsion. I recalled the chaos of my classroom that day, the screaming of my students, the crushing of the science specimens, and Allen filming the whole thing. I got angry all over again. He smirked at me and asked, “How did that make you feel, Professor?” I showed him exactly how it made me feel...
I didn’t even know I’d thrown my chair until I saw it crash over the little prick’s head and chest. It surprised me, but not as much as the thought of forcibly removing the rather large hand of Gary Brahms when it landed on my shoulder, in spite of Gary’s towering heft. Before either of us could react, Tracy Shelley said, “Bob? May I speak to you in private?”
Brahms removed the hand of his own accord and I held up my arms as I angrily stepped away. I wasn’t too interested in talking to Shelley, seeing how it was his doing that Allen was not being charged for his illegal misconduct and blatant theft and destruction of school property. Frankly, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Shelley had immediately called for my dismissal. I was surprised, however, that he would ask me to step outside for a word in private. Tracy wasn’t an aggressive person by nature, and he must have suspected that I wasn’t, either, so… I followed him just out of curiosity.
Once we were outside and a medical team rushed inside to tend to Allen’s broken nose, Shelley looked at me and said, “You just fucked up royally, Bob. That kid is going to sue. The Dean and University President signed away their right to seek damages from him—”
“Yeah,” I interrupted, “at whose request, Tracy? Yours, thank you very much.”
He sighed. “I didn’t know you were going to attack him, Bob. The school cannot be held accountable for your actions if he starts seeing dollar signs. You know that.”
I grumbled, “So what you’re saying is, I’m a liability. But I’m not even in your Department, Tracy, so you’ve no right—”
“I have a responsibility,” he interrupted. “I don’t want you to lose your job. I defended Eddie by saying I encouraged him, which would lead a lot of our co-workers to think I’m responsible for the whole thing. I feel guilty enough about that; I don’t need your firing on my conscience also. Now, I’ll talk to Eddie, and the Dean, and Dr. March, and hopefully we can come to some arrangement that doesn’t involve you losing your job.” Dr. March was the English Department Chair, and even though I wanted to believe he would have my back, I couldn’t be absolutely certain.
“Your conscience?” I chuckled. “I don’t buy it. Even if you do feel you owe me something, you never help anyone out without getting something in return. What’s the catch?”
He took another deep breath. “I saw how quick your expression changed in there. You were just as surprised by your angry outburst as he was. Frankly, I’m concerned. I’d like for you to speak to a colleague of mine, Dr. Stine. He may be able to help you.”
I shook my head. “I don’t need a shrink, Tracy.”
“No, Bob, you don’t want a shrink. There’s a big difference.”
I chuckled again. Tracy Shelley always had a way of turning people’s own words against them. It bothered me to think what his shrink friend might be like. After a moment of thought, I said, “If I agree to see this guy, can you guarantee I won’t wind up without a job?”
He smiled. “Absolutely.” I should have worded my request more carefully.
Anyway, after the Dean barred me from re-entering the auditorium during Allen’s hearing, I reluctantly agreed to see Dr. Stine. The appointment was to be two weeks after “the incident,” and naturally the Dean suspended me until after the visit, just in case the shrink deemed me capable of returning to work. Of course, had I then known that Shelley and Stine would soon conspire to relieve me of my position at the University and have me transferred to a community college closer to that insane asylum on Georgia’s Jekyll Island, I probably would have gotten a lawyer and taken my chances with Allen. In the meantime, part of me was just as frightened by my rage as Shelley had been… and definitely more than that little prick Eddie Allen was, as I would eventually learn.