Tuesday: All Day
Patrick Philip wakes up and does not feel like a protagonist.
The alarm. And that other urgent restlessness. Flinching light. He pisses loudly into the water and reads the news online over breakfast. Raisin Bran and the last of the milk. Hillary leads. Panama Papers fallout. Billions hidden. Protests in Iceland. Soggy now. Flakes dissolving into mealy sludge. All quiet in Canada. The CBC reports on other countries' criminals. 2000 after rent came out yesterday. 1800 after the Visa bill. Round down to 1700. Internet. Phone. How much for groceries? Coffee? The daily bleed of cash. And one course guaranteed for the summer. There might be more. “Depending on enrolments,” the chair said, and leaned back.
He bought Ellie a new laptop when hers died in the middle of a paper. A good one. Almost two months' rent now. This was three years ago. He had grants then. When he thinks about Ellie and the money, there is the dulling loss, and resentment. What else? The experience of watching himself begrudge a gift. That alone is degrading. The line from “Araby:” “I saw myself ” etcetera. The last swig. He spits the bitter grit of undiluted instant coffee crystals into the kitchen sink.
Patrick showers after which he shaves and inspects his face: Red. Pearled in the steam. Stress at the eyes. Pale under the flush of heat. Rounding a little, but still, when he turns in profile, the jawline that emerged with puberty.
He picks out jeans. His best pair. Dark. Tight across the thighs. Fresh from the wash, they cut into his waist. He prods a roll of stomach fat. They will loosen over the day, hike down, bind and stretch as he wears them. A black v-neck t-shirt. A blazer hides his gut, adds gravitas. Amanda Miller is meeting him at three. She wrote: “I wish to discuss my unfair grade.” When he is teaching, he will push the sleeves up his forearms.
He puts on an old blue parka and slings his bag over his shoulder. The strap cuts his chest. Still brittle, vulnerable with exhaustion, and hoping to catch the momentum of the day, he closes and locks the door.
Patrick rides the bus. A second coffee does not help.
The bite of cold (too cold for April) on dampness mellows to a steady ache in his hands and feet, numbs his face. Down Central. Libro Credit Union on the right. Artistic Esthetic Spa. Shoes. The sun turns the sky to milk. Starbucks on the corner. University students lined up at the counter. “I am offended by your accusation.” They buy tall, five-dollar coffees.
Boxwoods. Jas Shoes. LifeStyles.
In front of the Running Room, he waits and calculates: 20 exercises this morning. 10 per hour. 100 to go. 20 after his first class. Summer dresses in a store window. Richmond Street is in shadow. Weak light touching the tops of the buildings across from him, the facade of In Fashion. 40 tonight. An easy day tomorrow and done for Thursday.
College and university students.
Canada Goose coats.
A young man with blonde hair and tired eyes smokes.
A young woman to a friend: “I felt so bad. There were girls crashed in my living room and I was running all over the place getting ready.”
Patrick is no longer young.
The 6 to the university. The woman and the Canada Goose coats get on.
Patrick wants the 8 to the college.
The wheeze of doors. Press and jostling and muddy heat. He grabs a strap. Jessica Hendriks reviews material for an accounting quiz. Victor Logan listens and nods lethargically. Bobs when they cross the tracks. Elephants on the sign of Bangkok Pad Thai. Lean for the corner of Oxford and Richmond. Is that Amanda Miller? Adrenaline. Catch himself at the Richmond and Oxford stop. Raheem Caldwell remembers the outline of last night. Patrick stares covertly. Start and stop along Oxford. The leafing trees of Old North. Stately houses. Yellow brick. Kerrie Burger-Kincaid checks her phone. He gets a look at maybeAmanda in profile. No. And relaxes into a lurch at a red light at Adelaide. The Wolseley Barracks complete with rusting artillery. Cassie Clements plays Candy Crush. Thomas Austin texts. Superstore. Quebec Street. Patrick rehearses: “This is a clear cut case of plagiarism. It is your responsibility...” Jon Peralta dozes. Jingfan Wu worries. The purpleyellow sign of Planet Fitness. Austin Gehrlein and Erik Sketchley plan tonight's pre-drink. The heat is thawing them now. A welcome painful tingle in Patrick's extremities. Highbury. Chemical funk of body spray. Fruit of perfume. Something else. Undercurrent of sick. Complaining last week: “They don't shower in the morning.” Patrick breathes consciously through his mouth to the college.
