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A creature of habit, Martin "Doc" Cowles jogged between the ivy-covered buildings of the campus, panting heavily as he pushed himself to his athletic limits. A man of nearly forty-five years in age, he had managed to maintain an acceptable state of fitness, even though the majority of his time had most recently been spent behind a desk or standing before a group of drowsy students.
The struggle to teach the young adults of the school came with much frustration to him. It seemed he was never the true reason for their attending class; instead they seemed more interested in ogling the other students in the row ahead of them. As the school year approached a conclusion, he found himself constantly envious of his friend, Professor Stan Samuels' fortune of having spent the past few months traveling the historically blessed regions of Egypt.
He continued to jog, wishing to be with his friend in the field, but understanding the necessity of his teaching to maintain the financial support of the school. As head of the Archeology Department, his days seemed much more structured than he would have wished. Up in the morning for a quick jog, shower, shave and into the office where he would silently stew, dreading the morning's primer class of freshmen. Passing in front of a fraternity several blocks from his home, he sidestepped to avoid tripping on a clutter of discarded beer cans strewn across the sidewalk. He glanced at the yard in front of the house, the grass littered with empty cans and bottles. Shaking his head, he continued at a steady pace, wondering how the students would ever hope to graduate when they seemed to party every day ofthe week. After all, this was only Tuesday and it appeared the boys had been bingeing all night long.
Growing tired, he slowed to a rapid walk for the last few blocks to the house, eventually climbing the series of wooden steps leading to the front porch of his home. He paused before entering, staring at the mist of the morning as it dissipated from the college grounds, and wondering how this ever became known as higher education--the youths he encountered seemed more often to consider it higher social time. He unlocked the door, going inside and stripping his sweats to take a shower. Taped to the medicine cabinet mirror was a note to himself regarding the evening dinner he had been "asked" to attend by the trustees.
Doc deplored the dinners. The primary reason for his attending was as an attraction for the guests, to many of whom he had become something of a minor celebrity. Years of dig sites in the Yucatan or in Egypt had provided him with scores of stories with which to entertain the socialites, and many of his discoveries had been chronicled by the regional news media, forcing him into the limelight.
There was nothing more boring than rubbing elbows with the trustees and their thick-pocketed donors. He hated kiss-ups. At least he could rest assured there would be ample supplies of high dollar scotch for him to pass the few hours with.
Dried and shaved, Doc went to the kitchen where he poured a bowl of cold cereal. He sat at the table silently chewing and listening as the puffed rice made its morning sounds. The house was so silent. The crackling sound seemed to be amplified, worsening as he chewed each boring bite.
Through the large opening between the kitchen and the living room, he could see the stacks of documents carefully arranged in a manner only he understood. A bachelor of choice, he could see no reason to add the stress of any woman disorganizing his precisely arranged home of paper treasures.
He rose from the table, standing nearly six feet two inches in height, and grabbed his briefcase from near the refrigerator. The walk to the office wasn't too far, but he normally opted to drive his Porsche the distance, preferring to avoid any more personal contact with the students than he was forced to endure.
Driving across the campus, he noticed a few of the students were now beginning to mull from their liquor and drug induced states, forcing themselves to attend classes. He wondered why they even bothered, knowing their dislike of learning and preferences for party. What an existence this was.
As he parked in the open area next to Tomkins Hall, where his office was located, he remembered when he had first been offered the research grant to begin his initial dig site. The thrill of the discovery potential had transformed him tremendously. How he loved to be engulfed in the history of an ancient tomb, far away from civilization and teaching. At first, when he had learned the grant was conditional upon his teaching several classes each year, he hadn't been too upset, but as he became aware of the poor learning drives of the students, it was almost immediate that he had become disgruntled. He soon found himself entering the front office of the Archeology Department, where he was greeted cheerfully by his secretary, Becky, a single mother of three whom he had hired more for empathy than for her talents as a typist.
"Morning, Doc," she said smiling, comfortably sitting at her desk with a cup of coffee and a copy of Newsweek spread before her.
"Hi, Becky," said Doc. "Anything worthwhile going on this morning?"
"Not much, Doc. You've got a couple messages, including one from Dean Miller making sure you haven't forgotten the dinner party tonight."
"Thanks. Do I need to call him back?"
"No, he just wanted to be sure you were going to be there, I guess," she said. Her continuous smile seemed to warm the office. "Coffee?"
"I can get it," he answered, unlocking his office door and placing the briefcase on the chair just inside. He walked to the pot and poured a cup of strong, black brew. "Any word from Samuels?" Becky shook her head. "Nothing. He was supposed to check in yesterday, but I never heard from him. Think he's still some place in Egypt."
"I'm sure he'll call in soon, probably just got distracted, you know how we get when we're in the field," he said, shutting the office door behind him. He moved to the window and stared at the grounds in the distance, wishing to be with Samuels, wherever he was.
Copyright © 2002 by David Bean