Are You Alienated: part seven
A name caught her eye. Below the title, at the entry for the middle book of the series: Stranglehold: 1913-1919, Years of Conflict, Minta noticed the words, “Foreword by Roland Slater, Ph.D.”
She thought, there aren’t likely to be two of them. And she still had Dr. Slater’s email address. May I make an appointment to see you? she typed, and added, shamelessly: I just learned you wrote the foreword to Mr. Torbay’s book…
She relaxed in a wheeled armchair. She had popped her head round Dr. Slater’s door; judged, by his face, that he knew her, but hadn’t placed her at once…and that the mental file drawer in which he’d first rummaged for a clue was labeled, “Nuisances, female.”
“Mrs. Castelberry.” He recovered, smiled, stood and offered his hand. “Please have a seat.”
Caring for some reason not to offend, by noticing the seat in question was coffee stained, Minta hunched her shoulder, let her bag fall, then slid her fingers over the upholstery while scooting the bag aside. The seat was dry…and a little sticky. Coffee with sugar.
“I had no idea you were interested in the Dardanelles,” he began.
She’d got as far as thinking, yes, I guess that’s my role today…and deciding the safest answer would be: “Ah…”
“Dr. Slater!” A student burst through the open door, backpack slung over one shoulder, a bandanna worn as a headband, strands of hair caught up in its knot. The issue she had come to discuss was urgent.
“I took the course you’re teaching this term…301…Jen?” She patted the backpack and pulled out a phone, nodded when Slater nodded, checked a text.
“…from the professor who taught it last term. And then I missed the final. Here.” She held the phone, screen out. “I had the flu…really bad. This is from my doctor. You can call.”
Could he give her the final? Slater could…but finals must be proctored. She might take it in a few days, while his other students were taking their mid-term…No? Well, if special arrangements were necessary…
Minta pushed her earbud in tighter; she was making herself smile. She swayed slightly—not embarrassingly, she hoped—and sang under her breath.
Every one of us needs some understanding…
She had, lately, rediscovered a taste for the music of her youth.
While Slater and his student negotiated, Minta thought of Torbay. He was not a boring writer, but she could read in his style a certain insinuating undertone. Torbay―as pictured on his book jacket (and as posed by the photographer), had the mien of an important male author, the face of an egotist. Something about the eyebrows, the serious forehead, Minta decided. Torbay wore a turtleneck under a houndstooth hacking jacket; he leaned towards the camera looking at the reader over his glasses. You and I, his face confided, realize this is all a bit silly.
She couldn’t dislike Torbay for that…for profiting from the projection of this conventional persona, while at the same time commenting on it sardonically—but, she’d noticed the same superior detachment in his writing, skimming the sample excerpted from Stranglehold:
…Redmond continued agitating in the Commons for an investigation. Suvla Bay was of a magnitude beyond concealing; the Press, this time, had refused to act in concert, by portraying the evacuation as a matter of strategy. Asquith demurred, offering to the House the acceptable explanation that Hamilton could not hear testimony from officers needed for active duty.
“I apologize,” Dr. Slater said. “If you don’t mind closing the door, we should have no more interruptions.”
Minta reached across from where she sat, and gave the door a little push. Here she was, in jeans and hoodie, plugged into her phone, not bothering to get out of her chair. This environment, she thought, is making me revert.
Are You Alienated
(copyright 2015 Stephanie Foster)