Alpha Academics by S. M. Hutchens

Mortal Remains

Alpha Academics

by S. M. Hutchens

My years in the library contained many interesting experiences, but only one that was so bizarre, so surreal, that I still have a hard time myself believing it happened, the story of which I would blame no one for doubting. I shall, however, and I hope to some good purpose, proceed here to relate it and—* * *!—ah, there was a good sneeze in Háry János style, so you must believe me.

A young woman approached the desk, told me she was a high-school English teacher working on a master's degree, and needed to read a novel about war. Could I help her find one? Perhaps, I thought, this might not be as easy an assignment as it sounded. Surely she had already read many of the major ones, so I began the interview, hoping I would not insult her by touching upon the obvious: Had she read The Red Badge of Courage? No—what was that about? How about All Quiet on the Western Front? Hadn't heard of it. Since she was young, I thought I might move to some more modern titles: Catch Twenty-Two? On the Beach? No and no. I was now fairly desperate. War and Peace?—and while I was at it, Doctor Zhivago? Not familiar with those. By now I was searching her face for signs she was teasing me, but could see none. Well, what about the Iliad? No—who wrote that? Homer. Homer who?

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S. M. Hutchens is a Touchstone senior editor.

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