"I will be plain with you; your hiring was not a unanimous decision."
Dr. Walpole was looking at me with a sternness I suppose he regarded as manly.
"Very few decisions are," I replied. What did he expect me to say?
"To be perfectly honest, I felt you were the wrong choice."
Great, I thought to myself, trying to look relaxed. I had been hired, with a great show of enthusiasm, by Walpole's predecessor, a Korean War vet who specialized in metaphysical poets, Leland Sanderson. Sanderson hadn't mentioned that he was going on sabbatical. I wondered if the joke was on me or Walpole.
Walpole had appropriated the chairman's office with a thoroughness that suggested permanence. When I interviewed with Sanderson, a couple of medieval posters, reproductions of tapestries, embellished the walls, along with portraits of Herbert and Donne and a Pre-Raphaelite scene of a young lady consoling a little deer Saint Sebastianed with arrows: all now replaced with Rackhams and Dickensian cityscapes. A bust of Tennyson glowered with constipated solemnity from the top of a filing cabinet previously occupied by a garish lifesize skull. A shelf of Donne, Taylor, Vaughan, and de Vigny had been replaced with a row of Trollope novelsnot firsts, surely, but old enough to be contemporary with the author's life.
DeLamar Walpole, Ph.D., regarded me down the length of his equine nose, sighting me in over the steeple his hands made between us. I hadn't particularly taken to Leland Sanderson. I was sorry. Walpole sat implanted behind an imposing walnut desk, waiting, it appeared, for me to respond. I stepped onto the ice.
"It would be helpful, I think, to know what your reservations were."
He was ponderously galvanized. He stood up. He leaned across the desk, offering me his hand to shake. "That's neither here nor there now, is it?" His tightlipped smile reminded me of a school principal dismissing a troublesome student: neither smug nor triumphant nor even relieved, but unambiguously the look of a winner.
Ben Lomond College is a small private school north of Salt Lake City. I had interviewed there as a potential teacher of Freshman English. Professor Sanderson had assured me repeatedly that they had all the creative writing teachers they needed, and that I must not expect to teach anything but Comp. I had assured him that that was all I wanted. It was. I don't believe in "creative writing," and I certainly don't want to teach it. My "creative" publications were obscure enough that I offered no threat. The publisher of my first novel was a little press in New Mexico, and the movie option had not been exercised. Unless my new novel was a smash hit, I was safely insignificant.
Was that suspicion, the worry that I was stuffing a foot in the door, what bothered Walpole? Later I asked Leonard Rigby. Len was the director of the Freshman English program. I described my strange conversation with the new chairman. "Maybe I should get a sign for my office door: No creative writing taught here!"
"That's classic D'Lamar," he said, slurring the name slightly. "Classic."
"Does it mean I'm already in some kind of trouble?"
Len ran a hand over the shine of his bald head, looked at his palm, then grinned at me.
"Trouble? It means, 'Don't forget who owns you now.' Is that trouble?"
"It could be."
"Yes, it could be." He got up and closed the office door, then came back and sat on his desk, hands clasped in his lap. "Thomas, let me explain something to you. Confidentially." He looked out the window. "Lee and DeLamar hate each other's guts. No reflection on Lee, though: DeLamar hates everybody's guts. He's chairman because he wanted it and nobody else did. He thinks he's going to do such a great job that when Lee gets back, we won't even remember his name. This crudity with you is a great example of how subtle his Machiavellian genius is. Nobody listens to him, not even Dean Williamson; nobody is going to do anything on just his say-so. You do your job and stay out of trouble, and you'll get a fair shake here. I read your rsumé; Lee read it. Dan Hingle had seen your poems in DQ; so has Lareese, and she loves them and your novel. Lloyd Marsden knew your stories from Northwest Review and Arion, and he was all for having you do some fiction classes. Dave Komuri agrees. It's ridiculous to have someone like you here and not teaching creative writing. I know, I know," he added, shushing me with a waving hand. "You don't want to teach creative writing. But an Intro to Fiction class, maybe an Intro to Poetry?"
"I don't want anyone seeing me as an invader."
"Confidentially, I don't think that's going to be a problem. Between us, what's going to happen is that you're going to get pulled" he stopped, considered his hands. He looked up then, his face very serious. "I don't know how to say this. The big problem will be the Mormon-gentile thing. You know what a gentile is?"
