111: Election Day Jitters

on December 5, 2007 in 04: The Body Politick

In Which Mackenzie Finds Herself Dismissed

At breakfast on Friday, I picked apart a doughnut, barely bothering to transfer any of it to my mouth. I hadn’t slept well and my stomach was involved in a heated property dispute with itself. I would have given anything to just climb into Amaranth’s lap, but I had to settle for sitting at her side and trying to keep as much of my body in contact with her as I could.

“Whatever happens tonight, baby, I’m proud that you tried,” Amaranth said. “We all are. Right?”

“I’m shocked that she tried,” Celia said. “I’ll be proud if she wins. No… probably still shocked.”

“Thanks,” I said wanly. I actually appreciated her candor, somehow. I was starting to believe there was no malice in Celia. Not that she didn’t mean exactly what she said. She just didn’t mean anything personal by it.

“I think that Mack will win,” Two said. “Voters are supposed to select the candidate best suited to represent them and Mack is more suited than Sooni.”

“Two, hon, you should do P.S.A.s before the real elections,” Steff said. “Maybe if people knew they’re supposed to vote for the candidate who’ll do the best job, we wouldn’t have so many useless assholes winding up as consul.”

“I don’t know why anybody bothers to vote in those things anyway,” Celia said. “Don’t they know the popular vote is meaningless?”

“That’s not true,” Amaranth said. “Under the Imperial Constitution, emperors are legally obligated to look at the popular vote before appointing new consuls… and in nearly fifty percent of the cases where the consular election results were released, the emperor’s choice matched the popular vote.”

“May the Republican spirit never die,” Celia said sarcastically, raising her chocolate milk in a toast, and on that cheery note breakfast ended.

Near the beginning of my thaumatology lecture, I thought I saw Professor Goldman’s eyes catch a few times as they moved past me, and the still larger empty area around me.

“You know,” Goldman said about halfway through the class, breaking his usual cadence. “At the beginning of the term, I told you that I’m not much of a stickler for attendance. I feel like it’s your time and your call how you want to spend it, whether you’ll get more out of an hour of listening to my mellifluous recitation or an hour of sleep… but all the same, every once in a while I do like to offer incentives to stack the deck in my favor. So, today I’m giving an attendance bonus… no, let’s make that a double bonus. Every student who is present today will be given two free one hundred percents, to substitute for their lowest test or quiz scores.”

The response to this was varied–ranging from stunned disbelief to outright applause–but overwhelmingly positive. Professor Goldman gave a little bow and a smile, then held up his hands until order was restored.

“Of course,” he added, “I count attendance by checking against the seating chart you all filled out at the beginning of the year, so if for some reason you’re here but you aren’t in your own seat, you’ve already been counted absent. Better luck next time.”

His eyes didn’t so much as flicker upwards, but nearly everybody else in the room looked back at me… or rather, at the people who had moved two or three seats away from me, who were only just beginning to comprehend that they’d just cost themselves two free grades.

Or that I had cost them two free grades.

One boy rather belatedly decided to get up and move back to his seat, in the row in front of me.

“Why, what is this apparition I see suddenly manifesting in an empty seat?” Goldman said. He glanced down at the chart in his hand. “You can have one free hundred… Mr. Mallory… well, since I can’t give an ‘E’ for effort. I wonder will we have any other unexpected arrivals?”

A handful of other people… maybe half of the displaced students… scurried back to their seats. Goldman marked them off as they did, and continued to watch the area avidly, but nobody else showed any sign of moving. Those who were still out of their proper seats seemed to be looking anywhere except at him.

“Anybody else?” he said. “Nobody? Okay, then. Let’s continue.”

He finished the class as if nothing had happened, though people kept glancing in my direction. I didn’t know how to feel. If I’d watched Goldman pull that stunt in defense of somebody else–like Twyla or Dee, or Two–I would have admired him all the more for it.

Why had he had to go and do it for me, though? If people were going to resent my presence anyway, I’d rather they did it from a distance.

“We will be having our first major test on Monday,” Goldman said at the end of the class. “It will be over everything we’ve covered in class for the past two weeks, plus the assigned reading.” He paused to let that sink in. So far, his lectures had only covered the essential highlights of each chapter, with his own additions and anecdotes, and his quizzes had only been about the things covered in the lecture. I would have guessed that most of the class had yet to open their textbook, if they’d even bought it. “It will be extremely difficult and last the whole hour.”

This announcement was met with a chorus of groans and protests.

When that subsided, he simply nodded and said, “I know, I know… personally, if I knew I could get a hundred for it anyway, I wouldn’t even bother showing up. Have a great weekend, everybody, and I’ll see most of you on Wednesday.”

