Sunday, February 10, 2019

Hey Professor!

For the last five years, I’ve been teaching business courses at the local college. While it was my original hope that I’d get a chance to teach Creative Writing (the line for that course is long and forms about twenty miles behind you!) I’ve discovered that in many cases, I learn a lot from the students each semester.

Most of my classes have a mixture of traditional and non-traditional students. So along with the 18 to 20-year-old group, there can be people who have already experienced life, maybe working for a decade or more or raising a family before returning to school.  It’s that mixture that helps make the classes engaging, where I encourage everyone to share some personal experiences related to the various topics we cover.

But there’s one thing that still catches me by surprise and makes me laugh.  

That’s when students address me as Professor Love.

I’m pretty casual with them all. There’s no need to get formal and call me Mr. Love. Many of them just refer to me by my first name, which is fine. And I realize that it’s a sign of respect when they use the title. 

Whenever I hear “Professor” the image of Jack Lemmon’s character “Professor Fate” in The Great Race immediately jumps to mind.

Here's a clip from the movie.

So you can see my dilemma whenever I hear, "Hey Professor!"

“Your Turn to Die” was released this week. I’ve heard some very positive comments so far, which is always encouraging.  Here’s a little excerpt. In this scene, Chene is meeting with Ted, the old saloonkeeper who has been a close friend since his teenage years.

It was after eleven Thursday night when I stopped by Sharkey’s. Ted was on a stool at the corner of the bar, scoping out the dwindling action. A scowl crossed his features as I approached.

“Thanks for finally showing up,” he grumbled.

“I told you it would be late.”

He fluttered a hand back and forth in front of me. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let’s walk and talk.” To my surprise he headed for the exit, stopping briefly to explain something to one of the bartenders.

The air was thick and steamy. I was hoping a little breeze from the lake would make it more comfortable. For a short man, Ted has always been able to cover a lot of ground quickly. He makes the most of his stride. I stepped in alongside him as we moved into the marina. Boats of various sizes, shapes and colors bobbed in their docks.

“All right, we’re walking. Tell me what this is about.”

“I’m almost out of time. If you hadn’t shown up by midnight, I didn’t know what I was gonna do.” He stopped and rested a hand on a dock piling.

“You ain’t Cinderella. Midnight has never been a problem for you. Out with it.”

He shot me another scowl. “I need a favor.”

“A favor? I’m neck deep in a homicide investigation and you need a favor.”

Ted raised his hands. “It’s not really for me. It’s for a friend. She needs our help. And I already promised it would be taken care of.”

“Imagine my surprise that there’s a woman involved.”

“When did you become so sarcastic?”

“I learned it from you! Tell me what the hell is going on.”

So he did. 

Tied to the dock behind him was a sleek fiberglass boat. The hull and deck gleamed under the marina’s lights. Turns out the boat belonged to a guy who had been enjoying a mid-life crisis when he suffered a fatal heart attack at the most inopportune moment. Since he’d never changed his will, the ex-wife was going to inherit the boat along with the rest of his estate. But everything was being delayed as his latest girlfriend was suing to get her share of the fortune. Meanwhile money was tight.

“What does this have to do with me?”

“The lady is a good friend of mine.”

“Which translates to mean that you’re playing house with the ex-wife.” It was a statement, not a question. 

He shrugged, neither confirming nor denying it. How convenient.

“So what do you need me for?”

“The marina will charge her another month’s fees if the boat is still here after midnight. So I thought since you’ve got that house on a canal and there’s a dock right there, maybe you could take it and keep it while all this is getting worked out.”

“That’s your emergency? You want to store your current plaything’s boat at my place?”

He shrugged again. “When you put it that way…”

Exasperation edged my voice. “What other way would you put it?”

“C’mon, Jeff. You can use it any time you want. The guy had it detailed at the start of the season. The bottom’s been scrubbed, fresh wax all around and even the chrome’s polished.” Ted dug into his pocket and pulled out a set of keys. 

I left him standing there and walked down the dock to take a closer look. The boat was gorgeous. The chrome twinkled. There were snaps and grommets around the cockpit area to accommodate a canvas cover. It was a short step from the pier to the deck. It took me less than a minute to familiarize myself with the equipment.

Ted whistled. I looked up and saw him toss the keys in my direction. I plucked them out of the air. He moved down the dock to track my movements.

“She’s a twenty-eight-footer. The cabin is pretty cozy. He’s got radar, a full communications and sound system. Everything below is like new. I don’t think there are three hundred hours on the engine.”

“I’m not buying this, old man.”

“Nah, you’re just gonna store it for me. A few weeks, a month at the outside and you get to use it whenever you want.” 

“What about paperwork? Last thing I need is to get stopped out on the lake and try to explain this fish story.”

Ted pointed at a cupboard next to the wheel. Inside were the complete registration, insurance papers and the owner’s manual. I locked it up.

“It shouldn’t take you more than fifteen minutes to get to your place. I’ll meet you there and bring you back for your car.”

What the hell could I say? It was a gorgeous boat.

This week's musical interlude is from Norah Jones.

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