From the bus to the line for coffee in the food court. He checks his watch. Two exercises gone before he orders a large double double and sits down. He opens his laptop and arranges the exercise booklets and a stack of rubrics on the table. The line shortens. The buzz of many things gives way to single noises.
Patrick marks in the food court and sometimes manages to concentrate.
8:44 He teaches at 10:30. He thumbs the stack and starts with Baylee Coe because, despite the name, she is a good student and it will be quick and easy, and it is: He circles “Clear expression,” “Advanced thinking,” “Well developed structure,” “Free of errors” and scrawls, “Conclusion needs improvement. Well done!” 9.2. He stretches and sets himself to work. 8:47. Mia Borneman sits at the back of the class and resents him. Barely legible. No more coherent. 5.1. Point one a private “Fuck you.” Someone walking quickly. Devin Kraeft. No face for the name. He struggles over a paragraph without punctuation. Loses time. 5.8. Mac Brch misspelled his own name. 9:14 Getting into a rhythm. Reading. Circling. Grading. Not thinking. He barely notices the bustle between classes. Better. Writes something encouraging. Drifts a little. Ellie on the couch. Grinning when he showed her his second chapter. There is, of course, the article waiting for revision and submission. At the back of his mind for three years. It started as a section of his thesis. Beckett and game theory: “Moran's null sum game.” Commas are not periods! His supervisor said it was promising. “Fascinating take,” he said. No! Six months ago, Patrick saw him in the vegetable aisle at the supermarket. Explain! Middle aged with a beard. Like a bad Ginsberg joke. Paragraphing! Polite. His waning interest. Mild concern. “What are you doing now?” Grading. Patrick's shameguiltfrustration breaking sometimes into rage. 10:18 Seventeen done. He can catch up in the next hour if they don't ask too many questions.
Patrick supervises and answers and marks and answers and supervises.
Introduction to Business Communication's computer lab hour: They are doing a graded editing exercise. He takes attendance and reads the instructions out loud. “Good luck.” Blue Jays cap in the back. Steve? “If you look at the instructions...” “Or listened.” Cassandra McLeod is confused. “Read the instructions.” “And understand them.” Scot Young wasn't paying attention.“You are supposed to read and follow the instructions” “And try not to fail at life” Cruel. But true. Francis calls them the jellyfish of culture: “They are incapable of self-directed motion, but pack a vicious sting.” “Alan, put away your phone” “For once.” Eric he thinks. Blonde hair. The gym bro. Paige Li. “Andrea, eyes on your own screen” But I will have to say it to everyone. Spend the hour surveilling the class. And why should I? Leon Maynard is late.“Find a computer and get started.” “Yes, follow the instructions.” “Alan!” “For fuck's sakes.” Settle finally into nervous concentration. He sits down at the desk at the front of the room. Adrian Wiseman wrote his name and the date and copied out two paragraphs of the question. Second row from the back. Might be there for the course evaluations. Likes to contradict me. Is it worth the complaint? Half-a-dozen emails and a meeting? In April? 5.0. Tito Desousa leaves early. Two more. Caught up. Everyone starts to get up at once. What? No! “Submit it the same way you submitted every other lab.” Like you did last week! “Open the drop box.” Like you've been doing all term! “Upload the file, check the academic integrity box, and click submit.” “Andrew, you need to wrap it up.” “As you have been doing all term, open the drop box, upload the file, check the academic integrity box, and click submit.” “Fine, you can email it to me.” “You'll get them on Thursday.” “At the top of the syllabus.” And into the loud, packed hallways.
Patrick marks in the office. The faculty talk among themselves.
The office is a big room with low ceilings and lines of cubicles. It is big enough that, between the partitions, the cubicles and the low ceiling, it is difficult to tell where or if it ends. Patrick sits at a cubicle he shares with 8 other part-time instructors. The full-time instructors each have their own cubicle. He eats a granola bar and marks. Voices carry in the room. They fill the space between the top of the cubicles and the ceiling with a constant, fluctuating ecosystem of sound.
