The Collegiate Scholar Summer 2008
The Collegiate Scholar Artwork
A View from Ronda................................3 Stairway From Heaven...........................4 Finale......................................................5 The Likeness of Love.............................6
Eluding Shiva..........................................7 Matters of the heart..............................11
College Life A Major Decision................................15
The Ethics of Lying...............................21
The Collegiate Scholar We continue to be impressed by the number of submissions we receive for The Collegiate Scholar. In total we received more than 500 submissions from autobiographical pieces to fiction, poetry and art. The submissions weâ€™ve chosen reflect their authorsâ€™ creativity and skill. Thanks for sending us your work and congratulations to those featured in this issue. The NSCS Staff
The Collegiate Scholar
A View from Ronda By Ryan Mason The University of North Carolina-Asheville
The Collegiate Scholar
Stairway from Heaven Bree Gant Howard University
The Collegiate Scholar
Finale By: Olivia Del Campo The George Washington University
The Collegiate Scholar
The Likeness of Love By Raechel Wong University of California, San Diego
The Collegiate Scholar Eluding Shiva By Sidharth Puri Cornell University “Jeez, Katrina again?” People say that once in a while when my home of New Orleans pops up randomly on the news nowadays. I tend to just put my head down or pretend to not be paying attention during these moments. Sometimes I laugh and shrug it all off. Who wants to draw attention to themselves? “It was in the past, I’m doing fine.” But I feel that keeping this flood of memories bottled up now is pointless. It’s been a hard three years for my family. This excerpt follows how a simple box restored hope into my family, into me. Under arching oaks and the forewarning cawing of crows flooding the sky, my family evacuated with our loyal dog to a small town outside of Houston, TX two days before the storm struck. What a storm. And then the flood. Who knew we would be staying at a hotel the next six months? It struck my parents the hardest. Their belongings, their memories from their homes in India, everything they brought with them was lost. I was naïve initially, feeling that we would recover, that our house was fine. It wasnt until our first visit back home in October, once the waters had resided, that
The Collegiate Scholar I had realized life was going to be different forever. Everything gone. Words can’t describe the landscape; mangled structures stood that once resembled houses. Everything was dry, dusty, dead. Steinbeck could only paint such a picture. Debris lay scattered in Shiva’s wake. Imagine arriving to such a destination after a tiresome eight-hour drive. Home sweet home, right? Don’t even get me started on the smell. When I got out of the car, all I could hear was my mom crying. She wouldn’t let anyone touch her, not even my dad, to console her. She screamed, “Free me! Free me!” We were fearful to move any further, even to enter the house. Yet despite my mother’s despair, she showed her true colors at that moment. Donned in her rubber boots, gloves, and mask, she went through the shattered window into what used to be our orange, bricked house. Close your eyes. Now imagine a typical room with a simple bed, dresser, tv, and any knick knacks such as clothes and books. Next step, turn everything upside down and toss them easily across the room. Beds lean up against the walls and glass shattered all over the floor. Throw some mold and spread some ooze across the room as well. With flashlight in hand and fear of stepping on rusty nails, we trekked through each room searching for anything salvageable. The water had reached above eight feet in our house. The mold and the smell were the new residents in our home. Everything had been taken over by these horrible creatures of the dark and humid. Slowly, but surely, my mom and I recovered simple things. She found some
The Collegiate Scholar clothes that she insisted we could wash with bleach. I discovered some old physics books and childhood toys in the attic that had escaped destruction. Nothing appeared to be truly what either of us had been looking for. My mom searched for her old Indian saris that her mother had given her. She searched for old tablecloths that she had made as a child. She searched for my little sister’s baby boots. Nothing was anywhere. All that was left, clearly hanging and as good as ever, was a picture of Shiva in my parent’s bedroom on the wall. It seemed to be laughing at us. Shiva the destroyer, remaining undamaged and hanging proudly on the wall while everything around was in an upheaval. The sun was setting and with little in our stomachs except for the smell of mold, we kept looking. My father and I took shifts in taking care of my sister who remained in the car. She was too young and too scared to venture inside of that hell. I decided to go in for a little longer at one point and went into my sister’s old room. Her closet appeared inaccessible since her bunk bed had been pushed up against it and covered by black sludge. I worked though to push it so I could squeeze into the closet. With sweat dripping down my forehead and the hot air from my mask re-circulating through always, I finally got the bed to budge. The next thing I saw made me scream out. Inside the closet, high up on the top shelf where the water had not dared to reach, there was a large plastic box that my mother had made me place there during our preparation to evacuate early in August. I remember it was a pain to get that giant box up there, too.