"Right!" He grinned. "That'd surprise some of your Jewish friends, huh? Us not gentiles?"
"I'm getting used to it. They might have some trouble adjusting," I added drily.
"Right. Well, some people at Ben Lomond take a 'with me or against me' attitude. Both LDS and non-LDS; don't get me wrong. I'm sure you'll find yourself being expected to side with one faction or the other."
"Will being completely uninterested also get me in trouble?"
Len considered that. I wondered if I'd just passed up an invitation. At last, he said, "Yes, it will with some folks. With me or against me. But being a loner isn't so bad if you don't mind being alone."
I've always gotten along better with students than with colleagues anyway, so my course was set. Aside from faculty meetings and inevitable encounters in the hall, I avoided Walpole successfully for an entire quarter. And, as Len had predicted, I received the occasional invitations to bash the Mormons and, more rarely because I was a "gentile," chances to bash the non-Mormons. The enmity took a variety of formssports bets with mutual insults, private aspersions on BYU Ph.D.'s, others on the degree mill at the U, suggestions that this colleague or another suffered intellectual limitations thrust upon him by his spiritual allegiances, or by the lack thereof. I found it amusing. I met my classes; I made the editorial changes to Hummingbird; I watched the quarter drift toward finals and holidays.
I was living alone; Lareese Keneally and I struck up a friendship with some promise. It was her first year too, but she had graduated from BLC a year ago and was working on a master's at Utah State. Our friendship was governed partly by my isolation and the paucity of companions: she was a devout Mormon, a modest dresser and chaste of languageI can't think of a contemporary way to describe the appealing anachronism she posedbut clearly she found me at once provocative and attractive. We gravitated to each other at faculty gatherings, went to a couple of movies, had dinner a few times, and even drove down to Salt Lake once to hear Wallace Stegner. It was a relationship governed to some degree by the notice it attracted from Walpole, who stared thoughtfully when she was with me. I was allowing him to bully my professional life, but damned if he would rule my personal life. Of course a relationship with one of my own students was out of the question; a relationship with any student would be mildly scandalous. But Lareese, regardless of her former status, was a colleague now, and fair game, even for a godless gentile.
Tirzah Woods had been in my one o'clock class for most of the quarter before I began to notice her. No, that's not true. One didn't fail to notice Tirzah, with her William Morris mop of dark blonde hair and Hobbit body buried in layers of army surplus. She sprawled in the back row like a well-fed cat watching pigeons. Her writing was fiercely noncommital, as stony as her face. When I praised a sentence she'd written, her face communicated no reponse but "What's the catch?" I became painfully conscious of my favorite teaching gambit: praising the strengths of a phrase only to propose improvements.
In Roberts Hall, the night Scott Momaday read, Tirzah came thrashing into my purview. She forced her way through a row of politely seated readees; I barely noticed the commotion. I had brought The Way to Rainy Mountain for Scott to sign, and I was reading it again. Suddenly my elbow was jarred by a body deposited in the empty seat to my right. Tirzah.
"This better be good," she muttered, leaning toward me.
"It's good for you."
She puffed a blow of disdain. She had bought the Bantam Rainy Mountain a few days after I used it in class, so I suspected her of bluffing. I continued to read.
"So, how tall was he?"
"No. Jim Morrison."
"About my height. Why?"
"You got to meet him once?"
"I knew him."
"How about Jimi Hendrix? And Joplin?"
"I didn't know him through a rock connection. We were at UCLA together one summer. Took a class together, hung out a little. Pre-Doors. How did you?"
She grinned. "You slipped and called him 'Jim' in class once."
Richard Larsen, BLC's resident Western Lit expert, was approaching the podium to introduce Momaday. The audience applauded politely. Larsen spoke, and they applauded again. Momaday began to read. His voice rose and fell like distant machines. He read for about an hour.
"You want him to autograph your book? Got it with you?"
"It's easy. Just come with me."
"You know him."
"I met him a couple of times. It's no big deal. Come on. I've finally got a hardback of Rainy Mountain. He'll sign them both."
Sure enough, she had hers with her. She followed me to the front. Scott greeted me, signed my book, and then turned his regard to Tirzah, hovering independently to the side and back.
