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The Adjunct.

Fortnightly Fiction

By JAMES GALLANT.

AURORA MAGNUSSON WALKED along the dimly-lit marina wharf on a warm night in early June looking for Miss Behavior. She had no idea what to expect, never having been on a houseboat. Peter had said the boat was “nice,” but anything he owned would be that.

The gently rocking houseboat was unprepossessing externally: a boxy white flat-roofed split-level structure on pontoons. As she descended the gangplank, a man with a trim white beard eyed her from the deck of a neighboring boat.

“I’m Peter’s friend.”

Whitebeard raised a compliant hand. “I’m easy.”

She entered the boat, groped in the dark for the light switch, and flipped it. Her new living quarters were not only “nice,” but judged by her own modest standards spectacularly so. The bottom floor was as spacious as any of the student-y apartments she had occupied over the years. Just inside the door, a plush white sofa, two comfortable chairs, and a big screen television stood on a polished blond hardwood floor. Beyond them on the left, a dining table for four, and to the right of that a kitchenette with a late-model cook-top and refrigerator.

At the back of the boat a maple ladder led to the upper floor, an uncluttered open space with a king-sized futon, two batwing chairs, book shelves, and work desk. She opened double doors, admitting a warm, damp breeze and a view of the midnight blue Lake of the Ozarks under a full moon.

A number of trips to her trusty, rusty Honda square-back in the marina parking brought her worldly possessions to the boat. She dropped onto the sofa intending to rest a moment, but fell asleep.

She awoke in the morning to the caw of gulls and self-congratulation: She was rent-free!

THE HOUSEBOAT HAD been an impulsive purchase Peter made upon first realizing how much more the pharmaceutical firm in Chicago would pay him than the university had. While in Chicago, he’d enjoyed summer weekends and vacations at the lake with current inamorata, but since his reassignment to India his returns to the States had been mainly business-related and brief, and it appeared now that he was to be in India permanently. In Atlanta for a meeting over the winter, he’d expressed to Aurora, who was teaching there, his uncertainty about what to do with the boat. He didn’t really want to sell it, but leaving it unattended at the Lake was problematic.

She’d asked if a person could live on the boat year-round.

“Yes.”

“Supposing I did?”

“You’re in Atlanta.”

“Not necessarily.”

He looked at her. “You’d want to live in the Ozarks?”

She shrugged. “Colleges there must hire adjunct teachers.”

“Yeah, but…”

There was a deep streak of the snob in Peter. “What rent would you charge me?”

“Nothing.”

That “nothing” had generated for Aurora a vision of a rent-free nirvana. As an adjunct college teacher with an annual income that had rarely ever exceeded by much the federal government’s definition of poverty (sub $19,500), her steadiest source of anxiety had been rent payments. After Peter and she broke up as a couple six years ago, a leitmotif in their occasional e-mail exchanges and telephone conversations had been his incomprehension of her continuing in her “crummy” profession: part-time academic piecework paying between two and three thousand dollars for a semester course. Adjuncts were now doing three-quarters of the classroom teaching at two and four year American institutions. Eking out a living meant usually teaching simultaneously at more than one school, with significant portions of a work day spent commuting from one to another–“freeway flying,” as it was known. Whether one would have courses to teach from one term to the next depended on enrollment figures, budgetary considerations, and administrative decisions about class sizes.

Aurora had been asked to prepare courses taken away from her several days before a term began. To avoid paying their share of unemployment compensation in that event, universities generally invoked the federal law prohibiting payments to persons with a “reasonable assurance” of future employment, the possibility of having courses to teach later being represented as such assurance, although it was nothing of the kind. Aurora knew an adjunct who, after a sudden, unanticipated loss of courses and income, delivered pizzas for Guiseppe’s Deep-Dish. Dressed in a cardinal red jacket and a baseball cap bearing the Guiseppe logo, grease-spotted pizza box in hand, he’d knocked at a college dorm room door opened by a kid he’d given a C in composition the previous semester. The leering lad tipped him a quarter.

There were, of course, no “benefits” for adjuncts. The new federal Affordable Care Act required employers to fund health care insurance for people working thirty hours a week or more. As Aurora was leaving Atlanta that summer, Georgia state colleges and universities were planning to skirt this requirement by reducing maximum classroom hours for adjuncts to twenty-nine.