The Collegiate Scholar I was reaching for it, my hand beginning to grasp the blue lid, when my mother ran in to make sure I was okay. She saw immediately what I was reaching for and began crying. She called my dad through the window and told him in mumbled Hindi and tears what we had found. Inside this simple plastic box contained every picture my family had ever taken. It went as far back as pictures of my grandparents and as well as pictures from my parents’ childhoods. I tore off the lid and began to flip through the pictures. Sixth grade graduation, playing with my dog, my family at Disney world, each of these memories that I had let slip by were still with me physically in these pictures. I didn’t care about losing my room, my house. I had my memories and those pictures of my past that stood in the face of absolute destruction and had survived. It’s as simple as a box of pictures that lifted our entire family up that day. It’s been difficult these past three years as we’ve traversed the pathway to rebuilding our lives and restoring something resembling the norm. Each family and individual that experienced the storm knows its physical and emotional impact. It’s the will to persevere though and not give up that has helped my family continue each and everyday as our community and lives begin to sprout and grow once more.
The Collegiate Scholar Matters of the Heart Lauren Rowe Virginia Tech The car is packed and ready for the trip. My mom and dad help me triple check my room to make sure I haven’t left anything behind. I’m ready to go. I’ve got my Virginia Tech t-shirt on, khaki shorts, and brown flip flops. I’m in college now, I think to myself. My stomach hurts. I’m leaving my comfort zone and heading five hours away. We pull out of the driveway and I take a mental picture of what my house looks like so I can remember it when I’m missing home. I know I’ll miss home, and my mom especially. She’s done everything for me the past eighteen years, and now I’ll be on my own. She looks happy and excited on the ride there. “Are you nervous?” she asks. I’m gazing out the window as trees speed by. I try to count them
The Collegiate Scholar but it’s no use. “I dunno mom, I’m just ready to get out of this car.” We finally arrive at my dorm and begin unloading my stuff. Three flights of stairs really becomes a pain after about ten trips up and down. We set up my bed, then my desk, then my closet. My mom makes my bed, hangs up all my clothes, and organizes all of my desk supplies. I know she’s doing this to distract herself. She keeps finding more and more things in my room to fix or arrange. I don’t complain because I’m too overwhelmed by the lack of air conditioning to move. After deciding that my room is acceptable for me to live in, my mom wants us to walk to a dining hall and eat before she and my dad head home. She’s quiet all through dinner, and I don’t know what to say to make her happy. “I really like it here mom. You don’t have to worry about me. I’ll be fine on my own.” She smiles and nods her head. She’s losing me; her best friend, her first child, a piece of her heart is now gone. We hug and say goodbye and I walk back to my dorm room to begin my life as a college student.
The Collegiate Scholar
The hospital room is surprisingly bright and colorful. The window is open, revealing sunshine and flowers outside. She looks so small in the hospital bed. Her pale skin almost blends in with the sheets. She greets me with a smile like she always does. She’s never been one to show weakness. I sit down on the bed and hug her. She asks me how school is going. I can’t possibly burden her with any of my problems right now. “School is going great; I got an A on my math test.” She sighs. A heavy sigh filled with worry and confusion. I hold her hand and her lip starts to tremble. After being so strong for so long, she finally lets herself break down. I look away and try not to cry for fear of making her cry more. She looks at me with empty eyes. “When you left, it felt like a piece of my heart broke. And now my heart really is broken.” I stay with her all that day and the next until I have to go back to
The Collegiate Scholar school. That five hour drive back feels like forever when all I have to think about is whether or not my mom is going to die. The next day my dad calls to say that the test results revealed that my mom has a hole in her heart and needs surgery to fix it. I lay in my bed that night listening to the sound of fans blowing and people running up and down the hall. I inhale my pillow to see if it still smells like home. I’ve only been gone three weeks. It doesn’t smell anymore. I climb out of bed and search desperately around my room for anything that makes me feel home. I settle for a family Christmas picture saved on my computer from last year. Tears begin to fall as I look at my mom’s beautiful face. I sit there for what seems like hours before I finally fall asleep facedown on my desk.
