Monday, July 16, 2018

Rainy Day at the Big Sleazy River

Rainy Day at the Big Sleazy River
Loren Logsdon

            It was 4:30 on a Saturday morning at Tug Armstrong's cabin on the bank of the Big Sleazy River, and Boone Fowler was up early because it was his turn to fix breakfast. He opened the window and heard the heavy rain falling so he went back to bed, knowing there would be no fishing on this day. This rain had the feel of an all-day inclemency, but Boone was happy to get some more z's.
            The four friends who met occasionally for a weekend of fishing on the Big Sleazy would take turns fixing breakfast before daybreak. They were dedicated fishermen and believed fishing was best early in the morning, although they had long arguments about the best time to catch fish. Lancaster Markem had at first expressed the belief that evening was the best time because most fish did their feeding at night. Finally, Lancaster had to give up his theory, not because it was wrong but because if they started early in the morning they had a longer time to fish. For these friends, fishing was a passion, an activity akin to the healing rituals one can find in an authentic religion.
            Thus, owing to the rain, it was 7:00 when the men awakened, and Boone began to prepare his breakfast special of bacon, biscuits, and cheese pudding. These mouth-watering toothsome viands made the day special even if fishing was out of the question.
            “Boy, this cheese pudding is delicious,” Dr. Wanton Slaughter opined.
            “A dish fit for a king,” Lancaster Markem seconded.
            “It certainly helps to compensate for the disappointment of the rain,” Tug Armstrong said as he poured a second cup of coffee.
            One would think that on days when rain prevented fishing, the men would pack up and go home, but such was not the case with these friends. Instead, they saw a rainy Saturday on the Big Sleazy as an opportunity to loaf and invite one's soul, as Walt Whitman once put it, except for some reason he spelled loaf with an e so that it was loafe. I hasten to say that for Uncle Walt as well as the four friends, loafing is not to be equated with laziness; instead, loafing means the leisurely opportunity for men of good will to connect with the universe and discuss important questions. For in addition to fishing, these four shared an enjoyment of good conversation, the kind of conversation one cannot have with cellphones or in the noisy environments of this postmodern world where any conversation is impossible.
“How about we sing “Blowing Bubbles?” Boone said and then launched into the song

I’m forever blowing bubbles
Pretty bubbles in the air
They fly so high and nearly reach the sky
Then like my dreams they fade and die
“Naw, it’s too early in the morning for singing. Let’s talk instead,” Wanton Slaughter suggested.
            “Does anyone have a good topic for discussion?” Lancaster Markem asked.
            “Yes, Tug Armstrong seconded. “Let’s not waste the day waiting for the rain to stop and the skies to clear but choose a good topic and debate it.”
            “I have one question I have always wanted us to discuss,” Boone Fowler said.
“Well fire away. Let’s have it,”Markem said as he finished the last bite of cheese pudding.
 “Ok, here goes: Assume you are an alien from outer space and landed in the United States, knowing nothing about American culture. All you had to study was American commercial television. What conclusions would you draw about American culture from hours of studying  TV?”
“Ray Bradbury has already written that story,” Markem commented, “And as far as I know, Colin Wilson has too.”
“But we haven’t read those stories. Let’s do our own version and answer the question. .
Wanton Slaughter exuded customary enthusiasm because this question led him as a physician directly to his mission in life. “I would conclude that post-nasal drip is a major cause of suffering in America, that to find a cure for this plague would be the greatest thing one could do.”
            “No, no,” said Tug Armstrong. “Your answer is too narrow and self-serving.” Then he looked at his friends and said, “You all know that I have the temperament of an Artisan and that I am an inventor at heart. Consequently, I believe that irregularity is even worse than post-nasal drip. I pity the men who confess on those commercials that they haven't been the most regular of fellows. Regularity is essential to the health of any living organism. I would therefore invent a product and call it Balm of Alacrity, market it, and sell it on TV. I would hire the Feldco Man or Dr. Pillow to importune the viewers that my product would help restore that bright-eyed, bushy tailed zest for life. With the Feldco Man or Dr. Pillow as my salesman I could make a fortune.”
            “But that’s not the purpose of our discussion. The question calls for an analysis of television and what it reveals about American culture,” Boone reminded the group. 
            Boone Fowler, who often clashed with Tug, slammed his fist on the table and said, “Tug, you should be tied to a chair and forced to watch Mama Mia for forty-eight hours. The most obvious truth about American advertising is that Americans are completely obsessed with getting, spending, and saving money/ The viewers are constantly bombarded by urgent messages which offer them the chance to save big money. And the offers are so simple that all the people have to do is ‘Call Now.’  But what is amazing is that viewers do not see that to save big money they must spend big money. Menards has the perfect formula. They offer rebates, but the customer never sees the money that is saved—it has to be spent at Menards. And the Title Max commercial defies all logic. If I were an alien, I would conclude that Americans have absolutely no critical thinking. At every turn they are hoodwinked, duped, and bamboozled into saving money not realizing that they are actually spending big money and saving very little.”
            Lancaster Markem then asked his friends to discuss the programs that were offered to television viewers. An ignorant alien from outer space might conclude that American society consists of four classes: lawyers, police, criminals, victims. The lawyers deal with all kinds injustice; they govern, make the laws, and suggest punishment. The police and the criminals are engaged in a violent war to see who will be victorious, and the victims, the rest of the  people, including the Others and the Outliers,  haven’t a clue. All they have is the hope that lawyers and police can provide a semblance of order and that Dr. Phil, a postmodern bhagwan, can help them solve their problems. Notice all of the violence you see in TV programs—explosions, car chases, murders, natural and man-made catastrophes. It is clear that American culture is filled with all kinds of violence and crime.”
            Wanton Slaughter then asked for another try at the question, so he opined that viewing TV would suggest that Americans worship intensity as the only way to tell they are alive. Intensity and noise, the louder the better, are signs that people are alive. ‘Don’t lose your intensity’ is really the mantra you see on TV, whether it is in rock music or in a program like the American Ninja Warrior or The Voice, talent programs like Dancing for the Stars.  Furthermore, many of the products advertised are intended to help people maintain their intensity—the beer commercials, the Viagra and Cialis ads, and the beauty aids which keep people looking young. “
            The conversation among the four men was much more detailed than what I have given here. They spent the entire morning discussing this fascinating topic. Real conversations are like that; they often wander about, bringing up speculations and side issues—unlike the conversations we see on TV talk shows. Thus in the interest of brevity I will summarize the conclusion the men drew if an alien from outer space was to understand American culture by watching commercial TV.