Most of the room, knowing that they could skip class and still have a free perfect grade left, burst into applause at this. The reaction from the people who’d only been given one pass was a bit more restrained. The remainder looked mutinous, but said nothing. I left the classroom as fast as I could.

Okay, so while I honestly wished he hadn’t pulled that last stunt, I couldn’t really hold it against him. He’d meant well. If I was going to blame anybody, it should be the people who’d provoked the response.

Anyway, I liked Professor Goldman. His goofy honesty and genuine interest in his chosen subject had impressed me from the beginning. It wasn’t too early to start thinking about my schedule for the next semester–it was really never too early for that–and I wondered if he taught any smaller classes that I could get into. It seemed like he’d be a fun teacher to interact with.

I was halfway tempted to show up on Monday, just to see how I’d do on the test. I’d kept up with the assigned reading, of course, and so much of it was familiar to me anyway… if I took it and it ended up being my lowest grade, it was no loss since I could still take the hundred for it. All I’d lose was an hour that I would normally have spent in class anyway.

On the other hand, though, I’d spend that hour surrounded by people who would have every reason to be pissed at me and who would blame me for the fact that they had to be there.

As mixed as my feelings were about the whole thing, Professor Goldman’s actions–and the speed with which some of my classmates had overcome their revulsion in the interest of their grades–had left me feeling better about things. Trina was one person. Okay, there was also Sooni, and Maliko, and Belinda, and Puddy, and Sara and Tara… but they were all, individually, “just one person.”

Well, except for Sara and Tara.

The point was that there were all kinds of people in the world. That thought buoyed my mood through lunch, where I let Two help me put together and eat an outrageously oversized ice cream sundae in a cereal bowl with three brownie squares in the bottom.

I had a free period after lunch, but Steff was supposed to be listening to Viktor’s latest “creation” (she said this with air quotes) and Amaranth had class, so I spent the time thinking about what I would say at the floor meeting, before the ballots were cast. I figured it was important to keep things short and sweet, so as not to put my foot in my mouth… but also not leave out anything crucial. Also, I kept going back and forth about whether or not it would be a good idea to bring up any of Sooni’s misdeeds. Probably not. It might sound like I was desperate. I’d stick to the issues, and my own qualifications.

If I could figure out what they were.

After my brainstorming session, I was still in better shape than I had been that morning, but I’d managed to work up a cloud of doubts again… just in time for elven history, where I dealt with another of all of those kinds of people in the world: the bitter, unreasoning harpy.

I half-expected Professor Ariadne Einhorn to drop a class change form on my desk, already filled out except for my signature. I was wrong, but not by much.

“I would just like to remind the entire class,” she said, again looking directly at me as she spoke, “that today is absolutely the final day that you may drop out of this class without being assigned a grade, and that the registrar’s office closes half an hour early on Friday, so you will need to get there before 4:30 if you, for any reason, have any doubts about your ability to earn a passing grade.”

Was she threatening to flunk me? As far as I knew, she hadn’t graded us on anything yet. As the only homework she ever gave was the instruction “think”, I wasn’t sure how she could grade us.

“If I were concerned about my grade point average,” she continued, “I should probably want to go take care of the matter rightnow, so I don’t forget to later.”

The room was deadly silent. I think the only thing that stopped me from taking her suggestion was the weight of eyes–hers and others–upon me. She had me. I couldn’t stand up to that kind of pressure. I never could. She’d won. Couldn’t she see that, and just let me go?

There was the slightest of sounds beside me.

“I was not speaking to you, Miss Delia Daella,” the professor said, and now that her gaze was off me, I turned to see that Dee had risen from her seat.

“Do not presume to start now,” Dee retorted, and swept past me, heading out of the room without a backwards glance.

“Well,” Ariadne said, a bit after Dee had gone. She seemed to have lost her stream of thought. “Well,” she said again, looking around the room as if hoping she’d find a cue somewhere. “Well, Steffain… you look eager to say something. Perhaps you would like to help me start our lesson by sharing with the class the famous final words of Aeolus of Kynemathia to his captors on the eve of his execution?”

“‘Go fuck yourself sideways with a spiked mace’?” Steff said.

Ariadne turned an even whiter shade of pale as Steff stood, bowed to the class, and headed for the door.

Then the dwarf, Karl, son of Krieg, of the Clan Ironholt, also got up and left the room.

To my even greater surprise, a human boy whose name I hadn’t caught followed, and then another boy and a girl did, as well. The professor tried her best to take these departures in stride, but was clearly shaken. Her little power play was not going according to plan.

