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The Big Stupid Review


American Dream Serialization (Early Chapters)
Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Maurice Stoker
Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Tom Bradley
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: American Dream Title Page by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 1 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 2 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 3 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 4 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 5 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 6 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 7 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 8 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 9 by Jim Chaffee
Modern Tragedy, or Parodies of Ourselves by Robert Castle
Totally Enchanté, Dahling by Thor Garcia
Hastini by Rudy Ravindra
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 5 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
Unexpected Pastures by Kim Farleigh
Nonviolence by Jim Courter
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 4 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
The Poet Laureate of Greenville by Al Po
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part VI by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 3 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part V by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part IV by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 2 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part I by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part II by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part III by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 1 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
DADDY KNOWS WORST: Clown Cowers as Father Flounders! by Thor Garcia
RESURRECTON: Excerpt from Breakfast at Midnight by Louis Armand
Review of The Volcker Virus (Donald Strauss) by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
Little Red Light by Suvi Mahonen and Luke Waldrip
TEXECUTION: Klown Konfab as Killer Kroaked! by Thor Garcia
Miranda's Poop by Jimmy Grist
Paul Fabulan by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
Operation Scumbag by Thor Garcia
Take-Out Dick by Holly Day
Patience by Ward Webb
The Moon Hides Behind a Cloud by Barrie Darke
The Golden Limo of Slipback City by Ken Valenti
Chapter from The Infinite Atrocity by Kane X. Faucher
Support the Troops By Giving Them Posthumous Boners by Tom Bradley
When Good Pistols Do Bad Things by Kurt Mueller
Corporate Strategies by Bruce Douglas Reeves
The Dead Sea by Kim Farleigh
The Perfect Knot by Ernest Alanki
Girlish by Bob Bartholomew
The Little Ganges by Joshua Willey
The Invisible World: René Magritte by Nick Bertelson
Honk for Jesus by Mitchell Waldman
Red's Dead by Eli Richardson
The Memphis Showdown by Gabriel Ricard
Someday Man by John Grochalski
I Was a Teenage Rent-a-Frankenstein by Tom Bradley
Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Fred Bubbers
Believe in These Men by Adam Greenfield
The Magnus Effect by Robert Edward Sullivan
Performance Piece by Jim Chaffee
Injustice for All by D. E. Fredd
The Polysyllogistic Curse by Gary J. Shipley
How It's Done by Anjoli Roy
Ghost Dance by Connor Caddigan
Two in a Van by Pavlo Kravchenko
Uncreated Creatures by Connor Caddigan
Invisible by Anjoli Roy
One of Us by Sonia Ramos Rossi
Storyteller by Alan McCormick
Idolatry by Robert Smith
P H I L E M A T O P H I L I A by Traci Chee
They Do! by Al Po
Full TEX Archive
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By Jim Courter

When the encounter with the woman in the parking lot of Walmart was over and he was driving home, Peter Sanger had a sense that he had crossed some kind of personal Rubicon, but he had no idea what awaited him on the other side.

It started with a mundane errand after some Sunday night work in his office on campus to catch up on grading and prepare for the week ahead. As he left the building, he remembered that June had asked him to pick up toilet paper on his way home. On Sunday night at ten o'clock, that meant a trip to Walmart, open round the clock. He considered putting it off. He could frankly admit to her that he didn't feel like driving to the other side of town for toilet paper, or lie and say he forgot. Either way, he'd feel like a slacker and risk incurring June's displeasure, so he went.

He got in and out quickly. As he walked to his car, a woman, alone, returned to hers in the next row over. In the light available, Peter guessed her to be in her early thirties and somewhat attractive. They were the only two on the lot, and more than once she glanced over at Peter, wary and on guard. He didn't blame her. He understood that a woman in her position must act with caution, assume the worst and prepare for it. He would want June to do the same. But Peter detected something more than wariness; she seemed annoyed by his presence and resentful of the possibilities he represented. Peter didn't appreciate being made to feel like a criminal for merely being there and for being a man. She reminded him of some of the radical feminists he had encountered on campus who regarded men with programmatic distrust, suspicion and disdain. He knew that he had no ill intentions, and while she had no way of knowing that, in Peter's mind that didn't excuse the apparent assumption on her part that he was a threat. And that, he supposed later, accounted for what he did next.