"This is Tirzah Woods. She's one of my more promising writers. I think she likes your work."
He offered her a hand and a grin. She shot me an almost subliminal dagger and then was suddenly in a conversation with Scott about Billy the Kid. I listened. He signed her book, personalizing the autograph. I stepped away. Through with him, she came to where I stood, while he moved on to the others gathered on stage.
"That was nice. Thanks." She considered, then added, "Except, why'd you say you 'thought' I liked his work? That was crappy."
"Was it? I didn't want to put words in your mouth. I told him the truth and left it for you to tell him what you wanted to say. When have you ever told me anything about what you like and dislike? You write like a brilliantly focused camera with nobody at the eyepiece. Never admit to anything."
"So nothing. Just fact." We were walking to the stage stairs. "Do you want to talk to him some more? There's a reception."
"Well, reception, party. In between. At Larsen's house."
"You can come with me. Or I'll tell Rick you're coming."
"I don't know where Doctor Larsen lives."
"Come with me. I'll bring you back to your car later."
"BYOB. I'm bringing wine and some rum. So you're covered."
Tirzah spent the evening in the crowd of students around Momaday and relieved me of running her back to her car by getting a ride with them later.
Lareese dropped by my office the next morning.
"I hear you took one of your students to the reception for Scott Momaday?"
I smiled. "I wondered what I'd hear about it."
"Dating your students is pretty dangerous."
"It wasn't a date. The damned party" Lareese blinked, and I damned my mouth. "The party was invitation only, meaning closed to students unless they had patrons. What's the point of bringing a writer on campus and then 'protecting' him from the students? I invited Tirzah, and I drove her to be sure she was allowed in."
"Nobody would've kept her out."
"You know that. I didn't." I didn't add that I wasn't so sure.
"Well, it looked bad."
"Lareese, will you do me a favor? Nobody but you and Len is going to say anything to me about this, probably. If you hear people gossiping, will you point out that Tirzah left with a couple of girlfriends? It was not a date."
"Is that what happened?"
"If you think I'm lying, ask Rick or Len. Or I'll get Tirzah to have the other two girls give her notarized statements."
She looked hurt, and I regretted my sarcasm. Her eyes met mine with a painful earnestness. She said softly, "There's no need to get angry. I didn't mean to suggest that I thought you were lying; I just meant I didn't know that. I thought... Well, it doesn't matter what I thought." She was wearing a high-collared white blouse, the collar secured with a Hopi brooch. She was an attractive woman; her face had the androgynous elegance of Greek or Michelangelesque marble, a demure Sibyl. She was too tall for most men, with the solidity of a young athlete and big venous hands. Somehow, her long skirts and sleeved blouses were like a costume. She intrigued me. She read everything, even the writers surely indexed at the YSamuel Delaney, John Rechy, Erica Jong and Alice Walker, the Beats.
I felt like a thug. "It does matter what you think. I'm sorry I overreacted. It's like jumping when you hear the thin ice crackle."
"What do you mean?"
"Most places, nobody would have raised an eyebrow or jumped to conclusions, even if Tirzah and I had come together, hung out together, and left together." I didn't mention that most places, hardly anyone would have cared if her car was still in the union parking lot the next morning, either.
"Well, you need to know, it isn't just the local puritanism. Tirzah Woods has a bit of a reputation. Nobody would have noticed if it had been an English major who wasn't already the subject of some gossip."
"What kind of gossip?"
"Oh, you know, the usual things that circulate about a girl whose morals are a little 'modern.' Nothing specific, nothing really harmful."
Great. I've been seen with a known non-virgin. "She seems like a nice girl. A bit of a self-made pariah."
"I don't really know her. She's not from my ward."
"Of course." The jangling bell punctuated her exclamation. She stood up. "Good grief! I have a ten o'clock." She grabbed up her books and waved from the wrist, books cradled on her arm.
"Let's get together for lunch," I said as she turned away.
A week or so later, she asked me if I danced. When I said yes, she invited me to a stake dance. With an anthropologist's delight, I accepted.
From the doorway of the stake gym, the sounds of Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66 pumped at a reasonable volume. Lareese was wearing a knee-length dress with a full skirt, opaque nylons, and flats. Her collar was open an inch or two below her throat, and she had pinned a teal ribbon around her neck, a satin choker secured with a small turquoise pin. Her hair was up but with an accent of curls in the backEmpire style?