Aurora had persisted in her “crummy profession” partially because her MFA from Iowa prepared her for little else; but she also really liked teaching. She had hoped early on that adjunct teaching would lead to a more permanent, stable situation, but that hope was long gone. After losing courses promised her recently, and having to wait tables at the age of thirty-five, she’d decided something had to change—and something had. Without rent to pay, she’d cut her living expenses in half.

The move to Missouri was speculative, of course, and had she not received that year her father’s inheritance–a little over forty thousand dollars—it would not have been feasible. That money was in a bank account, and she intended to leave most of it there, but she could dip into it for living expenses while getting her bearings in the new setting.

THE ONLINE RESEARCH she’ d done while still in Atlanta had revealed that there were six colleges that hired adjuncts within a twenty mile radius of the Lake of the Ozarks. She contacted all six. Three–Ozarks Bible College, University of the Apostles, and Heartrock University—asked for her dossier. She was in her new digs only a week when Professor Robes, chairman of the English department at Apostles, e-mailed to arrange an interview in Paloosa. The Friday afternoon drive there, fifteen miles over a rolling, twisty, tree-lined two-lane road, seemed only a continuation of the trip she’d made recently from Atlanta over scenic secondary roads through Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri. The human content of the region visible from the road was an immense jigsaw in which all the pieces somehow fit: one-stoplight towns, mobile homes, fast-food litter, smashed beer cans, driftwood-gray abandoned farm houses and barns, junked cars, compact evangelical churches, billboards for adult movie shops and “Jesus Saves.”

Near Paloosa, she pulled her old Honda to the side of the road to read a homemade signboard headed LIBERAL DEMOCRATS nailed to a tree. The sign enumerated the sins of that nefarious crowd–higher taxes, big government, welfare for the lazy, reduced armies, murder of the unborn, no guns—and concluded with the afterthought, “John Kerry is a freak.”

Professor Robes had said in his e-mail that locating the Apostles campus could be tricky for “the uninitiated,” so he’d meet her at a restaurant downtown, “The Upper Room.” The name of the restaurant prompted Aurora’s vision of an advertising slogan, “Home of the Last Supper.”

There was nothing “upper” about the restaurant, a squat, whitewashed structure with a gravel parking lot, three pickup trucks out front. The associated names—Robes, Apostles, Upper Room—aroused the expectation that the Professor might wear rope-belted haircloth and sport a Biblical beard. However, the clientele (blue-jeaned, baseball-capped males) didn’t much resemble either apostles or academics.

Aurora asked after Professor Robes with the woman at the cash register whose dyed black hair towered in a beehive.

“Don? He hasn’t been in this afternoon.”

Aurora sat in a booth for an hour and a half drinking iced tea and eyeing her BlackBerry for word from Robes which never came. Finally, she asked the beehive woman for directions to the Apostles campus.

“It’s the old Boys Reformatory, if you know that.”

Aurora didn’t. The woman drew her a map on a paper napkin.

THE CAMPUS, PERCHED on an elevation, was two one-story yellow brick buildings that might have been factories situated on parallel sides of a quad. A football field with bleachers along the sidelines was visible on a flat below.

In the English department office a rawboned, freckled middle-aged, strawberry blond popped gum while typing at a computer terminal.

Aurora asked after Professor Robes.

“He’s gone for the day, hon.”

“I was supposed to meet with him this afternoon.”

“On a Friday?”

Aurora showed her a printout of Robes’ e-mail.

“He’s not at the Upper Room?”

“No.”

“Kinda looks like he stood you up, don’t it?”

“Would you be able to contact him?”

“I doubt it. Friday afternoon he’s usually on his jet ski over to the lake. He probably couldn’t hear his phone ring even if he had it on him, what with the racket that thing make. He loves that machine. I swear, it’s what the man has instead of sex….You an adjunct?”

“I’m applying for adjunct teaching.”

“I figured. The old bunch head for the hills this time of year, and newbies start piling in. You hear ‘em say they don’t know why the adjuncts keep leaving. Don’t surprise me none. If you treat people like shit, you think they’re gonna stay around? That guy the President fired for giving the quarterback an F never did get his last paycheck, I don’t think.” The secretary looked around for non-existent ears, and bent near Aurora with a confidence. “Hon, if I was you I’d steer clear of this dump. Anyone tell you sixty percent of the students is jocks flunked out of other schools?”

“No.”

“Some of them boys is real nice to look at, but if they was any slower, they’d be going backwards.”

“Sixty percent of the student body are jocks?”

“President Wooly wants to turn Apostles into a big-time sports program.” She twirled a finger beside her ear.

