The dean glared at Elijah T. Baccin over his miniature bifocals. He had been told that he looked like a young Benjamin Franklin in the right light, and he had every intention of keeping his desk in the penumbra of the lone standing lamp in his office. To be glared at by the same visage as haunted the $100 bill in a student’s pocket was a fright indeed. Elijah, however, did not seem fazed in the slightest. He continued to smile with perfect simplicity. They’d shared an awkward lunch at the campus bistro and a light sheen of oil painted his upper lip.
“Elijah,” said the dean, “I’ve looked at your transcripts. And your diploma.”
“Have you?” said Elijah. He licked at the oil in his faint stubble.
“Er,” said the dean, “yes. Some of your students have reported certain eccentricities.”
“A professor ain’t a proper professor without a few quirks,” said Elijah. He folded his arms. The satisfaction that emanated from his grin was inversely contagious, so that it deepened the dean’s frown the higher it rose on his face.
“I do allow for some…idiosyncrasy…from my faculty, Mr. Baccin, but not oddity.”
“No, the students seem to be enjoying your classes. Such as they are.”
The dean pushed his bifocals up the bridge of his nose. “Your diploma does not appear to be from an accredited university, Elijah. Your transcript as well; I’m not certain I’ve ever heard of Babaloo U.”
“Shame,” said Elijah. “They’d’a loved you.”
“Where is the university located?”
“What day is it?”
The dean’s frown deepened and Elijah’s mouth became a coy u. “Elijah, I think it’s best if you took a leave of absence, indefinitely.”
“Where should I take it?”
“Away,” said the dean. “I don’t care where, just away. Go away.”
“Sorry,” the other man said rising from his chair. “I didn’t mean no harm. Ya’ll have a nice day then.”
The dean snorted. “There’s only one of me, Elijah.”
“Oh? Then who’s that itchy lookin’ feller on your shoulder? He’s been talking into your ear all night.”
Hating himself, the dean glanced over both his shoulders. There was of course nothing there. “I’m not in the mood for games, Elijah.”
“A game’d do you some good, dean. That little rascal’s been playing you for a good long time, I ‘spect.”
“There is nothing in this office save the two of us, and shortly I hope to be alone.”
“If’n I leave you alone he’s liable to climb right back up your bum.”
“Get out, Elijah,” said the dean.
“You’re the boss,” said Elijah. He threw up his hands and backed toward the door. The man cast his first worried look at the dean’s shoulder then turned, shaking his head and exiting the office, shutting the door softly behind him.
The dean shifted in his seat as his bowels issued a peremptory rumble. He grimaced. “Damn red sauce is what it is,” he muttered to himself. He ignored the accustomed titter that echoed out of his belly.