We stepped into the fifties. A young man with the haircut of an aging Republican insurance agent greeted us earnestly. He knew Lareese; she introduced me. Couples executed elaborate Latin steps behind us. I was prepared for a night of Vaughn Monroe and Guy Lombardo. The music was contemporary, even some light rock. We danced to "Yesterday" and "Killing Me Softly." The magic of the evening was that I shed a dozen years; I was eighteen again, turned on by the brush of a skirt against my knuckles, the flex and stretch of muscle under my hand on her back, touching a girl. The transformation was complete. Then I realized, during a waltz, that Lareese was conscious of the steady, incidental intrusion of my thigh between hers.
In The French Lieutenant's Woman, Fowles speaks of the diminution of sensuality that results from contemporary openness and availability. If you only see your lover's ankle in the privacy of your bedroom, it takes on the sexual charge of a bare flank, and a bare flank, by comparison, is beyond contemporary reckoning. I had danced with a hand riding the tidal clench and falling away of my partner's rump, and I had danced pelvis-to-pelvis with women I was scarcely less close to in bed. Lareese's discreet abandonment, riding my thigh, made me turgid to the base of my skull. The teal choker haunted me.
As the evening waned, we danced more dreamily, her head on my shoulder, my hand always right where it belonged, constrained by the light and the occasional glances that reminded me I was not unnoticed. At the punch bowl, I struck up a conversation with another man. He asked me if this was my first SI dance, then if I was LDS.
"No. My companion is."
"Oh yes, I know Sister Keneally. Are you at the College?"
"I teach English."
"Yes." I watched for Lareese to come from the ladies' room. When she appeared, I excused myself and met her on the dance floor, sweeping into a two-step.
"You met Donald Jorgensen."
"He's our Stake President." She explained what that meant.
"He seems like a nice fellow. Family friend?"
"Not really," she said.
Later, when I handed her into my car, she met my eyes and her hand lingered in mine. At her door, to an apartment she shared with two roommates, I took her in my arms, feeling like an adventurous Dobie Gillis rather than a jaded adult. She offered no resistance, and when I kissed her, her mouth loosened under mine in an invitation I could never have imagined.
"Can I come in?" I whispered. She shook her head slightly, then kissed the pulse on my neck.
"Sharon and Danielle are home," she explained. Clearly we were both thinking of things we could not do in a shared apartment.
"What are you doing tomorrow night?" I asked.
"Nothing." Our bodies were still intimate, from head to knee.
"Come to my place for dinner."
"OK," she murmured. She disengaged reluctantly. On an impulse, I kissed the palm of her hand. She swayed back into my arms and kissed me again, wetly, not so much passionately as with a kind of passive and excessive abandon, a show of utter and willing helplessness.
Saturday night, after dinner, we settled in front of the stereo and talked, first about work, then about literature. She went into the bathroom and, when she returned, she settled against me on the couch. She nestled under my arm; my hand circled her waist. I wondered where it could wander. We spent the evening "making out." Her clothes and her breathing were somewhat disrupted, and she protested some liberties I did not pursue. I took her home with her honor intact, as far as I knew.
Monday evening, around six, I had my first missionaries, two serious-looking boys in grey suits, their bicycles neatly set against the tree in my yard. I let them in. We talked. My upbringing, I delighted in telling people, was Army Protestant, meaning I belonged to whatever Protestant sect the current chaplain espoused. The posts had Catholics, Jews, and Protestants; the mysteries of Congregationalism and its irreconcilable differences with Episcopalianism or Presbyterianism were left for my adult discovery, long after I had abandoned God by what seemed mutual agreement. Baptists saved me twice.
I knew Mormonism as a historical phenomenon peppered with some theological details, but not much more. I had caused a flurry of outrage as a guest at a University of Utah faculty party by asserting that Mormonism was no more ridiculous than any other religion, and citing some of the more asinine elements of Judaic injunction and medieval Catholic dogma as evidence. So now I sat with these earnest boys and looked at their pictures of Mayan ruins and listened to their pitch, victim of my own tolerance. It was, on the surface, an attractive religion. The elder, a big young Scandinavian fellow about Lareese's age, asked me what I thought.
