Category Archives: Karl the English Major

The exciting adventures of my self-deprecating anti-hero, Karl the English Major.

Finals Week at the Library

The last short story of the year about Karl, who finishes his first semester of college facing a handful of final exams, papers, and a pack of ravenous Business students.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

papers

This week, I have so many assignments and tests! It’s crazy! I have a paper for my rhetoric class, a paper for literature with Dr. Corddry, a paper and a test for German (all of it’s in German! I can’t handle that much Deutsch!), a paper for my Honors class, and a giant test for psychology.
So Eddie, Vince, Abigail, Maxwell, Sam, the herd of cynics, and this person from Honors named Jill all went to Cline to study and finish our papers. It was packed! Everybody does last-minute studying in the library, and practically the entire undergraduate college was there. The library is open 24/7 during reading week, and I guess everybody at NAU takes advantage of that. We couldn’t get any of the private study rooms, so we found this table in a big room already filled with students. It was the last table available, and a bunch of Math students frowned and walked away slowly when we got to it first. The librarians started handing out snacks and water to keep us calm. Maxwell called it the opiate of the masses or something, but then he saw they had gummy bears, and he loves his gummy bear opiates.
We set up our laptops, notes, books, and everything else we needed for a study night and got to work. First Sam and Vince and I practiced some German words, then Abigail and Eddie worked on Honors papers, and Maxwell and the herd of cynics studied for Psychology. That was going to be the worst test, because the instructor told us that she actually made a bet with the other faculty about how many students would fail the test, and she bet that seventy percent of us would fail! Who does that?
A little while after we were into our study session, a pack of Business students in suits came to our table and asked us to vacate the premises. These Business students all looked the same. They talked like California surfer bros and had tans the color of cheddar cheese and had short military hair cuts, and they all had Starbucks food in crumbly paper bags. They all folded their arms trying to intimidate us into giving them the table.
Maxwell made some big speech about how we needed to stand up and oppose the man, and Abigail took out this flashlight/pen/screwdriver thing and threatened to remove their fingers. But these were Business students, and we’re in the Humanities. They have us outnumbered, they have suits, they have the Franke building (the Liberal Arts building isn’t named after some rich dead guy, I guess), and they have more job potential than us. The herd of cynics started shouting everything Maxwell said after he said it, and Vince pulled out a pocket knife and said he knew how to use it. Meanwhile, I just tried to write one more sentence in German.
Pretty soon, three librarians came up to our table. One of them had a cart of really huge legal books, one of them was armed with one of the legal books, and the third, who seemed to be leading them, was Autumn Bartlett. The other two were these tall, long-haired, bearded, gangly hipsters in plaid shirts and fuzzy beanies. I guess they would’ve been lumberjacks, but they had headphones in their ears and set their vente double espresso chocolate pumpkin cinnamon spice cappulattes on the library cart, and I don’t think most lumberjacks drink espresso.
The pack of ravenous Business students said the table was theirs.
“We got here first,” they said.
“We have our notes all set up,” Abigail said.
“But we saw it first.”
“We’ve been here for two hours.”
“We have important assignments due tomorrow! The teacher didn’t tell us what was due, and we had to look all the way in the syllabus to find it, and none of us have any syllabuses, so we had to ask our parents to call the teacher and send us a syllabus.”
Autumn didn’t pay attention to either of the arguments. Instead, she spent the whole time texting somebody else while the lumberjack hipsters stared down at us. The Business students started saying weird things like they were entitled to the table, they contributed to society, God was on their side, they weren’t hippies. I guess that part of their argument was kinda right. Vince wasn’t wearing shoes, Maxwell wore a shirt with a grumpy wizard melting people’s faces with an electric guitar, Abigail wore this red beanie and pajamas, and one of the cynics had a shirt with Karl Marx in sunglasses on it.
