A Neurotic in an Exotic Land; The Adventures of Professor Lucas

Here you will find some related writings (generally not as funny as the book) and a little info about the author, as well as an excerpt from the book.
The photo above should have been the book's cover!--and it
should be turned around!

All rights reserved.

Although some of the items I've now posted differ in their mood and style from the book itself, I am posting them here anyway because they date from roughly the time period in which the book was written--and, I believe they share a certain ambience with it. (note added 14 March 2010)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chapter One of "A Neurotic in an Exotic Land"

I AM NOW RE-POSTING Chapter One so that it will be at the front of the blog.

(further chapters will be found below if you scroll down---including Chapter Six, Part Two, which was inadvertently omitted from the published version)

This is an excerpt from the book--the entire first chapter. (You will also find part of a later chapter posted here--the second half of Chapter Six.) Of course, I am hoping that once you have read the first chapter, you will be more likely to buy the book--if only to find out what happens next. (Or how the characters managed to find themselves in the situations described in Chapter Six........)

Copyright © 2010 Mark J. Lovas; all rights reserved

Chapter One: How Petra Escaped from Her Kidnapper

How had this happened? He asked himself again and again. A wholly fruitless occupation, he knew, but one which came to him naturally. His life could be more miserable. He could be a student at this wretched institution. Come to think of it, what was he now? A middle-aged failure? Stuck at this third (fourth?) rate school in the midwest? No! Not stuck because he had only a one-year contract. Great! Living on thin ice in the middle of nowhere.

He needed a change. Maybe an affair? But his students were so fat, especially the ones with pretty faces. It never ceased to amaze him. He could fall in love. Until they stood up. Hips! They seemed to be altogether a different species from the slim visions of loveliness he’d seen in New York last summer. Then there was Veronica, his so-called girlfriend. Hmmmph. More like a live-in roommate, someone who used to sleep with him when dinosaurs roamed the earth. (Why was that anyway? He couldn’t imagine that marriage was any different? How could anything but having affairs make sense?) But when V. was angry! That was like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. Was he afraid of her? No, not at all, and, what’s more, he wouldn’t be afraid to be locked in a cage with a hungry tiger.

Well, Veronica was different. She wasn’t fat, of course, and she wasn’t from the Midwest. And he was pretty sure that if he did have an affair, she would find out. So, that road was closed.

And these bills! What exactly does bankruptcy involve? Better not think about it.

What to do? What to do?

Fat! Then, Petra was fat—and sexy, and smart, and rich. Hmmm. Her father was important in the government “back home”, as she liked to put it. She’d been to school in Europe, and went there every summer, always traveled to exotic places on vacations. Now, she had money, or her father did. Why she was at this school he did not know. She was smart enough to go somewhere else, and certainly could afford to pay higher tuition. In fact, if someone were to kidnap her, her father would pay a lot for ransom! What an idea! What a stupid idea! Where would he put her? And Veronica would find out!

OK, he would just have to tell Veronica about it! Oh no, this is just too stupid.

And she was his student! That would be too much. People would come to him asking about her. And he was a lousy liar. She’d have to miss class, and he’d have to give her a make-up exam. What a pain! Well, wait a minute. Maybe he could kidnap her after class on Thursday, get the money over the weekend, and she could be back in class on Monday. Her father would pay big bucks to get his daughter back!

No. No. No. He was just losing it! Get your shit toether Lucas! Get back to work!

- - -

“Louis?” It was Veronica’s voice. Why was she home so early? God, he’d only just started to think seriously abut his work. She looked good too. (Better put that idea out of his mind.) “Hi. Home early?” “Yes, class was cancelled. The prof was sick” “Lucky you!’ “Lucky you!,” she said, as she put her arms around him. He was definitely losing his mind. This sort of thing didn’t happen any more. Well, even if it were a dream, he could enjoy it.

Later, she nestled in the crook of his arm. He was obvlivious to his surroundings, in a state of semi-consciousness not full understand by neuroscience. (Some leading lights of neuroscience assert that the state of the male brain currently occupied by Louis’s gray matter is unique in its absence of cognitive functioning, but feminist critics take a dim view of the claim that male cognitive functions reach a uniquely low level in the post coital-period.) At any rate, Louis’s consciousness was roused by a voice which seemed to speak to him from far, far away.