1.     The only purpose of human life is to get, spend, and save money.
2.     Americans have a pathetic lack of critical thinking skills.
3.     Americans are incapable of solving their own problems; they need experts and advertisers.
4.     Americans believe that only what is available in life is advertised on TV,
5.     Happiness is achieved by finding the right product.
6.     A life lived to full measure is defined by one’s intensity.
7.     American culture is dominated by violence, crime, and pathological narcissism.

Fortunately, in the early afternoon the rain stopped and the skies cleared. The four friends were able to call a halt to their crepe hanging and social criticism. They fished from the middle of the afternoon until dusk. Then they played cards and sang Irish songs until the wee hours of the morning. They would all agree with what Richard Widmark said to Gregory Peck in the movie Yellow Sky, “The day was not exactly what we wanted, but you can’t have everything.”


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Back in the Day

Back in the Day
Loren Logsdon

            “Did you play sports in college, Papa?” grandson Dylan asked Professor Lancaster Markem.
            “Why, yes, I played baseball my freshman year at Heliotrope University They dropped baseball after our coach Hack Procrustes left to become athletic director at San Andreas Fault State University.”
“Please tell us a baseball story,” Dylan’s twin brother Blake begged.
            “Very well, boys, here goes,” Markem said, glad to have an excuse to stroll down Memory Lane.

            At one time the Heliotrope University baseball team dominated the Illini-Hoosier-Buckeye Conference because our coach, a sharp featured fellow named Hack Procrustes, was a master strategist and a genius at recruiting student-athletes. He bore an uncanny resemblance to Jack Palance, and when he spoke, people listened. He had a piercing look in his eyes that would shiver anyone’s timbers. His favorite mantra was “Don’t lose your intensity.” I was afraid of him.
            I will never forget the day he came to observe my high school team play, looking to recruit players for his college team. Our coach, who was also our chemistry teacher, told us that a famous college coach was in the stands that day. “I don't want to put any pressure on you guys, but if you play well, there may be a college scholarship in the works for you.”
            “Watch my dust,” Swiney Hunker said. He was the star of our team and almost certain to be recruited by a Big Ten university. He was that good, and I was not surprised when he was signed as a bonus baby right after he graduated from high school.
            I knew that Swiney was the player who was the one who had the best chance, but I wanted in the worst way to go to Heliotrope University. My parents thought HU was too expensive, but I wanted to continue playing sports after high school, and I knew I didn't have a chance at Cornsylvania University, the big state school where they wanted to send me. I thought if I do something today to distinguish myself maybe I can get a college coach to persuade my parents that I have the skill to play college baseball.
            As the game progressed, it did not appear that I would get the chance to do something extraordinary. We were playing Quincy High School, a team that had not lost a game all year. Quincy was so much superior to us that we could not understand why we were on their schedule. Playing us must have seemed to them like taking candy from a baby.
Their pitcher, a hulking brute named Monk Morelock, was unhittable, and he had kept us scoreless going into the late innings. Even Swiney Hunker couldn’t hit him. Quincy had a 3-0 lead as they took their last at bat. They loaded the bases with no outs, and it appeared they would break the game wide open.
            Shagnasty Thompson, their big hitter, was coming to bat, and my instincts told me to play medium depth. I was right. He hit a line drive in the gap between the right fielder and me, and it sure looked like we had bought the farm because Pee Wee Odor, our right fielder, moved slower than a glacier.
            With little hope I took off at full speed and dived at the last instant and caught the ball. I rolled over, came up and threw to second base to double off the runner there. Our second baseman had the presence of mind to throw to first to get the runner there. It was a triple play! Our fans went wild in their cheering. “I wish my girl friend had been here to see that,” I said to the umpire who had raced out to make sure I had caught the ball. Then I corrected myself, “I wish I had a girl friend.”
            The umpire smiled and said, “Son, many years from now you can tell this story to your great-grandchildren. They won't believe you, but you can tell them anyway. As for the girl friend, just be patient. There is someone in this world for you to love, a main squeeze to share a life of connubial bliss with you. But watch out for the young women of questionable virtue.  Be sure to follow this advice: Never eat at a place called Mom's, play cards with a man named Doc, or believe a young woman who says she will respect you in the morning.”
            I have to tell you that my diving catch was the greatest moment I had in high school baseball, But our team was still behind 3-0, and we had only three outs to go. It was too much like Casey at the Bat” to suit me.
            Monk Morelock was really pumped up. He stood on the mound like Fafnir and glared at our batters. In truth he was as mean as nine miles of bad road.
            He retired our first two batters easily. We were down to our last out. But then Pee Wee Odor saved the day. Of all people, it was Pee Wee Odor, who was normally an automatic out at the plate. Pee Wee was playing only because our starting right fielder left the team when his father needed him to help with the farming.
            How did a nondescript player like Pee Wee Odor save the day?  Pee Wee used psychology. He asked the home plate umpire to examine the baseball. Angrily, Monk Morelock rolled the ball to home plate to express his disgust at being challenged. While the umpire was scrutinizing the baseball, Pee Wee Odor flipped the bird at Monk, gave Monk the middle finger, suggesting that Monk do something impossible..
            Monk started to home plate with murder in his eyes. Wisely, Pee Wee Odor ran behind the umpire for protection, and Buster Monolith, the Quincy catcher went out to intercept his pitcher. The whole scene reminded me of a Mel Brooks movie. But everyone could see that Monk was fizzing with anger. Pee Wee had rattled Monk’s cage and rattled it good.
            When play resumed, Monk’s first pitch came right at Pee Wee’s head, but the little fellow was ready and flung himself to the ground, moving with unaccustomed alacrity.  
            The next pitch hit Pee Wee squarely on the gnastus. It was thrown so hard we could still see the seams of the baseball in Pee Wee’s butt a month after the game. To him, it was a badge of honor which he would gladly display for any girl who asked to see it.
            Pee Wee was on first base, grinning from ear to ear because he had challenged Fafnir and lived to tell about it.
            On the other hand, Monk was so rattled that he walked our next hitter, our third baseman named Suds Guzzle.
            Monk’s wildness continued with the next hitter, Windy Belcher, who also walked. By then Monk was as frenzied and out of control as the Tasmanian Devil, and the Quincy coach had to act fast .Quincy had one out to go for an undefeated season but a pitcher who could not find the plate if it came up behind him and goosed him.
            Now Quincy had another pitcher, a mild mannered, scholarly pitcher named Justin Case, who had started warming up after Monk Morelock went postal. But Justin Case had a problem. Since Monk was so good, Justin had not pitched in a single game all season. Justin had developed a special pitch he called the apple pitch. He would grip the ball as if he was holding an apple by the stem, and when he released the ball, he would give it a twist with his thumb that would make the ball dance like a fart in a hot skillet. However, Justin’s inactivity had caused him to have no confidence in his pitch, and now he was being called on to use it.
            I was the batter Justin Case was summoned to pitch to. I was the last hope for our team because even though we had the bases loaded we were still behind 3-0. I didn’t like it that the Quincy coach yelled to Justin Case, “No hitter, no batter up there, easy out.”
            Crestfallen and melancholy with my lower lip quivering, I called for time and stepped out of the batter’s box. I picked up a handful of dirt, tried unsuccessfully to spit, took off my cap, checked my bat to see if it was cracked, and hyperphenated.
 The third base coach, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Ronald Reagan, sensed my nervousness, and called me up the line. He put his arm around me and whispered in my ear, “Win one for the Gipper. You can do it. Take one strike and hit to right.”  Then he walked back to the coaching box and gave me the sign. He rubbed his chin, tipped his cap, tugged at his sleeve, kicked the dirt, gently massaged his left testicle with his right hand, picked up a pebble, flibbered his lips, slapped his knee, held up one finger, and yelled encouragement.
            “Why is he doing that? He’s already told me what to do?” I asked the umpire.
            “Son, haven’t you figured out by now that baseball is all ritual? A sacred ritual. King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The bat, the ball, the quest for the Holy Grail.  Giving the signs is an important part of the ritual,” the umpire answered. “Now step in there and let’s finish this game.”
            I obeyed the umpire. I faced Justin Case and kept my eyes on him as he wound up to throw his famous apple pitch. I was surprised that the pitch had nothing on it. The ball came my way straight as a string and at medium speed. I closed my eyes and swung as hard as I could. I felt the solid contact of bat meeting ball, and I opened my eyes to watch the ball soar toward center field. Back, back, back it went until it cleared the fence. Dazed and dumbfounded, I circled the bases and was mobbed at home plate by my teammates. We won the game 4-3.
            As I left the field I was confronted by Hack Procrustes, who pointed a gnarled finger at me and said those words I longed to hear, “You’re my center fielder for next year.”
            “Yes, Sir,” I said, and that’s how I came to play one year of baseball at Heliotrope University. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Story of Shadow the Invisible Therapy Dog

