(Photo of Maurice Burns III
“Where are you Heading, Scott Jones?”
When he heard the knock on the door, the old gray haired man glanced at the time on the bottom right corner of his computer monitor, shook his head and with much indifference said, “Come in.”
The door opened, and in strolled a noticeably tall young man. Without taking an eye off of the tattered moleskin notebook he had been scribbling in, he made his way towards the brown leather couch opposite the grey haired man’s desk. He walked with much ease and was someone in whom casualness ran very deep. He sat in the chair, and after a few seconds of repositioning, made himself at home once he had finally found the position that allowed both maximum comfort and an angle to periodically glance at the banana peels on his socks.
He lounged in the chair and took a moment to glance around the office. It was decorated delicately with various pictures with influential figures, degrees and all most every state flag. While perusing the office, a high school baseball plaque entitled “Gary Robinson All-State 1965” caught his interest. The young man had been in the office many times before, but had never noticed the plaque. He would have never expected either as the old man was now depleted of his youth and looked as if he never had an athletic bone in his body.
“I didn’t know you played baseball, Dr. Robinson.”
Dr. Robinson paid him no mind and instead focused all of his attention towards the activity on his computer screen. He sifted through a never-ending stream of unread messages and his phone began to ring. Yet to acknowledge Scott’s existence, he answered the phone. Scott had not been surprised by the old mans behavior. Waiting for the old man’s conversation to conclude, he grabbed the moleskin notebook out of the beige cargo backpack hanging over his right shoulder and began to skim through it. It was full of quotes, sketches and countless offbeat observations. When the old man hung up the phone, he took a moment to look up at his all-state plaque. He had almost forgotten it was up there, as he rarely looked took his eyes off his work.
Without looking in his direction, Dr. Robinson said to the young man, “Please remove your hat in my office.” The young man took off the forest green beanie hiding his un-kept Afro, and began to spin it around his fingers.
“You’re twelve minutes late to a meeting you scheduled. Do you not have any respect for my time, Mr. Jones?” The old man asks.
“Of course I do, Dr. Robinson.” he said wearing an exaggerated grin. “And please, call me Scott. I think we’ve become well acquainted enough to consider each other friends at this point, don’t you?”
“If that were truly the case, why wouldn’t you show up in a timely manner? Are you aware I am currently in the middle of publishing a book, collecting interviews and teaching those few diligent students who actually want to be taught?”
Scott fixed his mouth to answer his question but Dr. Robinson continued before he could get a word out.
“You couldn’t have. Because if you did, you would’ve known waiting for you to show up at your own convenience is a waste of my time, a luxury that unlike yourself, I can’t afford.”
“You’re absolutely right sir, and I want to apologize for my tardiness. It’s simply unacceptable. I’m disappointed in myself, for taking your precious time for granted sir.” Scott’s cheeks began to hurt from all the fake smiling he had been doing. “The reason I’m late though is because my bike caught a flat on the way here, so I had to foot it all the way from College Ave, which of course it threw me a little off schedule. I thought about running to try and still make it on time, but in all actuality it would’ve only saved me a minute or two. I’m not really that fast, and it wouldn’t have been worth getting all sweaty over anyway.”
“Don’t you have a vehicle?”
“But you genuinely prefer taking your bike.” Scott looked puzzled and unsure of whether or not the previous statement was a question or an assertion.
“Well yeah. It’s smart. It’s a good alternative to wasting gas, it’s good exercise --‘”
“And it’s suddenly the trendy mode of transportation.” Dr. Robinson rudely interjected, with all his attention still focused on the monitor. “So, Mr. Jones”
“Please, call me Scott.”
“So, what do I owe the pleasure of seeing you yet again this week?”
“Well, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and I’ve decided it would be beneficial to change my major again. “
“You can’t be serious?”
“I’m afraid so,” Scott answered.
Dr. Robinson took off his glasses and began to rub his tired eyes in frustration of Scott’s apathy towards what he considered to be an important decision.
