Professor at Risk, Chapter 1

Charlie Beckenheimer had won the best professor award two years in a row at Stappleton U. The voters were the students and they voted on which teacher they thought had had the most influence on their growth. At least that was in theory but in actual fact it was simply a popularity contest. The university authorities hoped that there was some correlation between the two measurements, but it really didn’t matter how your rated Charlie Beckenheimer. Charlie was indeed popular—and he was an excellent professor.
Now he wasn’t a George Clooney or a Michael Bublé but he did have a certain rugged, outdoor handsomeness. He was just over six feet tall with careless brown hair, and finely chiseled features carved into a perpetual grin. Life was full of fun and laughter. It wasn’t that he didn’t take his task seriously, he did. But he also considered the whole thing a lot of good fun and probably this is what his students liked most. There was one other distinguishing feature. His eyes were blue. No, that’s an understatement. His eyes were pools of liquid sapphire. And when he spoke to you, you had the impression that you were the only person in his thoughts at that particular time because these blue pools were fixed on you.
Students also liked the way he treated them as adults and equal in stature to himself. His students simply called him “Charlie.” Beckenheimer was not an easy name to pronounce or remember so “Charlie” had seemed a lot simpler. Charlie had been a professor at Stappleton U. long enough to casually ignore academic rules, which visualized a more formal connection between professor and student.
He had a good class again this year and by the end of the first month of the term he knew each student by name and probably something about them individually. Of course inevitably a few students stood out, but he was scrupulously careful not to play favourities.
One of the standouts was Taverna Proscella. She stood out because she wanted to standout. She was only about 5’2” but she stood tall and… what shall we label her? “luscious” is too sexy a word but she certainly was stunning. Her attire was always low key but well chosen—low key except for the sweaters which were modest in exposure but full of promise. She was a blond with floating hair, but far from a dumb blond. She was highly intelligent, a straight “A” woman with everything going for her—including Alex Trembleton. He nick named her “Froth.” The name came into being in a rather round about way. Froth was the head on a glass of beer. Beer was served in taverns, part of Taverna’s name. At first she thought the name rather cute. She wasn’t quite as happy with the name when Alex said he would like froth on his lips. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Alex or that he wouldn’t make a suitable date. In fact he was very much a leader. It was just that he wasn’t top of HER list.
Now Alex was an all round nice guy. A fine athlete a reasonable scholar, a young man who set goals for himself and usually achieved them. He had brush-cut, red hair and a surprisingly attractive freckled face. Generally he was popular with his mates, and he was considered a prize catch by most of the female students—but he wasn’t interested. He has his eyes and heart set on Taverna.
Charlie was just brushing 60—on the underside, while these two students were probably just 20—a typical age spread between prof and student.
Now Charlie’s week-day work routine was reasonably predictable. Most of the lecture presentations had been prepared during the summer, but on Sunday evening he would brush up on the next week’s lectures. Some of them now were “on line” which required just as much preparation as the live presentations but did not require his presence during the actual lecture. However he tried to be on hand in his university office at the end of each working day. He had an open door policy with his students. If they had a simple question that could be answered in short order, then they were just to drop in and he would try and help them. If it were something more complicated then they were requested to make an appointment with him.
Today was a typical example. Taverna had dropped in to seek clarification of the teaching in one of her text books.
“Look, Charlie, this doesn’t seem to make any sense. Here’s a case study. The author sets out the symptoms very precisely. Then he proceeds to make two utterly different diagnosis of the same symptoms. What gives?”
Charlie leaned over and asked, “Let me take a look.” He scanned the pages that she had opened for him. “Oh that’s the Bronson case. I know it’s confusing but he’s telling it like it is. In university exams you can give an answer and it’s either right or wrong. In real life it’s not that simple. Frequently there is no right answer. You just have to keep probing and testing—and maybe even praying that the patient will respond to the treatment or the drugs that appear to be appropriate. The author… who is he?” He flipped over to the start of the chapter. “Yes, Dunkleman. He is saying that there is no positively right answer. You’ll have to do more tests or rely on your experience to tell which one is the most likely. Or even another one that hasn’t been mentioned yet.”
