“How much more grievous the consequences
of anger than its cause.”
- Marcus Aurelius
It’s a long walk. It’s also the third time he’s been down this hallway.
“Why do I bother?” Chase asks himself as he sleepily mopes
forward. His last two visits have borne no fruit but he can’t help
himself. For some reason he keeps coming, as if pulled by a rope like a
bucket of water being pulled up a well, to see if the light of the sun
will reveal something to it. To compare what’s at the end of this hall to
the light of the sun couldn’t be further from the truth. However, it’s the
only place he knows to look to get to the truth.
It never takes long for it to begin. The taunting of his host always
starts as he gets about three steps from the door where the guard lets
him in. He has no idea how he even knows that it’s him, but he does
since he always starts with his name.
“Hello Chase, come on down and have a seat,” he always says
from his cell at the end of this long isolated hallway, his voice almost
ordering him, versus asking, down the thirty steps or so. It’s not
uncommon for a professor to be in the habit of talking to people as if
they are his students. When that professor’s area of expertise is
psychology it seems to carry more than a hint of arrogance, as if his
coming from a prestigious university, wouldn’t give him an implied
assumption of some amount already.
“His hearing can’t be that good, can it?” Chase always
wonders to himself, since he provided no advance notice to his
visit. Yet he always knows somehow as soon as Chase starts down
the hall. The funny thing is the words don’t bother Chase much
since he usually tunes them out about the time the professor starts
comparing him to the grandfather clock at the end of the hall
outside his cell.
“You’re just like that old clock outside my cell, Chase, always
working hard, moving back and forth like its pendulum, but you never
actually get anywhere, do you, Chase?” he always says. And this
always has the same response, with Chase thinking, “What a weird
place for an old antique grandfather clock.” There it sits at the end of
the hall so out of place in this setting, staring at him.
Five Months Earlier – August
"Did you get it?” asks Britney, Tom’s girlfriend.
“Hold on, I’m checking,” says Tom as he scrolls his finger
down a list of names taped next to the door of Professor Holland’s
soon-to-be classroom this upcoming fall.
“Well I did!” says Britney, while fighting back a grin to try and
spare Tom’s feelings if he didn’t share her luck.
“Just give me a second, would you, Brit?” he tells her while still
frantically searching the list.
“Hurry up. I want to get to the co-op to get the books he has
required before all the used copies are gone. I don’t want to get stuck
paying for new copies again like I did all freshman year.”
“Just hold on…shit! I don’t know why he doesn’t list the names
alphabetically,” Tom says, now feeling just a little worried along with
“Tom, you know Professor Holland has a reputation for messing
with his students. I’m not surprised that he has already started.
Besides, that would only help you if you knew how to spell. Everyone
knows you got into school here ‘cause they wanted you on the football
team. Can you even spell SAT, since I know you didn’t actually take
one? “Britney says mockingly, not so concerned with his feelings after
his snapping at her.
“Whatever, Brit, Don’t be a bitch, go get your damn books, since
you know you’re in already. I’ll catch up with you later,” he snaps at
“Whoa, jealous much?” she asks.
“Jealous? Whatever.” he says dismissively, still searching the list.
“I’m just saying, it’s sad that this is what gets a reaction out of
you, but when I go to your frat parties and all your friends hit on me,
you don’t even notice,” she explains.
“It’s for the same reason your comment about not knowing how
to spell didn’t bother me. I know you, Brit, you like guys with brains,
and I like my boys and all, but that’s one area that I know I don’t need
to worry about with you,” he says, still looking.
“Is that why you’re getting so agitated now about me getting into
Professor Holland’s class, especially if you didn’t, you think I might
have a thing for him since he’s so smart?” she asks, failing to hide her
Tom looks up from the list, directly at her after this comment,
throwing her off her game for a second, as she’s thinking, He couldn’t
have thought I was serious….
“I don’t really care, I’ve got some books to go buy, you coming?”
he says excitedly.
“You’re in?!” she squealed, her excitement matching his.
“Yeah, last fucking name on the list, but I’ll take it. Let’s go get
those books!” he says as they turn to exit the building, both almost
bumping into their friend Justin. Actually, he’s more Tom’s friend
than Britney’s. Justin is not one of those fraternity brothers lacking in
brains. He was Tom’s roommate his freshman year at Jester Dorm and
is actually one of the brightest guys he’s ever known. Majoring in
math and actually enjoying it should be a hint to the fact that he isn’t
the smoothest when it comes to girls but it isn’t for a lack of trying.
