With apologies to John Steinbeck: The Gapes of Wrath
The letter arrived on Good Friday. "Because of a different direction the division is going," it stated, "we cannot offer you a contract...."
And so it goes, as Professor Ellerbee used to say at the end of her class on NBC.
It was two weeks before I could tell my students. I had thought of just disappearing quietly, but then registration started for summer and fall and some of them were trying to sign up for my courses. Had to let them know that the instructor for those was now "TBA." To Be Announced. A Poorly Paid Player to Be Named Later.
I was never given a reason. The division chair never spoke to me, never said my teaching was inadequate or that I had bad breath or anything. Just "different direction."
Blah, blah. Academic blah, blah, blah. Whatever the reason, had I asked, it would have sounded like blah-blah-blah.
So I'll move on to the next place. They need a creative writing prof out the college in the north end of the county. Another university nearby is starting a weekends-only degree program for townies and they're staffing up with part-timers to teach on Saturdays and Sundays. The theater department 30 miles away is looking for someone to teach criticism. I could do any of those. Just requires making the calls, getting the CV together, polishing the act and digging out the interview suit.
Think I'll take the summer off and work on the book about all this instead .
As I left the building today after my last class, I got hugs from a few students, current and former, waves from the guy in the bookstore (I'd emailed that he could cancel my future textbook orders), but not a word from my fellow profs. Two passed me in the hall like I was invisible. Not even a "good luck!" or a "see you around!"
Left the three pounds of heavy keys to all the classrooms, file drawers, computer consoles, media equipment and secret departmental liquor cabinet in the office I shared with two other part-timers. Walked to my car. Birds sang. It was sunny, about 91 degrees.
And for some strange reason I thought of the words Tom Joad said. Except in my version it goes:
"I'm not really leaving. I'll be everywhere. Everywhere you look. Wherever there's a kid confused about the serial comma, I'll be there. Wherever there's a campus rent-a-cop ticketing a teacher for parking in Lot W without a valid sticker, I'll be there. I'll be in the way cheerleaders yell when the team is losing. I'll be in the way freshmen laugh when they're hungry and I've brought muffins to the 8 a.m. class. And when professors get the pay they deserve and live close enough to campus that they can walk to work, why, I'll be there, too."
Come back soon, ya heah?