David Thornton was bent over his office desk, grad-ing his student's most recent tests. Desolate sighs and mumbled curses accompanied the furious scratching of his pen.
The word disastrous didn't even begin to aptly de-scribe the kind of grades his History of Art students would be getting come next Thursday.
"Hey Dave, how's it going?" Michael, his TA, peered over his shoulder at the sea of papers strewn over the desk. David didn't think Michael had ever called him Dr Thornton--not even once--and he didn't knock before bursting into David's office like he owned the place. He found Michael's lack of appropriate social conduct refresh-ing.
"See for yourself." He tossed a random test he had finished grading at Mike, whose eyebrows rose comically into his hairline the farther he read.
"Holy crap, this is bad. I'm not sure this person's brain was even turned on when they were answering."
"They're all like that. I don't know--maybe it's my fault..." He sighed dejectedly and rubbed his temples. Teaching used to be so easy, like second nature. Now every day felt like a long, never-ending battle.
"Nonsense. You're a great teacher--the best." Michael's quick reassurance made him feel somewhat better about what would be a very unpleasant lecture next Thursday.
"You should go home; you can finish grading the tests there. Better yet, come drinking with us! Some of the TAs are getting together for dinner and drinks afterward."
"I would be the odd one out, and you probably want to complain about the teachers who delegate all the boring stuff to you."
"Precisely. That's why you absolutely need to be there; it's going to be so much fun!"
David rolled his eyes at Michael's adolescent glee. "I don't think that's a--" Two quick raps on the door inter-rupted him mid-sentence.
Michael looked at him quizzically. Most people knew better than to bother David in his office when the door was closed. Michael was, once again, an exception.
"Come in," he said, straightening up just in case it was the Dean, looking to grill him more about his students' pathetic performance that semester.
"Hi David, I hope I'm not interrupting anything. I just wanted to let you know I'm going to pick Jessica up from kindergarten and ask you if there's anything you want for dinner?" said a redheaded boy, clutching a faded mes-senger bag.
"You're not interrupting, Shane. Don't worry. This is Michael, my TA. He's just loitering at the moment." Mi-chael huffed, but didn't contradict him. "I don't want any-thing in particular--just cook whatever you feel like. I'm sure I'll love it."
"I'll just ask Jessica then." Shane smiled, twin dim-ples, one in each freckled cheek.
"I hope you're good at making ice cream. That's all she ever wants to eat."
"I know, but I have a plan to trick her into thinking mashed potatoes are just warm ice cream." David wasn't sure his three-year-old daughter was that easy to fool, but Shane just had a way with her, so he'd trust Shane's judg-ment, for now. He really didn't want ice cream for dinner.
"So, what was all that?" asked Michael, once Shane had left.
"What do you mean?"
"Red. Who is he? And are you aware of his crush on you? I mean, how could you not? It's the size of ten Olympic swimming pools!"