“I love acting, don’t get me wrong. Few experiences trump that of truly being in the moment with your partner on stage, but honestly I didn’t get a part in a single show this previous year and just don’t think a career in the dramatic arts is in the books for me. I’m no Denzel. Maybe a less talented version, but still, just as handsome --“
“Mr. Jones.” Dr. Robinson says interrupting.
“Call me Scott” He subtlety added scrunching his face and scratching his beard, a gesture that all but amused Dr. Robinson.
“At the end of this semester, you will have been a student of this University for three full years. During this time, while being involved in no organizations, you have only completed 48 credit hours. That’s assuming you will have passed all your courses currently in progress, which certainly isn’t a given. “
“Ain’t that the truth,” Scott added looking off in the distance at the various accomplishments hanging on the walls.
“And now you want to change your major again, which will more than likely prolong your already uncertain graduation date.”
He stared at Scott for a moment, hoping the truth would spark some sense of urgency into the young man, but judging by the insouciant expression on his face, it hadn’t.
“You do realize most students a have accomplished more by end of their freshman year than you have in three years?”
“Well, when you put it that way --”
“Let me ask you something, have you done anything this semester in terms of increasing your chances of employment after you leave this place, whenever that ma be?”
“Does it really matter? I’m sure you’ve seen what the job market is like these days; but yeah, sure I have.”
“Really? Did you attend the career and internships fair this semester?”
“Of course you didn’t, and why is that?”
“I was in Austin, Texas when it was being held. I was helping a cousin of mine with a documentary he was doing on street art down there. We actually contributed to the film ourselves. There was an unbelievably deep pothole, on one of the sidewalks, so we drew a hopscotch grid around it, and left the hole in place of where the 9 would be because 7 ate it, of course. Honestly though, there were so many beautiful and interesting pieces down there it was an amazing experience. It’s phenomenal what people can create.”
For the first time this meeting, Scott had shown genuine interest in the topic being discussed, even though Dr. Robinson listened with a baffled expression. He mostly despised Scott, but also found him strange and a bit amusing. He couldn’t quite understand how he maintained such a carefree calm, especially considering the bleak uncertainty of his future.
“I’m sure it was just fantastic, but please, tell me again how that was beneficial to you becoming a future productive member of society? Have you decided to join the film department again?”
“No sir. I’ve come to find out I’m not pretentious enough to succeed in any of the arts.”
“Then which department is the lucky winner this time around?”
“I’ve decided it’s the political science department,” Scott said, resulting in more dissatisfaction for Dr. Robinson who had finally heard enough.
“My department? Is this is another joke of yours?” Dr. Robinson said.
“No sir. I’m serious. I’ve put legitimate thought into this. “ Scott replied.
“Again, call me Scott --”
“You are aware that being a student in my department is requires a great deal of dedication and effort, two things you haven’t been too fond of. It also involves an excruciatingly excessive amount of heavy thinking, as much of the curriculum consists of courses dealing with logic and ethics?”
“Yeah, I actually saw that when looking up department’s degree requirements. It’s part of what drew me in. I spend most of time thinking and searching for the meaning of life even though if I really wanted to I could just look in the dictionary.” Scott raised his brow and smiled at Dr. Robinson, begging for any externality that would hint to an acknowledgement of his wit. Unfortunately, Dr. Robinson gave no such indicator, and sat up in his chair, speechless.
“So, as I’m sure you already know, all I need is for you to do now is have you sign this sheet to make it official and I’ll be on my merry way,” Scott said.
Without adjusting his position, he grabbed his pack off the floor, turned it upside down and completely emptied it. Out fell an antique camera, his moleskin notebook, a few pencils, and a crumpled up green piece of paper. He leaned down to grab the paper, then handed it to Dr. Robinson. After reading it momentarily, Dr. Robinson took a deep breath and proceeded to rip the paper into small pieces.
“What was that for?” Scott asked.
With gravity in
his voice that had not been present up until this point, Dr. Robison said, “You
couldn’t possibly expect me to accept you into my department. For three years,
you’ve drifted in out of classes, doing just enough to get by. You freely hop
from major to major because you’re too lazy to actually commit to anything
because it requires you to actually do some work.”