AURORA NEVER HEARD again from Professor Robes, but she received an invitation to interview with the Dean at Ozarks Bible College.

As she sat on a bench outside Dean’s office, a radio preacher was audible in the distance, the dramatic rising and falling rhythms of the voice punctuated occasionally with a heartfelt “Praise Jesus!”

The Dean came from his door, greeted Aurora with a smile, a manly handshake, and a quick survey of her boobs, and drew her into his office. A large reproduction of Rembrandt’s “The Return of The Prodigal Son” adorned the wall behind his desk, the errant youth kneeling contritely, like a reformed Liberal before a forgiving elder.

The Dean paged through Aurora’s dossier on his desk. “Well, your academic background would certainly qualify you to teach our young people.” He settled back in his chair and folded his hands behind his head. “How do you incorporate your faith in your teaching?”

She blinked. “I just teach composition.”

“Our faith influences all that we do,” the Dean intoned. “You a church member, are you?”

She improvised. “I was in Atlanta, I just moved here.”

“What was your church there?”

She improvised. “First Iconium Baptist.” She had often driven past First Iconium in her Atlanta neighborhood.

“How do you spell ‘Iconium’?”

She spelled it for him. He tapped it into the laptop open on his desk. Sunday mornings had always been prime paper-grading time. How would she have ever kept up if she’d attended Sunday services?

“I see that First Iconium is a black church.”

Aurora nodded, and nearly blurted, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

“You have children, do you?”

“No, I’m not married.”

He gazed at her over the top of horn-rims. “Did you leave behind any special friends in Atlanta?”

She stared at him.

He handed her a sheet of paper with a single-spaced, bulleted list. “We ask our faculty to sign a statement of faith.” The first item was, “We believe the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, is the inerrant and infallible Word of God, given by the inspiration of God, the only certain and authoritative rule of every aspect of the Christian life.”

She laid the statement of faith on his desk, rose from the chair, and made her way to the door.

“Thanks for stopping by,” he called to her back.

AURORA NOTICED IN Lake News Online that the Shorty Pants Lounge was advertising for waitresses.

Sunbathing and other beach-related activities had never much appealed to her personally, but watching others engaged in them from the second floor porch at the back of the boat was diverting. There were scenes worthy of inclusion in some contemporary equivalent of Hieronymous Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights.” One hot afternoon a tubby fellow asleep on an inner tube, beer bottle in one hand, had drifted about the middle of the lake aimlessly for hours. With binoculars trained on the beach across the water at twilight one evening she noticed a teenage girl fellating a recumbent boy while two giggling girlfriends at her side studied the procedure.

Since she’d last noticed, young women’s beach attire had gone pretty far in the direction of nudity, a shrinkage of fabric that was conceivably a manifestation of an inflationary economy, like diminishing soap bars and breakfast cereal boxes–but she doubted it.

The current rage in recreational water vehicles was a type of one- or two-person watercraft that zoomed along at high speeds, skipping out of the water repeatedly and slamming down again whompwhomp…whomp. Aurora’s white-bearded neighbor Bill Maloney (who, it turned out, was a recently retired history professor at Missouri State) told her that the boats were called “jet skis” or “wave runners.” Aurora noticed that the typical arrangement of couples aboard them was the same as on motorcycles, the guy up front steering, the woman behind, arms and legs clasped around him.

“That’s basically what they are, floating motorcycles,” Bill said, “and they’re about as dangerous.”

Bill and his wife Janet had become Aurora’s guides to the Lake. The big item in local news that summer was Psychopathic Records’ plan to move its annual rock festival featuring the Clown Posse band from southern Illinois to a farm near the Lake. The festival had attracted Hell’s Angels and assorted dopers and gangbangers in the past, and this crowd was expected at the Lake in August.

“There are over a hundred factory outlet stores over at Osage Beach,” Janet said. “You can find just about anything you want in the way of clothing.”

Aurora’s clothing shop was Salvation Army.

“There’s also the option of nudity over there,” Bill put in. “The New York Times described it as the ‘oldest floating bacchanal in the country.’”

“What’s a floating bacchanal?” Aurora asked.

“Never checked it out personally,” Bill said.

“No, and he’s not going to, either,” Janet added.

“I’m not sure I could hold up my end of the deal at a bacchanal.”

