This is the 13th in this series of those not accepted by journals for publication. It also has its first line from The First Line Literary Journal. This and the next three others were submitted as a group to the journal. OH! they were rejected as a group!
Ravi had just worked a double shift and was having trouble keeping his eyes open. It was his second of three doubles and he had mixed feelings about the possibilities of more. Weekend doubles weren’t a real problem, but he had finals in two classes, a paper due, and his close deadline master’s degree program admission proposal was only half finished. The week after finals wouldn’t be a problem either and the extra earnings during quarter break would be very welcome.
There were several missions near the campus, so with a gospel lesson he got three or four meals a week. He’d been tempted many times to over fill the hot dog cooker at the store and take advantage of the shriveled from heat don’t sell rule his boss had in place. Boss was fully aware of the temptation, so Ravi and others managed one or, on rare occasion, two dogs without bun on any one shift, but the consumption had to be recorded and the wholesale cost was deducted from their pay.
After being rousted while sleeping in his car parked on the street, he decided the $50 a month on-campus garage parking fee was worth the payment. He often spread his books or papers on the seat and slept next to them. The parking sticker and student sleeping with materials was not enough to warrant a wakeup by campus patrol.
Ravi believed external image was important to people who observed him anywhere except at the mission. He took advantage of his student status by signing up for a nonrequired PE class each quarter, so he’d have access to showers when school was in session. He found a mom and pop laundry where he could have a set of khakis and collar shirt starched and pressed for $5. Many times, it was an hour wait, but twice a month he’d stand in line at Thursday Night Mission for an all off haircut. When he had a shower and donned on-hanger clothing from his 1985 Volvo station wagon, he would snack at on-campus job fairs or hosted business seminars when there was no class time conflict.
The day and surely the week now upon Ravi was going to be rough and he knew it. But panic wasn’t in his DNA. Neither was succumbing to fatigue unless by choice.
Just 12 years before, he left his mother in a refugee camp at her insistence. She was an a-religious Georgetown University graduate of Syrian grandparents and had been a covert interpreter for US troops. During the next three years Ravi expanded the English learned from his mother by being a boot boy at an Army base near Zakho. Then he was adopted by an American professor at Zakho University and his Iraqi wife. He became Ravi Reynolds. Dr. Reynolds arranged for Ravi to attend a boarding school near Portland, Oregon. At 13, he was orphaned by military action and projected into the Oregon foster child system.
He learned idioms and slang from foster parents and siblings while his English became unaccented. Six weeks after he was aged out of the foster program, his long-time foster parents died in a fishing accident in Alaska waters. All he had from their estate was the Volvo not wanted by his foster sibs.
After a cold shower at the campus gym, Ravi logged in at the library, filled in blanks on a .pdf and typed from his notes for an hour, then sent the graduate school application document to his student E-mail account. Disregarding what he knew would happen when he had coffee on an empty stomach, he bought a 24 oz. to-go on the way to his first final of the week.
At the proctor’s prompt, he logged in, entered his economic geography class password, and clicked on the exam name. Ravi was prepared to write short responses to questions given in advance. The entire test was in multiple-choice format, so he was finished in 30 minutes instead of the 90 minutes he had anticipated. The time it took to finish the unexpected format was a gastronomical relief to him. He did a light pre-class workout, but skipped his noon racquetball game, showered again, drove to the 24-7 Market, and slept in the Volvo until his Wednesday/Thursday double shift.
Thursday after work was nearly the same, but Ravi finished his application papers and E-mailed them to the admissions office with the payment which took all but $5.00 from his pre-paid Visa card. The environmental geography exam would give him little angst, no matter the format. His term paper research and study for other classes gave him in-depth background. He finished early and walked to the parking garage for his research notes. Ravi’s exhaustion put him to the point of having to decide when to go to the library and finish the paper due at noon Friday.
The parking garage security officer rapped on the window of the Volvo and Ravi stirred. “Reynolds! You OK?”
“Just catching a few before going to the library. Thanks for the alarm service.”
“You haven’t moved since I came on at midnight.”
“Crap – thanks.” Ravi knew the library wasn’t open until eight on Fridays, so he jogged to the nearby mission, got coffee and warm pancakes, then jogged back to the library. He finished the paper at 11:30 and it was just a 10-minute walk to make the deadline, so he went online to check his exam scores; both feedbacks read not attended. He realized the necessity to get across campus to make the delivery in person as instructed, but he took the time to e-mail both professors. I’ll straighten out those test scores after I drop off this paper.
He ran to the building and up three flights of stairs. The prof’s door was the first on the right from the landing. Exiting the stairwell through the fire door, Ravi saw that the professor’s name wasn’t on the door like it had been the entire quarter. The door was closed. He knocked and twisted the handle. There was no response. He started towards the staff aid office at the end of the hall but turned too fast and dizzied from fatigue.