"I'm not going to harm you," he said loud enough for her to hear and, he realized later, perhaps with a touch of annoyance in his voice.

And yet, as if he had said he intended to harm her, her wariness became alarm and she quickened her pace. At her car, she reached into her handbag and fumbled for something, finally pulling out not her keys but a cell phone, and began punching the keypad with the thumb of the hand she held it with. They were under a light stanchion, next to their cars, which were parked close together. Her eyes locked on Peter, she held the phone to the side of her head and spoke in low, desperate tones.

Peter watched, curious and annoyed. From her response, he might as well have told her that he was going to rape her. And he had no sooner articulated that thought in his head than he heard himself saying out loud,

"I'm not going to rape you, lady, so you can knock off the woman-in-peril routine."

Her eyes went wild. She rummaged in her purse again, pulled out her keys, fumbled with them in an attempt to get her car unlocked. When it occurred to Peter to wonder who she had called, he got into his car, started it and put it in gear. As he drove off he powered the window down and said, "And when I'm done not raping you, I won't murder you."

He wasn't long out of the lot when a police car passed him going the other way with flashing lights but no siren. He watched in his rearview mirror as the cop pulled into the Walmart parking lot, watched until he was satisfied that the cop wouldn't come in pursuit. He had avoided a confrontation with the police, and whatever that might bring, by mere seconds.

As he worked his way home, Peter felt apprehension and anger surging together into an emotion he couldn't name. It was an unfamiliar and unsettling feeling, but also exhilarating, and for that reason not entirely unpleasant or unwelcome.

At home, June thanked him for making the run to Walmart and asked how his time at the office had gone. "You're welcome," he said. "It was fine. I got caught up."

After June went to bed, Peter sat in the dark living room, thinking about the incident with the woman and the near encounter with the police. What would the woman have told the cop? What could she say--that Peter had threatened her with nonviolence? What could the cop have done with that? The questions intrigued him, and while the surge of emotion he felt while driving home had faded, the memory of it lingered. Peter took those questions and that memory to bed with him, woke with them the next morning, and carried them with him into the week.

The next Saturday morning, Peter went downtown to do some errands--stops at the bank and the pharmacy and the newsstand. Those done, he headed to the coffee shop on the square for some time with coffee and a newspaper. As he reached to open the door, a couple came out. The woman gave Peter a hard, penetrating look.

"That's him," she said to the man. "The one who threatened me."

They stopped. The woman faced Peter squarely. The man stood at an angle, as if he might want to keep going. He was shorter than Peter, with a slighter build, and wore wire-rimmed glasses.

She looked at her companion. "I said that's him."

He took a moment to gather himself. "I don't appreciate your threatening my wife," he said, but his delivery was shaky and tentative.

"I didn't threaten your wife," Peter said, his eyes locked on hers.

"She tells me you threatened her with rape and murder."

"Then she tells you wrong. In fact I did the opposite. I specifically said I wouldn't do those things, in the face of her obvious assumption that I might. I don't like being taken for a criminal, and I don't appreciate being accused of saying something I didn't say."

He watched the woman for her reaction. Her face twisted with anger, she said, "You looked right at me and spoke of rape and murder. I call that threatening talk."

"And I call your failure to make careful distinctions sloppy thinking, maybe even deliberate distortion of the truth. Are you the type of woman that likes to see men fight over her?"

"Listen, buster," her husband said. But whatever Peter was supposed to listen to didn't follow. The guy clearly had no means to back up whatever he was going to say, and Peter felt a certain amount of sympathy for him.

"Tell you what," Peter said. "I here and now enhance my offer. I won't kill either of you. Not only that, but--call it my Saturday special--I promise not to dismember you, cut you up into pieces and dispose of them in garbage bags or bury them in the woods or stuff them into chemical drums."

The man flushed. The woman looked ready to blow. "You shouldn't be walking the streets," she said. "Let's go, Russell." As they walked off, she looked back over her shoulder and said, "You haven't heard the last from us."

As Peter watched them walk away, a teenage boy slouched by on foot in low-slung, baggy black jeans and a black t-shirt with some hideous screen printing on the front. He had spiked hair, silver rings dangling from his multiple piercings, and wore a bemused, inward-directed smile.

"Hey kid," Peter called out.