“Have you ever wanted to have kids?”

(Oh my God! He should have seen this coming.)

“Uh, no, not really . . .”

She sat up.

“Are you serious? You don’t want kids?”

“Well, no. It’s not exactly that I don’t want kids.”

(Careful here Lucas. This is treacherous ground.)

“I’m not… in principle… opposed to having

kids. I just have trouble, realistically speaking,

imagining myself (or anyone vaguely resembling

me) as a father.”


He sat up.

“You are evading the question!”

“I am?”

He gulped.

(This was not supposed to happen today, not today. He could plead the demands of work. Wasn’t that Kafka’s excuse? But he knew this was going to hurt. Just when things seemed to be improving….)

“But Lou, you’re just sooooh adorable. You should have kids someday….”

(Whew! … He felt relieved. She’d thrown him a line with that little qualifier. The Lord be praised!)

“Yes, Ver, maybe you’re right; maybe I should think about kids . . .someday…”

(What had brought this one anyway? Was she pregnant?)

She leaned across his chest and held him.

“Lou, I am very fond of you.”

(God! What was she getting at? Maybe she was having an affair!—With a guy who had kids?)

She stared at him, glowing with the feverish intensity

of a nuclear reactor’s core (or so he imagined)

Relaxing her grip, she smiled and kissed him.

“I agree. Having kids with you would be a problem.

But that’s OK. I’m still young, and I can handle you.)

(What in the world was she talking about? He didn’t think this was a good time to tell her about his kidnapping idea.)

He had narrowly escaped a terrible fate. She still loved—err—was very fond of him, and apparently she wasn’t pregnant. He couldn’t believe his good fortune.

- - -

Lucas stood before his class, poised to deliver a lecture. My god, he thought, what a grimy bunch! The grunge look must have finally arrived at this benighted place. Or, maybe his glasses were smudged. Ever since he’d gotten these new non-reflective lenses, he’d been afraid to clean them. After cleaning them religiously for two months they’d become all scratched up and he’d had to return them to the eye doctor for a new coat of whatever it was, which took two goddamned weeks. His mother was right: we do all have our own cross to bear. Or, in his own case, right now, his own class.

No. They most definitely were a dirty bunch. They also seemed to be in constant motion. Maybe his hormones had slowed down. Probably that was scientifically incorrect. Oh well, he had to plunge ahead.

“Last time I was trying to explain the difference between two fundamentally different sorts of ethical theory. “ (Jeez! Why did he say trying? I know, because they are so dense. Oh no! Don’t say that.)

The girl in the tremendous whadya call it. He’d heard them called “suckers” in Texas, but he could never use that word. It seemed so obscene. “Lollypop” sounded sill. But watching her go at it gave him ideas. Jesus Christ Lucas!

The issue was not whether his students could comprehend the difference between two fundamentally different sorts of ethical theory. He knew that was hopeless. He himself often found the question confusing. But, there was this bit of terminology which people threw around as if there were a clear difference, and he felt a moral obligation to prepare his students (the innocent unbathed and unprepared louts) in case they ever met (or, even more disastrously, took a class from) one of his colleagues. Suddenly, he recalled that it was precisely this sort of thought which, when allowed to pass the barrier of his teeth, got him into trouble with Lisa. (Lisa came before Veronica, and was every bit as high strung as Veronica was mellow. When he thought of the difference between the two he felt as though he had narrowly averted another disaster.)

There were thirty people here today. (High turn-out when there’s no exam in sight.) Fifty people were registered for the class. He knew some of the people whose names appeared on the official roster weren’t taking the class, but it always seemed so odd, such a curious inflation of souls. Like Lieutenant Kiji or something.

(Lisa wouldn’t like that either!)

The serious girl had a question. (He was afraid of her. She might be a fundamentalist or a Catholic. She was so serious and so stupidly cheerful. He hated that sort. Always asking questions but incapable of understanding anything—Lisa would nx that thought too! Hey. He’d better stop this internal bookkeeping. It was impious to Saint Veronica.)