“Our Apple Mac iDevices are about to run out of battery power,” one said, “and we need the outlets. No other table in this room is close enough to the outlets.”
Autumn looked over to us. I stopped misspelling German words on my computer and looked up. The cynics were all shrugging and Maxwell was digging around in his backpack for proof that human existence had no meaning, and then I remembered that I still had Autumn’s book in my backpack.
“Hey, you’re name is Autumn Bartlett, right?” I said, reaching into my backpack.
“Huh? Hey, I remember you.” She stopped texting and started paying attention to us. “And Maxwell, you too.”
“I think I found a book you own.” I pulled out The Book Thief which still smelled like weird apple cinnamon pumpkin perfume, even after I had it in there for a few months. When I handed it to her, her eyes got really big. But when she opened the first page and saw her name and ENG 254 scribbled there, she almost dropped it.
“Hey! Holy crap, where’d you find this? I need it for my English class. I thought I lost this.”
“I just found it in the library. I thought about giving it to the lost-and-found people, but I guess I didn’t know if you would actually end up getting it back from them.”
At that point, one of the Business students started moving our stuff off the table, and Vince and Sam started putting it back on. Then all the Business students joined the first, then Maxwell and the cynics joined Sam and Vince. The librarians armed themselves with more legal books and the Business students put their Starbucks bags down and spilled crumbs all over the place. Autumn kept talking to me and flipped through the book as she did.
“So you haven’t sold this or anything? Were you just, like, waiting for me or something?”
“Well, I figured if it was for a class, you probably needed it more than some book store.”
“I actually do need this for my final paper. I was afraid I would have to borrow somebody’s copy or rent a new one or something. But this is really gonna help.”
“Oh, that’s good, then.”
She looked at the book, then looked at the librarians on either side of her.
“And you’re with these hippies?” Autumn asked me after a minute. I looked over at Maxwell and the herd of cynics, Sam from German, and Vince, Eddie, Abigail, and Jill from Honors. Vince smelled like hemp like all the time, Eddie was good at stealing things, Abigail went around in her pajamas, and Jill, who actually was a hippie, had this jacket made from recycled coffee cups or something. Vince had tried juggling his knife and dropped it, and Eddie handed Maxwell a hammer. Who just carries hammers with them all the time? But they were all willing to study with me, and they all weren’t completely doomed to fail all these classes, so what the heck?
“Yeah, I’m with these people.”
“Well, if you’re the kind of person who gives lost items to people, I’d say you deserve a study table.” She nodded to the lumberjack hipster librarians, and they used the legal books to remove the Business students, who complained that their dads owned the school and that Reagan was their uncle or something. We started cleaning up their food, until Vince got the idea of eating it ourselves.
“Maxwell,” Autumn said, “that extra joint you owe us is now paid for. Consider your debt balanced.”
“Really? Sounds like a trick, but really?”
“Thank him. . . whoever that one is.” She nodded at me, put The Book Thief on the cart, and rolled it away. Maxwell looked at me and shook his head. The cynics all shook their heads too. I went back to my German essay and we ended up studying the entire night. We finished writing all our papers, getting ready for the giant Psychology exam, and editing each other’s Honors papers. We also ate all the food the Business students left, so nobody had to brave the huge line to the library’s coffee shop. Anyway, that’s how I finally got Autumn her book back.
And tomorrow is the start of Finals Week, and then I’m done with my first semester of college. I think if I can survive the drug-dealing librarians, a Psychology teacher who actively roots against us, a pack of ravenous Business students, and everything else I had to deal with this wacky semester, then maybe I can survive next semester. Anyway, I’ve got a test tomorrow. Good luck with your own final exams. Have a happy New Year, I guess.