ELIZABETH BENNETT, CHAIRWOMAN of English at Heartrock University who phoned Aurora in late June was apologetic about her tardy response to Aurora’s application, but she’d had to wait for Heartrock’s plans for the fall to firm up a bit. The situation there remained a bit fluid, but she thought she’d be able to offer Aurora three sections of freshman composition. She was also interested in Aurora’s Iowa MFA and publications. In graduate school and shortly thereafter when she’d still had time for reflection, Aurora had published a number of short stories. Heartrock was to initiate that year a major in creative writing. Aurora would be perfect for the introductory course in fiction-writing.

Bill Maloney described Heartrock as an expensive little liberal arts school for kids from the suburbs of Kansas City, St. Louis, and Little Rock. These were Aurora’s kind of people, and the prospect of teaching four courses at one school, and not having to drive constantly, was glorious. Heartrock paid top adjunct dollars, too–three thousand dollars per semester course. With an income of twelve thousand dollars for the semester, and no rent to pay, she could live comfortably.

However, she was well-acquainted with slips between cup and lip in the adjunct teaching game, and the psychological effect of tentative good news from Heartrock was to make her begin prospecting actively for opportunities at schools other than those she had investigated already. Two community colleges, each more than twenty miles from the lake, told her they might need adjuncts for the fall. Each was more than twenty miles from the Lake, and the distance between the one and the other would be thirty-six miles over two-lane roads whose condition in mid-winter she could imagine; and would her aged Honda take that kind of punishment day in and day out?

THERE WAS BAD news from Heartrock in early July. Not only were enrollments for the fall down sharply, but fewer students had pre-registered for the new courses in creative writing than anticipated. Elizabeth Bennett was only going to be able to offer Aurora two sections of freshman comp. While the viability of a creative writing major was being reevaluated, there would be no introductory course in fiction-writing in the fall. “The creative writing major is very popular all across the country. We may not have promoted our program adequately.”

That, Aurora thought, or even the ebullient, imaginative young had realized that a creative writing major was the fast track to burger-flipping at McDonald’s.

Two sections of freshman English at Heartrock for the first half of the school year would bring in only six thousand dollars. Aurora couldn’t live on that. It now appeared that she would either be spending days commuting between Heartrock and the community colleges out and away, or dipping into her savings for living expenses.

She noticed that the Dog Day Grill at the lake was advertising for waitresses.

THE MORNING AFTER Elizabeth’s call, Aurora was still in bed, on the verge of waking, when a scheme she had sometimes pondered came swimming up out of the Unconscious: The proliferation of creative writing programs in American universities, had fostered a production of stories, “flash fictions,” poems, and other nondescript “experimental” literary works probably unparalleled in world history. Millions of these works, commonly represented as too “serious” or “unique” for commercial publishing, were floating about the Ethernet addressed to editors of non-profit, university-affiliated, literary magazines. Some of these magazines appeared in print, others only online. In either case, most now accepted submissions online, commonly charging authors a modest reading fee of two or three dollars paid with credit cards.

The superabundance of manuscripts in circulation meant that writers must often wait many months for editorial decisions, and sympathetic editors now generally tolerated multiple submissions. This tolerance encouraged writers to spray manuscripts–and the modest submission fees– like buckshot here, there, and everywhere. If a magazine were printed, the reading fees defrayed production and mailing costs, and might finance author honorariums or contest prizes.

However, if a magazine were only online, paid no honorariums, and held no contests, the reading fees it would receive might exceed very considerably costs of operation. Theoretically, anyone (e.g. an adjunct without courses to teach) might start a magazine and begin raking in the fees. However, few writers in their right minds would cough up even three bucks to see their work in a magazine sprouted mushroom-like on the Internet. Publication of that sort would resemble being lost in space. The online literary magazine that became a cash cow would have to seem reputable, and an excellent source of reputability would be association with a university creative writing program. Conversely, a creative writing program would gain legitimacy by sponsoring a magazine.

Aurora phoned Elizabeth Bennett that morning.

“I know how to market your creative writing major,” Aurora said.

Elizabeth was all ears.

“Start an online literary magazine. Call it The Heartrock Review.”

There was silence at the other end of the line. “Do you think that would work?”

“I’ve seen it work at two schools where I taught,” Aurora lied.

The Heartrock Review,” Elizabeth mused. “I’m probably revealing my age, but I haven’t any idea how one would go about starting an online magazine.”

I would,” Aurora responded, “and for the equivalent of what you’d pay an adjunct for two sections of freshman English, I’ll get the magazine up and running for you, and edit it.”

“Wouldn’t a magazine cost a lot? We have very tight budgets these days.”