“Professor LOOO-KUSSS, last time you told us the opposite from what you are telling us today. You said that the GOOD theory was the DEE-ON-TOE-LOGICO and that the BAD theory was TEA-LEE-OH-LOGICO. I wrote it down in my notebook.’ (She gestured toward the historical record. God! What they didn’t write down. Maybe she wanted to be a lawyer or a judge. “Would the court reporter please read back to us the latest inanity from Professor Lucas? And Lucas, don’t go quoting Thoreau either! Not in my court.)

He distinctly recalled writing the words on the board, but that left open the question of how she had actually transcribed them into the historical record. (He didn’t want to know.)

“That’s not quite accurate. It would be more accurate to say that each theory has its own difficulties. Perhaps in your notes you will find that I raised objections to both?” (Was he a diplomat or what?)

He knew why she’d missed this. His presentation—(god, that sounded like something that happened in a car dealer’s showroom! But what he said never seem organized enough to b considered a proper lecture.) –Well, whatever it was, it had been interrupted by a question. (He id love questions—real questions—not this infernal bookkeeping bullshit) and there had been a heated debate about abortion or aids or condoms, and that had clearly wiped out whatever came after it in her memory bank. (He was quite sure that there was empirical evidence for that sort of thing—and he believed that altogether independently of what he had experienced when he first met Veronica.)

He turned on the auto pilot and attempted to locate yesterday’s snippet. (He could just imagine what her exam would look like. So strange. Seeing one’s words reproduced in a way that systematically destroys and distorts their original sense. And it is so easy to do. Omit a few words here. Delete a few thoughts there. Verbatim at odd intervals. Half gibberish. Spelling and grammar intolerable, of course, but just enough sense to remind one of the pristine original. Wasn’t this a punishment somewhere in Dante’s hell?) He tried to supply a new example. It must have been a good choice because the clever boy who sits on the left side of the room began to raise objections. He was fearless. Too bad he didn’t come to class regularly.

When the buzzer (ugly noise) sounded, he felt (as usual) relieved. Why did they have to swarm up after class? What could he possibly say to improve upon the splendid performance he’d just delivered? Hadn’t they been listening? Oh god. What now? Something was wrong. Then it hit him. Petra had not been in class. But she never misses class!

- - -

On the way home, he found himself looking forward to seeing Veronica. He was embarrassed to admit that this was unusual. But, right now anyway, things were good.

When he opened the door, she looked up at him, and on her face he saw something unfamiliar. Was it fear?

“What’s wrong?”

“One of your students has been kidnapped! You remember Petra Kral? She had us over for dinner. She’s from that mysterious country across the ocean. Remember?

(This was too weird. Who had been reading his mind? And how could he sue them for stealing his idea?)

They are demanding recognition for their political cause.

But who are “they”? What cause?

I couldn’t make it out exactly, but the guy who called said they represent a mistreated minority within Petra’s country. Her father is a representative of the oppressive ruling class?

Veronica, do you believe all this? I mean, it sounds like a bad joke.

No, I don’t know what I think. I think it’s weird, but I took notes when he called. Why didn’t he call her father? Why did they call here?

I don’t know why. He explained but it makes no sense. They want you to call her father.

(My god! This is too weird!)

But what am I going to tell him?

Look at my notes.

She handed him a legal pad.

(My god! It was complicated. Too many unfamiliar proper names! Just to read her notes he’d need a class in European History!)

He decided to call up the kidnappers.


“Hello, this is Professor Lucas.”

“Ahhhh, Professor Lucas. I am so pleased that you have decided to help us.”

“Wait a minute! I didn’t say that.”

Then why did you call?

So I could get information to decide if I was going to help you.

Oh, Professor Lucas, this is a very delicate matter. I assure you that you will most definitely want to help us.

You mean once you’ve filled me in?

Of course. Everything will become transparent to you.

(Where had this kid gone to school? He insisted that the delicacy of the subject-matter required them to meet face-to-face.)

- - -

When Lucas opened the door, a smartly dressed young man beamed at him. (How could a goddamned kidnapper be so joyously happy? This made no sense.)

“Professor Lucas! I feel as though we’ve already met. I know all about you from what Petra has said!”

(Was she holding lengthy tete-a-tetes with her kidnappers?)