The Story of Shadow the Invisible Therapy Dog
Loren Logsdon

            Who has ever considered the advantages of owning an invisible therapy dog?  Not many, I guess. The idea had not occurred to me until I exchanged letters with a former student who was living in the Windy City.
My name is Bjorn Clugston, and I am currently a professor of Deconstructionist theory. I was teaching at the New Madrid Fault State University at Quincy, Illinois. My career was undistinguished, mediocre at best, until I became a born again Deconstructionist. I caught fire, so to speak, by publishing a series of essays on the absence of  presence or the presence of absence. These essays gained me an international reputation, a small following in France, Germany, and Russia. They also caught the attention of Professor Orville Korkoff at Heliotrope University, who vowed he would lure me to his university.
Professor Korkoff succeeded in persuading me to join him by telling me that together we would start a scholarly journal. Life suddenly was turning up rainbows and seashells except for one problem, and it was a big one. My wife Valvolene didn’t want to move. I understood her unwillingness to leave Quincy because we had moved so many times in our married life we were beginning to feel like gypsies or nomads.
Finally, Valvolene agreed to the move on two conditions: first, that we would buy a new house and she could furnish it exactly the way she wanted; and, second, that I would not importune her to have a dog. The latter was very difficult for me to accept because I had always enjoyed the companionship of a dog. But as Richard Widmark said to Gregory Peck in the movie Yellow Sky, “The deal is not exactly what we want, but you [sic] can’t have everything.”
I resigned myself to living without man’s best friend, and I informed our human friends of our new address. When I wrote to Nettie George, one of my favorite former students living in the Windy City, and she did not answer, I sent a crispy letter to her with the threat that if I didn’t hear from her I would shoot her dog. Imagine my fond alarm when she informed me that she had an invisible dog and that I was welcome to try to shoot it. Then she went on to explain that she was a White Sox fan and that the Cubs fans were guilty of trashy behavior.
What a revelation! An invisible dog! I was so intrigued that I phoned her immediately to find out more information. I ignored an impulse to defend the Cubs, and I asked about the invisible dog. I wanted to know where she got it. She spilled the beans, “I purchased the dog from a man named Dewey Rose, who runs a pet shop in Boise, Idaho, called Paws, Fins, and Feathers. His prices are reasonable, and he might have another invisible dog. Then she gave me his address and phone number.  
Later that day, I called Dewey Rose and asked him if he had an invisible dog for sale. He answered that indeed he had such a dog, but he advised me against buying it. “The dog's name is Shadow, and he has some little peccadilloes that are embarrassing,” Dewey said.
            I found it curious that Dewey would be unwilling to make a sale when he had such a willing customer, so I said, “I really want an invisible dog.”
             Still Dewey was reluctant. “Look, why don't you consider another pet. I have a carp that can float upside down, a parrot that can speak 10 languages fluently, and a centipede that can tap dance and do the Texas Stomp. I am expecting an octopus that can do card tricks and a Russian car fox.”
            “But I still want the invisible dog,” I told him. “Could you tell me what is wrong with Shadow?”
            “All right, I will speak clearly so that even a small child could understand. Shadow is oversexed. He is aroused when pulchritudinous nubile human females come into the shop.”
            “What? Now how do you know that?” I asked.
            “Believe me, I know it. One day I took Shadow to the beach to give him some exercise. I threw a little blue ball in the surf and yelled ‘Fetch.’ Shadow came running back with a bikini top. I barely escaped with my life. Do you realize how embarrassing it is to be standing on a beach with a bikini top in your hand? No, I’m sure you don’t. Please take my word for it.”
            “But I live in Central Illinois, and there is no beach in the area. But I wouldn’t go to the beach anyway. I remember the Charles Atlas advertisements. The beach is full of 300, 400, and 500 pound heavily muscled bullies who want to knock you on your gnastus, kick sand in your face, and steal your girl.”
            Dewey Rose began to see that I was determined to buy Shadow, so he said, “The dog is yours for $9.99. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
            I told him not to cheat himself. I would give him $10.00 for Shadow. He agreed to ship Shadow to me, but said I could return him if I was dissatisfied with him.
            Well, I still had to persuade Valvolene. Since my wife is a health professional, I was able to convince her that I needed a therapy dog. I explained that humans and dogs might have similar existential problems and that it was possible we could help each other. I took her hands in mine, looked into her eyes, and said, “Look Valvolene, Dear Heart, Love of My Life, Perfect Main Squeeze, we only go around once in this life and we should grab for all the gusto we can. As a therapy dog, Shadow will restore that bright-eyed, bushy-tailed look in my eyes, a sprightliness in my step, and that James Earl Jones tone in my voice. With Shadow’s help I will become a new man.”