“But that’s hardly fair!”
Charlie laughed, “Health is not a game of win/lose. It’s a game of maybe yeses and maybe nos. Fairness is not a consideration. It’s the real world. Get used to it.”
And so it might go with two or three others in the early evening. Then Charlie went home to have a late dinner with his wife and their two teenaged children.
And so his life carried on through most of the semester.
But as time went on, Charlie gradually became aware that Taverna was taking up a disproportionate amount of his time. Not that he objected. She was highly intelligent and very attractive. He enjoyed the time he spent with her and some of her thoughts actually were challenging his own ways of thinking. He liked that. He was learning as well as his student. But when he thought about it, she was at his office door two or three times a week, but always with a valid question or theory. Was he being fair to other students by spending a disproportionate time with her? He talked it over with his wife, Samantha—a thing he often did. He admired her detached observations and her feminine view.
Charlie had picked out Samantha early on in his own college days. They had an immediate strong, mutual attraction. Sam was nearly as tall as he. Her face was beyond being beautiful. It was full of cheerful but solid character. Her brunette hair was short and curly, just asking to be tousled by the right man. She had very dark and mysterious eyes, perhaps even unsettling but they could warm up with fire either in love or sometimes in anger. Even after 35 years with Charlie, she still loved him deeply and he reciprocated.
After dinner, when the kids had gone off to homework, he told Samantha his concerns. “Sam, I’ve got this… well I don’t think it’s a problem but I really think it might grow to be one.” And he explained about Taverna’s frequent visits. “Now they always have a valid point and she seems genuinely interested in my answers, but, well is it fair to the other students? The amount of time I’m giving her, I mean.”
“You say one or two times a week? How long does she stay with you?”
“Of course it varies. Really not very long. It’s quite business-like, you know.”
“Does she ask you personal questions—about me, about our family, for instance?”
“Oh, maybe, sometimes. It’s a pretty relaxed conversation. It’s not ALL business.”
“Has there been any physical contact with her?”
“Heavens, no! I think that would be most inappropriate. Besides the door is always left open. Staff rules.”
“Has there been a week when she hasn’t come to your office?”
Charlie thought for a moment or two. “Well, now that you ask, maybe early in the semester when I was new to the class. But once she started it soon became pretty regular.”
Samantha considered their conversation. “You know, Charlie, maybe it’s just my intuition, but I think she’s in love with you!”
“Good God! NO… Wow! That never occurred to me. What on earth am I going to do?”
“Could you love her, Charlie?”
“Oh come off it Sam. She’s 20 at a guess. I’m three times her age.”
“Sam, you’ve always been my wife, my lover, my mentor and always will be. OK, I’ll admit she is very attractive, intelligent and possibly admirable. But the thought of even having an affair with her is away beyond my thinking and miles beyond my doing.”
“Charlie beware. You’re a male. 60 year old males are notoriously susceptible. Too many have been lured away from the comforts of wife, children and home by the temptations of recapturing their youth.” She took him by the shoulders and stared into those deep blue eyes. “Charlie, this is dynamite. Handle with extreme care.”
“I hear you Sam, I’m sure I can handle that part. But what am I going to do with Taverna. She a young idealist with the world ahead of her. I don’t want to kill her future.”
Sam actually laughed. “Oh Charlie, you’re so naïve about girls and she’s not much more than that. Every girl goes through two to four heartbreaks before she finds her man. She may even go through one with him. But they recover. That’s the nature of the beast. She’ll recover. If you truly love ME, your task will be to let her down as gently as possible.”
He kissed her tenderly and they wended upstairs to bed.

8 Responses to “Professor at Risk, Chapter 1”

  1. Lynn cochrane says:

    Definitely more to tell here Lyman. Knowing you it will not be a predictable story.

  2. Jack Long says:

    Very good beginning. We’ll have to see where it goes from here.

  3. John Crossley says:

    This looks like a “doozy” Lyman–I can’t wait for the next episode.


  4. Geoff Simpson says:

    A great chapter One of a story to start off 2012. Looking forward to chapter two!

  5. Rose says:

    Love the first chapter to this story Lyman. The plot thickens and time will tell what comes next. Looking forward to part 2.

    xo Rosemary

  6. Joyce Harvey says:

    Loved the story, wondering where this is going!

  7. Heather Dunlop says:

    good writing

  8. I’m glad I’ve waited to read both chapters one after the other……

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