The Cheerleader


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The Cheerleader
By Bobby Neal Winters

Hiram walked out of the ivy-covered hall that housed his office and past the one than housed the bookstore.

They called it a bookstore, anyhow, though, among the items that generated revenue, books rated somewhere between chewing gum and gum erasers. Once it sold Homer, Dante, and Tolstoy to a clientele who, while not exactly hungry for them, were convinced they contained something valuable.

Those days were gone, and the classics had been replaced with colorful sweatshirts and hoodies sporting a stylized rendering of Woody the Woodchuck, which was the school’s mascot. In the olden days, Woody had occasionally sported a mortarboard or been portrayed with a book protruding from under his elbow, but those days were in the past.

The classics which had been pushed out of the bookstore by the sundry sports memorabilia now available there had been similarly pushed from the university library by its new coffee shop.

The argument had been simple. Very few students checked out those books any more, and the coffee shop would provide a much-needed source of revenue for the university. Costs were going up and revenues were going down. It just made sense to make the best possible use of the university’s assets.

That’s what Hiram’s wife Tiffany said, anyway.

Hiram was glad he had his own library at home to fall back on at least. A good collection of books was the only way he could maintain any sort of claim to scholarship, and being a scholar was still important to his self-image whether there was much reality to it or not.

Hiram arrived on the campus of All State University as a historian of science thirty years ago. It was demanding stuff because he had studied men from an era where one wasn’t a mathematician, physicist, chemist, or even a scientist. They were all natural philosophers and each dabbled in every subject, so Hiram had to know something, and often a great deal more than something, about everything.

And God forbid any of them write in English. They wrote in Latin or German or French, but never in any modern dialect, and each wrote in his own idiosyncratic way even down to spelling, and each was inventing the subject as he went along.

These days no one was interested in learning a language that didn’t lead directly to monetary rewards. Advisors on campus directed students away from foreign languages lest they should be found too difficult.

Hiram’s scholarship had been exciting and demanding. He became intoxicated with just the memory of it, but memory was all he had of it anymore, memory and his collection of books.

He had loved being a scholar with a passion that was almost sexual, but the passion stopped after his first wife died.

Lilly had been a poet. The verse she’d produced was full of joy and tragedy, laughter and tears, life and death.

It was death who took her. Death as manifested in ovarian cancer. He came at last as a friend.

Hiram paused at the thought of her, he blinked back his tears, and he pressed the button on his key that unlocked the doors of his new Lexus.

His route home took him past the house he’d shared with his Lilly. He’d never driven there when he live in it because it was walking distance from campus. It was an ancient two story held together by spackle and a termite’s prayer. Fundamentalist Christians had acquired it since he left and had turned it into a campus ministry. The cross that stood out in front of it, in Hiram’s mind at least, marked it as the grave his life with Lilly and of his life as a scholar too.

He’d never had much money while Lilly was alive and the copayments from the cancer treatment had taken all of that. Books were all he’d ever bought for himself. After Lilly died, he saw her face in each of his books and in all four walls of his home. He needed escape, so he sold the house, and, when a job opened on the administrative side, he applied and was hired.
But he’d kept the books.

It turned out that he had a flair for administration. He was numerate and literate and articulate. After translating the works of obscure French mathematicians from even more obscure French dialects, understanding the patois of educational bureaucrats was un morceau de gâteau.

He was already on his way up the administrative ladder when he met Tiffany, but she got him to the top faster.

Hiram remembered the first day, the first moment he’d seen Tiffany across a crowded room at one of those receptions those on the fund-raising side are so fond of giving themselves. She was a new hire and they were trying her out in front of a university audience for the first time. She had a smooth delivery, but she pronounce the word “collegial” with a hard ‘g’ which made him wince for a moment, but it was a minor distraction because she was drop-dead gorgeous.

True, she wore just a little too much jewelry, just a little too much make up, and just a little too little clothing, but it was to create an effect. For the individual, this elicited the same result the ancient alchemists tried for with their concoctions of rhinoceros horn; for the fund-raising side, it resulted in what the alchemists had hoped for with the philosopher’s stone: it produced gold. These two effects were not unconnected. She never traded her favors in order to enrich the university’s coffers; she merely diverted blood flow from men’s brains to a region nearer their wallets.

When they married, their relationship became symbiotic. She tutored him in the social niceties, and he smoother he pronunciation and gave her credibility to the academics. Academics are so naïve—on the average—they will assume someone is cultured by virtue of pronunciation and marriage.

