Tuesday, September 8, 1964
"Deep subject," I said.
My wife cocked her head and looked at me, probably marveling that I had been a teacher for a day and my humor had already descended to the level of a fourteen-year-old. Deep subject, indeed. Sarah and I had barely spoken since I'd left her house, touching base mainly to confirm arrangements for picking up and dropping off Sissy and Butch, our two children.
I wanted to blame Sarah for our lack of communication, but it wasn't as if I had nothing to do with it. I was embarrassed about my behavior, frustrated that I couldn't remember the worst of it. For the past three weeks, I had avoided the newly opened university library, where Sarah worked as a reference librarian. Today was different. After my first class, I was hyped. I wasn't sure if I needed a walk to decompress or needed to talk. After some meandering around campus, I found myself in the library, half hoping to run into Sarah.
And so I did—at the reference desk. A reference librarian at the reference desk. Go figure.
She was ten minutes from a break and suggested we go outside and sit by the reflecting pool. It was a kindness that allowed me to smoke
"Well?" she repeated. "How did it go?"
"I had only one class today," I said while reaching into my shirt pocket for a packet of Luckies. I offered her one, which she waved away."Freshman English, but maybe it was enough to break the ice. I wasn't really sure how to begin, but I talked with the other teachers and settled on a three-point plan. First, I handed out the syllabus and went over it with them. Then I had them take out their copy of Sound and Sense, one of their textbooks, and had each student read a paragraph. My idea was to identify anyone who had trouble reading. Other than the two guys who read more slowly than the others, there were no issues."
"No surprise," Sarah said. "Unless there's been a big change, you're getting the cream of the crop in a seminary."
"In fact, this year does represent a big change," I said, pausing to strike a match and light up. "But no, not in the academic sense. These are bright kids. Anyway, after the reading exercise, I assigned them to write a few paragraphs about what they liked to do for fun. Basically, I wanted to get an idea of their writing skills and to learn about what interested them."
"Sounds like a decent plan."
"It did what I wanted," I said. "Unfortunately, the upplerclassmen need a more sophisticated approach."
"And you have how many classes?"
"I have five classes," I said. "Two freshmen classes, and one sophomore, one junior, and one senior. That's about fifteen hours of class time, which is a little short of a full load but plenty for me."
"Any other English teachers?"
"How did you manage that?"
"I didn't," I said. "The truth is, the rector, who was a classmate of mine in the seminary, had an ulterior motive when he hired me."
Oops. I wasn't sure I should have brought up the subject, wasn't sure I shouldn't have. "I can't tell you right now," I said after a pause. "Hank and I are the only ones in on it. It has to stay that way for a while."
"Really? Aren't you the one who used to tell me that there can be no secrets between husband and wife."
"I am," I admitted. "But our status as husband and wife is a bit up in the air at the moment."
"That." I said. "On the other hand, I think you'll find out about it sometime, perhaps sooner rather than later."
"And why is that?"
"I may need your help."