How a Student stole my Watch



The Senior Humanities Seminar was held in an intimate conference room, the kind which always has something wrong with it. The lights will flicker uncontrollably, maybe there will be the dull hum of a fan somewhere in the air-conditioning system, perhaps the heat can't be turned off in fall, or in midwinter it can't be turned on. Something is always wrong for a reason, because the architects have an annoyance factor written into the blueprints. They want to be sure they get even with small-minded and picky college administrators, who are always preferring this rather than that, and when the drawings are changed they go and change it all around again. "This will fix them" say the architects, and they have a good laugh in their well appointed offices before sending in their last invoices. "Might as well have a little fun with these academic characters, wouldn't dare do that to a law firm or an insurance company, they'd sue the hell out of us. Oh well, all in a year's work!".

In this carefully booby trapped seminar room, five young ladies and one serious professor with thick glasses and a black beard were animatedly discussing new ways of approaching literature and the possible interpretation of a certain word, trying to guess why the author had wanted to put it so perversely thus? Nancy, the tall girl with long hair who always wore leotards to class to show off her startling figure, asked today if she could leave early for her dance class, had to eb there at three thirty. The professor slipped the watch off his wrist and slid it down the table to her absentmindedly while continuing the discussion.

When the class was over and everyone had gone, Dr. X. picked up the scramble of student papers on the table and stuffed them into a folder. A light spring rain had just started and it was a lovely afternoon to leave the college early and maybe go for a walk in the woods. Back in his car he was fumbling with the ignition key, when he noticed the watch was not on his wrist nor in the pocket with his pipe. Damn, must have left it in the room. Back there he was looking under the table and was on his knees behind the chairs, when a fat cleaning woman came in with a vacuum cleaner. Eyeing him suspiciously, she plugged in her machine, which produced a deafening roar in the little chamber. He wanted to tell her his watch was lost somewhere there, would she be so good as to call him if.... but she had already unplugged the vacuum and was gone.

If the watch wasn't there, where could it be? There was only one possibility which was Nancy. No, it wouldn't have been by mistake, you could tell by watching her with her long swoop of fine hair and that sexy curvaceous waistline, that she wouldn't be doing anything by mistake. That little fox! So....... she had taken the watch, probably gloating over it at that very minute, rotten little bitch. Imagine a rich kid like that stealing the teacher's only watch, and when he'd ask her about it on Thursday, she'd say "I'm sure I left it on the table, Sir, I even nodded to you to be sure you saw me leave it there. Don't you remember, Sir?" No, he didn't remember, because it was all a great big lie, no question about that. What could he do, report her to the mealy-mouthed Dean? And how could he prove a theft? Face the facts, it's gone, you're never going to see that watch again, Harry.

On the way to the late afternoon Faculty Meeting, he stopped at the mens' room, and was about to wash his hands when he saw a watch with a gold band and a black dial lying on the next sink. Moving over, he decided to wash over there, looking carefully around and ascertaining that nobody was in the room, he slipped the watch onto his wrist in a perfectly casual manner as he turned to get a paper towel. As he left a young Assistant Professor whom he knew slightly came flurrying into the washroom, looking for something, just as Harry was going out. The door slammed solidly, and he was home free.

Faculty Meeting was going on with no end in sight. They were trying to get the college calendar patched up for the coming year, but one of the math professors, a man who had a passion for small numerical problems which were theoretically insoluble, kept finding lost days on the one hand if they did this , or the possibility of the term ending on a Sunday morning on the other hand if they did that. It looked as if the deliberations would go on forever, when he remembered that his wife had told him to be sure to bring home a dozen eggs. "And don't forget, Harry, the way you always do, the store closes at six sharp". It must already be almost six already!

By force of habit, he raised his left arm looking for the time, sliding his wrist out a telltale inch or two beyond the coatsleeve. But just as he saw the black-faced dial, he heard a loud gasp directly behind him. Turning saw the steely eyes and grim jaw of a surprised Assistant Professor staring stonily at his arm. Red to the ears and feeling a dew of perspiration stealing all over his body, he jumped to his feet in a flash and lunged for the distant side door, knowing full well that those gray-green eyes were staring murderously at the middle of his back, with the penetrating force of what would have been in less civilized age the blade of a hurled dagger, while he fumbled all the way to the exit sign and at last into the anonymous darkness beyond.



William Harris
Prof. Em. Middlebury College
www.middlebury.edu/~harris