Scott was caught off guard by the sudden outburst. He tried to defend himself but there was no stopping Dr. Robinson at this point. He sat with both elbows on his desk and his back straight, determined to get his point across.
“I refuse to let you half heartedly waltz into my department, because it seems interesting to you at the moment. When are you going to start taking your future serious and become an adult, Scott? What’s is your purpose in life? Where are heading, Scott Jones?”
Scott starred at the banana print designs on his socks, refusing to move his eyes anywhere near Dr. Robinson’s vicinity. He fiddled with his fingers that suddenly that had a thin layer of moisture to them.
“I’m going to change my mind and ask that you go back to calling me Mr. Jones. Scott just did not sound as friendly coming out of your mouth as I thought I would.”
Starring at Scott, Dr. Robinson measured up him from head to toe then let out a condescending chuckle under his breath.
“You think you’ve got it all figured out, Scott, but you’re just another privileged brat who doesn’t know how ill prepared you are for the real world. Have you even put any thought into the idea beyond the possibility of becoming an elected official and taking advantage of the popularity that comes with it? ”
“Yes, I did.” Scott replied.
“Yeah, really.” He no longer sat at ease and spoke in a soft, defensive tone.
“Why didn’t you attend the group advising in the department this past weekend then? Why didn’t you address this during our previous meeting this week?”
“I don’t know, in between doing trivial work for classes in which I have no interest and working my minimum wage job, I must’ve forgotten my goodness. I printed the damn form out, what more do I really to do?”
Simon had become completely disinterested in the conversation. He sat up in his seat and began to pack up his belongings.
“I figured you’d be leaving soon; it’s a bit hard facing the truth isn’t it?”
“Correct again, Dr. Robinson. You’re shooting 100 percent from the field today on all your accusations and assumptions. You should be proud,” Scott said as he threw his bag over his shoulder and made his way towards the door.
“Don’t leave yet Scott, I’m curious, what would you plan on doing with a political science degree” Dr. Robinson asked.
Stopping to answer his question, Scott said, “I don’t know. Change the way things are now, because they clearly aren’t working.”
“Is that right? And how exactly do you plan on doing that? You do know it would require you to actually work as opposed to aimless floating through life don’t you?”
Scott chose not to speak. He knew no matter what he said Dr. Robinson would find a way to spin it in a manner that would portray him unfavorably.
“You don’t know, do you? Thought you had things all figured out though?” Dr. Robinson asked.
“Seems to be the case.” Scott said.
“Tell me then Scott, what do you know?” Dr. Robinson asked.
“I know that I don’t know, and I think that’s an okay place to start.”
Dr. Robinson sat back in his chair, neutralized by the unexpected words from Scott’s mouth. He observed Scott as he stood by the door annoyed, but calm and collected still. As he sat in his chair examining Scott, the telephone rang, but he ignored it.
“I’ll tell you what.” Dr. Robinson said. “If you’re really serious about joining the department, take my section of PS 103 next semester. If it turns out your really serious about taking on this major, you’ll prove me wrong.”
“That sounds fair to me, Dr. Robinson.” Scott said inching towards the door. “I’m going to go ahead and leave now. Got a long walk ahead me.”
As Scott left the office, Dr. Robinson looked at his computer screen to find three new messages, in addition to the multitude he still needed to read. After reading the first three e-mails, he shut his computer down and took a moment to lean back in his chair and just sat. His eyes drifted towards the all-state baseball plaque hanging above the window. He starred the engraved gold letters within the mahogany frame. The tattered, dusted old plaque brought back to his youth, a time when he truly believed he would be the next Babe Ruth or Joe DiMaggio. He reflected on the choices he made in the name of his dreams, as well as the memories they bought, both high and low. He couldn’t believe what his life had turned out to be.
© Maurice Burns III
Bio: Maurice Burns III is a freelance writer and poet currently living in St. Louis, Missouri. He is a film enthusiast and currently working on his B.A. in Film Directing. You can read film reviews and other works of his at anotherwaytokilltime.tumblr.com.