I could hardly believe it myself. I mean, a somewhat embittered half-elf, a d… differently colored elf, and a dwarf might all be expected to take sides with somebody they saw as a victim of elven oppression, especially as two of the individuals were my friends… but I’d never talked to Karl, and I was certainly nothing to any of the human students, except maybe an oddity or a threat.

Though, I could understand not wanting to be locked into a class with a professor who apparently graded according to her arbitrary likes and dislikes.

“Well,” Ariadne said again, fixing her eyes upon me. “Are you even going to leave, now that you’ve incited half the class to desert?”

That seemed like an easy question. I was just squeaking by financially even with my scholarships. If I couldn’t keep up my GPA, it would be hard–if not impossible–for me to stay in school at all.

Dee and Steff hadn’t been thinking of their grades, though. They’d been standing up for what they thought was right… or at least, for me. I still wasn’t sure how much Steff actually cared about right and wrong in any larger sense than that.

Still, though, it had been a matter of principle.

“I’m sorry,” I said, shaking my head. “I guess you’re going to have to flunk me.”

“You don’t think I’ll do it?” Ariadne asked.

“I’m… pretty sure you will,” I said, surprising myself at how easily the words were coming. She wasn’t haughtily beautiful any more. She wasn’t intimidating. I saw her for what she was: a bully… and like so many other bullies, she was scared of something.

“Then why stay?” she demanded shrilly. She’d lost every measure of control over her musical, magical voice. She also seemed to have forgotten for the moment that she was a teacher in a classroom. It was like we were the only two people in the room… for me, as much as for her. “Why?”

“Because I’m here to learn,” I said, feeling defiant. “Not for easy credits.”

The mention of credits seemed to bring her back to herself. I watched her eyes begin to look around the room as her world grew to encompass more than just me.

“Class… class dismissed,” she said weakly.

I had no idea what had just happened, but I thought I might have just won something, somehow. I felt weak and dazed, and I lost most of my monster brownie sundae in the women’s restroom down the hall, and I was committing myself to keep up a class with a teacher who personally loathed and had promised to fail me… but it still somehow felt like a win to me.

I guess that says more about my track record with victories than anything else.

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11 Responses to “111: Election Day Jitters”

  1. Erm says:

    … wow, fuck Ariadne.

    Current score: 8
  2. Arkeus says:

    Ok, i was pretty sure that Mack was imagining Adrianne hating her. Fuck, Adrianne really is bad.

    Current score: 4
  3. Mickey says:

    I love that Delia Daella was the first to leave. I love that Steff left, too. I love that someone who wasn’t one of Mack’s friends left. I love that two human students left. And I love that Mack didn’t leave.

    Quite frankly, this is one of my favorite chapters so far.

    Current score: 13
    • zeel says:

      It’s probably in my top 10. It certainly makes you feel good to see that bitch get told.

      Current score: 1
  4. Downside says:

    I can’t pronounce Ariadne. I also don’t care to try. Can I just call her ‘that Bitch Professor’?

    Current score: 2
    • Terribadger says:

      It’s a name taken from Greek mythology; it’s pronounced “airy-ADD-nee.” However, I think your alternative is most appropriate.

      Current score: 3
  5. capybroa says:

    “’I was not speaking to you, Miss Delia Daella,’ the professor said, and now that her gaze was off me, I turned to see that Dee had risen from her seat.

    ‘Do not presume to start now,’ Dee retorted, and swept past me, heading out of the room without a backwards glance.”

    I hope they have a burn unit at the Magisterium University medical center, because Professor Ariadne’s going to need it. 10/10, would retort again.

    Current score: 10
    • Kanta says:

      Claiming that she wasn’t speaking to her after claiming she was trying to remind the, “Entire class,” is tantamount to admitting she was just trying to bully the one student she hates into leaving. File a complaint.

      Current score: 3
      • Leishycat says:

        It’s already pretty clearly established that the university is discriminating against Mackenzie. They’d just lose it.

        Current score: 3
  6. Moridain says:

    I had to take a moment after this chapter before continuing. I am so very proud of all those who walked out. That is serious courage.

    Current score: 5
  7. undertheteacup says:

    Kudos to Professor Goldman in this chapter. A great example of institutionally mandating against bias and using things people actually care about as motivation, rather than just giving them a good talking-to about how people are supposed to behave towards one another/appealing to their better natures/trying to educate them. Not that there isn’t a place for that but I love how he creates an environment where people are penalized for being prejudiced or acting oppressively.

    Current score: 2