The Collegiate Scholar
A Major Decision
By: Anna Parker University of Tennessee-Knoxville When I read the graduation rates for men and women from a study recently conducted by the University of Tennessee’s Student Success Center, I was shocked. Only 21 percent of males and 38.4 percent of females graduate in four years. The “six-year plus plan,” it seems, is no longer a line in some corny joke made by your parents as they drop you off for freshman year, followed by the lecture certain to contain phrases like “Study just as hard as you play,” or “you’re here to get an education, not party.” These parents and freshman probably never imagined that instead of Phi-Kappa-whatever, the biggest threat to students graduating on time could potentially stem directly from the University itself. I know I didn’t. We were all too busy listening to orientation lectures about how it was okay to not have a lot of direction during our first year. “Our most popular major is undecided!” one over-enthusiastic speaker told with a laugh. We were only a few months out of high school after all, just barely legal. How were we supposed to know what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives? What a relief to know that the University was
The Collegiate Scholar on our side. They wanted us to explore different majors and careers, and “take our time.” Well, I wasn’t one of those “undecided” students when I started college, in fact, I had it all figured out. I was going to major in history and then go to law school. I was able to hold on to this plan for a little over a semester, before I decided that I absolutely could not go to school for seven more years, and I wasn’t even very interested in practicing law. I suddenly felt lost and directionless. In other words I was experiencing what the “typical freshman” experiences. Wow, good thing, my college planned for such a first year crisis. Soon I was making up lists with titles that I hadn’t used since elementary school like “What I do I want to do be when I grow up?” Except this time I left off careers like Olympic gymnast and playing Cinderella at Walt Disney World. Then I found my dusty undergraduate catalog stuffed underneath my bed. My optimism immediately began to wane. One of the first majors I looked at was business administration. Unfortunately I had taken all the wrong mathematics and too many natural sciences. In fact the damage was over a semester. I would have been better off not going to school one semester, at least then I would still have the money. I then looked at the Communications College where the loss of credits was even greater. How was I only just near the end of my freshman year and already being penalized for not having it all figured out? And what was even more troublesome, what if I had changed my mind about my major at the end of my sophomore year instead of
The Collegiate Scholar freshman year? How many students in college actually are changing their major during their sophomore year? After studying the undergraduate catalog intensely, something that I now believe I should have memorized before even applying to college, I came to the unfortunate realization that there are few “safe” classes to be found outside of English 101 and foreign languages. “Safe” of course meaning class time and money that you don’t have to eat, should you get crazy enough to change your major. The only real “safe plan” to have in college is the plan that is made prior to the start of freshman year and does not change until graduation. I am starting to wonder exactly how clichés concerning college like “time of selfdiscovery” were even conceived because from where I’m standing “time of never ending frustration and school-debt” seems a lot more appropriate. I’m not suggesting that students be able to change their majors indefinitely without losing credits. I understand that a pre-med major with seventy-five percent of his credits in art history major requirements would not make the best medical school candidate. However, the assumption that first-year students will not change their majors is unrealistic. The university at the very least owes entering freshman a disclaimer. I recommend something like, “Section 1: Failure to find the right major on day one can and will result in loss of time and money.
The Collegiate Scholar Section 2: After initial selection of major, the University recommends refraining from exploring other interests and careers in the event that students become dissatisfied with their current field of study. The University cannot be held liable for any resulting negative consequences (see Section 1).” As for me, I’ve found “new inspiration” for keeping my history major, along with adding a minor in journalism in the hopes of appeasing, at least partially, the new-found passions of my own “time of selfdiscovery.”
18 College Life
The Collegiate Scholar Classified
Joey Shea University of Nevada, Las Vegas
F. Ryan Dowdy University of North CarolinaChapel Hill
First day as a secret agent. Double-windsor knotted tie. Black. Two-button peak lapel jacket. Black. Pleated wool pants. Black. Freshly-shined oxfords. Black. Stain resistant poplin patterned shirt. Paisley. Last day as a secret agent.
I watched in the gravestone silence of the lost and gone, the casket creaking down beside Travis’s worn marker. Even the trees grieved black against the blowing wind in the Alabama pinehill cemetery. By the plastic flowers of Travis’s marker you buried my great-grandmother, the mailman’s wife, in the Alabama redclay cemetery while Travis’s twin sister encircled you with an arm. There you buried your mother, only a mailman’s wife, and grieved for your stillborn son
The Collegiate Scholar besides. My aunt encircled you with an arm, a dockline to keep you from drifting to sea.
I wake to the whispers of nurses and the silence of your heaving gasps - gone.