Francis Markham (full time), a large man in a sweater vest and button down shirt who smells, sometimes unpleasantly, sometime comfortingly, of wet wool, finishes filing a workplace safety report on the mat that bunches under the break room door.
Mike Fuller (part time) to Carolyn Davis (part time): “Have you heard yet?”
“Yes, they gave me three courses last week. You?”
“No. Not yet.”
“I'm sure you'll get a few. They're slow this year.”
Mike Fuller (part time) does not penetrate the armor of Carolyn Davis' (part time) complacency.
Patrick Philip (part time) thinks, “Three courses? She barely finished her MA.” Hurtjealousyconfusion, but there is marking. 18 to go.
William Holst (full time), a man in his late 50s wearing a navy suit and motorcycle boots complains to an audience of full- and part-timers by the photocopier: “I was telling them about the Cold War and they had no idea what it was. I told them that the US and Russia...They didn't understand a word of it. They just stared at me. So, I said, 'Imagine there's a red dog and a yellow dog, and the red dog hates the yellow dog...'”
Kathryn Snider (full time) and Darren Monson (full time) discuss the Leafs' loss to the Panthers.
Randy Morin (full time) over two rows of cubicles: “Square heads.”
Kathryn Snider (full time) laughyelling: “Footoo Habs Fan.”
Mike Fuller (part time) asks Derrick Weller (part time) about his summer courses.
“Two for now. You?”
“They're slow this year.”
Francis Markham (full time) gathers momentum and digresses to Steven Maclean (part time) “Well...you know...when preparing them for the final exam...you have to keep in mind that I originally designed it as a metric of progression in three specific areas...”
Rod Mussen (full time) and Amanda Barfoot (full time) discuss the pool Amanda is having put in.
“You'll love it.”
“We're looking forward to it.”
“And in time for the warm weather.”
William Holst stands next to his cubicle and complains to Randy Morin (full time), Kathryn Snider (full time), George Cho (full time) and Ayman Sayed (full time) about the administration's treatment of part-time faculty: “We don't even have our own offices, but they have to share their cubicles. How many are there now?”
“8 to a desk. Maybe 9.”
“No one can work like that. And the administration doesn't care...We're nothing but operational costs...The more they cut, the better.”
Patrick Philip (part time) takes a break and calculates how much money he can save this month by using bus tickets and walking instead of buying a pass. 9 to go.
Darren Monson (full time) perches a heavy haunch on the edge of his desk and holds forth on his decision to begin the Introduction to the Humanities course he is designing for students upgrading their GEDs with the Grand Inquisitor episode from The Brothers Karamazov, getting louder and more impassioned as he goes on: “We need to start off the course with bang...dive into something that shows them the value of literature...one of the greatest hits of Western culture...a resonant statement about the nature of freedom and the necessity of faith...”
Patrick Philip (part time), Steven Maclean (part time) and Sarah Marcott (part time) decide not to think about how to teach Introduction to the Humanities when they get it next year.
Mike Fuller (part time) asks Patrick Philip (part time) about his summer courses.
“There are more coming, I think”
“Sorry. I have to...”
William Holst (full time) complains to Ron Mussen (full time) and Amanda Barfoot (full time) about his new Ford Expedition: “You wouldn't believe the gas bills,” he pauses and adds, “but nothing beats it in the winter.”
Patrick Philip (part time) remembers his meeting with Amanda Miller.
Mike Fuller (part time) wanders off.
Patrick Philip (part time), Ron Mussen (full time), Daren Monson (full time), Steven Maclean (part time), Kathryn Snider (full time), George Cho (full time), Sarah Marcott (part time), and Randy Morin (full time) mark quietly.
William Holst (full time) complains to Francis Markham (full time): “I don't care how bad it gets. I'm not retiring before I'm 80.”
Patrick Philip (part time) is done. He has finished 21 (and 20 this morning makes 41) and he is about to teach.
Patrick talks to himself (and also to his class).
