To Hell with Your Stupidity

I planned it out perfectly, I knew I could. I walked into the history building at 2:15 p.m., well before the end of his office hours. I had memorized his schedule to the letter, knew that his next class would be in two days and he wouldn’t be missed until […]

I planned it out perfectly, I knew I could. I walked into the history building
at 2:15 p.m., well before the end of his office hours. I had memorized his schedule
to the letter, knew that his next class would be in two days and he wouldn’t be
missed until then. He was a single man, and nobody else used his office. Perfect
set-up.

The cold day afforded me the opportunity to wear a knitted tassel hat and an old
overcoat, buttoned at the mouth. I was virtually unrecognizable, and as soon as
I was finished I was ready to dispose of all the clothes. Even my boots, just
in case the police discovered footprints. I wore gloves, ostensibly against the
cold, but also to deter fingerprints.

I sat in the stall of the bathroom in the basement and waited, sweating profusely,
the ventilation at full thrust. I couldn’t take anything off, though, didn’t want
to take the risk of losing an article of clothing. Finally, at 2:55 p.m., I slithered
down the hall, making sure with each step that no one saw me. I stopped at his
door, the word Hindman leering at me. I knocked, my right hand in my coat
pocket. A muffled “Come in” from within.

I opened the door deftly and closed it behind me, holding the collar of my overcoat
to my mouth. “Hello,” I said. I afforded him that one word, that one pronouncement
of the fact that I was human. The moment after the two syllables left my body
I became a machine, super-smooth and flawless.

“Hi.” He peered up from his work, his thick glasses magnifying his eyes as they
regarded me coolly. “I’m sorry. You are…”

I didn’t answer. I simply moved closer, my hand tightening around the barrel of
the gun.

“Um — can I help you?” He sat back in his chair, his lanky frame spilling inelegantly
out of it and onto the floor.

I looked behind him at the office window on the other side of the room. It was
foggy, nobody would be able to see, and it overlooked an alley anyway.

He sat up, his manner suggesting impatience. “Are you looking for someone?” he
asked.

I had slight difficulty pulling the gun out of my pocket as the silencer hooked
onto my belt for a tense moment, but it snapped free and I pulled the trigger
twice, aiming at the head and neck. The shots hit dead on, like the sound of a
golf putt. He jerked involuntarily in his chair and then slumped, his head coming
down on the back rest and his feet sliding out from under him. He lay there, seemingly
in repose, but with two red and black patches where his forehead and Adam’s apple
used to be.

I gently blew the smoke away from the silencer, hit the safety catch, and returned
the gun to my pocket. I stayed in the room for half an hour, consulting my watch
from time to time. I dug into his pockets and found the key to his office, which
I took.

At 3:45 I eased out through the door, giving myself the barest possible escape
angle so that no passersby could see what was inside. Unnecessary, the halls were
muted and empty. I closed the door, locked it, and slid the keys back inside under
the crack. I retraced my steps out of the building, still on the lookout for anyone
who might notice me, but the place was deserted — echong halls of academia.

I then returned to my single room, polished the gun, removed all traces of fingerprints,
and enclosed it in a plastic bag. I had already planned to drive across the state
border the next day and leave it in the middle of nowhere, dump it in a pond in
a barren meadow. As for the clothes, I left them in the Salvation Army box outside
the local supermarket. Who says I’m not generous?

* * *

What’s up?


I hate history.


Sounds like you got your paper back.


Yeah … Hindman totally trashed it. Fifteen hours on that fucking thing. Can’t
believe it. I’m going to get a C in that class.


Oh come on, one C minus —


— will kill me. History’s my major. If I don’t look good in a single class, sayonara,
top tier grad schools. Dammit.


What did he say was wrong?


My writing’s too awkward. I have too little imagination. I’m basically insipid.
I’m sick of his shit. Boring lectures, he doesn’t even say what he wants on his
papers —


Why don’t you talk to him about it?


Sure. He won’t change my grade, I’ll just end up getting pissed at him. He thinks
I’m stupid, that’s the bottom line. The bastard deserves a slow death. I’ll …
First I’ll send him a fake invitation to an important barbecue out in the middle
of nowhere. Once he got there I’ll sneak up … knock him out, strip him naked
… stick skewers through him, roast him above a nice intense fire. For starters.
Maybe add a bit of sweet and sour sauce … then cut him up, first the limbs,
then move down that charred trunk very slowly, like slicing a carrot —


Don’t you think you’re overreacting?


