325: A Hill Of Beans

on December 4, 2008 in Book 12

In Which Professor Hart Cultivates An Interest

I got back with just enough time to stow my purchased presents under my bed, where they were thankfully out of sight due to the new bedclothes. With my pitchfork gone off on its own, there was nothing under there and no reason for Two to go looking… I’d say something to her, just in case. If she saw books on the floor, she might feel compelled to put them away.

Of course, even if she found them, looked at them, and then stacked them neatly on my desk, I doubted it would change her reaction to later being presented with them as presents. It wouldn’t occur to her that they might be intended for her. Still, I had a very Two-like urge to do the thing properly… it would ruin the surprise for me if she saw them first.

Sooni didn’t have anything to say to me in Logic class for once, though she seemed to be in a good mood judging from the smile on her face and the way her fox tail was bouncing around. It kept moving around even after she sat down. I could hear it slapping the knees of the girl behind her, who tried to get her attention a few times.

“Hey, do you mind?” she said when Sooni finally turned around.

“Um… no?” Sooni said, confused but still smiling. “I don’t mind a bit.”

The girl scooted her desk back several inches.

The next period, I thought Steff was going to skip again… it seemed to me like if she did show up for history, she got there ahead of me. She came in a few minutes after I’d sat down, though.

“Here you go, my dear,” she said, laying an envelope in front of me with a theatrical bit of flourish. My name was written on it in ornately flowing silver letters.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“Your pass into the most exclusive event of the school year,” she said. “Don’t tell me you forgot about Two’s Day?”

“Oh! I didn’t… I forgot you were doing invitations for it.”

I opened it up to see she’d hand-lettered the whole thing on some fancy card-stock, with letters that looked vaguely runic. The whole thing was way better than I could have done with an autoscribe.

“Yeah, I know we had also talked about you doing them, too,” Steff said. “I hope you didn’t go to a lot of trouble… I don’t think they turned out so well, but Amaranth kind of arm-wrestled me into doing them.” She grinned. “Only we didn’t use our arms so much and I kind of lost on purpose.”

“So what did you get her?” I asked.

“Well… I didn’t know how much money we were spending,” she said. “And I didn’t have a lot anyway, so… I kind of made her something.”

“What?” I asked.

She reached into her bag and pulled out a box of cards. On the front she’d drawn a logo that said “TWO’s Deck of Many Orders”.

“You know, we haven’t had to give her many orders lately, which is good, I guess… but I thought, what if she misses it?” Steff said. “So if she gets bored or wants a quick fix, she can pull these out and draw one.”

I pulled a few cards out. They each had an instruction on it, along with a beautifully and realistically rendered pen-and-ink illustration of Two undertaking them. The top one said “Eat A Pickle*” The next two read “Count To Ten*” and “Hug A Friend*”. They each had a little coda in a box under the picture that read, “*If you cannot do this right now, draw another card.

“The drawings aren’t any… um… well, they get the idea across, anyway, and I tried to make sure the instructions were things that would be easy to do,” Steff said. “But I put the fine print since, you know, she might not have a pickle or a friend handy.”

“That’s creative,” I said. “I got her activity books, kind of for the same reason… but this is a lot more personal. Oh, and a cookbook.”

The cookbook was actually the biggest part of it, in terms of price, but it had been a last-minute impulse.

“Yeah, I’m sure she’ll enjoy that,” Steff said. Her entire body went rigid as she suddenly arched her back and stamped her feet rapidly on the floor. I would have been alarmed if she hadn’t been smiling… okay, I was actually still a little alarmed. But I figured it was the same impulse that made Sooni’s tail wag, absent a tail to properly express it. “Oh, I’m so excited! I don’t want to wait until tomorrow.”

“Well, you’ll have to,” I said, smiling. “You already put it in my planner.”

“Yeah, and passed out invitations,” Steff said. “Oh, well… hey, Keridwen! How’s it going?” she yelled as Keri La Belle came in with the cluster of people who sat around her. They all looked over at Steff, bemused, while La Belle tried to pretend she hadn’t heard.

They were some of the last students to arrive before Hart came in, looking like the storm that had hit campus on Saturday.