The beginning of the second last week of his pop culture class. “Today I want to start tying everything together.” From the Frankfurt School to post-modernism and theories of identity and consumption. Last week they watched Tropic Thunder. “We have to ask what links these objects, these texts?” The thread he follows is irony. He loses most of them quickly. But then he never had them. And there are a few of them nodding along to the rhythm of his voice. He hikes up the sleeves of his blazer, and steps out from behind the lectern. It comes, slow at first, because it is the end of term, because half of them are checking their phones, because he forgot to buy another coffee, because he has been working steadily since 8:30, because he ate a granola bar for lunch, because there are 40 exercises to go, and because he is meeting her in less than an hour, but it comes: that familiar, vibrant transport. Why he does this. For twenty minutes, he forgets himself in his words. After, Cody West wants to talk to Patrick about metal and politics. “What does he think of Napalm Death?” Patrick is flattered, but has to put him off. Amanda Miller is waiting for him.
In the time it takes to mark four exercises (five if he is on a roll), Patrick resolves nothing.
Amanda Miller sits and waits, visibly sulks.
“Hi. Follow me.”
He leads her past the receptionists.
“I've booked a room.”
“On your left.”
“Have a seat.”
He sits across from her.
“As I explained in my email, this is a clear cut case of plagiarism.”
“I don't understand,” she says. She is hurt, outraged. “I didn't plagiarize. I worked so hard on that assignment.”
He fumbles briefly in his bag and then produces a sheaf of papers with a definitive flourish. Patrick is firm, but calming, almost apologetic: “I've highlighted the plagiarized paragraphs and attached copies of the website they were taken from.”
“That's not plagiarism.”
“These paragraphs reproduce the website material almost word for word.”
She bends and studies the papers.
“But,” she points, “it's not exactly the same.”
“It doesn't need to be exactly the same for it to be plagiarism. And these kinds of minor differences suggest that it was altered in an attempt to fool Turnitin.”
“I don't know how that happened, but I did not plagiarize.”
“It must be a coincidence. I worked really hard, I read a lot, researched a lot, and maybe I just...Lots of people get the same ideas.”
“Amanda, there are multiple complete paragraphs that are virtually identical. That can't happen by chance. That can only happen when someone intentionally and knowingly copies the source.”
“I can't believe you are accusing me of this. I have never done anything like this. I wouldn't cheat. I can't... I'm a good person.”
“I'm sorry, but I have to base my decisions on the evidence I have in front of me. In this case,” Patrick pushes the papers towards her, “the evidence is clear.”
“No. It's not fair. I didn't do anything wrong,” rising in pitch, accusing, “and you're just singling me out. It's not fair. I'm going to complain to the Chair about your treatment of me.”
“The college policy on plagiarism is very clear,” again, Patrick touches the papers, taps the highlighted paragraphs, “and this is a clear cut case of plagiarism. If you want to appeal my decision, that is your right.”
A cringe of doubt. Patrick second guesses himself: “the Chair.” And then shameresentment, the sharpness and frustration of irrational fear.
She tears up.
“I get As in all of my other courses. I don't know...” In a clogged whine: “I am transferring to university next term, and if I fail this course, they won't take me. And I don't...”
“I'm sorry, Amanda, but this is a clear cut case of substantial plagiarism, and I'm imposing the lightest penalty allowed by the college.”
“I've just...I...I've been under a lot of stress lately. I'm taking an overload, and I work. I pay everything myself. And I have to do well if I want to transfer...I've been under a lot of stress. There's been...There's been a family issue. I can't talk about it, but...”
“I'm sorry. I am, but this is something that you need to discuss with your academic counselor, and the college policy is clear. This does not excuse an academic offense.”
“But I didn't know. You can't punish me if I didn't know it was plagiarism.”
Patrick consults his notes.
“We covered plagiarism and proper citation format on February 16th, and you were present for that lecture. You checked the academic integrity pledge when you submitted the assignment online, and it explains the college policy on plagiarism.”
“I don't... You don't care. I didn't plagiarize. Show me where I plagiarized.”
Patrick turns the pages, tapping the blocks of yellow.
“These paragraphs are virtually identical to this website.”
“But they're different. See. Here. And here. Different.”
“They don't need to be exactly the same for it be plagiarism. And the differences are a few words.”
“That doesn't mean I plagiarized. Lots of people say the same things. I read a lot, maybe I read the website and didn't realize it.”