No.

* * *

Our chairs were drawn in a crude semi-circle, bored and tired faces inhabiting
each space. Hindman sat alone near the window, a shadowy figure with an impromptu
burst of sunlight on his left shoulder and arm, both chairs on each side of him
empty.

“So does anybody have any questions about the reading?” he asked. Nobody answered.
Typical. I couldn’t wait to wipe the bored looks off their faces. The dull, routine
existence of the discussion section would be handed one dose of glory before being
relegated to oblivion. I envisioned the school newspapers: History Professor
Killed During Class.

My car was just outside, illegally parked, but that didn’t matter. I fingered
the stiletto in my pocket, my thumb ready to make contact with the stud on the
side which released the blade from its innocuous housing. I would walk up to Hindman,
stab him once or twice in the vital areas, escape from the room while everyone
gawked in shock at the body, jump into the car, and drive to the border, which
was only 20 minutes away. Once everyone had finally calmed down and sent out pursuit,
I would be well on my way to Canada, several hiding places already selected for
my route. It would be perfect.

Hindman gestured towards me. He never called us by name, to him we were all lazy
scum going through the motions, oblivious to everything but grades and resumes.
“Would you like to start us off?” he asked. It was only fitting, I suppose.

I held my breath, tensing my body as I shifted the weight off my buttocks and
onto my feet, ready to stumble forward, as if tripping over a snag in the rug,
plunging the knife into the jugular and maybe getting an opportunity to hit the
heart. The only problem would be the spurt of blood — I would just have to be
careful not to get splattered. It would be inconvenient trying to explain the
stains to the toll booth employee.

But another person was entering my field of view, walking towards Hindman. I froze
for a moment, cursing under my breath. Dammit! How to do it now? Relax. Wait
for the chance.

She approached him, her blond hair hanging down over her shoulder and obscuring
her profile. It may just as well have been a wig planted on a broom handle for
all I could see of her head. Suddenly she was turned, her back towards me, leaning
down to Hindman, who began to speak. He never completed the sentence, only began
the first syllable, phrased in a quizzical tone, and then was abruptly cut short,
as if his voice box had malfunctioned.

Then the blond hair threw itself back with the rest of her body and I saw her
face. Blue eyes, a fine, slender nose, pursed lips, incredibly attractive. I wondered
why I had never noticed her before.

But her blond hair wasn’t entirely blond any more. Droplets of red liquid were
now running down it, and more had spurted onto her face, as if she was standing
under a leaky faucet.

Hindman was reaching for his neck, his hands covered with liquid gloves of red,
gasping for air but only able to emit a thin gurgling sound. he tipped forward
and his head hit the table, bone banging against metal. And then silence, for
a full ten seconds.

Thanks, I mouthed to her, although she wasn’t looking at me, only at the still
corpse. Thanks for doing my job.

* * *

He said it was unfortunate. Wrote it about ten times. Unfortunate I chose to do
this, unfortunate that I failed to emphasize that. Fuck him.


I’m sure you’re exaggerating?

“Your prose style is excellent,” he said. And then he pointed out everything wrong
with it. He didn’t make me feel like I failed. More like I got a Z.


Well, some teachers just don’t like holding hands while they’re making comments


Are you siding with him?


No, I know you put in a lot of work.


Fifteen hours. I should have dropped the class.


Come on, let’s get some coffee.


Naw, go ahead. I have a homicide to plot.


You need to cool off. You wanted sympathy, I’m giving it to you. Come on.


I’ve already come to the conclusion that I have to get him alone. Maybe a letter,
a note. I’ll meet him in some isolated place…or maybe I should do it in broad
daylight, follow him into the crowd and slip a knife into the jugular while everyone
pushes past us…or maybe a gun with a silencer, less conspicuous, less messy.


Um —


Maybe it should look like an accidental death. A medicine overdose. Or falling
from a tower.


Bye. I’ll see you on Death Row.

* * *

I knew he’d come. I’d sent a note for him to meet me at the bottom of the chem
building and his office was just across the street. It was perfect, dusk encroaching
on the late winter afternoon, a cloudy sky adding to the general murkiness. Nobody
would be able to see to the top of the eight-story building from ground level.

he ambled towards the entrance doors, his strutting body speaking volumes on self-possession.
He pushed his way through and recognized me, still holding the note I had left
for him in his hand. That was good, it would save me the trouble of going back
to his office and searching for it.

“Well, I’m here,” he said, a faint trace of irritation in his voice. “Why didn’t
you come to the office?”