The kid stopped and looked back. His smile took on a tinge of perplexity, as if he was unable to imagine anything that one of Peter's generation could have to say to him.

"I'm not going to blast you into eternity with an assault rifle," Peter said.

The kid wrinkled his brow and seemed to give that more thought than Peter would have given him credit for being capable of. The bemused smile returned to his face.

"Cool!" he said, then turned and walked off.

Peter went home, no longer in the mood for coffee.

Peter was in his woodworking shop behind the house, shaping the tenon of a table leg by hand with a chisel, when June came and stood in the doorway with a strained look on her face, fingering her necklace. "Peter, a policeman is here to see you," she said.

Peter swiveled on the stool in front of his workbench and said, "Bring him back. I'll talk to him here."

He could see that June could see that he wasn't surprised, and that that somehow both puzzled and unsettled her. She left and returned with a uniformed cop, then went away, glancing back.

Peter stood. "Peter Sanger." They shook hands.

"Joey Burke. I'm a lieutenant with the police department."

"I suppose that young couple asked you to come," Peter said.

"What young couple?"

Peter had assumed that the woman had called the cops after somehow discerning his identity. If that wasn't the case, then he wasn't sure what to expect.

"I had an encounter a few nights ago with a woman in the parking lot of Walmart," Peter said. "She seemed to think I was threatening her, or claimed to think so, when in fact it was just the opposite. A complete misunderstanding. Then I ran into her uptown the other day with her husband. She was still upset. I assumed that was why you're here."

A smile came to Burke's face, and Peter thought it looked familiar. "I'm here because of my son," he said. "He came home on Saturday with a story that sounds similar to the one you just told me about the woman. Now I'm wondering if it's another misunderstanding."

Peter realized where he had seen that smile, or at least one like it. It was uncannily similar to the one on the kid outside the coffee shop.

"That was your son?"

"He's a work in progress," Burke said. "A little mixed up, maybe, but not a bad kid. I'm a single dad, and it's hard to keep him on the right track. Do you have kids?"

"Long gone, one on each coast."

"Back to my son," Burke said. "He wasn't shaken or anything. I sometimes think you couldn't rattle him if you hit him upside the head with a brick. But he did make a point of telling me about it. I think he was mostly curious, and maybe a little amused, over why you said what you did. I know I am, curious, that is."

"What did he tell you I said?"

"Something to the effect that you weren't going to blow him away with an AK47."

"That's close. How did you trace this to me?"

"He recognized you from last year when he attended an orientation for prospective students at the university. You were one of a panel of presenters. But to get to the point of this visit, anybody but my son might have been pretty upset at what you said."

"At being told that I had no intention of harming him?"

"By your own admission, you were more explicit than that. You have to admit, those are strong words. Nine times out of ten, you tell someone right out of the blue that that you're not going to blow them away, they're going to wonder, Who is this spooky guy and why is he telling me this?"

Arrayed around Peter's shop were hand and power saws, planes, chisels, drill bits. It occurred to Peter to enumerate to Burke some of the things he wouldn't do to him with those tools, but he resisted. Instead he said, "Are you here as a cop or as a father?"

"I'm afraid I can't separate the two in this case," Burke said. "As a father, I have to watch out for my son. As a cop I have to tell you that talk like that is alarming, and your framing it in the negative doesn't change that. You can't go around saying things like that to people."

"And if I do you'll hit me with some trumped-up charge?"

"There won't be anything trumped up about it; it's no stretch to call it disturbing the peace. Why you're doing this is anybody's guess. Nothing surprises me anymore, although I have to say, I haven't seen anything quite like this." He rose and went to the door. "You need to stop it. If you don't, I'll bring you in. Maybe you'd get off, but you might think about whether it's worth the hassle."

"I will," Peter said. "Think about it, I mean."

The cop left.

He was no sooner gone than June returned. "What did that policeman want?" she said.

"Just to talk," Peter said.

"About what?"

"A misunderstanding. It was nothing."

When he could see that she wasn't satisfied, Peter waved a hand to dismiss the significance of what he was about to say.

"The other night at Walmart some woman in the parking lot seemed to think I was going to assault her. It was dark and late and we were the only two around. Anyway, it was annoying the way she kept looking at me like I was some kind of criminal. So I told her I had no harmful intentions, and she misinterpreted what I said. And then I ran into her and her husband the other day and…" Another wave of the hand, and a shake of the head as if at the silliness of it all. "And I had no sooner dealt with them than this goth kid comes walking by, looking like some kind of post-apocalyptic mutant survivor, and I guess I said something that he misinterpreted too."