Good afternoon, class,” he said. “I would like to share with you an amusing joke.” Strangely, he didn’t sound terribly amused. “It was told to me by my colleague Phyllis Dorman. Do any of you know Professor Dorman? She teaches History 109. ‘History of the Enias Valley’. She received this funny, funny message in her inbox this morning from the Dean of the College of History and Lore. It goes like this… because the university gets a grant from the province to encourage an interest in all things relating to the province of Prax, all history classes are required to designate a day for the teaching of local history as it relates to their subject matter. All history courses. Now, the funny part: this notice was left in her slot because it has come to the Dean’s attention that she’s not fulfilling the requirement, and she should take steps to rectify this immediately.”

“Um… isn’t her whole class local history?” La Belle asked.

“Ah, see? Do you see there?” Hart said. He sounded like he was on the verge of hysterical screaming. “Ms. La Belle gets the joke! Points for you, Ms. La Belle!”

“How many p…”

“Stop talking,” Hart said. “It gets funnier. She shared the joke with me this morning when we bumped into each other at the coffee maker, but when I got to my office and checked my mail slot, the dean had left the same funny message for me. Isn’t that hilarious?”

It was obvious Professor Hart resented the dean directing him on what to do with his class even for a single day, but I thought his reaction was a little overblown. A local history teacher being told she needs to devote a day to local history was enough to make anybody introduce their forehead to their desk. But even if Prax hadn’t joined the Imperial Republic until the mid-second century, that didn’t mean it didn’t have history… and if the surviving structures in and beneath downtown Enwich were any indication, that history was interesting.

Anyway, it seemed kind of petty to not want to give up even a single hour of class time for something that was so closely related to what you were already teaching.

Hart’s eyes were sweeping over the room. They locked on my face and from the way they narrowed I knew my expression was saying too much, as usual.

“Yes, Ms. Mackenzie,” he said. “You have a thought about the dean’s amusing joke?”

“Um… doesn’t the town at Enwich actually predate the revolutionary period?” I asked. That seemed like a safer choice than ”Don’t you think you’re being petty?”

“Yes,” he said. “Very good. It does. That settlement was not, however, part of the Imperial Colonies and thus not a part of the early republic. As the subject of this class is Early Republican History, the goings-on of the Enias River Valley at the time of the revolution fall as far outside our scope as those of Chung or the Argentus.”

“But it eventually became part of the republic,” I said. “So…”

“But in doing so it did not retroactively affect the course of the revolution and those events which followed from it,” Hart said. “It remains as irrelevant to our subject as the history of Chung would if tomorrow they joined the empire.”

“But even still, it might be interesting…” I started to say.

“Don’t,” Steff whispered. “Just don’t.”

Too late.

“Very well,” Professor Hart said. “Since you find the subject so interesting, you can prepare a ten minute presentation on the settlement of Fort Prax, circa the year 0 of our current calendar, which you will give before the class on our official Local History Day, to be designated later.”

“What?” I said. “That’s not fair.”

“You have an interest in local history,” he said. “I’ve encouraged it.”

The entire class was silent as he stared at me stony-faced, daring me to say something else. I shrank down in my seat.

“Ha!” Keri La Belle said. She didn’t laugh. She said “ha!”

“And you, Ms. La Belle, can do a ten minute presentation on the… fuck, let’s say the indigenous goblin tribes,” he said.

Goblins?” she repeated. “Gross.”

“You’ll want to consult the school’s policies on racial tolerance and discrimination before you add any adjectives to your paper. That’s twenty minutes down. I’m sure we’ll have a whole hour filled before the day itself arrives,” Hart said. “Now, if we can move on to something that has even a little bit to do with my actual subject, I want you to open your books to the map on page eighty-one.”

Hart was a good teacher and an interesting lecturer, but neither of those traits precluded his being a monumental dick sometimes. I tried to take solace in the fact that looking up stuff about the old town was something I probably would have done eventually anyway, while having to learn ten minutes’ worth of information about icky goblin tribes would probably kill La Belle stone dead.