“Sorry,” I said half-heartedly. “I have something on the top floor that I have
to take care of immediately. Do you mind riding up in the elevator with me?”

“Well, I’ll just stay here and wait until you’re finished –“

“Please, Mr. Hindman.” I tried to sound pleading, dependent. “I’m sorry about
this, but I don’t have much time and I can explain my problem on the way up.”

“Well…” he grumbled something unintelligible. “All right. As long as it’s not
too strenuous.”

“Thanks, sir.” I pointed him towards the elevator. No one had noticed us, classes
had ended in the building about an hour before and the janitorial shift wouldn’t
start for a few hours left. The only possible problem would be a lab on the third
floor, but luck was with me as we stepped into the elevator and I pushed 8.
After we had risen past the third floor I registered my complaints about the paper,
not caring whether he responded to them positively or not. He had humiliated me
and nothing would change that.

By the time we reached the eighth floor and the doors were sliding open, Hindman
was shaking his head. “Well, you’ve registered the proper concern,” he sounded
as if he was about to be late for a dentist appointment, “and I know this must
be very disappointing for you, and that’s unfortunate. But I must grade papers
evenly and fairly, you understand.”

And every other person got a C, I thought. We stepped onto the floor, and
already it seemed as cold as it was outside the building. I gestured towards the
stairway door leading to the roof. “It won’t be dangerous. I’m sorry –“

“Oh, all right,” he sauntered towards the open door, but as he was passing through
I put all of my weight into the metal frame and gave it a mighty shove towards
the doorway. It worked perfectly as it swung around and made contact with his
full body, the edge slamming into his neck and down the middle of his chest.

For a moment they were fused together, man and door, and then he was stumbling
forward, into the stairwell, a half-choke forming on his cheeks as the door closed
unobtrusively behind him. I was quickly on top of him with the handkerchief I
had quickly drawn from my pocket, and a few moments later it was over, nothing
but a soft bruise around his neck where the handkerchief had been.

I dragged the body up the short flight of steps to the roof, shifted it near the
ledge, making sure that it was on the right side of the building, facing a little-used
alley. I then gazed at the sky, the clouds hovering silently, condoning my actions
as the dark descended. Just a few moments.

I wiped my prints off his body with the handkerchief, retrieved my incriminating
note, and burned it with a match. A terse glance over the edge, making sure that
no one could see. The fog was rolling down, covering anything in its wake. I could
only make out the fugitive branches of a few trees caught in supplication, fighting
to escape the mist they were drowning in.

I put on my gloves and started rolling, as easily as rolling a classmate in nursery
school, an old man rolling home, as he moved,almost of his own volition. Before
I knew it he had rolled off the edge and was gone, disappearing into the mist,
a thin outline spread-eagled for a brief moment of airborne glory before finally
disappearing, gone from my life like a haunted specter. I heard the dull thud
but never saw him actually making contact with the alley below.

I made my way to the door, wiped the prints off it, and walked back inside, looking
for the staircase. I would sit there and wait for about half an hour, hopefully
giving myself a little breathing space, and then I would be on my way. If I was
lucky, no one would discover the body until morning. I’d sit in section, waiting
with everyone else, erecting a facade of distracted concern, then receive the
shocking news from a brusque university official. I couldn’t wait.

* * *

— I have read the paper carefully, and I find portions of it entertaining.
You definitely have the right kind of imagination for this assignment, and your
depiction of the psychotic mind is believable and gripping throughout. Your prose,
while somewhat stilted and matter-of-fact, is crisp and moves well.


Unfortunately, I must take issue with your depiction of the professor. While you
are free to inject a little artistic license into your characterizations, the
description of the victim has no similarity whatsoever to the man in the actual
readings. And the other minor characters are so insubstantial they barely exist,
while in the readings they played major roles in the affair.


Also, I find it unfortunate that your condescending attitude towards the material
got in the way at times. While we can feel pity and hatred for some of the participants
in the case, particularly the professor, that should be no reason for us to launch
into acidic diatribes against academia.


The settings and happenings themselves were interesting, but not nearly as detailed
as the descriptions I have seen in some of the other papers. You state the facts
clearly, but you make little or no effort to provide mood, atmosphere, tension.
This is unfortunate, for I feel you synthesized some of the information very well
and could have done a lot more with it.


If you have any comments or questions, please do not hesitate to see me during
my office hours.


Grade: C-
Prof. Hindman

– 1991

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