-Karl

The Ghost of the Liberal Arts Building

A very seasonal short story about Karl, who wonders if the Liberal Arts building is haunted.

October 29, 2011

LAThe other night I was in the Liberal Arts building talking to Dr. Corddry about my paper and what classes to take next semester. I was there late cause his class is already late to begin with, and his office hours got pushed to the absolute latest at night they could be. I left his room planning on taking a creative writing class and another literature class with him, and that’s when I saw my friend Vince sitting on one of the horrible benches in the halls. Vince is a weird guy. He never wears anything on his feet, and he has a knack for finding situations where he gets free food. It’s like a sixth sense or a fifth element or whatever that movie with the alien kid was called. He always smells like coconuts, and he thinks the FBI is spying on him, which might actually be true given how paranoid he is.
I asked him what he was doing.
“I got stuck in here cause a skinwalker is chasing me.”
“A skinwalker?”
“Yeah, like the shape-shifting monsters. I was outside enjoying a smoke, and suddenly this big hairy guy pops out from the bushes and tries to kill me. I ran as fast as I could.”
Behind me, Dr. Corddry locked up his office and walked away, putting on a baseball cap and using his tie to wipe food from his mouth, like he always did.
“So you get chased by a big hairy monster, and the first place you think to go is Liberal Arts?”
Vince shrugged. “It’s safer than out there. You know, Maxwell vanished, too. Maybe the skinwalkers got him. Maybe he was eaten or something.”
“You sure it was a skinwalker, and not, like, one of the janitors or something? They can be pretty scary sometimes, especially late at night.”
I said I’d walk with him back to Cowden. He’s kinda paranoid, to be honest. Maybe that’s a good thing, cause the janitors and librarians and RAs all steal things from the lost and found and sell them for liquor or cigarettes, but he was more paranoid than usual. So I thought, maybe he really did see a giant hairy monster, but that could describe like twenty dudes in my psychology class. We got to the first floor of Liberal Arts. They have these motion-sensor lights that turn off when nobody’s around and turn on the second you walk past them. Only this time, the lights didn’t turn on. All we had were the red exit signs to light up the hall. We were in almost total darkness. I said they must be broken, but Vince, whose bare feet kept making slapping sounds when he walked on the tiles, said it was the skinwalker.
“They always cut off the power first,” he said, “to mess with us first.”
“That’s what aliens do.”
“Maybe there’s an alien invasion, too.”
We went to the front door, and the lights were still broken. I gotta be honest, Liberal Arts is already a pretty spooky building in the day, but at night, it’s way creepier. Nobody was around, not even the janitors. Vince kept foot-slapping on the floor, but stopped suddenly.
“Maybe I should use my phone for a light.”
“Good idea.”
We both took our our phones, but the lights barely did any use. So we put them back and just went in the darkness, which we were actually starting to adjust to. Then I heard a door open behind us. We turned around, not wanting to make any noise. For like ten minutes, we didn’t move or breathe. Maybe Liberal Arts really was haunted, I thought. Or maybe it was zombies, or something. We kept going, but Vince tried not to make any noise when he walked.
When we got to the front doors, I heard somebody grumbling. Then the doors opened, and in the red exit-sign lights, I saw the person in the gorilla suit who’d been chasing me since September. That’s when I realized, that’s what Vince meant when he said he saw a skinwalker. He screamed and turned around, but slipped because his feet didn’t have any grip cause I guess he keeps them smooth and silky or something, and fell to the floor. I tried helping him up, but the gorilla lumbered forward. Then Vince, the stupid jerk, pulled me down with him, and kicked me closer to the gorilla. He got up and ran, but slipped again.
The gorilla stood over me. How the hell does NAU get away with this sort of thing? Broken lights, no security guards, weirdos who where gorilla costumes.
“Who are you?” I asked. “Seriously, I see you like everywhere. You’re in Cowden and Cline and everywhere else I go. What’s your deal?” Of course those would be my last words.
The gorilla grabbed my legs and dragged me across the tiles. What the hell! Who does that? I slid pretty well, though, cause they just polished the floor, I guess, so it wasn’t actually that uncomfortable. Then he took me to this corner with snack machines that glow brightly, and stepped back. I was sure he was going to kill me or eat me or stuff me into the snack machine one limb at a time, but then he took the gorilla head off.
And it was Maxwell! I thought the lost-and-found people killed him, but he was alive! But then I remembered that it was kinda my fault the lost-and-found people hunted him down in the first place.
“You stupid jackass,” he said. I was so glad he wasn’t going to stab me with a broken soda can that I agreed with him completely. He ranted for a bit, cause he found out it was me who stole the pot he was supposed to drop off for the lost-and-found people, and how he had to go into hiding.
“So have you been the gorilla all along?” I asked.
“No. The real gorilla person is temporarily indisposed right now.”
“Well, how can I pay you back? I lost one of the joints. I still have the other.”
“Give me what you have and pay me back in double.”
I did some math in my head that took like five minutes.
“Is that like three joints, then?”
He also did some math in his head.
“Close enough.”
I was glad Maxwell was still technically alive, and that I didn’t have to die yet.
Down the hall, I heard slapping and screaming. Vince came running down the hallway shouting, and he jumped over one of the gray plastic tables at us. He had a cross in one hand and a linguistics book in the other (cause those linguistics text books can kill people, and probably have). He tripped again, threw the cross at Maxwell, and then dropped the book. The cross bounced off his furry gorilla shoulders, and we glared at him. The lights came back on, and Vince saw that it was Maxwell. He screamed that it was Maxwell’s ghost haunting the Liberal Arts building, but we convinced him that Maxwell was just alive, and not the living dead.
So that’s how my night went. I owed Maxwell like a million cigarettes. But he never really told me what happened to the person who normally wore the gorilla suit. I guess I’ll never know, unless the person comes back for the costume or for revenge or something.
That’s my life. Good luck with your own.
-Karl