I tried to, but couldn’t… the fact that I’d have to stand up in front of the class—La Belle included—and give a speech was what made it punishment. Hell, as pissed as she was now, by the time it came time to give our speeches the whole thing would probably be funny to her. Even if she completely bungled hers, she’d still sit there and laugh at mine every time I fidgeted or stumbled over something.

“Ten minutes,” Steff said, when class was over. “That’s harsh. Thank nobody in particular you’re such a nerd, huh?”

“I wish I were a nerd,” I said. “Nerds love giving presentations. Attention makes us geeks melt.”

“Just imagine we’re all naked,” she said. “For some of us, it’ll be mutual.”

I hated stuffing the beautifully decorated invitation into my coat pocket, since that would mean bending it, but I knew it would get crushed worse in my book bag and carrying it would mean having my hands out the end of my sleeves… I wasn’t yet completely in the habit of making sure I had my gloves when I left the dorm, unfortunately. I finally ended up putting it inside my history book. That would keep it nice and flat and also completely out of sight from Two.

She was at her desk sorting a big mound of jelly beans by color when I went back to the room to drop off my bag after class.

“Ooh, where’d you get those?” I asked.

“My friend Hazel gave them to me for counting,” she said.

“For what?”

“She told me that she needed her jelly beans counted and if I did it properly I could have them,” she said.

“What?” I repeated. I was no master of estimating jelly bean numbers by sight, but there couldn’t be less than a couple hundred in the pile. Apart from the part where Two got a bunch of candy for her trouble, telling her to go count them sounded like the sort of cruel trick a nasty person would play on a recently-freed golem.

“In our cooking class she told me she had left a jar of jelly beans back by the lockers and if I went and counted them while she talked to our friends I could have them,” Two said.

“Oh,” I said. That cleared it up a little… it had been a distraction. Her friend Hazel had needed time to talk to their class-friends without Two there, and so had engineered a situation that would keep her occupied out of earshot.

Not that this was hard to do. Hazel could have said, “Two, go stand over there until I come get you,” and she would have done so. The fact that Hazel had figured out a way to give her something to do while she waited and make it worth her time, though, was kind of inspired.

“Anyway, Two,” I said, ”I don’t want to make this an order, but… I need you to do something for me, okay?”

“Okay, Mack,” she said, looking up from her sorting. “What is it?”

“You probably wouldn’t anyway, but in case you’re cleaning, or whatever… well, I kind of need you to just not look under my bed for a while,” I said. It was strange but kind of encouraging how unused to giving her orders I was getting.

“Okay,” she said. “I’m good at not looking under your bed. For how long?”

“Until after tomorrow night… it shouldn’t matter then.”

“Mack, I can’t just not look under your bed until tomorrow night!” Two said, exasperated. “I have other things that I need to do. I have jelly beans to sort and homework to do and I have to go to dinner and I have to go to class tomorrow…”

“Uh… I guess what I meant was don’t look under my bed,” I said. “In addition to whatever else you’re doing. Not exclusively.”

“Oh,” she said. She blinked and reprocessed, then smiled. “Okay.”

I smiled back. Two’s Day was going to be awesome.

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4 Responses to “325: A Hill Of Beans”

  1. pedestrian says:

    These “two” make such a cute couple. Be interesting to see how their relationship develops over the next few years of college.

    This morning while I was hacking my way through cemented-clay in my garden plot, I was thinking. Now that Steff is reconsidering a possible long-term relationship with Viktor. Would it not be an interesting character development for Mackenzie to hook up with Viktor? Perhaps while the three of them are visiting the ol’homestead during the jolly summer recess?

    Current score: 2
  2. Kat says:

    XD spend 1 1/2 days not looking under someone’s bed…exclusively. Two’s a treasure.

    Current score: 8
  3. Jechtael says:

    Hart is being petty today, but I still love him so much XD

    Current score: 1
  4. zeel says:

    A local history teacher being told she needs to devote a day to local history was enough to make anybody introduce their forehead to their desk.

    This whole “joke” buisness, from Hart walking in to Keri’s goblim assignment, is one of the funniest sections of the story. I just can’t stop cracking up ever other line.

    Current score: 0