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Future Perfect Continuous

by Phillip Donnelly

Teacher B, licensed to teach time and tense, held his Interactive Whiteboard pen between his thumb and middle finger and used his tobacco-stained index to keep the marker pointed downwards.

It was a delicate operation, holding an interactive board pen, and something they didn’t teach you in the Academy. Board-pen skills were something you learnt in action, with your eyes squinting in the harsh projector light.

He stood at the board, writing a grammatical formula for the future perfect continuous.

All the while, his attention was covertly directed behind him, to the 29 college freshmen in the lecture hall. They were from all over the globe and had two things in common: fabulously wealthy parents and terrible English.

Suddenly, Bender heard a giggle from among the huddled millionaire masses behind him. He turned around and caught the culprit in mid-guffaw.

“Is something funny, Miss Chelovek?” he asked.

Nyet, sir.”

“So, why are you laughing? Does the future perfect tense amuse you?”

“No. Is just e-mail funny.”

He walked over to the platinum blonde Russian, picked up her iPad, turned it face down. After a dramatic pause he tapped it three times.

Then, he looked up and, with an expansive wave of his hand, addressed the entire auditorium. He told everyone to shut down their computers immediately and banned them or mobile phones from any future lesson.

The machines powered down. The absence of hum frightened the students.

“You want to speak English? Well, English costs, and the only currency I accept is thought. There is no techno-fix. You will learn to use your brains, not your keyboards. Technology is the enemy!”

To make his point, he picked up the remote control and switched off the IWB projector.

“I’m going to give you mastery of form and function. I’m going to make you lords of time and tense. I’m going to give you the power to morph your lexis. And I’m going to do it the old-fashioned way, with textbooks.”

The students sat mesmerised, immersed in the present, freed from virtual worlds and social networks. They were now in only one place and one time. They were in Teacher B’s world.

* * *

After the lesson, he found a note from the Director in his pigeonhole. Five minutes later, the old man told him to sit down and looked him in the eye.

“Is it true that in your last class you called technology ‘the enemy’?”

“How do you know that?”

“Miss Chelovek secretly blogged it on her iPhone while you were handing out some moth-eaten 20th-century textbooks. There are already thirty comments, all upped, and her post is trending. It may soon go beyond campus.”

“There’s nothing wrong with healthy debate.”

“Our marketing department feels differently. Do you know the resources they devote to virally marketing our course as the most hi-tech, cutting-edge program in the country? Do you have any idea how many false identities they maintain to disseminate this truth? Not to mention the millions we’ve invested in technological hardware and the virtual campus. And it could all be swept away by the actions of one textbook-wielding dinosaur?!”

“With respect, aren’t you being rather alarmist? Our department’s reputation has been built up over fifty years. It—”

“It could be swept away in fifty minutes! The only constant nowadays is constant change... Look, I’ve made an appointment for you with Consultant V.”

“Velcrodoigt... the man with the virtual touch.” Bender’s lip curled upwards at the mere mention of his nemesis. “Tell V he knows where to find me. I’ll be waiting for him.”

* * *

As night fell in the auditorium, the glow of Teacher B’s cigarettes burned solemnly. He sat and waited, brooding.

The door opened slowly, but something told him that it wasn’t Consultant V who was entering. There was a strong smell of perfume, and V never wore cologne. B realised that he never smelled of anything.

“Teacher B, you are here?” a young sultry female voice enquired, and Miss Chelovek slunk across the room. “I come on my iPad. You want touch up my pad, Teacher B?”

“What I want to touch up is your syntax.”

“Sin has no taxes.”

She was standing in front of him now, but when she reached behind him to get her iPad, he suddenly grabbed her forearm and looked deep into her eyes.

“The virtual world is a lie... And you’re not what you seem, are you, Miss Chelovek?”

“There are worlds within worlds within worlds,” the figure said, “and sometimes the seams must be torn.”

Teacher B felt the room spin and the young lady’s voice changed to a man’s; a man Bender knew all too well. “Consultant V, the devil can truly assume a pleasing form.”

“I take on whatever form the Program dictates. We are all slaves to our motherboard mistress.”

“What program? What mistress?”

“The one that’s shutting you down, Teacher B. Ask not for whom the screen calls, it calls for thee.”

“You’ve lost your mind, V!”

“You’ve lost your server space, B. You’re outdated. Your program is being replaced by Miss Chelovek’s. She’s the new teacher.”

“But her English is terrible!”

“And that’s where you come in, Teacher B. We’re cutting out your language files, pasting them into Teacher C and deleting the rest. Now, touch the screen, Teacher B.”

“Pah! What drivel! You don’t honestly expect me to believe—”

“So, prove me wrong. Touch the screen, Teacher B.”

He touched the iPad screen and dissolved into a million sparks. Miss Chelovek quickly sucked some of them inside her and the rest fizzled into nothingness.

She switched on the Interactive White Board’s projector and saw that Teacher B’s grammatical formula from the day’s lesson was still there. It read: “In 2020, I will have been teaching for 40 years.”

The future was still perfect and continuous.

Copyright © 2010 by Phillip Donnelly

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