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Mini Sledgehammer December 2016

We got our Mini Sledgehammer in just between Portland’s two snowstorms this month. Thanks to everyone who came out for it! Congratulations to Benjamin Gross, who got his pick of books from the recently boosted prize box.

***

Prompts:
Character: Post Modernist
Theme: Containing an epidemic
Object: Oriental Rug
Phrase: “What are you doing New Years Eve?”

***

post-modernism: what Is it?: an education On what Is And what Is not, Or perhaps what might have been

By Benjamin Gross ben-gross-hs

Jackson Clearheart rubbed his feet against the threadbare Oriental rug brought back to the graduate student lounge, as the legend held, in the early part of the 20th century by the man who made the Hawthorne University English department what it was today, the venerable Professor William R. Slopes, authority on the nearer east, as it was called then, and the modernist novel, as it was coming to be called, by the cultured and educated milieu in which people such as he, Dr. Slopes, ran in that sliver of time, now almost a hundred years gone. But Jackson rarely thought of the esteemed W.R. Slopes, despite the great doctor’s name christening the ferroconcrete archway that marked the delineation of the English department from the Philosophy department (which some, much to Jackson’s immature chagrin but a veritable nothing to his more refined, older cognizance of the world and its fickle ways, would call the pride of Hawthorne University), even though the renowned professor’s name was inscribed on a gold placard in the lounge to attest to the fact that this modern Renaissance man, as the placard said (and the irony here, Jackson always thought, should not be wasted) that this modernist modern Renaissance man had brought back the fine, but now tattered and worn, Oriental rug from one of his biyearly sabbaticals in Turkey, where the man studied like no other the connection between James Joyce (who happened, not without coincidence, to have been his off and on pen pal) and the crumbling authority of the Ottoman Empire, and regardless of the fact that the Hawthorne University English department was, in fact, called the William R. Slopes Department of English and Anglophonic Cultural Studies.

As he rubbed his feet against that hallowed rug – of history known but possibly apocryphal – the future Doctor Clearheart thought of his last encounter with the eventual Doctor Emelia Alberta, holder of one Master’s degree in Slavic languages, another in Folkloric studies, and a heart that Jackson Clearheart felt himself especially qualified to judge as just, honest, and true. Emilia also happened to be a member of Jackson’s cohort, that faithful seven, slogging their way, semester by semester, poor review on Rate-My-Professor by Facebook poke from an overly libidinous undergraduate, rejection from Post-Modernism today by acceptance at The Post-Modernist Quarterly: A Review, through the five to sixteen-year ordeal that it was to earn a Ph.D. from the William R. Slopes Department of English and Anglophonic Cultural Studies. Clearheart had Alberta on his mind because just before the cessation of classes for that semester (which was yesterday), he was hustling from his graduate seminar on the Post-Modernist position on theories of love and race in the plays of Jean-Paul Sartre, with the critical distinction in mind that in translating those plays from French to English they lost their essential being and became nothingness, to the undergraduate course he taught, for the final day, that semester, “Post-Modernism: What is It?,” and as he was making his way through the crowded academic corridor, Professor Clearheart (though he was, of course, technically not a professor, but was often referred to as one by the majority of his students who did not understand the fine distinction between doctoral candidate and doctor [a distinction Jackson was never too quick to point out, feeling his duty to his students did not extend to include an education on the finer points of modern day Academic hierarchies]) bumped into semi-Professor Alberta directly beneath the vaunted Slopes Arch, which apparently did not bare the same powers as mistletoe, and asked, “What are you doing New Year’s Eve, Emelia?” “Well,” she responded, with the voice he had heard so many times in his seminar on the intersection of 17th Century piracy and the tension in British literature between the cosmos and human sexuality, but only so rarely in more casual forums, “I’ve been contacted by the Princeton Review. Apparently there’s a modern epidemic going round! Students across the country are just bombing the Verbal Reasoning section of the SAT. And the good people at the ETS spent so much of their honest time and effort to make the test more equitable and fair! It’s such a…”

“But wait,” quasi-professor Clearheart interjected, “What does that have to do with New Year’s Eve?”

“Oh, Jackson, I’m sorry. I’m always so circuitous in my speech! They’re flying me out to Princeton for the next two weeks to help them overhaul the test. They think that I can help them, because of my skillset in different languages and cultures, make the exam a bit more approachable. What are you doing, Jack?”

“Well,” he responded, “to conjecture as to what I might be doing would be a relic of the modernist thought, and since I am a strict post-modernist, I guess all I can say is that I’ll be thinking of you.”

© 2016 Benjamin Gross

***

Ben grew up on the east coast but is happy to now call Portland home.  He has an M.A. in English literature and enjoys studying and writing about the plays of Shakespeare.  Ben also writes poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.  His current project is a collection of essays drawn from his experiences driving from South Florida to Oregon.

 

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