"You guess? Did you or didn't you?"

"Okay, I said something to the kid, nothing hostile or threatening. He looked like he needed a good shaking up. It turns out that the kid recognized me, and the cop is the kid's dad. He wanted to know what was going on, that's all. I thought he was coming because of what I said to the woman that she misinterpreted."

"What do you mean by ‘misinterpreted'? What did you say to the woman?"

"I told her I had no intention of raping her and murdering her. The silly thing reacted as if I had said I would."

June put a hand to her mouth and furrowed her brow. "Goodness, Peter, those are strong words. I wonder if I might have reacted the same way. It's a little unusual, wouldn't you say, to have a strange man come up and start talking of rape and murder?"

"Maybe so, but you weren't there. I didn't come up to her, and it was offensive the way she looked at me as if I was some kind of low-class thug. She gave me the urge to do what she was imagining."


"Well, how would you like for someone for no good reason to treat you like you're the worst kind of murdering scum?"

"I suppose I wouldn't, but try to put yourself in the woman's shoes, having a strange man at night in a lonely parking lot for no reason talking about rape and murder. Was the policeman satisfied with your explanation?"

Peter shrugged. "I guess. He left without me, as you can see. Why are you so upset about this?"

"I'm only asking, Peter. It's not every day the police come to the front door wanting to see my husband. I must say…"

"You must say what?"

She hesitated a moment, then said, "It makes me wonder what horrid things you haven't done to me."

Peter didn't answer. He swiveled on his stool to face his workbench, picked up the chisel he had been working with and examined its sharp edge until he heard June leave and close the door behind her.

Peter was by no means chastened or deterred by the cop's warning or June's discomfiture. For one thing, he doubted that a charge of disturbing the peace would hold up in court. As for June, he had dealt with her for decades and was sure he could do so in this case. He wasn't exactly committed to a course of wielding this interesting new weapon he had discovered, but he had enjoyed the way the experience had lifted him out of his ordinary existence, and he told himself that if someone came along who needed an unnerving dose of nonviolence, he'd be happy to dish it out.

He didn't have to wait long.

On and off campus, Peter kept his politics to himself, and only wished others would allow him to do so, and do the same themselves. Even so, as a history professor at a state university, with its bureaucratic culture and atmosphere of political correctness, both of which he found chilling, maddening and oppressive, Peter had locked horns over the years with various people over various issues. He had come to accept that as inevitable, and tried in most cases to disagree with civility and respect, even with those who made that nearly impossible. But with one of those people he had a relationship marked by consistent and thoroughgoing professional, political and personal antagonism.

It sometimes seemed to Peter that Ed Kelso's mission in life was to vex him at every turn. In committee and faculty meetings, whatever Peter proposed, Ed opposed. If Peter arrived at the copy machine with a job and Ed was there in front of him, Peter would find it out of paper when his turn came. If Peter sneezed, Ed would say, not "God bless you," but "Could you please direct that away from me?" Issues and behaviors aside, though, Peter had come to believe that their antagonism was rooted in their natures--a visceral, animal enmity as elemental as iron and fire.

The most recent source of friction between them was union politics. Ed Kelso was a union activist and a union rep on campus; Peter, while not being anti-union per se, objected to its straying from what he considered its core role, especially when it entered the political arena with endorsements of candidates in public elections. (Invariably they were the ones Peter opposed, but he liked to think he'd still object on principle if they were the ones he supported.) Recently, the union's slick quarterly magazine contained an endorsement of Tony Barron, the Democrat in the race for governor, a man Peter considered to be nakedly ambitious, corrupt, a peacock, and a vacuous, self-absorbed fool. After seeing that endorsement, Peter used his office computer to send off an angry e-mail to the union hierarchy, with carbon copies to the union reps on campus, objecting to that endorsement and to the use of his union dues in publishing it.

A couple of days later, Peter attended a Curriculum Committee meeting in the chair's office. He was the last one to arrive, and he entered the room to find Ed Kelso holding forth on the evils of capital punishment and the fact that Tony Barron's position on the issue made him the only choice for right-thinking people. As Peter sat, Ed stopped and upbraided him for using university equipment on university time to sound off on his personal political views.