After the twins the tempest settled, and drawing beside you sons and a daughter, love was doled out toughly. Your docklines kept them from drifting apart, your bobby pins and fresh-made grits. Your play is nearly through and I toughen to inherit this role, these dolores, these tragedies, these bobby pins and instant grits given by desk nurses, whispering in fluorescent light. Now my part, I accept these tragedies. Dreaming the oxygen mask will blow your fragile face away,
The Collegiate Scholar The Ethics of Government Deception: When Lying is Justified
Genevieve di Leonardo College of Charleston
Ever since the ratification of the Constitution, there has been disagreement over news reporters’ privilege in obtaining government information in the interest of the public’s right to know, especially information that relates to national security. Journalists cite the freedom of press clause in the Constitution as evidence of their rights; however, the Supreme Court has yet to award any First Amendment privileges to the press. Opponents of journalistic privileges allude to the actual behavior of the framers of the Constitution, which overtly contradicted journalists’ rights to government information (Halstuck, 2002). For example, Jay’s Treaty of 1794 was the product of “a private gathering…[where] framers of the Constitution… met to formulate a
The Collegiate Scholar solution to a problem that threatened the welfare of a nation” (Halstuck, 2002, p. 61). This meeting and its outcome were kept secret not only from the American public, but also from the members of the Senate and
the House of Representatives. Fear that the opposing party would sabotage the mission and, therefore, risk the security of the young nation motivated government officials to operate in secrecy, proving that the “prominent framers…believed that the Constitution imposed few or no limits on executive-branch government secrecy” (Halstuck, 2002). The founding fathers acted on national security rather than the public’s right to know because they believed that this would serve the long-term interests of the nation as a whole. When the well-being of Americans and the stability of the country are at stake, governmental deception is a justifiable means of protecting the security of the country. Utilitarians, believers in an ethical branch that focuses on the consequences of an action when determining ethicality, would support this proposition. According to utilitarianism, ethical actions are those
The Collegiate Scholar that result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people (Neher & Sandin, 2007). When comparing the benefits of safety and security of the American people to the costs of withholding information from them, utilitarian ethicists would determine that the action that would benefit the greatest amount of peopleâ€”in this case deception and secrecyâ€”would be deemed ethical. Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism, utilized a mathematical approach in determining the ethics of a situation. He claimed that one should total the costs and benefits of an action and choose the action with benefits that outweigh the costs. He did not differentiate between the kinds of benefits or pleasures (Neher, et al., 2007). Bentham would agree with the decision to withhold information because, while the publicâ€™s knowledge fulfills the most important pleasure of the mind, a concept originated by fellow-utilitarian John Stuart Mill, this pleasure is overwhelmed by the dangerous costs that would result from the divulgence of this information.
The Collegiate Scholar In Bentham’s “On Publicity,” he claimed that when comparing the benefits of government openness to the costs of secretiveness, he favored an open government. However, he cited three exceptions to this rule: “if publicity favors the projects of an enemy, if it hurts innocent persons, or if it inflicts unduly harsh punishment on guilty persons” (Bok, 1982, p. 174). While governmental secrecy deceives the American people, it is—at the same time—deceiving America’s enemies. When information is publicized by the media, there is no way to filter out who is able to gain access to it. Providing this information would be like leaving the front door of your house open in a bad neighborhood: it is unreasonable and irresponsible and would likely lead to at least two of the three exceptions stated by Bentham. The government often resorts to deception in an attempt to protect this fragile information because of how easily it can be manipulated by its enemies. According to Bok, this deception is imperative in defending government interests: “To the extent that it is possible to strip people of their capacity for secrecy about their intentions and their actions, their
The Collegiate Scholar lives become more transparent and predictable; they can then the more easily be subjected to pressure and defeated” (Bok, 1982, p. 23). Just as deception is essential in the success of any competitive sport or game, it is also vital for governmental strategizing, when the stakes are much higher and the losses are measured in lives. Government officials operated under this assumption following 9/11 when the number of immigrants that were being held and questioned in regard to the attacks was kept confidential (Kirtley, 2006). Government officials are responsible not only for protecting information, but also for acting as public relations practitioners for the government, promoting its positive image. A country’s image, or reputation, is important not only among its voting public, but also the other countries of the world: “To be effective, a press aide not only has to be able to generate favorable stories, but has to be able to stop bad ones” (Marro, 1985, p. 34). As part of this responsibility, aides are required to control the information on which this image or reputation
The Collegiate Scholar depends. Without such control, the state, as with any individual, is virtually defenseless (Bok, 1982). For example, when President Eisenhower suffered from a stroke in 1957, his press office told reporters that he had developed “a chill,” not disclosing information about the severity of his illness for another twenty-four hours (Marro, 1985). While many would argue that it is the people’s right to know about the well-being of its leader, it is important to consider the effects that this information would have on the perception that other countries and their leaders have of America. A nation is viewed as unstable and vulnerable when its leader, the human representation of its strength and being, is seriously ill. Countries may recognize this weakness as an opportune time to attack, either militaristically or economically. In the past, journalists respected this fact and supported the government in protecting the image of its leader. For instance, throughout Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency, he suffered from an illness believed to be polio that paralyzed him from the waist down and confined him to
The Collegiate Scholar a wheel chair. Roosevelt and other members of the government came to the agreement that he should not be photographed or filmed while in the wheelchair, a preference that would protect his image as a strong and fit president during a time of turmoil and world war, a time when America’s powerful image was vital in defeating its enemies. The journalists obeyed, deciding that this rationale outweighed the public’s right to know (Biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt, March 4, 2008).