It would cost scarcely anything. I have a web-designer friend who’d create a website as a favor to me.” (Tom Edwards in Atlanta had been a sometimes bed partner in the jiffy sex life she’d managed to squeeze in amid all the paper-grading and freeway flying.)

“Would we pay contributors?”

“No. Most writers don’t expect that.”

Elizabeth asked Aurora to come to campus to discuss the proposed magazine with her and the university president.

HEARTROCK WAS ONLY six miles from the lake, and it occurred to Aurora as she drove there that, were her Honda were to give up the ghost, she could manage that short distance on a bicycle.

Elizabeth Bennett was approximately the person Aurora had imagined: a broad-beamed, matronly, open-faced sixty year-old wearing both a wedding band and an old-timey engagement ring. She’d arranged an appointment for them with President Eckhard. Before that, they had a half hour to chat.

“I told him about your idea. I think he’s very excited by it,” Elizabeth said. “I’m wondering, though, if editing the magazine would be too much work for you. I mean, you’d still have your teaching to do on top of that.”

No one anywhere Aurora had taught had ever asked a question so kind. Aurora had to swallow hard to ward off tears. “The editing probably wouldn’t take that long once the magazine was up and running,”

“How would writers know about our review?”

Aurora described online listings of literary magazines inviting submissions. “I also have publishing writer friends who’d probably send us work for a first issue.” What they’d be willing to send The Heartrock Review might not be works for the ages, Aurora imagined, but where establishing a magazine’s reputation so writers would cough up the reading fees was concerned, the quality of the writing would matter less than the name recognition of authors published. Besides, no one other than the editors was ever likely to read literary magazines.

PRESIDENT ECKHARD WAS a corpulent ruddy-faced, white-haired, presidential-looking old guy with an office desk as large and presidential as himself. An odd ornament stood at one front corner of the desk: a pudgy, weighty-looking stone in the shape of the conventional Valentine’s Day heart.

Eckhard noticed Aurora staring at it. “That’s my heart-rock. One of our students found it in a river bed.”

Aurora smiled.

“You know, I was myself an English major myself all the way through my M.A. at Wisconsin,” Eckhard confessed. “I wrote my thesis on Milton. God, I used to love reading that stuff. ‘Organ music,’ C.S. Lewis called it. I don’t suppose there’s an undergraduate who would read Milton seriously these days.”

“It’s hard to get them to read anything seriously,” Elizabeth said quietly.

Eckhard shook his head sadly. “These electronic media are rewiring the human brain.”

Since neither Aurora nor Elizabeth responded to this prophetic utterance, Eckhard straightened up a few papers on his desk, muttered, “The times they are a-changing,” and turned to the business at hand. He was, indeed, charmed by the idea of Heartrock having a literary magazine. His only concern was cost, and Aurora voiced the same reassurances she’d provided Elizabeth. She said nothing of the reading fees the magazine would collect which, if all went well, would go into to a bank account she alone controlled.

“You’d manage the magazine for six thousand dollars a semester?” Eckhard inquired.

“Yes.”

“As you see it, would the magazine have a bias?” Elizabeth asked Aurora. “I mean, would we publish one kind of work rather than another?”

“I think the only criterion should be literary excellence,” Aurora affirmed. That way, no one writing in any specific genre or style would be reluctant to send along the three dollar reading fee.

“Do you suppose we could pay Aurora something to get the magazine started this summer?” Elizabeth asked. “I mean, we couldn’t very well ask her to do both that and teach in the fall.”

Elizabeth was a sweetie.

Eckhard offered Aurora three thousand dollars for summer work.

Driving back to the Lake, Aurora was in high spirits. That three thousand dollars would allow her to get through the summer without dipping into her savings, and it was a delicious thought that she was actually going to be paid for laying the cornerstone of her scam.

TOM EDWARDS WAS quite willing to create the website for The Heartrock Review, and he was at liberty to start work on the project immediately.

Aurora, meanwhile, with a view of blue skies from her desk on the breezy upper level of the houseboat, was boning up on online editing techniques, dispatching e-mails to writer acquaintances requesting submissions for the first issue of the Review, and composing press releases. By the end of July, four writers she’d known at Iowa, since become little mag superstars, had promised pieces for the inaugural issue. One, Nick DiPrimo, who taught at Denison, was also going to encourage his creative writing students to submit works.