"You've gone through the ethics training like the rest of us, old sport," Ed said. "You should know better."

Peter found Ed Kelso's supercilious condescension annoying. "Old sport," indeed. Whatever transpired in the meeting was lost on Peter, absorbed as he was the entire time in pondering what awful things he'd like to tell Ed Kelso that he wouldn't do to him.

The next day, after giving the matter more thought, Peter sat at his computer in his office and composed and printed off a note:

Ed Kelso:

If I had to choose from among hanging, beheading, and impaling--is that still done anywhere?--as a form of capital punishment for you, I'd be hard pressed to pick. Each has its own special horrors, which I leave to your imagination. Of course I would never perpetrate or facilitate any of these means of execution against you, but should circumstance ever bring you to such a fate, I'd be an eager witness and, in your last moments of terror and agony, do my best to let you see the glee on my face.

Peter printed it and read it. He wondered if it might be a little extreme, but he thought it had a certain literary quality, and decided to go with it. After factoring for everything, he opted for anonymity in this case, but in a moment of what felt like reckless abandon, he wrote at the bottom in his own hand:

With warmest regards,
"Old Sport"

Peter folded the note and put it in an envelope. He addressed it to Ed Kelso's home, hoping the I-know-where-you-live angle might make him squirm that much more.

When Peter turned onto his block on his way home from school a couple of days later, he saw a police car parked in front of his house. He wasn't surprised. He didn't know how Ed Kelso would react to the letter, but it occurred to him that if he went to the cops, Lt. Burke might catch wind of it, make the connection, and come looking for Peter. With the car still running, Peter stopped at the end of the street and thought, then drove off.

He cruised around a while, pondering his next move. He didn't want to return to his office, as he'd be too easy to find there. He still doubted that any serious charges against him could be made to stick, but he didn't put it past the cops to find a pretext to let him cool off in a cell for a while. Tony Barron, the Democrat candidate for governor, was due in town the next day for a campaign stop, and Peter had plans that he didn't want spoiled. He drove to a motel on the edge of town and checked in.

The Walmart where all this started was nearby, and Peter went there and bought underwear, a shirt, and some toiletries to tide himself over. Concerned that Lt. Burke might be at the candidate's rally the next day and spot him, Peter decided to alter his appearance: he bought a pair of reading glasses and a black Chicago White Sox cap. Back in his motel room, he shaved his mustache, took out his contacts and replaced them with the reading glasses. He put on the ball cap and pulled it low over his eyes and checked the effect in the mirror. Not bad, he thought.

The rally was scheduled for noon at a park downtown. Peter got there around 11:45 and joined the moderate-sized crowd already in place. At a picnic table, a young woman handed out construction paper posters bearing the candidate's name and face and campaign slogan: REAL CHANGE -- FOR A CHANGE. Peter took one.

Around 12:15 a bustle arose across the way. Tony Barron had arrived.

Accompanied by his retinue, he went to the gazebo in the middle of the park, where a microphone and some speakers were set up. When the cheering subsided, he spoke. He expressed appreciation for the turnout, then launched into the main theme that he had been repeating since the beginning of his campaign--the need for fresh blood in the state capital.

As Barron spoke, Peter worked through the crowd to about fifteen feet in front of the gazebo, where he waited and watched for an opportune moment.

Finally it came when, at the candidate's mention of his opponent, the crowd broke into lusty boos and the candidate held his arms up, palms open, in a plea for civility and generosity. When the crowd subsided, Barron hesitated, as if to let civility reign at least for a moment. At that point Peter, who had rolled his poster into a the shape of a megaphone, yelled through its narrow end, "I'm not going to assassinate you."

Heads turned toward Peter.

"Caesar had his Brutus," Peter said, still using the improvised megaphone. "Kennedy had his Oswald. Better men than you have been taken down by lesser men than me, but…"

Peter didn't get to finish the thought. A pair of young guys nearby in fraternity sweatshirts tackled him to the ground and pinned him there. Through the chaos that ensued, some cops appeared. They relieved the tacklers, cuffed Peter behind his back, brought him to his feet and searched him for weapons. As they hauled him through the crowd toward a squad car, Peter heard a man with an anti-Barron poster say, "What can they charge the guy with?"