Valvolene was still skeptical, but she was willing to give me a chance. She did, however, issue ultimata: “I’m not going to pick up after that dog; one mess and he goes; and I am not taking him for walks. And if he wakes me up in the middle of the night with his barking, I will kill him.”
Valvolene’s harsh remarks were disappointing because, like Teri-Thomas in the move How to Murder Your Wife, I am not given to delivering ultimata.
            In that first week, the bonding with Shadow was almost immediate. He seemed to sense when I was melancholy, and he was there for me, as today’s college students are fond of saying. After two days, I felt the minor fears vanish, fears such as post-nasal drip, toenail fungus, erectile dysfunction, dandruff, irregularity, bad breath, second-hand pot smoke, and tired blood.  Then I noticed that the major fears of existential angst and fin de si├Ęcle hysteria were losing their hold on me. I had that “boy and his dog”  happiness feeling that life was good.
            When  Sunday came around, I announced that I was taking Shadow to church with us. Valvolene objected, saying that I should not need a therapy dog in church because church was a place of healing. I should have listened to her. Instead I told her that I would put a leash on Shadow and keep a tight hold on it. I wanted his re-enforcement to assist the healing I received in church.
            The sermon that day was really good.  The title of Reverend Ishmael Goodman’s sermon was adapted from a quotation by American poet Edwin Arlington Robinson: “Postmodern humans are lost in a spiritual kindergarten trying to spell G-O-D  with the wrong blocks.” He began by stating that people in today’s world lack adequate concern for their temporal and eternal welfare. He said that Americans, especially, have become materialists in our belief that unless something can be held, weighed, and measured it either doesn’t exist or is unimportant.  He lamented our disdain for spiritual knowledge and our tendency to follow false messiahs such as Elvis, David Koresh, the Bhagwan in Oregon, and other examples of people who claimed to have all the answers to the big questions.  He preached on the mystery of spiritual truth and the idea that unseen guardian angels are available to protect us as we go about our daily life. He said that God had assigned a guardian angel to every human being but that only people with a highly developed imagination and a respect for mystery could respond to the angel’s guidance. He said that in every human life there are times of crisis, times when we had to make a choice that would set us in a direction and that if we would only reach out our hand our guardian angel would take it and guide us. As the reverend concluded, I reached down and patted Shadow on the head. “Shadow, you are the best therapy dog in the whole world,” I whispered.
            Then we sang my favorite hymn “He Touched Me.” As we were concluding the singing, I felt Shadow brush against my knees. He was on the move. I grabbed to restrain him, but the clever dog had slipped the leash and was loose in the aisle. I reached for his collar but missed. A few seconds later, I heard May Wheat, a transfer student from Kansas, shriek and jump two feet in the air. Then I knew where Shadow was.
            I leaped to my feet and rushed to May’s side, pretending I wanted to help her. Actually I wanted to catch Shadow before he caused more trouble. I was too late, for Paige Turner, an English major in the next pew, screamed and called for help. Again, I was too late. Shadow had bestowed his affections on Paige and rushed away.
            I didn’t know what to do. I could not call out to him because people would know that I was involved in what some would call a demon infestation because Reverend Goodman’s sermon was still ringing in our ears. 
            Before the congregation could vacate the church, I heard another young woman scream. After that, there were no people left in the church. I went from pew to pew calling Shadow’s name, but the invisible dog did not respond. I searched the entire church, but to no avail. He was gone.
            That night, as I sat in my study and became more and more melancholy, those old fears began to return, and once again I would have to do battle with post-nasal drip, irregularity, the heartbreak of psoriasis, bad breath, and toenail fungus. “Hello, my old friends,” I muttered.
            Then I had an epiphany. I realized that Shadow wanted what every living creature wants—freedom and the opportunity to assert one’s own identity, to follow one’s own dreams, to live one’s own life and be happy. “Good luck, Shadow, my old friend,” I sighed.
            Then I went looking for Valvolene.       


Saturday, July 7, 2018

Rob Gridley’s Grading Grid: One Professor’s Effort to be Rigorously Fair to His Students

Rob Gridley’s Grading Grid:
One Professor’s Effort to be Rigorously Fair to His Students
Loren Logsdon

Author’s Note: The central figure in the following story is not a thinly disguised version of the author. Rather, the story is a tribute to a colleague I once had who struggled with the grading process and tried to devise a system for grading papers that would remove all bias, prejudice, and unfairness in assigning grades.

