Terribly sorry for the delay on this, but I had a wicked case of food poisoning over the weekend and am only now really feeling alive again. Thank goodness for scheduled posts or you wouldn’t have gotten a prompt either!
The department head had warned her that she was going to have a non-trad student in her class, which usually meant that there was some older person who was coming back to school to finally get their BA or get another one. They typically did their work without complaint and were generally more enjoyable to have in class than the kids fresh out of high school. They had some life experience under their belt and understood what kind of work was needed to get the most out of their college experiences.
At a minute to the bell, it looked like all of her students had arrived, though none of them looked a day over 18. She rather hated these 8am Intro to Literature courses, but every professor was required to teach at least one a semester and she’d rather get hers out of the way early in the day.
As she called the role, she noticed a younger looking woman who sat a bit more eagerly on the edge of her chair than the rest, and actually looked awake. Most of the other students were in some sort of pajamas, but this girl had actually taken the time to put on street clothes and do her hair.
As the professor started running through her usual litany of first class requirements and syllabi, she kept looking back at the girl who had immediately read through the entire handout and then sat there fidgeting. She had pulled out a notebook and was jotting down notes, but the older woman did not think they were about anything she was talking about, they included somewhat complicated looking diagrams and notations.
“Alright, unless there are any questions, I think that about wraps it up for the first class. I want you to read the first 100 pages of Flaubert before the next class.” When she heard a few groans, she propped her hands on her hips. “What? You have a whole extra half hour right now ’cause I’m letting you go early. The bookstore is open, go get it and get reading!”
The students straggled out of the room, except for the perky young girl, who, when she stood, looked even younger. She came up to the professor and looped her bag over one shoulder. “I just wanted to introduce myself. I’m Shirley, the non-trad.”
“Shirley, yes.” The professor kept packing up her books and files while they talked. “You don’t look like my normal non-trad. They usually have grey hair.”
“Well, I’m non-traditional in the other direction. I’m only 15.”
“That is certainly impressive.” The older woman glanced at her watch and inwardly groaned. Another home-schooled brat who thought she was better and smarter than the rest of the world.
The girl made a face. “I wanted to come two years ago, but no schools would let me in that young. My parents were fine with it.”
“Yes. I can see how that age might make it difficult.”
“But my advisors at the prep school got me into some community college courses so I could start exploring what I wanted to work in and so I spent the last two years determining I don’t want to work in math or science or any of that crap. I want to work in literature, I want to write.”
The professor was a little bit more intrigued now. The girl had some experience and hadn’t been coddled by her parents through the entrance exams after all. “Any particular reason why?”
“This is where you can really get into what humanity is. Psychology is all well and good, and I plan to double major in it, just for a solid foundation, but literature is where you can really express and explore the entire breadth of humanity. It’s exhilarating.”
“Yes, yes it is that. Well, the place to start is with that Flaubert reading.”
“Oh, I read him ages ago. Actually, I was hoping you might recommend a list of books I might read? Outside of class mind. I think I’ve already read the ones on the syllabus and I’m really looking forward to the discussions about them; my parents, love ’em, didn’t know anything about anything really.”
“You’ve read the entire syllabus already? What about classics like War and Peace, Crime and Punishment?”
“Yes, and in the original Russian.”
The professor was genuinely intrigued. This young girl really got what literature was about and for and was presenting her with a challenge. What to recommend to a young woman who had read everything. The next class started to trickle in and the professor turned to her student.
“How about this. Come with me back to my office and we’ll see if there’s something there you haven’t read yet. I’ll get an idea of your taste and we’ll go from there. Sound good?”
“That sounds fantastic! Thanks so much, professor. I can’t tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to this.”