"Well, David, I have to tell you what I tell my Catholic friends: it sounds like a good religion for people who need one."
"Don't you need one?"
"Not as I can tell."
They exchanged a look I could not read.
"I guess I'm not much of a candidate for conversion." We talked about the difference between proselytizing a believer of a Christian sect, a theist of some non-Christian persuasion, and a person like me, worse even than an atheist (they didn't say so) in that I didn't care whether God existed or not. I was impressed with David's persuasive skills, impenetrable to his arguments.
"Can we talk again some time?" David asked as he stood up. Lyle, the younger boy, stood up too, and we walked to the door.
"It's interesting. You have to understand that you're wasting your time, though."
David smiled. "That's where you're wrong, Doctor Phelan. Even if all we can accomplish is to bring you to a position of sympathetic understanding, we won't have wasted our time. I'd like to give you this." He offered me a Book of Mormon. I demurred.
"I have one," I explained.
"Will you read it?" David asked.
"I'll look at it."
"If you read it, pray, and you will learn that it's true," Lyle interjected.
I grinned. "That's happened to me with some Robinson Jeffers poetry. I doubt if it will here."
David smiled again, putting a hand on Lyle's shoulder. "We're supposed to say that," he added. They made an appointment to return the next Monday evening; I went back to a solitary dinner and a pile of galleys for Hummingbird. It was scheduled for spring at Knopf.
Lareese was reading Jeffers. I had recommended him for her Modern American Poetry class at State, as a subject her professor would not expect to see examined. She was working her way forward from Flagons and Apples, and she had arrived at Dear Judas. That weekend, we attended a picnic at Len Rigby's ranch, a few miles south of Willard's Landing, out on the flats. We wandered away to the corrals. Lareese was in jeans and a T-shirt, plus a heavy flannel shirt against the late fall chill. We talked about horses; she had thought of being a veterinarian. She leaned her chin on her arms, folded along the cottonwood rail that topped the corral fence; she was facing the horses, four of them, and seemed abstracted. One horse was a gelding. She was looking, I was sure, at the flaccid sausage dangling from its belly almost to the ground.
"Do you think she really did it? California?"
It took me a moment to catch up. "You mean 'Roan Stallion'? I never thought of that." It was less than honest. I had thought of it, once or twice in the gallop of copulation. But I had never thought of it as an implication of the poem. "She couldn't have. It's meant to be symbolic. Doesn't Jeffers say so?"
"Catherine the Great did. It killed her."
"Did?" I groped for the right words. "Had sexual intercourse with a horse? Where did you get that idea?"
She turned away from the corral. "A book. I dunno." She was walking away. I joined her. I was at a loss. What were we trying to discuss? She walked with her arms folded. They seemed to support and accent her breasts. I tried not to look at them. I hooked a thumb in a loop of her jeans and we walked in unison. I took my hand away when we came in view of the picnic crowd.
That night, in the privacy of my house, she was wild with me. She did not undress, but she opened her clothes to me and once, delicately, her hand stroked my warm groin.
"Come to bed," I murmured.
I took her hand and led her to my bed. She let me undress her in the half-light from the window, but kept her panties. She lay sloe-eyed and nude but for a patch of green nylon, bigger than many bathing suit bottoms. I stripped off my own clothes.
"Not your briefs," she said. Nearly naked, we put our bodies together. We made love with the stipulation that she was guarded from penetration by layers of nylon and cotton. I was at once wild and baffled; I escaped the confinement of my shorts, and my orgasm made a useless puddle on her belly.
"I've had a vasectomy," I told her after; "there's nothing to worry about." She lay on her back, I was braced on an elbow. She had kleenexed her belly.
"I'm not ready."
"Is that..." I hesitated. How to ask? "Is that all you want?"
"I love you." She stroked my flank, her hand moving from rib to hip and halfway to my knee. I put a hand on the nylon at her hip, insinuating a finger underneath the band; she put her hand on mine. She rolled toward me, our bodies intimate as stacked boards, our groins walled apart.
We made this strange love four times, in the passing weeks, always in my bed, always shielded from the consummation I wanted. The fourth time, I whispered as she gathered me in her arms, "Lareese, I want to be inside you. I'll do whatever you want."