            In Heliotrope University's English Department there was a young professor named Rob Gridley, He was a truly dedicated teacher and he worked hard to improve his teaching. He was conscientious in meeting his classes and in keeping them the full time. Other teachers might give their students a day off and call it a “reading” day, and they might let the class out early. Not Rob Gridley. He was impervious to student requests to dismiss early. He believed his students and their parents deserved their money's worth; furthermore, he was generous in scheduling office hours where students could meet him to discuss their problems. Rob Gridley was the kind of college professor who was good for struggling students because he was always willing to help them.
            Even though Rob Gridley worked hard and gave his students his best efforts, he was troubled by a problem that would not let his conscience rest. He was determined to be fair in his grading because he had heard so many stories where students were treated unfairly by professors. Thus, Rob took the matter of assigning grades very seriously.
Grading makes the relationship between professor and student a power relationship, with the professor having all the power, and tenured professors having almost absolute power.  Most colleges have a grade appeals process, but the people making the judgments on student complaints are other professors.
There were all kinds of ways a grade could be unfair and the power abused. Sometimes a male professor didn’t like female students. Other times a female professor didn’t like male students. Some professors didn’t like athletes and gave them poor grades no matter how well they did. Then there were professors who gave bad grades on the basis of the students’ political views. Even worse, there were instances in which the professors gave the students  low grades because they didn’t like them for some personal reason.  Rob had known professors who were incapable of objectivity when assigning grades. For such professors, the grading process was simple: They would give high grades to their favorites and low grades to everyone else.
            What had alerted Rob to the problem of unfairness is that more and more students were asking him, “Are you a liberal or a conservative?”
            “Why does that matter? This is a writing course,” Rob would answer.
            “Oh, it matters all right,” they would reply. “It means the difference between a high grade and a low grade.”
            Rob tried to ease their doubts, “Well, you don’t have to worry about me because I’m an independent. You won’t be graded on your political views in this class. I promise you that you will be graded only on the quality of the work you do.”
            The longer Ron taught, the more horror stories he heard where students had been treated unfairly.  There was the case of a young instructor named Leghorn Peacock, who bragged in the hall, in the coffee room, and in various meetings about his rigor in failing students. To him, success in teaching seemed to consist in how many students one could fail. Of course, there was the other extreme, a story about the time when a student asked a professor why she received a B instead of an A. He told her that he had given his quota of A’s for the semester and she would have to settle for a B.
Rob had heard the notorious story of a professor who walked into his class on the first day, saw a student he assumed to be a football player sitting there, and said to the young man, “The gymnasium is over there.”
            The student had responded with, “I know where I am and I'm supposed to be here.” But the student knew he was in for trouble in the class, and he tried hard to do his best. He attended class faithfully, never skipping, turned in all of his assignments on time, paid careful attention, participated in class, and ended up with a low grade in the class. He appealed the grade, but faculty committee denied his appeal.
            Then there was the egregious story of the student who had all A’s going into the final exam. She wrote a B final and admitted it was not her best work of the semester, but she thought that her A work in the rest of the course would overcome her one B.. She approached Professor Combine, a veteran teacher with tenure and asked, respectfully, about the grade. She was astounded with what the professor said to explain the grade. It seems that Professor Combine was talking to Professor Bill Farish in the hall at the end of the semester, and Farrish had said that the faculty were too lenient in awarding A’s. Consequently, Professor Combine decided that the student would receive a B for the final grade.
            The student did not appeal the grade because she felt that no faculty committee would go against a distinguished teacher like Professor Combine.
            Word gets around in an English Department, and when Rob Gridley heard about how this student had been mistreated he was horrified at the injustice. Without doubt, that student was treated unfairly. The students should be informed of the grading standards at the beginning of the class and have the opportunity to meet them. To change the standards after all the work was done and the student had no chance to adjust to higher standards was really a matter of academic dishonesty as well as unethical behavior.
            Thus Rob Gridley was very careful to explain to students at the beginning of every class how the final grades in his class would be determined. He explained that he used a numerical system with points given for all the work done in the class. At the end of the semester he would total each student’s points and the average would be a number that translated into a letter grade. He explained that this system was a level playing field and everyone would be playing by the same rules. He added that if the students kept track of their graded work, they would be able to know where they stood grade wise any time during the semester and if they had any questions about their final grade, he would review it with them..
            Now Rob Gridley knew that a numerical grade and especially a letter grade could not actually measure what a student had learned during a semester. He knew that the idea of putting a quantitative grade on a paper was first suggested by a tutor at Cambridge in 1692. From that time on, educators have used grades in the belief that learning and intelligence can be measured. Awarding grades to students was unavoidable. Many institutions in society demanded grades.
            Rob decided that if students must be graded, then grades must be unscrupulously fair. Thus he believed that his objective system was as fair as he could make it. But one night he had a vision in which he was informed that although quizzes could be objective, the papers his students wrote could not be evaluated objectively. Subjectivity would always enter into the evaluation no matter how hard he tried to avoid it. And subjectivity opened the door to all kinds of potential unfairness and injustice. Despite all efforts to grade a paper fairly, Rob could still be confronted by a student who said, “You don’t like me. And that’s why my paper received the low grade.”  
            So what did Rob do? He set out to develop what he called a grading grid. It covered every area of concern in a writing assignment—the higher level writing concerns as well as the grammatical errors such as spelling and punctuation. In other words, it was an evaluation device that would eliminate subjectivity almost completely. The best thing about Rob’s grading grid is that students could not argue with the grade. They could not use the “You don’t like me, and that’s why I got the low grade on this paper” charge.
            Rob started using the grading grid to evaluate and grade student papers. Whether or not the grading grid helped students to improve their writing is debatable, but no student ever accused Rob Gridley of grading unfairly. He would take the student’s paper and show the student how it fared on his grading grid. The system was so intricate and complicated that the student had no basis for complaint, and Rob’s subjectivity was never an issue
            But the problem, as Rob found out and his office mate confirmed, was that students didn’t complain about their grades because of unfairness in Rob’s grading; they didn’t complain because Rob’s system was so complicated they couldn’t understand it well enough to formulate a complaint.
            Finally, Rob abandoned his grading grid. It was time consuming, and he was not convinced that it helped students with their writing. Rob did not abandon his concern about fairness to all students. On the contrary, fairness became the highest code ethic in his teaching. He realized that if one has accurate self-knowledge, one will treat others, especially students, with respect and fairness.  

Note: Please do not expect me to explain the grading grid in specific detail. In truth I did not understand it. As I gazed at its thoroughness and complexity, I was reminded of a Rube Goldberg invention. I must bow to the opinion of Dean Goodman, who praised Rob Gridley because in all Rob’s years of teaching at Heliotrope University no student had even brought a complaint to his office or lodged a grade appeal against him. That kind of teaching makes deans happy.