Peter was placed in a cell by himself and left to wait. A swarthy guy with multiple tattoos and a scruffy beard occupied the cell across the hall from him. When the cop left, Peter said to him,

"Not to worry, I'm not going to kick your ass from here to next Sunday."

The man gripped the bars of his cell with his meaty hands. "No, I reckon you're not," he said. "And if I get my hands on you I'll thank you properly."

After a while, a cop came for Peter and brought him to an interrogation room. Lt. Burke was waiting for him there.

"Have a seat, Peter," he said.

Peter sat.

"I was at your house again yesterday," Burke said "but you didn't come home. I read the note you sent to your colleague."

"I drove off when I saw your car," Peter said.

"Too bad. If we had talked I might have saved you this trouble."

"What trouble? I didn't do anything wrong, nor did I threaten to. If I'm in for not shooting that fool Barron, why isn't everyone in that crowd being interrogated?"

A cop came to the door and pulled Burke aside, spoke to him confidentially, then left.

"Tony Barron is on his way," Burke said to Peter. "He wants to talk to you."

"He probably wants to thank me for not assassinating him," Peter said.

Burke left Peter to wait by himself. After almost half an hour, he returned with Tony Barron. He looked at Peter, then at Burke.

"Has he explained why he said what he did in the park?" he asked.

"Why don't you ask me?" Peter said.

Barron looked at him but didn't repeat the question.

Peter spoke. "I imagine that the threat of assassination must always hang over you, slime ball that you are. I wanted you to know that, at least from me, you had nothing to fear."

Barron regarded Peter with a puzzled squint.

"Do you want to press charges?" Lt. Burke said.

"What charges could I press?"

"Good question," Peter said. "And you might want to consider how would it look to the electorate if you went after a guy who assured you of his good intentions."

"We can try disturbing the peace at least," Burke said.

Barron looked at Peter.

"I don't see the point," he said. "Can we get a restraining order to keep him away from my appearances?"

"Maybe," Burke said. "Depends on the judge."

"I'll think about it," Barron said. He gave Peter one last puzzled look, then left.

Before he got through the door, Peter said, "Needless to say, I won't be voting for you, and I hope you lose and fade from public view, but if you win, I won't stalk you, attack you, blow your brains out or otherwise harm you. Or your family. You have my word."

At Tony Barron's request, no charges were brought against Peter. After his release, he returned home and to teaching. Word had got out about the note he sent to Ed Kelso, and the incident in the park had been covered not only in the local media but also around the state, so virtually everyone kept their distance and regarded him warily. Peter went quietly about his business, resisting the urge to let some of them know what awful things he had no intention of doing to them.

Within a week, however, he got an official-looking letter in his campus mailbox summoning him to appear before the university's Sanctions and Termination Committee, a body that Peter didn't even know existed.

After making some discreet inquiries from those few who saw fit to speak to him, Peter learned that the Sanctions and Termination Committee was a sort of jury, formed of faculty from a variety of departments, to hear cases in the event that the university deems it necessary to take action against a faculty member "whose public utterances or behavior brings discredit on the school." The administration had insisted on that wording and on the committee's formation in the most recent contract talks, as quid pro quo for certain concessions, and it had snuck in under the radar when the union membership voted for ratification. Peter learned, too, that Ed Kelso was on the Sanctions and Termination Committee.

At the hearing, committee chair Phoebe Hammels read the charges against Peter, Ed Kelso tisking and frowning and shaking his head the whole time. She then asked Peter if he cared to make a statement before they proceeded.

Peter looked at her intently. "Yes," he said. "You're very pretty, and I'm not going to ruin that by slicing off your nose and your ears and leaving you alive to face the world that way."

Phoebe Hammels fled from the room in tears, at which point Peter announced that he was retiring, effective immediately, after thirty-five years of loyal service to the university.

That evening, at home, Peter told June of his decision. "I may not get the usual retirement gift," he said, "but I doubt that they can touch my pension."

Later, in bed, before Peter fell asleep, June stirred next to him.

"Peter, are you awake?"


"I want you to know that I've decided after all not to slit your throat in your sleep."

"Good," Peter said. "I appreciate that. Did you say ‘after all'?"

"Yes, after all."

© Jim Courter 2013