However, the field of journalism has recently shifted in its purpose,
from objective reporting of the news to investigative journalism and whistle blowing, writing that was previously restricted to editorials (Marro, 1985). It has become common knowledge, a “basic principle that it is up to the government to keep its secrets—if it can—and up to the journalists to ferret out as much information as possible (Kirtley, 2006). Journalists do not consider why the information is being kept confidential; there is no respect for the government officials and their judgment in these matters. At the same time, however, journalists expect the government to willingly
The Collegiate Scholar include them in all stages of governmental operations, especially in the most crucial and fragile stage of “take off” (Marro, 1985, p. 31). While it is important that the people of democratic nations know what their government is doing, the divulgence of decisions and plans made at this highly sensitive time would most likely lead to crash landings, an inability to complete such missions successfully. This secrecy “was often thought to be of the highest importance in furthering the designs of the state” (Bok, 1982, p. 173). Government officials should have the right to protect this information in order to reach the nation’s goals, which are frequently pivotal to its security.
The most famous person to voice his support of this right to
secrecy was Arthur Sylvester, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs under the Kennedy administration. While his statements, made at a dinner for the Deadline Club of Sigma Delta Chi, have often been reported out of context, his main point was that the government had a right to lie to protect itself from nuclear war. He was speaking during
The Collegiate Scholar the Cuban missile crisis when Kennedy and his administration were openly criticized for keeping important information confidential while strategizing (Gershen, 1966).
News outlets from around the country capitalized on Sylvester’s
quote and the negative light that it placed on the government. In many cases his quote was shortened, leaving out “his important
qualification—that he referred to a time of extreme crisis” (Gershen, 1966). However, many journalists—even those who had been lied to directly by government officials—agreed with the statement taken in its true context. Many believed that in serious life and death situations, wherein the security of the country and its people are at stake, that the government does—in fact—have a right to deceive (Marro, 1985). While few could argue that the public’s right to know was worth the destruction of a nuclear war, many journalists continue to fight to expose confidential information today.
The Collegiate Scholar
Journalists have adopted the responsibility to inform since the
birth of America. Many times, this role leads them to defy government officials in an attempt to leak confidential information that could jeopardize the security of the nation. Government officials have the right to protect this information in any way possible, in the interest of the stability of the country and the safety of its people. Bok cites the “reason of state” as justification of this right. The reason of state “legitimates action on behalf of a state that would be immoral for private citizens” (Bok, 1982, p. 173). According to this belief, the government cannot be judged by the same morals that we use when determining the ethicality of individual actions. This way of thinking relates to situational ethics, wherein the context of a situation determines the ethicality of an action (Neher, et. al., 2007). So, while lying may be deemed wrong or immoral for the individual that does not have legitimate grounds for deception, the reasoning and purpose that drive governmental deception refutes this
The Collegiate Scholar negative judgment. In a post 9/11 world, a desire for the safety that the American people believe comes with information is most likely what drives the media to attemptâ€”and sometimes succeedâ€”in exposing confidential government information. What these people must realize, however, is that their safety is the main concern of government officials when information is made confidential and that the officials are rigorously trained to make these decisions. It is the divulgence of this information that will likely lead to danger.
The Collegiate Scholar References Bok, Sissela. (1982). Secrets. New York, NY: Pantheon Books. Gershen, Martin. The “right to lie.” Columbia Journalism Review, 5:4, 1416. Retrieved February 28, 2008, from http://web.ebscohost.com. nuncio.cofc.edu/ehost/detail?vid=3&hid=107&sid=74a42f82-54fb4792-a019-46f465ac0d6a%40sessionmgr107. Halstuck, Martin E. (2002). Policy of secrecy—pattern of deception: what federalist leaders thought about a public right to know, 1794-98. Communication Law & Policy, 7:1, 51-76. Retrieved February 21, 2008, from http://web.ebscohost.com.nuncio.cofc. edu/ehost/pdf?vid=4&hid=112&sid=5df7b38-3945-4748-9325c6885b36a9ae%40sessionmgr109. Kirtley, Jane E. (2006). Transparency and accountability in a time of terror: the Bush administration’s assault on the freedom of information. Communication Law & Policy, 11:4, 479-509. Retrieved February 28, 2008, from http://web.ebscohost.com.nuncio.cofc.
The Collegiate Scholar edu/ehost/pdf?vid=9&hid=112&sid=5df73b38-3945-4748-9325c6885b36a9ae%40sessionmgr109. Marro, Anthony. (1985). When the government tells lies. Columbia Journalism Review, 23:6, 29-36. Retrieved February 21, 2008, from http://web.ebscohost.com.nuncio.cofc.edu/ehost/ detail?vid=3&hid=112&sid=5df73b38-3945-4748-9325c6885b36a9ae%40sessionmgr109. Neher, William W. and Paul J. Sandin. (2007). Communicating Ethically. New York, NY: Pearson Education, Inc. The White House. Biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Retrieved March 4, 2008 from http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/fr32. html.