Thursday, July 5, 2018

Showdown at the Shady Rest Tavern

Showdown at the Shady Rest Tavern
Loren Logsdon

            Lancaster Markem had come to the post office to mail a letter of recommendation he had written for Paige Turner, an English major whom he had taught at Heliotrope University. Paige had discovered that English majors were pretty much unemployable in Illinois, so she was applying to Medical School at San Andreas Fault State University. She was counting heavily on Markem’s recommendation, and he had written an outstanding one for her.
            Wrapped in a Jovian oblivion and whistling the theme song from “Mama Mia,” Markem danced down the post office steps, without a care in the world. Too late he glanced to the side to see Stumpy Babcock, one of the town’s three most notorious bugbears, sitting on a bench beneath a leafy oak the tiny city park by the side of the post office.
            Hey! Professor Markem! Got a minute?” Stumpy shouted, waving at the unlucky professor. Stumpy was always in search of an audience, so if one was alert enough to spot him at a distance, one could take measures to avoid him. Markem, however, was kind to everyone; in fact he considered unkindness and rudeness to be major sins, so he walked over to where Stumpy was seated and greeted him.
            Apropos of nothing, Stumpy said, “Did I ever tell you about the time I witnessed the showdown between Biff Bings and Sylvester Biggins at the Shady Rest Tavern in 1956?”
            Lancaster had heard the story at least five times, but he didn’t want to appear rude, so he said, “I don’t believe so, but I don’t have time right now. I have to hurry home and insulate the doghouse.”
            Either Stumpy didn’t hear what Markem said or he pretended he didn’t hear. Thus, he launched into the story before Markem could leave.
            “It was the start of the Great Depression, and people thought the world was coming to an end. Banks were failing, businesses were going bankrupt, and farmers were losing their land. In addition to that, Prohibition had spawned several gangs in the area. The Biff Bings gang ran wild over this part of Illinois. Biff was a distant cousin of the Sheltons, whose gang had their headquarters in Peoria. Biff was the meanest of those gangsters who terrorized Illinois in the 30s, 40s, and even into the 50s. Folks said he was meaner than nine miles of bad road. In the course of time, other gang leaders were either captured or killed, but Biff was never apprehended. Everyone was afraid of him, especially the law enforcement officers. Biff was so mean that J. Edgar Hoover, fearing reprisals, refused to put him on the nation’s Most Wanted List.
            “Sylvester Biggins was a wealthy farmer who lived in the Big Sleazy River Bottoms near Beardstown. One weekend he went to Chicago to attend the annual convention of the Illinois Bean Growers Association, where he was to be honored by being named Man of the Year.
            “While Sylvester Biggins was in Chicago, Biff Bings and his gang of cutthroats visited Sylvester’s farm and plundered it. They slaughtered his hogs, raped his cattle, drove his chickens and ducks off, destroyed his crops, burned down his house and barns, and kidnapped his wife, children and mother-in-law and sold them to pirates operating in the Sargasso Sea.
“When Sylvester came home and discovered how his farm had been pillaged and his family sold to pirates, he swore on the spot that he would hunt down Biff Bings if it took him the rest of his life. Dramatically, Sylvester declared, ‘It’s time someone stood up to this thug. He has had his own way in Illinois for far too long. I solemnly vow that if it takes all my life, I will not stop until I call him to account.’
“Then Sylvester Biggins turned his back on his ruined farm and set out on the trail of Biff Bings and his gang. He was only one man, but he was determined to catch Biff.
“ One day, Sylvester learned that Biff and his gang were in Rushville planning to rob the bank, but Sylvester arrived an hour after Biff had been there and gone. Luckily, the rascal had barely escaped.
Then word reached Sylvester that Biff was planning to throw a birthday party for his main squeeze in the Arrow in Beardstown. ‘I’ll catch him this time,’ Sylvester said. ‘He can’t elude me now.’ But when Sylvester arrived at the Arrow, he learned that Biff had left fifteen minutes earlier.
“The same thing happened in Quincy and Pittsfield and Jacksonville. Sylvester was, as the famous Peoria lawyer says, ‘A day late and a dollar short.’ The problem was that Biff was unpredictable, and he was, as Sylvester discovered, protected by people because they were afraid of him. The FBI couldn’t catch him either because citizens would not cooperate with the officers, and J. Edgar Hoover was actually afraid that Biff would be captured.
“For twenty-five years, Sylvester chased Biff and his gang, often missing them by a matter of minutes, but he was no closer to catching Biff than he was the day he started on his quest. Many a lesser man would have given up and gone home, but not Sylvester Biggins. On the contrary, he was more determined than ever to confront the vicious villain. ‘I’ll get him next time’ became Sylvester’s mantra.
“Finally, Sylvester’s reputation was known throughout Illinois, and the law enforcement people, bankers, and a few ordinary citizens were secretly pulling for him to catch Biff. Sylvester was in a bar in Bloomington one stormy evening, hoisting a couple of libations while he sought refuge from the inclement weather. The bartender whispered to Sylvester that the fellow passed out at the back table was Toughie Farnsworth, a member of Biff’s gang.
“Sylvester took a bottle, went to the table, shook the fellow awake, and sat down to ply him with liquor and loosen his tongue. The instant Toughie Farnsworth emerged from his drunken stupor he started weeping. It seems he was in his cups because Biff had stolen his woman. Toughie was so angry at Biff that he spilled the beans, telling Sylvester that Biff had arranged a meeting this coming Saturday at the Shady Rest Tavern in Weeder’s Clump with Sluggo Finsterwald, a gang leader from eastern Iowa. Finally, Sylvester had advanced notice of Biff’s plans.
“The following Saturday night, Sylvester entered the Shady Rest and spotted Biff immediately, The meanest guy in Central Illinois was surrounded by the most evil cutthroats ever assembled in one place. They were all seated around a big table, muttering curses and shouting oaths like pirates: “Yarr! Naarr! and ‘Arrgh!’  The mere sight of them and the harsh noises they made were enough to shiver anyone’s timbers.
“Into this atmosphere of hatred, fear, and down-home meanness, Sylvester entered and glanced around furtively. His big moment had arrived. His search of 25 years had reached its conclusion. Then he summoned all the courage he could and approached Biff, looked directly into his eyes, and said, “Are you Biff Bings?”
“Biff glared at Sylvester and snarled, ‘Yeah.’
“’Biff Bings, twenty-five years ago did you come to my farm, rape my cattle and burn my house and  barns?’
“Biff Bings smiled an evil smile and snarled, ‘Yeah.’
“’Biff Bings, did you destroy all my crops and drive my chickens and ducks off?’
“Again, Biff Bings snarled, ‘Yeah.’
“’And Biff  Bings. Did you kidnap my wife, children, and mother-in-law and sell them to pirates from the Sargasso Sea?”
‘This time Biff guffawed, snarled, chortled defiantly, and said ‘Yeah.’
Then Sylvester Biggins pointed his finger and said, “Biff Bings, you need to cut this shit out.’”


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Strange Meeting at the Tally Ho

Strange Meeting at the Tally Ho
Loren Logsdon

            A Brief Summary: When Tug Armstrong explained his theory about the mysterious creatures that had been sighted in Central Illinois. Boone Fowler suddenly realized that he had an experience which might be similar to those reported in the newspaper. According to Tug, Ambrose Bierce believed that the atmosphere we move about in is like a Swiss Cheese, with holes in it. These holes, which Bierce called vacua, are invisible, and if any being should accidentally walk or fly into one of these vacua, that being would disappear without a trace. Once trapped in the vacuum, the being would exist in a state of suspended animation. Tug pointed out that Ambrose Bierce had, himself, disappeared before he completed his theory, so Tug finished it for him. Tug explained that it was possible for a being trapped in a vacuum to be, by some accident, released back into life. The released being would be unchanged, but the world would have undergone major changes. By this theory a pterodactyl could exist in a world where all other pterodactyls had become extinct. By the same token, a person who had disappeared could re-appear years or even centuries later.

            Now to Boone Fowler’s story, in his own words, of a strange encounter at the Tally Ho.