Her arms moved on me while we talked. I kissed her nipples. "I love you, Thomas. But I'm saving myself. Don't force me, please."
"I don't want to force you. I couldn't do that. But this is such a parody of love, this clinging and gasping." I slipped a finger inside her, something I had done once before. She rode it for a couple of minutes, her breathing deep with passion. I kissed her belly; with the other hand, I began pushing her panties down.
She murmured, "Just don't..." and left the specific unstated. I buried my face in the curls I had felt twice and tasted her. She moaned from deep in her chest. I shifted my weight, gathered her hips in my hands, and penetrated her with my tongue. She rocked to meet me and moved maddeningly under my mouth. Then I felt her shift and her head, not her mouth, was against my groin and I came against her cheek, wetting the fabric between us. She exhaled endlessly; I caught my breath and kissed the silky skin of her inner thigh. I took off my stained briefs and we slept. A few hours later, she woke me by kissing my ear.
"There is something we can do," she said, tonguing the hollow of my ear. Her hands, and then her head descended upon me, and she did it. We had this almost sexual intercourse again that weekend. Still she would not allow true congress, though she drew no other line.
"I'm a virgin, Thomas."
I've known married women better suited to the title, I thought. "What is a virgin, exactly?"
Without hesitation, she replied, "A woman who has never had a penis in her vagina. Or a man who's never done it."
"And you are saving your virginity? What for?"
"For marriage, of course."
"Do you want to marry me?"
"I love you."
"I don't know that I love you."
"I know." She kissed me. "You'll decide." She lay silent. Then she added, "I couldn't marry you. At least not yet."
"I want a Temple wedding."
"A Mormon ceremony?"
"Yes. But it's more than that." She was kissing me absentmindedlymy shoulder, my neck. "For a Temple wedding, you both have to be members in good standing. You can't have a Temple wedding."
Monday morning, I arrived at work to the stentorian bellow of Walpole, who was in the hall dressing a coed down for the immodesty of her skirt. Tirzah was waiting at my office door, leaning against the wall with one shoulder, her back to the abuse taking place down the hall. I glanced at the coed, who stood head down beneath the avalanche of Walpole's vilification. I unlocked the door and Tirzah quickly followed me in, as if she was scurrying into a hiding place. The voice rumbled on, rich and leaden with contempt.
She didn't look up at first. Then the noise stopped. I heard heels clicking rapidly in the hall. "Will you read some poetry?" she asked.
"I don't read poetry," I replied. "Not as a teacher, anyway."
"You could read mine," she said.
"I'd rather not."
"I don't like to criticize people's private writing. Poetry is damned private. If I don't like it, you'll be hurt. If I don't tell you what I think, you'll get overconfident and self-indulgent. I can't win; you have nothing to gain."
"You don't like me, do you?"
"Where'd you get that idea?"
"You just don't." She stood up. "I hate this place. English professors!"
"Tirzah, I don't dislike you. You're a good student. And an exceptional writer." She was glaring at me. "Your poetry is probably good. I just don't read poetry."
"That's crap. What are you afraid of?"
The door was open. Standard procedure. I heard Walpole call Lareese in the hallway. Why was he prowling the halls? Tirzah flinched. He had a mean voice, I thought. I heard him snap at Lareese again, and then her distant "Coming."
"Look, I'm not afraid of anything," I said then.
"You think I'm coming on to you?" She was a shapeless muddle folded into the chair, feet on the edge, chin on her knees, arms around them.
I exhaled with exasperation. "Are we on the same planet? I'll tell you what I think. I think you have somehow gotten the idea that intellectuals talk like this to each other. You aren't sure you know the dialect, but you expect me to fall into it. I respect your intelligence too much to think you would come on to me by showing up pugnaciously at my door at eight in the morning to confront me about my fears. You have a solid A going in my class, so what would you come on to me for? A+?"
She was looking at the floor, or the front of my desk. "You think I'd fuck somebody for a better grade?"
"Get out of my office." I stood up.
"I did once."
"I don't want to hear this."
She had not moved, not even to look up. She was gathered into a ball of khaki. She put a hand on her head, reminding me of old air raid drills. Or those monkeys: hear no evil, let no evil fall on my head.... She made no move to leave.