“That would still be plagiarism. And there is no way that would explain the similarities. These paragraphs are virtually the same as the website.”
“No. I…You can't…This is going to ruin my life. You can't do this to me.”
“Amanda, this is a clear cut case of plagiarism. My decision is final. You have the right to appeal it if you want to.”
“I'm going to.”
“It's your right.”
“Fine. I will.”
Good news! Patrick marks at home, and goes out.
Patrick rides the bus home and sets up his grading on his kitchen table. He is slow, drained by the day, by Amanda Miller's recalcitrance, and weighed down by the inertia of his own pessimism. 39 to go.
He checks his email: “Dear Patrick Philip...I am pleased to offer you a section of Introduction to Business Writing 1000...May 1, 2016 to August 26, 2016...” That makes two courses. From 900 a month to 1800. He can pick up some tutoring in May and June, a few summer school students in July and August. And there is what he has saved over the last 8 months. If he is careful, frugal, he can finish the summer without any debt. Maybe even with a cushion for next year.
He marks quickly, painlessly, carried by relief and elation. 25 done. He decides to treat himself to dinner.
Patrick celebrates, and forgets what he is celebrating.
Patrick goes to the Runt Club, a pub a block south of his apartment, where he expects to see someone he knows.
He sits at a table in the window and orders Sirloin Tip Fettuccine and a pint of Fifty. He marks 5 exercises before the pasta comes, four while he eats it, twice that after, slowing, but still effortlessly. Pint of Fifty. Francis Markham settles next to him. Patrick puts away his work. He complains about Amanda Miller. Francis commiserates. The jellyfish of culture. Pint of Fifty. Francis discusses his new pen. He is very particular about his pens. Patrick changes the topic to the primaries. Pint of Fifty. Randy Morrin arrives. Patrick is excited about Bernie Sanders. Francis is dubious about his prospects. Pint of Fifty. They debate utopianism in politics. Hope vs. realism. Patrick argues for hope. Francis is a realist. There has to be at least the possibility of change. Randy agrees in principle with both of them. Pint of Fifty. They discuss superhero movies. They talk about The West Wing. Pint of Fifty. And then about misheard song lyrics. Patrick is rocking back in his seat. Folded in warmth for a long moment. Emphatic. Lounging and hazy. Complaints about colleagues. Gossip. Grad school memories. Hiring? Pint of Fifty. Maybe next year. Who knows. Francis is careful. Randy is sympathetic. He bums a cigarette from Randy and they smoke on the patio. He remembers Ellie. He can feel the last pint destabilizing him as he drains it. It is time to go.
Patrick walks home.
Curb. Road. Between the cars. Wobbles. Another curb. The world rotates to his left. Worse than he thought. Catches a parking meter. Gathers himself. Swings. Sets out again. Undulating existence. Cuts through the Libro parking lot. Listing in open space. Now to the left. Now to the right. Walking quickly to keep up with his lean. Collides with the wall. Roughhard brick. Sudden surge. Hold. Can't. Vomits copiously behind a planter. Sour relief. Spits. Steadies a little. Pushes off. Staggers. Stops on the sidewalk to plot a line to his apartment. Tomorrow? How many to go? The numbers muddle. Teaching at 12:30. Ricochets off a telephone pole. Remember the alarm. Paved drive. Tangles in the bushes by the step. Tears free. And bangs through the front door. 1A. On the left. Be sure. Supports himself on the frame. Squints. Hard. Tight at his belt. He has to piss. He rummages in his bag. Papers. The book he didn't get a chance to read. Phone. Finds himself sitting on the floor. Stands. Unsteady. Front right pocket. Drops his keys. Bends. Takes an abrupt knee. Tomorrow? Drops them again. Goddamn. He opens the door.
Aaron Schneider is a Founding Editor at The /tƐmz/ Review and was a Founding Editor at The Rusty Toque. His stories have appeared/are forthcoming in The Danforth Review, Filling Station, The Puritan, and Hamilton Arts and Letters. His story “Cara’s Men (As Told to You in Confidence)” was nominated for the Journey Prize by The Danforth Review. His first book, Grass-Fed, was published by Quattro books in the fall of 2018.