The Collegiate Scholar Google It Kristen Walker Virginia Tech
Ryan blinked at the white screen. He clicked refresh for the tenth
time. Sorry, site closed temporarily for maintenance. How could Facebook be down? He had a five page paper to procrastinate for, and now he had no means of diverting his attention. There had to be something else he could do; he would just have to get creative.
Ryan instinctively typed Google in the web browser bar. Drumming
his fingers on the mouse, he contemplated an interesting topic to search for. For a brief moment he actually considered typing in the subject of the paper he would be up half the night writing, but that thought was discarded with a chuckle. The black cursor blinked at him in the empty search box.
â€œHey, Mike. What should I Google?â€? he called over his shoulder to
his roommate, who was staring brainlessly at his own computer screen.
The Collegiate Scholar
“Uh, I dunno. Google yourself.”
“Yeah, just type in your own name.”
Ryan shrugged. “Mmk.”
He typed Ryan Andrews into the blank bar and clicked Google
Search. His eyes widened when he read that there were more than 21,000 hits for his name. Certain that one of the entries had to be about him, he began to skim the descriptions of others who shared his name across the world. One of the first entries was a blog by a graduate student at some university or other. Under occupation, he had written “Male Nurse ;).” Ryan shuddered and his mouse flew to the Back button. He didn’t know what the winking face had meant, and he didn’t think he wanted to know.
A few entries down, he found a page describing a video game
developer named Ryan Andrews. “Sweet,” he said under his breath, imagining himself ten years down the road playing video games all day and
The Collegiate Scholar getting paid for it. He’d make the most bad ass action game ever, where the main guy was a sniper or an assassin who snuck around and took out important people. Or maybe a war game with realistic graphics and huge weapons. What better job was there?
He found out on page two of the Google search. Ryan Andrews
was also the name of a famous bodybuilder. What else did a bodybuilder do all day but work out to look hot? He could just see himself with a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger, going to competitions and making money every time he flexed his muscles. He’d have to practice the accent, though. The lack of girlfriends he’d had since college started would be more than made up for. Who knows, maybe they’d even make posters of him in nothing more than a little Speedo, and girls would post him up on their walls.
Dragging his thoughts away from his fantasy, he clicked on another
link of a rock singer named Ryan Andrews. There was a picture of a guy
The Collegiate Scholar with long black hair and tattoos up and down both arms signing autographs for a group of giddy teenage girls. Ryan had never been known for his singing voice, but he’d had a guitar when he was fifteen. It couldn’t be too hard to print some tabs off the internet and strum out a few rock chords, could it? His buzzed haircut wouldn’t fly in a rock band, but it wouldn’t take long to grow it out. Maybe he’d spike it up or grow a Mohawk or something. He’d have to dye it green, of course. Orange would work, too.
He continued skimming page after page. It seemed that some Ryan
Andrews or other had done just about everything. There were football players and scientists and doctors and motorcyclists. On page 17, he stopped scrolling. Halfway down the page was mention of a junior named Ryan Andrews at East Carolina University.
“Mike! Look! I found myself- come look!” he called without tearing
his eyes from the page.
“Just a sec,” came the slow reply.
Ryan’s face was no more than six inches from the screen as he read
The Collegiate Scholar the short paragraph about himself. Ryan Andrews is scheduled to appear at the Greenville courthouse on May 26, 2007 for a traffic violation.
Ryan glanced back to see Mike squinting to read his screen from
across the room.
“Never mind, it wasn’t me,” Ryan lied. He sighed. There were so
many things he could do with his life. He had his work cut out for him if he ever wanted his name to appear in one of those first few pages of the Google search.