"I needed an A in English, second quarter my Freshman year. I'd blown off most of my courses, and without an A I'd be on probation and lose my scholarship. He was being a bastard about grades. I deserved an A, but they only went to kids with Temple recommends. I tried to sweet-talk him, and he proposed a trade. Pretty bluntly. He stayed late that night and I delivered on my part of the deal."
"Why are you telling me this?" I had sat back down. I glanced at my doorway.
She laughed. "You know what he did? He gave me a B anyway. What could I do? Talk about dumb broad." She laughed again. "I quit school for three years. Came back to start over this year. I've seen him, of course, but he doesn't even recognize me."
"Are you sure?"
"Oh yeah. Anyway, I'll avoid his classes. And I look a lot different now than when I was just a teenager who'd been around." She smiled. "I'm not going to tell you who it was," she said. I hadn't heard Walpole for a few minutes. I wondered if he was with Lareese.
"I'm sorry," I said.
"It's no big deal. Like I said, I'd been around. I never told him: if I was a B, he flunked."
I laughed. "I'll read your goddam poetry."
She grinned and unfolded, scrabbling in her backpack and coming up with a looseleaf binder. It held a few dozen typed sheets. She handed it over. "You don't have to worry about hurting my feelings. Maybe that's what I was trying to tell you."
"Right. Go away."
"Yes sir." She walked through the door. "See ya in class." She cast a quick glance down the hall, toward the departmental office, then stepped off in the other direction.
I was looking through her poetry when the phone rang. It was Walpole. A summons. Now. I went. As I passed the head secretary, she gave me a look I associated with the peasant women knitting below the guillotine. What was up? Walpole was standing at his window, hands clasped behind his back, watching the mountains. He was a tall man, but broader in the hips than shoulders.
"Shut the door," he said, his back still turned.
I sat down. He turned ponderously, overbearing as a gun turret.
"I've been talking to Miss Keneally."
He sat behind his desk, steepled his fingers.
"I think I told you, Phelan, some time ago, that I was deeply concerned about your appropriateness. We're a small community; I suppose we seem behind the times in a lot of ways. You would be happier in an environment where you would fit in better. I've had lots of complaints about your attitudes, things you've said in class. That business with one of your students."
"Fraternizing? Isn't that it? Dating one of your coeds?"
"That's not what happened."
He waved my protest away, like a man flicking a fly away from his face, then rebuilt the steeple and sighted me across it. "I've been concerned about your relationship with SisterMiss Keneally for some time. Ostensibly, she is a colleague. In fact, we both know she is just an impressionable young girl, easily seduced by a worldly older man, especially a goodlooking Ph.D. who's also an exotic published writer."
"My personal." He interrupted me, his voice rolling as if on treads.
"I must take an interest in Miss Keneally's personal life, as both her chairman and her bishop." He paused. I said nothing. "She has counseled with me regarding her relationship with you. I even encouraged it at first, thinking, as she seemed to, that a relationship with a girl of good character might have unexpected effects on a person."
"You encouraged." He tramped through my interruption like a tape of a solemn monologue. I was beginning to feel sick.
"She thinks you may feel a calling to the Church." He raised one eyebrow, spearing me with a cold look. "Do you?"
"My religious beliefs are not germane to my professional life." He said nothing. "I'm not going to discuss a personal relationship with you. File charges."
He smiled. "I certainly don't want to do anything that might jeopardize Miss Keneally's reputation. However, I wonder what the dean would think if he knew he was harboring a sodomite?"
I stared dumbfounded at his satisfied look. He sat in triumphant silence. At last, I got up and left. Already, it seemed, my colleagues were shunning me in the halls. By noon, seems became was. My one o'clock was my first class Monday; I imagined private matters were circulating in the room; I imagined Tirzah's face was pitying. She did come up to me after class as if to speak, her face like a nurse's with a patient. She asked a trivial question about the assignment; she left.
Toward the end of the day, I caught Len in his office. We sat silently, mutually embarrassed. At last he said, "You've made some bad choices, Thomas."
"What will happen to Lareese Keneally?"
"She's going to resign, switch to fulltime at Utah State."
"What should I do?"
He answered immediately, in a flat voice. "Leave. You should leave, Thomas."