 It was exactly a week ago today that I had the most mysterious experience I have ever had in my entire life. I had gone to bed early because the next day I was going carp fishing at the Powerton Lake. I was so excited that I could not sleep. Finally, at 11:30 I gave up on sleep. I got out of bed, put my clothes on, and drove to the Tally Ho for coffee and a small cheese pudding.
            I thought I might talk with Paige Turner, the waitress who worked the night shift at the eatery, but her main squeeze was there, and they were not inclined to include me in their conversation. No one else was in the Tally Ho, and so I had to be content to keep myself company.
            Then at precisely 12:30 the door opened and a stranger entered. He was dressed in the uniform of a Union officer in the Civil War. He had long hair, mutton chop whiskers, and an air of intelligence about him characteristic of people who are keen observers. However, he didn’t see Paige Turner and her friend because they were huddled together in a back booth, and they paid no attention to him either.
            My first thought was that he was a hippie, a fugitive from the 1960s who had been living out in the woods for years. Hippies often dressed in costumes. Then, I realized that a Civil War re-enactment was scheduled for the weekend, and I assumed he was a participant in that activity.
            The fellow approached me, bowed gracefully, and said, “Excuse me, my good fellow, I am seeking information. I am the map officer on the staff of General William Babcock Hazen, who has sent me out as a scout to observe the enemy forces and map the territory. Do you have knowledge of the Confederate troops in this area?”
            I thought to myself that here was a man who was really into the re-enactment business. He is using me, a perfect stranger, to rehearse and prepare for his role. Then I corrected myself by realizing that although I was a stranger, I was not perfect. So I decided to play along with him. “Sir, the Confederate troops usually bivouac at a place called Comlara Park.”
            He took out a map, perused it quickly but methodically, and then shook his head, “That place is not on my map. Can you enlighten me about its location? You see, General Hazen has come to depend on me for drawing accurate maps of the territory. He has often said that his success as a commander has been in large part due to my maps.”
            “Do you always scout alone?” I asked, playing along with the strange fellow.
            “Yes, I prefer to work alone. That way I rely on myself. I want it that way. In fact, I have found that there are few others who have my sense of duty as well as my skills. This war is being fought by fools and idiots. I believe that the information I gather may be used to save lives. At least that is what General Hazen tells me.”
            “I mean no offense, but I find it curious to hear a soldier in wartime speaking about saving lives,” I said.
            He looked at me as if he was speaking to a small child. “No offense taken. Civilians are unaware that the knowledge of terrain is essential for effective military tactics.”
            I was so impressed with this fellow that I decided to buy him a meal. “I’ll buy you a meal,” I said. “Select anything on the menu, and I will pay for it.”
            He smiled and said, “You are most kind, Sir, and in other circumstances I would gladly accept your invitation to partake of toothsome viands.  I assumed by the name of this establishment that it was frequented by gentlemen, and I find I am not wrong. I must, however, decline your generous offer. My mission calls me, but I would welcome a quick libation to quench my thirst.”
            “That’s too bad because the only libations you can obtain here are water, milk, and coffee. This is a dry town.”
            He merely shrugged and said, “Do you have any idea of the strength of the Confederate troops at Comlara Park?”
            “I’m afraid I can’t help you on that. It’s is entirely possible that the Confederates have not even arrived yet. After all the re-enactment isn’t scheduled until Saturday.”
            He gave me a strange look as if he didn’t understand what I was saying. Then he asked, “How far away is Comlara Park?”
            He has to carry out this little game to the very end, I thought to myself, and again I played along with him. “It’s about fifteen or twenty miles east of here,” I said.
            “I must be on my way. I have tarried too long, but I should be able to get there by daybreak. Thank you for your assistance.”
            “Don’t mention it. I’m glad to be of help to you.”
            He was about to leave, but as he reached the door, he thought of something and returned. “By the way, could you please do me another favor?  If I should be captured or killed, could you please get word to General Hazen that I tried to do my duty? Here is my card in case you need it.”
            “I will do what you ask,” I said, taking his card and putting it in my billfold.
            I was so taken with the fellow—with his seriousness and his single-minded sense of duty—that I decided to attend the Civil War re-enactment on Saturday. I looked for him among the Union officers, but I couldn’t find him. I concluded that perhaps he had been called home.

            When Boone Fowler finished his tale, Tug Armstrong could scarcely contain his excitement. “What name was on the card?” he asked.
            Ruefully, Boone admitted, “I never looked at the card. I put it in my billfold without looking.
            “Do you still have the card?” Tug asked.
            Very quickly Boone withdrew the card from his billfold and handed it to Tug.
            There, written in an elegant hand, was the name