Novels by Calgary Smith

More short fiction about Karl, who rediscovers his favorite childhood author and wonders why he ever read his books in the first place.

Bookstore October 21, 2011
So we all made it through post-midterms week without flailing around like a squid in soup. Dr. Corddry calls it suffering week. I guess all the professors go out to bars downtown on this Friday to celebrate the number of students dropping their class or something. I didn’t do too badly, but I really need to work on my grammar, according to Lindsey, in the Honors class. My paper was covered in red marks, like it was knifed.
I guess the thing to do on a Friday night for a typical NAU student is to go wander around downtown so I went downtown with Eddie and Abigail. We went out to this place called Heritage Square, where a bunch of hippies play music and sell magic crystals and beads and vortex passports. It’s a weird place on a Friday night.
We went into this tiny little bookstore that had classic volumes of books set up out front. At first, I didn’t think it was worth checking out, but I saw a first-edition copy of one of the great works of English literature, The Android City of Glariton 3 by Calgary Smith, sitting in the shelf. That’s when I had to go in and see if they had more Calgary Smith novels. Eddie and Abigail hadn’t ever heard of him. I was shocked! I thought everybody knew about Calgary Smith. He’s one of the greatest writers ever. I read almost everything by him back in high school. I almost got a signed copy of one of his other novels, Ginger Bates and the Crawling Brains, at a bookstore in Pocatello run by a drunk guy who plays guitar, but a goth from marching band beat me to it.
Anyway, we rummaged around the little bookstore. It was really compact, but the selection was pretty good. The guy at the counter sat reading a newspaper and drinking wine from a coffee cup. He had a big fat mustache and a perm, and looked like Kurt Vonnegut. He’s dead, right? I’m pretty sure he’s dead now. We looked at different books, and then found a door in the back that led to an alley sealed by brick walls with suspicious stains, and a door on the other end. There weren’t any cameras, but the door said “special patrons only.”
“We’re special,” Eddie said. “We’re very special patrons.”
“I dunno,” Abigail said. “We probably shouldn’t go in.”
Eddie said, “If Thomas Jefferson followed all the rules, where would we be now? Karl, I dare you to go in.”
“Are you living in the ‘50s? Who dares people to do things?”
“So you’re scared?”
That’s when I said I’m not scared of nothing, pushed the door open, and went into the place for special patrons only. Inside was this dimly lit room of bookshelves with all the super-secret rare first editions, editions with flaws, unauthorized reprints, and other books that looked more valuable than everything I’ve ever owned put together. We went in, and I found almost a whole shelf of used copies of Calgary Smith’s Ginger Bates series, and the Glariton 3 series. They even had a book I’d never been able to get my hands on, the cross-over novel he could never afford to publish because for some reason he went bankrupt at like a really early age and had to work in a coal mine or something. It was called Ginger Bates and the Rogue Spacecraft, which was published just before his death. I told Abigail and Eddie about it, and they read the first page.
“Whoa,” Eddie said. “He used the word ‘vigorously’ like forty-seven times in the first page.”
“His dialogue is really bad.”
“The hell are you talking about? This guy’s brilliant!” I said. I spent all of my allowance on his books and had them all lined up at home. Granted, I hadn’t read any for a while, cause I got into this other series, but I can’t remember the name, House of Thrones or Game of Cards or something like that.
“Karl, this is the worst writing I’ve ever seen,” Eddie said.
“Yeah, well, I guess you’ve never read any of your own papers, then.” I looked at the special patron books and saw a bunch of copies of John Steinbeck novels, some really vintage comic books, a copy of V for Vendetta signed by the author. If Calgary Smith’s novels were so bad, why were they here with all the good stuff? I grabbed the book from Eddie and read the first page. Then I read it again, then looked at the cover to see if it was the right Calgary Smith and not an evil twin with an identical name, then read the second page.
“Crap, you’re right. This guy’s terrible. Holy crap, my whole childhood is gone.”
“What about the comic books you used to read?”
“I guess I still have those. But still, I always wanted to be like Calgary Smith. What’s the deal? Was my taste really that bad? It’s not like I had a poster of him, but I was like really obsessed with this guy.”
I flipped through the book and found some notes in the margins. They were revision notes, I think. One note said “Plot hole 37, see page 109.” Somebody found 37 plot holes? At the very back, I saw a long paragraph about giving up on writing, and it was signed by Calgary Smith! That’s why it’s in the special patron section, because it has his own notes about how he’s going to give up on writing and live in a commune in the Yucatan with some escaped coal miners, or whatever he wrote.
“Well this is crap,” I said. “My favorite author turns out to suck, and then I find out he gave up on writing cause he sucked so much.”
Eddie and Abigail tried comforting me. It’s not like I was diagnosed with a terminal disease or anything, but I appreciated it anyway. We left the special patron section and wandered around the bookstore some more, and then to make me feel better they bought me this weird piece of local art at an art gallery next door. It was a little bust of John Steinbeck made of shells. I couldn’t tell it was him, but it was cool to look at. It actually looked like those aliens from that movie with all the aliens, whatever it was called, like Predator Vs. Predator or something. Anyway, that was my first time in downtown Flagstaff. I met like forty-seven hippies that night, too, and lots of hobos playing didgeridoos.
That’s my life now. I think I’m gonna start reading Autumn Bartlett’s copy of The Book Thief. It’s time I had a new favorite author. Good luck with your own Friday nights and creepy shell statues.

