The bells at St. Francis church rang eleven times. Reverberations bounced off the surrounding brick and concrete buildings and down the long quadrangle. Sound traveling at some six hundred miles per hour crashes into Professors Rabbits classroom point two-four seconds later.
But who cares? Francis Hall, a buff brick building was constructed in the early 50's and once housed a Catholic girls school, now was an out-of-the-way warehouse for the liberal arts department. Professor Rabbit tossed his yellow legal pad on the desk, looking past the students who were filing into the room and out the open window. A haze had formed outside, circling around the trees, poisoning the day. The stench of a nearby metal smelter had settled on the campus. It smelled like dead fish. "Good afternoon." The professor greets his students.
Pope Pious University had a large endowment. Sciences, business, and law, these were the future of the University. Liberal Arts were mere bad habits the University couldn't get rid of. Professor Rabbit's creative writing students were lost souls. Mostly second and third year students, who hadn't settled on any particular degree. Maybe they would go into English or stick with Theater. History seemed interesting. Some had settled on Communications, just to placate their parents or possibly because of its ambiguous employment opportunities. Nobody had tied them down yet. They still embraced their silly little dreams, child's dreams, but at least they were taking a risk, which is more than could be said for the rest of the University.
And while his part of the University burns, Professor Rabbit teaches his class. "So what's the difference between Brad and Bud?" He looks at Steven McCoy in the front row, late as usual, he picked on him first. "Mr. McCoy, I guess you were taking that extra time you needed to reread the story. What do you have to say about Bud?"
"I'm sorry professor, no, it was the stairwell engulfed in flames. I had to climb in through the laboratory window." Steve lifted the chard arm of his blazer as proof. "You know, I didn't like Bud's Story. It was stupid."
"Okay." The professor looked around the room, the students mostly down on the floor now to avoid the smoke. "Stupid? Interesting? Dull? Has anyone else mastered the adjective yet?"
"You didn't let me finish. I thought it was interesting at first. How the narrator and narration kept changing. But it got tired after a while. He took to many damn liberties. I didn't see the point... maybe for a writing exercise? "
Crissy in the back roll coughed twice then disagreed. "I think he was using the narration to open up an important theme. Whether truth can be found in any narration. We all use different voices to tell our stories, but can we even trust our own narration? Is our version of the truth just another lie?"
"I'm not sure where you got that," Steven counters, "But the only "truth" in the value of Bud's writing is its worth as a case study for a schizo writer."
"Bud wasn't schizo," Michelle came to Crissy's defense. "The story's about depression. How confusing it is for him and other people to understand. The narration symbolizes his own struggle."
Dawn, who sat closest to the door, was having difficulty breathing. "Professor Rabbit, would it be okay if I get a drink of water?"
"Go right ahead." He looked down at his Xerox copy of the story and flipped through until he came to a yellow Post-it. "Let's move away from the story's theme and discuss some of the imagery he uses. I think it is important when you start writing your pieces to concentrate on the small details. The uses of subtleties and minuteness of language that slowly unwrap and reveal a story, opposed to just saying it."
"I'm sorry, was there subtlety in Bud's story?" Steven was the class smart ass. "Because I missed it."
David, sitting next to Steve, answered. "The sex! That was subtle."
"Yes, I forgot about the sex." Steven agrees.
"This wasn't the imagery I was referring to." The professor held up the text to a highlighted segment as if the students could see through the smoke and read the small print.
Mark who had been quiet until now, held up his partially burnt text, "Professor, I haven't been able to finish yet, but I was wondering why Brad keeps referring to St. Louis University as Pope Pius. Does he think the school will sue him"?
Then someone else asked, "What kind of grade did he get?"
"Did you fail Mr. Bowers?"
Just when his class debate was becoming lively Professor Rabbit interrupted: "How about we move on to a work by another former student?"
The orange horizon of night crept through the burnt out window. The class now just mere ashes for a fictitious janitor to clean. The fish smell was real. If there really was a sunset, Bud was running and screaming into it.