                                                            Ambrose Bierce


Monday, July 2, 2018

Tales from the Dark Side: Mysterious Creatures in Central Illinois

Tales from the Dark Side:
Mysterious Creatures in Central Illinois
Loren Logsdon

            It was about 7:30 on a Monday morning at Cyril Poindexter’s Garage, and the usual group of friends had gathered to catch up on the latest news. There was Boone Fowler, Dr. James Canada, August Provender, Lancaster Markem, Cyril Poindexter, and Tug Armstrong, the expert mechanic at the garage who was known by the nickname “Bad News.” The topic for this morning was the local news about the sighting of mythic creatures in Central Illinois.
            Cyril Poindexter began the discussion. “Did you read about the huge bird that was sighted in the Springdale Cemetery in Peoria?”
            “You know, it could be a pterodactyl. The person who saw it claimed that it had a 30-foot wingspan. Do you suppose some of those birds have survived? Would it be possible that some eggs that  have been buried for thousands of years and have suddenly been hatched?” James Canada asked.
            “Well, that is a possibility. It would account for the bird’s presence,” Boone Fowler said.
            August Provender was skeptical, “I would want to know about the person who reported seeing the creature. Some people love to create hoaxes. Remember the Piltdown Man?”
            “Is that the same as The Cardiff Giant?” Lancaster Markem asked.
            “No, I think they are completely different hoaxes,” Boone Fowler opined.
            “I believe something is going on in the Springdale Cemetery. Several people have also reported seeing a mountain lion. I don’t believe they all could be lying. Something is going on over there, and the authorities should investigate it,” Dr. Canada opined.
            Cyril scoffed and said, “Yes, but I don’t trust the authorities. Anyone living in Illinois knows that we can’t trust the people we elect to represent us.”
            August Provender was quick to support his good friend, “We have been hoodwinked, swindled, rim-jiggled, flim-flammed, short-changed, suckered, tricked, deceived, gulled, bamboozled, bilked, fleeced, cheated, and screwed  A Gallup Poll in 2017 revealed that only 17 percent of Americans trust politicians at the national level. That percentage would be much lower in Illinois. People believe elected politicians put self-interest first and ignore the common good."
            Dr. Canada couldn’t resist a comment. “August, I have told you a million times to stop exaggerating. But it’s not just Illinois. Remember the incident at Roswell, New Mexico? The only thing we learned there was that the authorities were covering something up. I doubt that we will ever learn the truth about that.”
            “People like to believe in conspiracy theories,” Lancaster Markem cautioned. “In fact. the conspiracy theory is almost as intriguing as the mystery itself. Since ordinary citizens no longer trust the government, we see conspiracies everywhere. It’s like in the 1950s when  J. Edgar Hoover saw a Communist lurking behind every bush. Hoover was so fearful, he ordered his chauffer never to make a left turn.”
            Trying to provide some much-needed coherence, Boone Fowler announced, “I read the newspaper and here’s a list of the strange sightings of creatures: The CoHoMo that haunts the Cole Hollow Road; the monster in the Spoon River Bottoms; the strange creature in the Glen Oak Park lagoon; the pterodactyl and the mountain lion in the Springdale Cemetery; not to mention the ghost train?”
            “What ghost train?” Cyril asked.
            “I told you not to mention the ghost train,” Boone replied, laughing. “Gotcha that time, Cyril.”
            Markem came to Cyril’s defense. “Actually there was a ghost train or rather the whistle of a ghost train because there was no train, only the whistle. But, Boone, you should have added Big Foot and  Sasquatch to your list. There have been sightings of Sasquatch and footprints of Big Foot.”
            Cyril Poindexter shook his head, “What on earth is going on in this postmodern world?”
            At this point, Tug Armstrong spoke. He had remained silent all through the conversation until he could not contain himself any longer. “I can answer that question, Cyril. I have a theory that can account for all of the eldritch things that have been mentioned.”
            Well, why didn’t you say so?” Cyril asked.
            “I was waiting for the most propitious moment. You fellows were so intent upon venting your opinions and engaging in your petty ripostes that I had to wait until now. But I must ask you not to interrupt me until I have fully explained the theory. Boone, I know you enjoy trying to send me off on tangents, so I must ask you to remain silent until I am finished. Then and only then will I welcome questions. Is that clear?”
            All of the men nodded their agreement.
            “Very well, I will begin by acknowledging that my theory is, in reality, the theory of Ambrose Bierce, who made a study of mysterious disappearances. In fact, he collected stories of people who had disappeared from the earth without a trace. One of those stories concerned a young man named Charles Ashmore, who lived near Quincy Illinois.
            “Bierce came up with a theory which I will explain to you. It is based on the thinking of a German scientist named Hern, and it goes this way. The atmosphere that we live in is actually like a Swiss Cheese, with holes every so often. These holes are invisible—we don’t know where they are. Bierce had a special term for them; he called them ‘vacua.’ Since the vacua are invisible, we could walk into them and disappear, leaving not a trace.
            “A further complication is that these vacua are shifting. If you should by accident discover one of these holes, it would not be there the next day. It would have shifted its location.
            “Furthermore, any person or animal or object inside the vacua would be existing in a vacuum. All life would simply cease. The person would be neither dead nor alive, with no bodily changes or needs while inside the vacuum.  Life and time would be completely arrested and there would be no consciousness. It would be like a state of suspended animation.”
            Bierce believed that all the mysterious disappearances could be explained by his vacua theory. He lived before the Bermuda Triangle became famous, but his theory would enable one to conclude that the Bermuda Triangle contains a heavy concentration of vacua. The entire triangle itself is not a vacua; it just contains multiple vacua, apparently a plethora of them.”
            Dr. Canada felt he had to interrupt, so he said, “Bierce’s theory can explain disappearances, but we were talking about the presence of strange creatures who are appearing in our world. His theory does not account for the presence of a pterodactyl or a Sasquatch.”
            For some reason, Tug did not take umbrage at Dr. Canada’s interruption, and he answered. “Unfortunately, Bierce did not live to complete his theory. He crossed the border into Mexico and was never seen again.”
            Boone Fowler could not resist. Do you mean he was hoisted on his own petard?”
            “No, Boone, Bierce walked into one of those vacua and vanished.”
            “Same thing,” Boone replied.
            Tug was unruffled by Boone’s feeble attempt at levity. He merely said, “Please let me finish. I am not done explaining my theory. Bierce vanished before he could complete his theory, and what I am about to say will answer your question, Dr. Canada. So bear with me. Remember that I told you that for any person or bird or animal that entered one of the vacua, all life would cease. Since life is change, the person or creature in the vacuum would not change, but the world outside would undergo  significant changes.
            “What follows is the last part of his theory Bierce did not get around to explaining. Since the vacua are shifting, it is possible that the specific vacuum containing a pterodactyl could encounter an empty vacuum. At that moment there would be a brief window of time, and the pterodactyl would be released from its vacuum and re-enter the world. The pterodactyl would not be changed; it would be the same as when it entered the vacuum. But the world would be changed, the context of life would be changed. The pterodactyl  would be entering a world that had seen the disappearance of its fellow  pterodactyls as a life form. The same would be true of a Sasquatch, Big Foot, or a person.”
            Dumbfounded, Tug’s friends looked at each other, and not even Boone Fowler could come up with an intelligent comment. Finally, though, August Provender said, “Tug, why haven’t you gone to the authorities with this theory. Why haven’t you gone to see the journalist who has been writing about the mysterious creatures?”
            Tug shrugged his shoulders, sighed, and answered, “I guess you haven’t watched any science fiction movies or read novels by sf writers.”
            “What has that to do with August’s question?” Cyril asked.
            Tug turned to Lancaster Markem and said, “You teach science fiction at Heliotrope University. You answer the question for me, Lancaster.”
            “What Tug means is that always the person who has discovered a strange, disturbing truth is considered a nut case by everyone, especially by the people in authority. No one wants to believe the truth because it seems absurd. I suspect the journalist who is writing about these mysteries would be no different from others who would say that Tug had consumed some magic mushrooms or taken a trip to the desert on a horse with no mane.”
            “Lancaster, the word is ‘name,’ a horse with no name,” Dr. Canada corrected.
            “ Geez! I need to see about getting some hearing aids,” Markem said ruefully.
            Suddenly Boone Fowler became excited, “Hey, fellows. Something happened last week that I need to tell you about. I had a strange encounter that may have bearing on Tug’s theory.
            To be continued