The young man proceeded into a lengthy disquisition which made his head spin. The story began a thousand years ago and involved land claims, blood ties, insults, imagined insults, and probably would have made a pretty good television movie with the right producer. But he couldn’t follow the plot at all, until it thickened, and the thickener was, predictably, money.

“So, Mr. Kral need only arrange an electronic funds transfer from his Swiss Bank Account to my own.”

(OK. Now, he ha him. Not a man of principle, but just an ordinary money-grubbing opportunist.)

“But why your account?”

“Because I am the official head of the organization which promotes the human rights of excluded minorities in our country.”

“Can you document that claim?” (Yes, would you please show me your membership card? No, not American Express or Central Europe Express, but the Central European Minorities Defense Fund Card—good in over 500 hotels and restaurant in Paris alone. Diplomats always meet in cities with decent restaurants.)

“Professor Lucas…. (The lad seemed to be ashamed of him.) You seem to have forgotten what I told you.”

(As a matter of fact, he had. There had been so many irrelevant details. Hmmmm. That sounded familiar. He’d heard that somewhere before. Oh yes, his students. That’s what they said about his lectures. No! Cancel that thought! Self-examination was not appropriate at this crucial juncture.)

What do you mean?

Ours is a secret society….

And with that he launched into another lengthy historical account.

Okay, he said, just give me your name, and I’ll call her dad. (Jeez! He sure hoped the dad had heard of them!)

But he hadn’t.


Lucas could tell that the guy was a real charmer. Even over the phone and across the ocean, the guy just oozed savoir-faire. “Oh yes, Professor Lucas, it is a genuine pleasure to speak with you. I have heard so much about you.”

(Yeah. Right! He could see it now. The entire Kral family, their sides splitting from laughter, at a five star restaurant in Paris. And at the center of attention is Petra, describing her philosophy professor in America. Oh well. Bringing a little joy into the desperate lives of the idle rich.)

“I’m afraid I’m calling with bad news.”

“Bad news?”

“Your daughter has been kidnapped.”

“She has?”

“Yes, by the Hloupy Independence Front.”

“The Hloupy Independence Front?”


“I’ve never heard of them.”

Jesus Christ! Where were his (errr, Veronica’s) notes when he needed them? He motioned to Ver to bring her notes. After a few minutes Kral interrupted him.

“Professor Lucas, I’m afraid this is all beginning to sound like a hoax.”

“A hoax?”

“Yes, the story you’ve told vague reminds me of a chapter of one of my books. It was totally fictitious. I can assure you.”

“But, I’ve seen the kidnapper!”

Lucas had scarcely gotten past specifying his height, age, and manner of speech when Kral interrupted and continued with a description of the youth which was so vivid that for a moment Lucas imagined he saw the wayward youth standing before his very eyes.

“So, you know the guy?”

“I do indeed. He has been attempting to woo Petra for a good number of years. I have forbidden their marriage. His true name is Tom.”

(The tumblers fell into place. Now he knew why Tom wanted to run up someone else’s phone bill. Didn’t want the papa to recognize him! The irty rat.

A hoax! And now a real kidnapping would never work!

“But what should I do?”

The father laughed. “Perhaps we should play along with him. Did he ask for electronic funds transfer?”

“Yes, how did you know?”

“Experience is our best teacher Professor Lucas. You should know that from your empiricist philosophers.”

(Just what he wanted to hear. And Christ! He had called this guy. Oh no! It was going to be on his bill.

Would it be rude if he asked Kral to call back?)

“Just what do you have in mind?”

“Your part in this adventure, Professor Lucas, will be rather small.”

(Right! Do I believe him?)

“You are to propose to Petra.”

(Oh my god! This is crazy!)

“But I won’t have to really marry her, right?”

(Oh shit! I’ve insulted the father. At least I didn’t say that his daughter is fat.)

“I mean I’m already spoken for…”

(Oh shit! Looking at Ver, he couldn’t tell what she was making of all of this.)

“Do not worry Professor Lucas. I understand that my daughter does not exactly correspond to your American standards of beauty.”

(Christ! She fits right in among the girls of the heartland! Some of them make her look downright thin. Well, she might fit in if only she did not dress in such a snappy way. No doubt Papa’s wealth pays for the latest fashion.)

“But, why, then, am I to propose?”

You must teach this youg fellow that he is not the only fish in the sea.