-Karl

Return to the Library

More short fiction about Karl, who makes a shady deal to have his ban from Cline lifted.

Cline

October 16, 2011

          I have a lot of crap to talk about. It’s been kind of a weird week for me.
First, I got through midterms without jumping off the roof of Cline. So that’s good. I turned in all the papers and took all the tests and did most of the studying. Or enough of the studying. I don’t know how I did. That German test was brutal, but I think I at least got a B on it. Hopefully. If I did worse, I’ll just study harder or longer or longer and harder.
Secondly, my roommate Tom, or maybe his name is Tim (I’m still not sure, because he never really told me his name, and he never really speaks until recently) is still upset that his nine girlfriends broke up with him. He claims he thought they were all in an open relationship with him, but apparently they each wanted a long-term and committed relationship that involved weddings and honesty and things that Tim-Tom probably hasn’t even heard of. But anyway, Tim is upset about losing his nine girlfriends. I told him that he should stop whining, but he was too busy watching The Sopranos, and I’m hoping that doesn’t give him bad ideas. Or maybe it was Breaking Bad that he was watching. I get those two confused. All his exes apparently live in Cowden, so he has to be careful when going in and out of the building.
Third, I finally had my meeting with the Cline student employee librarian technician assistant worker that Eddie set up for me. I still had those two joints, and I met with this student who’s part of the lost-and-found people. She was this redhead with a walkie-talkie at her belt and a really big pocket knife in her hand when I met her. I had to wait outside the library to get in, but she let me in and showed these thug-like janitors who were glaring at me her ID. We went into one of the little closet study rooms in Cline that has a key and is soundproof and doesn’t have recording devices in it so far as I know. Just out of curiosity, I asked her about Maxwell, and she said she’d never heard of anybody named Maxwell.
I guess she was one of the lower-ranking lost-and-found persons. I told her the story of how I was locked out, but skipped the part about the obvious drug deal. She told me she understood, but that she didn’t have the authority to end my ban from the library without payment to a higher authority, so I pulled out one of the joints.
“All I have for payment is this,” I said. She took it and looked at it.
“Where’d you get this?”
“A friend gave it to me for my birthday. I think he traded some whiskey for it or something. Do you want to know who?”
“No, that would violate customer-gangster confidentiality. I think this will work. Besides, it’s not like you’re trying to cover up for a murder or anything. That would take way more joints.”
“So I can get back into the library?”
“Starting tomorrow at noon, the ban will be lifted. Or maybe around noon-thirty. It really depends on how slow things are going around here.” She wrote some information on a library card and handed it to me after she put the joint in her pocket. “And if you ever want to barter with the lost-and-found people again, you should really come to me. Don’t dig too deep looking for a new business partner. That’s my name and secret phone and the hours I work for lost-and-found and Cline. You get a first-timer’s discount, if you trade anything more than a beer.”
“Cool. Thanks,” I said. She left, taking the key to the room, which you have to check out from the front desk. I was supposed to leave a few seconds after she was gone. After she left, I checked the other joint in my backpack, then looked at the information on the library card. The name written down was Autumn Bartlett.