They both rose in their career paths, he in academic affairs and she in alumni relations. This was somewhat ironic because he’d never had any affairs, but she’d certainly had her relations.

As he pulled his Lexus into the drive, he saw Dirk’s Corvette was there already.

Dirk Holden had been around the periphery, just beyond the edge of vision during Hiram’s entire relationship with Tiffany. He was there being introduced as the new football coach at the first reception where Hiram had seen Tiffany.

Tiffany and Dirk went all the way back to their college days where, however cliché it might be, Dirk was a starting quarterback and Tiffany was the head cheerleader.

Hiram considered himself to be cosmopolitan and above the bourgeoisie morality of having an exclusive sexual relationship, at least since Lilly died, and he ignored Tiffany’s relationship with Dirk as long as it remained discrete. The trouble was it was becoming considerably less discrete, and Hiram considered having Dirk’s car still in the drive at the time when Tiffany knew he would be arriving home to be just a bit beyond the pale.
Perhaps it was time for a discussion.

Hiram pulled his Lexus into the house’s four-car garage. He entered the house and came upon Tiffany and Dirk standing by several large stacks of boxes in the hall. Dirk was holding a small set of barbells in each hand and appeared to be going into the room.

Hiram was about to speak, but Tiffany spoke first.

“Hiram,” she said without the slightest trace of guilt. “You are home early.” She then glanced at her watch an amended her remarks, “No, I guess this just took longer than I thought.”

“Hello, Tiffany,” he said coolly, and then with ice he added the monosyllabic, “Dirk.”

Dirk merely stood there holding his barbells with his biceps bulging and nodded in Hiram’s direction. Seeing that there wasn’t going to be much more offered, Hiram asked the clichéd question.

“What’s going on here?”

He didn’t expect the answer he got.

“I thought that your study would make a good workout room for me,” Tiffany replied with a lilt in her voice. “After all, you don’t ever go in there anymore. Dirk was just helping me set it up.”

“Dirk’s helping me set up my own personal gym,” she repeated. “It’s just become too unhandy keep running to the Y.”

It was at that point Hiram looked down at one of the boxes piled on the floor. They were filled with books and the one he was staring into had a marble bust of Aristotle on top.

“These are my books,” he said stupidly.

“Yes,” Tiffany said, “like I said, this room isn’t really being used. We can store the books somewhere or sell them somewhere, I suppose.”

“Tiffany, you can’t just throw my books out,” he said. He heard his own voice and it sounded a bit shrill. It was then that out of the corner of his eye he saw the smirk on Dirk’s face. Something snapped.

“Don’t you think I know what you two have been up to?” he heard himself saying. “Don’t you think I know what’s going on here?”

Dirk smirked again. This time, rather than talk, Hiram grabbed the bust of Aristotle with both hand, raised it over his head, and swung at Dirk. Dirk deftly dodged out the way while simultaneously bringing one of the barbells crashing down on Hiram’s skull.

The police believed Tiffany’s story that she’d discovered Hiram’s body when she got home from work, and they believed her. She led the charge for a fundraising drive for a scholarship to be endowed in his name.
It went to athletics.
Hi Okie

How's things in the halls of academia that you prowl these days ?

Having worked at a Big Ten U for a number of years, this sounds/reads way too familiar to me.

I guess I could say "been there, done that, and it's all Greek to me".

But, as always, a wonderful exposition of reality Bobby, thanks.

Oh, and I don't watch much football these days either.

Hi Bobby...Yeah I know the feeling, but as you know it happens all too infrequently in today's cabled and satellite networked American Empire world.

I try to retain my sanity by paying attention to what leading satirists are saying/doing week-in and week-out, but not those on the brain rot box. So far, so good as far as remaining centered.

My two faves are Don Perkins *aka Tom Tommorow*, a Kansan who does the best comic strip out there IMHO. It appears in many alternative weekly papers and on the net. This week's:

And the mother lode web site, although the cartoons are archived on Salon also *see what happens when popularity strikes ?*.

The other is Harry Shearer, the voice of Mr. Burns on The Simpsons. He has a weekly podcast radio program, Le Show, on KCRW (Santa Monica) that is downloadable for free at the KCRW site or at the Apple store. And by the way you can't go wrong with any of the downloads from KCRW, IMHO the best public radio station in the country.

Keep on creating Bobby, it's what we're all here for, believe it or not. Some of us are always paying attention.

Which reminds me of the old tale of what the Bhudda said when his disciples asked him what he was. Not who he was...but what. He reportedly replied, "I am awake !"