Teaser 196: The Counsel of Professor Esperanza
Her door was wide open and I sauntered into her office like it was my own. There were two students sitting in the only chairs left in her office, but I ignored them both, walked around the edge of her desk, and pulled Esperanza up from her chair in the middle of her speech to both. She continued, with some effort and stuttering, with her speech, but I had her standing next to me, so I glanced to the two students, appropriate shock on their faces, and apologized, “Excuse me, but I owe a debt to this woman and this is part of her payment due.” I instantly wrapped my arms around Esperanza, pulled her closer and squeezed her so tightly I could feel her chest heaving.
Esperanza turned to the students and mumbled with some embarrassment, “You'll have to excuse him. He can be very-”
“Insistent,” I finished for her. I released Esperanza, glancing at her wearing my little boy half-smile, while she pinched her lips fighting her instinct to light it up with me, and I turned to the two students, one male, one female, and announced, “Gregory Hess, kids. You two must be in dire straits because the professor here assured me I would have her presence and full attention this morning, unless there be some emergency.”
The male gave me a strange smile. “You're that actor...”
“My past life, young man! You young pups have to learn to keep up. I can't stop and pull you along. I'll leave you adrift.” I turned to Esperanza. “I'm not your professor.”
Esperanza started to punch my shoulder, but let her hand fall softly to rest on it. “Both had issues on the test results they received during their lab yesterday, Gregory, and I have a duty to help them with those issues.” She turned to face me, smiling. “Will you wait outside until we finish, please?”
I turned to the students. “Will it help to understand better if I do wait outside? Remember, your careers, your livelihoods, your very futures could be at stake.”
The young woman stated, as she glanced from Esperanza, to me, back and forth, “I have no objection to your staying here in the room, at all, Mister Hess, so I am wondering, does our professor have some objection?”
The young man liked the idea, and my smile was contagious, so he added, “I second that proposal. Professor?”
Esperanza shook her head in defeat. “Well, your debt just increased by a mountain or two, Gregory, and you will repay that debt in full before you leave for Africa. You understand me?”
“Completely, but we won't discuss specifics, being a matter of confidentiality.”
The young man was obviously disappointed. “Oh, you won't let us stay and hear about those specifics, Professor?”
Esperanza sat in her chair, but smiled widely, as she looked to me and ordered, “Stand in the corner, dunce.” I stepped back past the students and leaned against the wall in the corner next to her door. Esperanza turned to the young man. “I'll let you use your imagination, since you will need to develop one should you wish to complete this course with a passing grade.”
The young man dropped his head and I commented, “She's back in charge.”
Esperanza turned to me severely. “You will keep your comments to yourself, Mister Hess, and pretend like you're not even in this room, or has your acting prowess deserted you?”
I gave Esperanza my best apologetic expression. “Yes, Professor.”
Esperanza spent the next twenty minutes addressing all the points she needed to address with her two students, always with the helpful, encouraging and considerate manner of the professor she had wanted to become. I watched her, listened to her and I was left with that impression. Esperanza had become the professor she had wanted to be and would easily grow into a source of pride for this little university. It was simply a matter of time before they would dangle tenure.
When the impromptu meeting with her students reached its conclusion, the young man rose first to leave, and instantly offered his hand to me. I looked at him with an easy smile. “Handshakes I discourage because they're so safe, or do you consider a hug too dangerous?”
“Hell, no!” he responded, smiling back just as easily. He opened his arms, his right holding two books, but gave me a strong hug. “It was a pleasure meeting you, sir,” he added as we released.
“You could do worse than listening to your professor here and heeding her advice, a lot worse.”
“Thank you, Professor,” he said, turning briefly to Esperanza to see her warm smile before he left the office.
The young woman stepped toward me and noted, “I've heard you prefer hugging women.”
“Only a rumor, young lady. I hug women because I refuse to discriminate.”
Her arms immediately opened as she stepped up to me and her hug was as strong as the young man's hug. As we released, she advised me, “You should make another movie, Mister Hess,” and she turned to Esperanza, adding, “but leave your clothes on this time.” She winked at her professor and Esperanza rolled her tongue under her firmly clenched lips. The young woman turned and walked out of the office with a sassy demeanor.
- Just Desserts, Segment Twenty-Four “Back in the USA” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021
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