3836 Popular Culture
The Collegiate Scholar Junk Hannah Martin Northeastern University Great uncle M.B. is dead and we’re standing in my grandma’s kitchen— there are eight of us. It looks the same way it’s looked since I can remember—brown and wooden and dusty with a plastic yellow trashcan in the corner. The dingy white refrigerator is decorated with some newspaper cutouts and a picture of my uncle Bruce on a tractor held in place by a small magnet picturing a slice of Spam—delicious. There’s a small hexagonal terrarium on the wooden ledge above the sink with tiny cacti living in it. I’m not sure if they’re fake or real and I’ve always been baffled as to the terrarium’s purpose—one of those things you always wonder about but never enough to ask. My mom and dad and brother are setting out food and M.B.’s two sons, Richard and Keith, and Richard’s wife Celeste are walking in from the din where they’ve been sitting blandly on a dust-covered couch. I start the procession through a long line of steaming Tupperware bowls, careful not to bump a tower of outdated
The Collegiate Scholar china or a precariously placed ceramic figurine from its home on the cluttered countertop. I heap my red plastic plate with lumps of food. There’s enough of it to last us a year. I guess that’s the up side of death. “Let me get you a roll,” my grandmother insists, and her doctor-recommended orthopedic shoes pad, quickly as they can which isn’t very, behind me. Pretending food will make the difference, she stretches her thick arms towards me, a roll in one hand and a spoon full of green beans in the other. “Have some beans and some of this fruit salad and some of these fresh tomatoes the Church brought us.” Perhaps she’s noticed the way my dress emphasizes the slightly protruding bones in my shoulders because she’s shoving food into my face like those people who give out samples in the mall. I debate getting another plate simply to prevent my green beans from mixing with the juices of the Jello-based fruit salad. I know she’s panicking about having to throw the food away and already strategizing exactly how she will fit twenty-three separate plastic bags into her freezer in order to conserve the remains. “Thanks, that’s good— really.” Walking into the faded dining room, sun shines in through dusty curtains that used to be mint green. They’re grayish now, either from too much sun or too much time. I set my plate next to a gravy stain on the dingy table cloth. My grandmother never washed
The Collegiate Scholar: Fall 2007
The Collegiate Scholar it—she said she liked the memories too much. She would point to one and say “Julia made this one the other night when I cooked roast and her knife fell off the side of her plate,” or, “When Bruce was little he spilt his grape juice here and I just never got around to cleaning it.” Whoever makes the stains always feels bad but she tells them it’s fine. She likes a spot or two. I look across at the only other person in the room—Celeste. She’s my great uncle M.B.’s, son’s wife—I don’t know what you call that, but that’s who she is. All she is. She wears a navy suit and pumps and the kind of pearls that are fake but still expensive. Her face is cold and I’m bored just looking at her. “You and your brother have grown up so much,” she says. “I remember when you were just a little girl and you sold us those handmade Christmas ornaments on Thanksgiving Day at a card table outside your house.” I laugh—not because it’s really that funny but because this is the last prominent memory Celeste and I have of each other. I was seven and I wore a green plaid jumper. Today I’m in Marc Jacobs heels and a cocktail dress. I charged her two dollars for an ornament made of pipe cleaners and beads. “So how’s school going?” “It’s fine—it’s school.” “Do you know where you’re going to college yet?”
The Collegiate Scholar “No.” “You should really come down to Atlanta and look,” she says, and her voice sounds like a telemarketer trying to sell me an insurance plan, except I can’t hang up. “We have an array of excellent institutions. You know, I work with the hospital at Emory. Our house is centrally located and we have three guest bedrooms, so you and your family should really come stay sometime.” “Maybe.” The only communication we’ve had in the past eight years has been through Christmas cards. Their picture is the same every year, just with older faces. It’s her and Richard standing in front of a Christmas tree smiling; and inside, in red block letters it reads “Wishing you a Merry Christmas from Richard and Celeste.” It was the kind of expensive card where you pick out a design from a catalogue, give the sales lady your picture and then order fifty or two-hundred depending on how many people you knew or thought you knew. It’s easier that way I guess. They’re kill-two-birds-with-one-stone kind of people. M.B. could have told me our relation in a split second. He would have told me and then pulled out papers and books and his massive family tree. He loved lineage— unknown relatives and that sort of thing, and he’d done extensive research on the subject which mostly consisted of traveling the country in his wood paneled station wagon