(Now that did sound scary. It did not sound like idle words. It might take deeds, and he was definitely not up for that. And what if she said yes? Oh my god.)

“How do you know it will work?”

“I know it will work. She has told me all about you. I believe that she has what they call a ‘crush’ on you.”

(At this point he exercised saintly self-control.)

“But excuse me, Mr. Kral, doesn’t that mean she might say yes?”

“I’m hoping so.”

(Nuttier and nuttier. And more and more dollars down the toilet to pay for the phone call!)

“Why? If I may ask.”

“Because I want that young buck to learn a thing or two.”

“I’m sorry Mr. Kral. I can’t do it. It’s just too dangerous.”


(Kral was really perturbed. For an instant Lucas was reminded of the last time his truly beloved was angry.)

“Professor Lucas, my daughter tells me that you have considerable debt.” (How in the world?)

“Well, I wouldn’t say, absolutely considerable, but maybe only relatively speaking. It’s nothing compared to your yearly income or the national debt. But it is considerable from my point of view.”

That was the end of the story. He had no power to resist the proposal which Kral made. What would Veronica think? Nothing. She had predicted it. She was laughing to see him squirm.

But, even worse, what would Petra think?

Of course, she knew her old man, so she knew he’d offered to pay Lucas.

Veronica hugged him. “You were so cute on the phone!” (Cute?) Apparently, she liked to see him squirm. But he wasn’t about to complain. Witnessing his torture had ignited her. (Again? He couldn’t believe it. The Lord works in mysterious ways.)


Lucas called Petra up the next morning. He didn’t beat around the bush and neither did she. He asked her to marry him and she turned him down.

“Oh, Professor Lucas. I’m so sorry you’ve been drawn into this. You know I can’t say yes. I know my father put you up to this. You’ve just got to explain to him that Tom and I are in love.”

Oh Christ! Another long distance phone call!

(Now, wait a minute. She hasn’t really been kidnapped. And I haven’t married her. And Ver is randier than ever. If I go bankrupt, will that kill me?)

“Mr Kral! Yur daughter laughed at me when I proposed to her. She knew you put me up to it.”

“That’s my daughter!” (He sounded positively joyous. Had the entire world gone bonkers?)

“Well, what next, Mr. Kral?”

“I’m afraid the only thing to do is to let them marry.”

“Let them marry? I thought you were dead set against it?”

“Yes, but the ingenuity of the young man. And the way he even used a story from my book. It’s really very flattering. So, I’ve decided to give in.”

(And what about our financial agreement?)

“Now, Professor Lucas, I understand that as a university lecturer, you are poorly paid.”

(An understatement. Taxicab drivers in Toledo make more money.)

“But I insist that you attend the wedding, which will, of course, be held here. And, perhaps there is someone special you’d like to bring with you? Do not worry about expenses. My secretary will contact you, and you will receive all of the necessary funds. And do not worry about the bill for the transatlantic phone calls. All of your expenses will be paid for. You have helped me see the true path to my daughter’s future happiness.”

(Probably papa moneybags was kept awake all night with visions of the nutty professor as his son-in-law. After that a local boy looked pretty good, even if he is a bit of a hothead.)

“You are too generous!”

(Well, not really. Just generous enough if Kral pays the phone bill. As for the flight and the other costs associated with travel, who could say? He might end up deeper in debt. There’s always some extra expense for toothpaste or foot powder.)

Ø > >

“You’re quite a matchmaker Professor Lucas!”

She threw her arms around him, and began to kiss him passionately.

“You know, Petra really did have a crush on you.”

“How do you know?”

“She told me.”


“When she had us for dinner.”

“But I was there and it was a small apartment.”

“You were there in the apartment, but you were not there where we were having the conversation.”

“Oh, so you mean the minute I leave the room…”

“Don’t be angry! I was gathering valuable information… on your behalf, I might add! She had a crush on you, but she said her whole picture of you changed when she noticed how smudged your glasses were…

Don’t worry Lou! I think it’s cute! (She squeezed him.)

Unfathomable depths in his very own past! He thought to himself, as they headed toward the bedroom, that this would be another productive weekend on the academic front. Christ! Talk about the winds of change… What could possibly happen next?

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