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Trigger Warnings

by Mickey J. Corrigan

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Chapter 2: Lit Prof

He spoke crisply without any trace of accent. His speech was like an accent itself, as if he hailed from some distant land that used English with a grand formality. This quirk amused me, but it also made me tune in and listen. His was the only class I looked forward to. I wanted to hear every word Professor Ivaniloff had to say.

“Phones off and heads up, please. Now.”

He stood before us, his grave expression marked by scholarship and a kind of reserved dignity you don’t find in many teachers these days. Most of them tried to be your friend, working hard to appear hip to youth while kowtowing to parents and administrators. Who could respect them?

“I assume you all read the assigned chapters for today?”

I was in the front row, only a few feet from the edge of his podium. Behind me I could hear the loud sighs, the shuffling and groans as the rest of the freshman literature class pulled out notebooks and laptops, readying themselves for the lecture.

“Someone please tell us about the protagonist. What did Jack London have in mind?”

Behind me, more rustling, a few giggles, and a long awkward silence.

“Children,“ the prof said, his voice unruffled, “your dear and devoted parents are forking over nearly seventy thousand dollars for you to be here this year. Do you not think this is reason enough to do the work you are assigned in class?”

A few people snickered. I listened to my heart speed up. I hated scenes. Were we going to have one now? I closed my eyes. I could feel the sweat dripping down my sides. Deep inside, beyond my neurotic reticence at watching an unpleasant situation unfold, sat a tiny seed of excitement. Just waiting to bud, and bloom.

But I was unaware of this. Consciously, that is.

When I opened my eyes, the professor was looking right at me.

“Miss Andrisson?” His sky-blue eyes gleamed in my direction.

I felt pinned, naked and alone.

Mumbling nervously, I managed to spit out what I could about the first few chapters of the Jack London novel. Even though it seemed like a lame book. Compared to The Call of the Wild, that is.

Professor Ivaniloff nodded at me. His icy eyes warmed a little. “Very good.”

He turned to the class and began a lecture on the metaphorical layers of the novel. I was lost but happy to listen to his articulate, one-sided discussion of symbolism in fiction and in life.

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Copyright © 2020 by Mickey J. Corrigan

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