Tending Class

“Does anyone have any questions?”

“Yeah, how quickly can I drop this ball-buster of a class,” Leighann muttered in as she flipped through the seven-page syllabus.

Professor Salerno continued talking about the importance of reading textbooks and actively participating in class. She stared straight out into the lecture hall, not a glance directed our way when Leighann’s voice began to boom louder.

“I mean, really,” she went on while Salerno announced a 10-page paper that would be due in two weeks. “This is supposed to be an easy GE. Stop pretending that this matters to most people here. Come on now.”

I only smirked briefly as I studied the syllabus. We had 40 pages of reading due next week, 35 the next and over 50 the one after.

I tuned out Leighann’s ceaseless stream of jokes about our new “drill sergeant” of a professor as we walked to a new classroom for discussion. As we trudged across campus, I spotted Salerno smoking with a few students and laughing. But my curiosity faded once I entered the Humanities Building, where an empty desk waited to keep me locked in for another hour.

Salerno bustled into the room 15 minutes late, the smell of cigarette smoke wafting through the humid air. She tossed her leather case on the table in front of the room. The contents, – one spiral notebook, – slid across the desk. She pushed her glasses messily up on top of her gray hair.

“Everyone at the bar says I can get a little sloppy,” she said.

The buzz of idle chatter muted as interested faces looked to the front of the room.

“Well, everyone, you can call me Kate,” Salerno said. “I am excited to be teaching this class again when I’m not working in my bar over in Westchester.”

Her gaze shifted from face to face, gauging the thoughts of the 10 students  staring back at her.

To my right, I heard chuckling.

“Sweet!” Leighann said. “Must beat having to spend time in this shithole, huh?”

“Well,” Kate said. “I don’t have to try to pretend that what I talk about matters there.” Her smile widened. “But no matter where I’m working, I’m one hell of a ball-buster.”

Julie Mansmann

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