The only successes he’s had in actually meeting any were when Tom
helped him out when they’d go out together, which they did a lot their
Losing his wingman when Tom started dating Britney at the end
of freshman year this past spring didn’t help, and Britney made no
attempt to pretend that she didn’t notice the slight jealousy Justin had
when she took away his drinking buddy and the best wingman he’s
ever known. Of course it was an easy role to fill for Tom, six feet four,
with blond hair, tan and blue eyes, oh, and being quarterback on the
UT football team didn’t hurt either. Guys like Tom spend their whole
high school life being popular with girls always approaching them.
Tom liked Justin and didn’t mind helping him hook up when he went
out on Sixth Street with him.
Math majors like Justin don’t get out much and without Tom’s
help, he would not have had the great freshman experience that he had
the past year. You could say Tom helped create a monster that year.
All the confidence of a star athlete in the body of a five foot eight,
pale, dark-haired… well, math major. Of course Tom’s meeting
Britney almost completely brought it to an end. This past summer,
without the lead of his master, Justin was like an unchained
Frankenstein let loose on the girls of the UT campus.
His equal in appearance, Britney was tall for a girl at five feet
eight, with long blond hair, tan and blue-eyed. She was being courted
this fall by Tri Delt, the premier UT sorority on campus, her
sophomore year, after she began dating the new star football player at
the end of the spring semester. Yes, quite cliché, but neither of them
cared about the Ken and Barbie references; they were happy and that’s
all that mattered. It’s Justin who wasn’t so happy about the new
‘arrangement’ of their friendship.
“Hey Tom! Oh, hey Britney,” Justin says, even though he saw
them both at the same time, “you already check the list?” he finishes,
“Yeah, we’re both on it!” Tom returns.
“Oh,” Justin says, not enthused about the ‘both’ part, giving
Britney a weird, almost envious look.
“Yeah, we’re both in, isn’t that great?! I didn’t see your name on
the list, Justin, sorry about that. I know how much you wanted this
class. Maybe someone will drop it before final registration.” she says
with obvious insincere sorrow.
“Yeah, right, someone would have to die to drop this class, are
you sure, you really didn’t see my name?” he anxiously asks, looking
now at Tom as if he can help him. Before Tom can answer Britney
grabs his arm and pulls him away from Justin.
“Nope, didn’t see it, sorry, Justin, we gotta go and get some
books, don’t we Tom?” she announces, with a look of ‘you better
come with me or Justin won’t be the only one not getting any tonight,’
to which Tom can only oblige.
“Yeah Justin, we gotta go, sorry man,” Tom adds, more sincerely
than his girlfriend, as they both exit the building, Justin turning back to
the list in utter despair.
A safe distance away from Justin, Tom stops Britney by having to
grab her arm from behind since she left in more of a hurry that he did.
“Why did you do that, Britney?” he asks her sternly.
“Do what?” she asks, doing a poor imitation of an innocent.
“You know, tell Justin he wasn’t in the class,” he explains.
“I didn’t say that, I didn’t say he wasn’t in the class,” she
“You said you didn’t see his name on the list?” he reminds her.
“Yeah, and that’s true, I didn’t, I stopped looking at the list once
I found my name about halfway down and I didn’t see his name before
spotting mine. I never said he wasn’t in the class. He very well could
be, I just didn’t see his name,” she says, feeling confident in her
“Well, he is in the class. His name was right above mine on the
bottom of the list. I need to go tell him,” he says, with some frustration
as he turns back to the building.
“Oh, come on, Tom, you know he doesn’t trust me and that he’ll
check the list anyway, so now he’ll be twice as happy when he finds
his name. Not only will he be in the coveted Professor Holland’s class,
he’ll also get to rub it in my face when we go out to celebrate tonight,
‘cause I’m sure you’ll invite him.”
“Of course I will, I like Justin,” he says proudly
“I know you do, Tom, and they always say nobody’s perfect, so
if that’s your only flaw, I’ll take it. I’m just glad that he’ll see Todd
and Shelly’s names on the list before he gets to the bottom to find
his…” she says, laughing.
“You’re a cruel girl, Brit,” Tom answers, not as angry as he
would have been with her if it weren’t for the fact that Justin did get
in. She was right that Justin couldn’t wait to rub it in her face that she
was wrong, even if she really didn’t say that. Tom laughs as he grabs
her around the shoulders and they head to the co-op to get their books.
Excerpted from "Class Dismissed" by Mark Petry. Copyright © 0 by Mark Petry. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.