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)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Short Story Excerpt

An excerpt from :  "Bob Billing’s Crisis", scheduled to appear in Short Story, Fall 2013

Bob Billing bounced to the left and to the right as the tram swayed.  He had forgotten his wallet at home and he was riding without a ticket.  Normally, he would take a taxi to school, and the drivers knew him.  But, today, he didn’t want to be late.  The new director would be there and he wanted to make a good impression.

He was uncomfortable.  Too many bodies pressing too close to his own.  Also he imagined that he didn’t fit in, that he looked like a foreigner.  The US Embassy always warned us, he thought, not to stand out in a crowd.

What was he going to do for lunch?  Maybe he could borrow some money from Ferdo.  Ferdo was a nice guy even if he wasn’t American.

The thought of going without lunch made him nervous.  Some students brought lunch from home in plastic containers.  Exotic stuff but it smelled good.  He was starting to get hungry just thinking about it.

The bottles of olive oil in his briefcase clinked and clicked together.  He wanted to reach down and adjust them, but he couldn’t.  He needed to keep one hand holding on; otherwise, he’d just fall over.

He couldn’t even see where he was.  The windows of the tram were steamed up.  But there, up ahead, in the front of the tram, was another teacher.  One of the locals.  She was pretty and he always tried to talk with her.  Okay, he could get off when she did.  She didn’t seem to notice him.  But he could walk up the hill to the school with her.

The tram skidded to a halt.  The rain or ice or half-snow made things tricky.  Bob almost fell getting out of the tram, and the pretty girl saw it.  She laughed.  He laughed too.

He thought about lunch.  No, he’d better not borrow money from her. “I forgot my wallet at home and I didn’t even have a ticket!”
“Oh,” she said, “You are lucky there wasn’t a revizor!”. And she laughed as she said that.  Bob feared the police and the ticket-checkers too.  He couldn’t get it out of his head that this was a communist country.  And even if it wasn’t communist any more, everyone said it was corrupt.

He almost slipped on one of the steps, and she laughed again.  “Careful!  Your students would be very disappointed if you didn’t come today.  After all, they’ve come in this bad weather when they would have rather stayed at home.”

He managed to regain his balance and continue.
Now they were at the top of the stairs and he could relax.

Who would loan him money for lunch?  This problem still bothered him.  There was no guarantee that Ferdo even came to school today.  He might have stayed home.

In the hall, he passed several students who had bought pastries at the “Bufet”.  He could smell poppy seeds.  He did have breakfast, but maybe it wasn’t enough to last him until lunch.  Three younger students walked toward him, each holding a pastry, “Mnyummmm, Mnyummmm”, one said provocatively, smiling at Bob.  “I must look hungry!”

In his classroom, Bob took off his coat, and put his briefcase on the teacher’s desk.  He wondered.   Maybe he’d left some cookies in the drawer.  No, just an old rohlik.  And it was hard enough to break a tooth.  He arranged his olive oil bottles on the shelf near the window.

How could he get through the day without food?

He went downstairs to the teacher’s room. Maybe if he looked at the headlines it would take his mind off his stomach.

In the teacher’s room there was a plate of home-made cookies arranged in a circle.   Someone had written “Take one!”.  He didn’t hesitate.

As he sat down at the computer, Jana came into the room. She was checking her mailbox, when there was a commotion out in the hall.  She went into the hall and spoke very sternly.  He wondered what it was all about.

He tried to concentrate on the newspaper, but he was still worried about lunch.  Jana sat down at the computer next to his.  “Bob, did you leave your lunch tickets in your wallet?”

It was as if she were reading his mind!   “Yes”.

“Look, my boyfriend is taking me to lunch.  You can have mine.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t want to do that.  I’ll pay you for it tomorrow.”

“Don’t worry.  You can pay me whenever you want.”

She handed him the ticket.

Normally, he did have a snack at ten and then again at two; so, he was one-third of the way there.  His problem was only part way solved.

He smiled and thanked her...............