In announcing the magazine’s editorial policy locally, Aurora specified that, to prevent favoritism in editorial decisions, works by Heartrock students and faculty would not be considered. The actual purpose of this proviso was to discourage local awareness of the submission fee which was not to be mentioned, either, on the magazine’s home page. A person wishing to submit a manuscript would first have to establish a personal Heartrock Review account with a log-in password. Only after logging in and clicking the “submit” button would he/she become aware of the three dollar submission fee. The fees collected would go into a Review bank account she alone controlled.

That she was collecting the fees might of course be discovered. If asked about them, she would say that they covered the costs of maintaining the website, office expenses, etc.; or she might say that she was accumulating funds in anticipation of providing author honorariums in the future.

In press releases for area news media, Aurora stated that the Review would be especially hospitable to works reflecting “Ozark culture.” She knew scarcely anything about “Ozark culture”—wasn’t sure she wanted to know anything about it—but she thought there were probably countless three-named backwoods bards who would venture three bucks for a crack at literary glory.

The number of submissions and submission fees she had collected by the time the first issue was ready for the Web in October was astonishing. She had netted nearly a thousand dollars–serious money. If the mag continued to attract lucre like that, she might soon be able to afford a new (used) car, perhaps one only three or four years old. For the time being, she settled for replacing the holey muffler on her growling Honda and the repair of her car’s vinyl interior ceiling which, after many scorching Southern summers, had parted with its epoxy and dropped from the roof. She relegated her threadbare winter coat to the marina dumpster, and rather than pawing through racks of used clothing redolent of cleaning solutions at Salvation Army or Good Will, paid regular retail price for a coat, a dress, and some tops at the outlet stores of Osage Beach, and came away with the feeling of having joined the human race. She was also eating out occasionally at Shorty Pants Lounge or Shady Gator, tipping waiters with a generosity only to be anticipated from one who had been recently one of their gratuity-dependent ilk.

If the submissions continued to roll in at the present rate, an annual income in excess of forty thousand dollars, more money than she had ever made in her life, was conceivable. In a moment of irrational exuberance she’d considered pasting one of those “Life is Good!” stickers on the back of the Honda, but thought better of it, since an adjunct ejaculating in that manner might raise suspicions.

THE TIDE OF submissions through the fall and into the winter was unrelenting. All the lonely people, where did they all come from? The volume of submissions notwithstanding, editing the magazine was easier than grading papers for her sections of freshman English. Where most submissions were concerned, a glance at a few lines or paragraphs encouraged her punching the “delete” button. Pressed for time, she might not read even that far. In any event, she would shoot off her standardized rejection e-mail note stating that “the editors” had found much to admire in the submission and had given it serious attention before concluding it was not quite right for the magazine. “We would be delighted to consider any other work you might want to send us in the future.”

Two-thirds of what she took in she transferred from the Review bank account to her personal account, so that if university people began nosing around, the modest sum remaining in the magazine’s account would not arouse suspicions.

SHE RECEIVED IN March a riveting e-mail from the bank where the contributors’ fees were deposited stating that transfers of sums from the Review account to any other account would no longer be allowed. That same day, President Eckhard’s secretary phoned Aurora to inform her that President wished to speak with her immediately in his office.

The tall, chesty, red-faced, white-haired Eckhard was standing by the large plate glass window near his desk when Aurora entered the office. He did not invite her to sit, but simply gazed at her fixedly. They were some eight or ten feet apart.

“My daughter Jennifer is a student at Denison University,” he said. “Her instructor in poetry-writing there has been urging his students to submit to our magazine. Jennifer mentioned to me the fee required to submit to The Heartrock Review. You told us nothing of this fee. I asked our business manager make inquiries, and he has discovered that you have taken in over five thousand dollars, much of which has been moved to an account in your name. I have conferred with our lawyer, and we intend to regain what rightfully belongs to the university, by a legal action if necessary.”

The heart-rock at the corner of Eckhard’s desk was as heavy as it looked, but Aurora managed to lift it over her head with both hands. Her aim was imperfect, but as the rock went through the plate glass window, the look on Eckhard’s face was well worth what this was going to cost her.


James Gallant is an independent scholar, the Fortnightly‘s “Verisimilitudes” columnist, and the author of The Big Bust at Tyrone’s Rooming House: A Novel of Atlanta and Verisimilitudes, a forthcoming title from Odd Volumes. He has also written a collection of stories about historical classical guitarists, including Francesco Roberto, published in The Fortnightly Review. His latest book (available with a free Kindle reader) is Whatever Happened to Ohio?

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