The Collegiate Scholar and showing up on the doorsteps of countless third cousins and aunts-twice-removed. They’d ask who he was and he’d say M.B. Furr. He’d show them the dingy documents and extensive family tree that proved their relation and set his blue pleather suitcase in their guest room or perhaps beside the couch. He was crazy but some people liked him. Those papers and the rest of M.B.’s life will be lying in a landfill in two weeks— rotting away in a garbage bag. Junk must be disposed of. The rest of the family files into the dining room and eventually everyone sits down, fidgeting with their clothes and sneaking little bites of food from their plates. “Let’s pray,” my grandma says, and she closes her eyes. “Dear Lord,” her shriveled lips start, and her voice sounds smooth like butter half-melted in the microwave. No one else has their eyes closed and they are all watching her. After her warm drawl gives thanks, her lips start to quiver. “M.B. was the best brother I could have ever asked for,” she says—she pauses. “He was my best friend. We were all each other had. I just pray that he is happy now, with You.” She exhales a deep breath as if some burden has been lifted from her. “In your Son’s name we pray, Amen.” Her eyes are wet when she opens them and a tiny tear slides through the powdery wrinkles of her cheek and onto her sweater. Everyone looks away—at each other or at their plate—picking up their forks and stabbing their food, starting their own small talk. “Ruby brought us this chicken from Food Lion,” my grandma rambles. “It’s one of
The Collegiate Scholar those rotisserie ones that they have in the big metal warming thing at the store. You just have to heat it up and it’s ready to go. They’re real easy, I eat them a lot. Ruby knows how much I like them. Do ya’ll like it?” It’s a flavor injected, rubbery-textured chicken. My mind jumps to the last time I saw M.B. He showed up at our house one night after visiting relatives. He wanted dinner and a place to sleep. He was wearing the kind of hat that golfers wear—the plaid ones that sort of poof out and have a little brim. His face was decorated with moles and I think he was bald but I’m not quite sure because I’d never seen him without one of those hats—if it developed a hole, he’d put a plastic bag on the inside to keep his head from getting wet or cold. That night my mom fixed a rotisserie chicken. “I can live on a chicken like this for a whole week,” he said, pointing to the chicken as it circled in the microwave. My mother, who won’t eat a pizza that’s been left out of the refrigerator for more than an hour, tried to hide her disgust. “M.B., it will probably spoil after a few days,” she said. “Nah, you might get a little sick but you’ll be alright,” he paused. “One time the doctor, he told me I had food poisoning. I told him it wasn’t no poisoning, I was just a little sick, if it was poisoning I’d be dead and I’m still breathing. My chicken’s just fine.”
The Collegiate Scholar My family just sat and stared, muffling our chuckles and trying to avert our eyes from the inch of hair growing out of the mole on his ear. “What?” Keith yells, as he slams his fist onto the table so that everyone’s utensils rattle against their plates and I’m snapped back to reality. “You spent what on the urn?” “Two hundred dollars,” Richard says, slicking back what is left of his hair with his large man-manicured fingers. He taps the toe of his shiny dress shoe against the hardwood floors. “Why? There were much cheaper options.” “Look, we’re not going to be cheap asses here. Things like this need to look nice.” “Fine, spend all your money. I’ll be keeping mine for more important things.” Keith stands up, pushes open the sliding plastic door to the kitchen so hard that I think it might break, and walks through. He comes back with a scoop of macaroni casserole and a glass of sweet tea. I take a bite of green beans. They’re disgusting and I’m not expecting it. I get that sensation like when you take a gulp of what you think is water but then realize is really milk and want to spit it out in the sink or into the person’s face who gave it to you. My grandmother’s green beans have always been my favorite food in the world. I guess today her mind is elsewhere. I swallow them and smile.
The Collegiate Scholar In the background, Keith talks about his job and messes with the collar of his forest green sweater that probably came from JC Penny in 1993 and has those little balls on it that develop after years of constant wear. I’m not exactly sure what his job is because I usually tune him out whenever he starts talking in his arrogant whine. All I know is that he does something medical and time-consuming which I guess is good considering he’s single, middle-aged, and bitter. The last time I saw him was about a year ago. M.B. was in the hospital and Keith decided he would clean out M.B.’s house. He probably figured his dad would be dead any day and that he’d better get a head start on the arrangements. He hired a little Spanish lady to clean the shit-hole of a house even though she upped her prices after stepping through the door and into hell. After a week of cleaning, the house stopped reeking of rat excrement and they discovered mustard yellow countertops in the kitchen. A week later, Keith put up a FOR SALE sign and moved his father from the hospital into an assisted living home. A month later M.B. hung himself. It had something to do with the cord of one of those hand held shower nozzles, but no one really talks about it much. “Does anyone want desert?” my grandma asks. “I have cookies and coconut cake and the ladies at the Church made some—“ “Lunch has been good, Betty, but we should really go,” Richard says. “I want to
The Collegiate Scholar stop by dad’s real quick before the funeral. Does anyone want to take some of his junk before we throw it in the dumpster?” “Yeah, sure, we’ll have a look,” my dad says. “You’ll be amazed by what they’ve done with his house,” Richard says, “it actually looks halfway decent with a bit of cleaning. Dad just refused to take care of his things. ” I look straight into his watery arrogant eyes and I narrow mine and I say “He’s dead.” His eyes are locked in mine. “Give the poor man a break.” And then he laughs. That’s all he does he just laughs that horrible laugh that says “silly little girl”. Like I made some sort of joke. We carry our plates into the kitchen, scrape our food into a plastic Cool Whip container since my grandmother doesn’t have a disposal, and put the dishes in the sink. In no particular fashion we head out the door, into our cars and to the funeral.
47 Short story
The Collegiate Scholar
The Collegiate Scholar