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Weird and Dangerous Days
April 18, 2008 - 11:17am


It’s been one of those weeks. Our semester is nearly done, and at first I blamed the odd events on spring, when young persons’ fancies lightly turn to thoughts of love, freedom, and playing endless video games all summer long. But there’s something else at work.

My classes are all inverted. I’m getting incredible, grad-level writing from my freshmen, who by all rights shouldn’t even have made it into my classes for lack of space and low priority. Meanwhile, the class that I made the mistake of telling, mid-semester, it was a favorite for its engagement and complementary personalities has fallen apart.

A colleague and I met in the hallway and exchanged pleasantries. I asked his plans for summer break. “Pulse engine,” he said. I looked at him blankly, and he added, “You know the V1 flying bombs in the war? They had pulse engines.”


Yeah. YouTube it, there’s all kinds of info. Crazy stuff. People don’t like them in residential neighborhoods much,” he admitted.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because they’re so loud.”

“No. Why a pulse engine?”

“I like to tinker,” he said.


“I’m taking a welding course,” he said.

“Well, you want the frame of your craft to hold up.”

“Naturally,” he said.

We on the departmental web design committee hold our breaths in anticipation of the apple trees bursting into bloom, so the photographer can get the shots. The flowers are slow coming. Maybe they won’t come. Bees twist and die on the sidewalk.

My associate Dr. Johnson, who covers the Rocky Mountain Desk for the Churm Network, writes, “I'd like to remind you that for one semester, I was an economics major. Let me tell you one thing about recessions. Every third pronunciation of the word brings another out of the nether world, like the character Beetlejuice in the film Beetle Juice. Troy Tulowitzki, a shortstop who makes plays that restore faith in grace and human kindness, has had zero hits in TWENTY AT BATS. You can see the combination of hopefulness and rage in his eyes. No matter the pitch, he takes a furious swing. Strikeout after strikeout, at-bat after at-bat, over before it begins. And then he throws his helmet and the Dow drops a quarter of a point. Currently I have a post as Clerk and Chief Economist at Delilah's, a convenience store. This allows me to do some very important fieldwork. I sell Snickers bars and Parliament Lights, and as I hand the sorority girls and indigents their pennies, I think, ‘None of you has any idea what is going on.’”

A 5.4 magnitude earthquake shook the Midwest last night. I woke thinking, for some reason, it was our cat, Gargantua, playing with the bed. The epicenter was 130 miles south, and it made the glass in the gasolier jangle and bits of mortar or roof tile crumble onto the porch roof outside the bedroom window. It’s the anniversary of the big one that led to San Francisco burning down. The news this morning left it for the meteorologist to cover late in the broadcast.

Finally, if there isn’t enough weirdness in the air, here’s another of my short stories. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to sit around in some concrete blockhouse of a bar with ex-military divers bragging about cleaning up after air disasters, here’s your chance. (Take some time to check out the journal, Perigee, which is now in its twentieth issue and looks terrific.)

Have a good weekend, and be careful out there. That buzzing you hear isn’t bees doing the work of the world in spring. It’s a guy in a lawn chair strapped to a flying propane tank.

(P.S.: As I post, another strong aftershock....)


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