I couldn’t believe it for a second. Later, I checked the handwriting with the name in the book, and they looked pretty much the same. Can you believe it? Autumn works for the library and the lost-and-found people! She’s dangerous! She’s a criminal, and probably an English Major, too. What the hell am I supposed to do now?
To make it all worse, Maxwell is still missing. I don’t want to make any assumptions about Autumn or just assume that Maxwell is dead, but what if Autumn is the one who killed him? Everybody warned me not to mess with the lost-and-found people. I stole some random pot in the library, and now Maxwell is gone. He missed the Psychology midterm, and the herd of cynics hasn’t seen him at all. He must have “disappeared” in the construction.
I only just got back to my dorm to write this. Tim is sitting at his computer stalking his exes, one at a time I think, and I’m here panicking about going too far with the lost-and-found people. I think I might have to talk to somebody about this, but I’m too scared. So that’s what college is like for me. It’s the real world, where the librarians are criminals and people go missing and your roommate cheats all over the place. This is real-deal stuff. You can’t make this stuff up. How am I supposed to cope with all this? Just write about it? That’s only getting me so far, and that’s not nearly far enough.
Maybe the next step is figuring out what to do with Autumn’s book. Give it back to her? I have her hours at the library, but if I go to her, will she pop a cap in me for having her book? Am I gonna find out what happened to Maxwell by having what happened to Maxwell happen to me? This is college, I guess. It’s risky. Good luck with your own lives, but you probably don’t have to deal with the lost-and-found mafia and some Italian chemistry teacher who pops a cap in everybody’s face to pay for his psycho-therapy. Or however that show goes.
-Karl

Ecosystem

Construction in the Rain

More short fiction about Karl, who worries that somebody might bury him in the construction on campus.

October 12, 2011

It’s 72 degrees out and the snow is all gone. The other night we had like twelve feet of snow! Anyway, guess who got banned from the library? Some librarian woke me up Thursday morning where I’d slept next to a window on the second floor, and I tried explaining that it wasn’t my fault that I was there, that it’s really their fault for locking the doors before I could escape. But I got kicked out and banned. I still have the drugs, though. I figure I could use them to bargain my way back into Cline. Or maybe I could bribe the janitors into letting me sneak back in.

                A lot happened in the past few days. Firstly, Thursday night, I was sleeping in the Cowden lobby because my roommate Todd, or maybe his name is actually Tom, had one of his nine girlfriends up there, and I looked into this kitchen they have down in the lobby. There, I saw the person in the gorilla suit wearing an apron and baking cookies. They smelled delicious, but I didn’t bother to think about them too much. I didn’t want the gorilla to catch me, so I ran off and slept outside Lindsey’s office, which smelled like incense and tea.

                The next day, I found out that Maxwell is gone. His herd of cynics can’t find him, and haven’t heard from him for a few days, so now I’m starting to think that the lost-and-found people made him “disappear” in the construction going on around campus all the time at every imaginable point. This is really bad, especially for the herd of cynics. Without Maxwell, they don’t know how to be cynical. They’ve all been happy and positive lately. It’s horrible!

                We’re in a weird part of the semester, I think. Dr. Corddry came to class in clown makeup again, Dr. Flugstadtbahnhofplatz or whatever my German professor’s name is keeps swearing whenever something goes wrong, and my Psychology professors told the entire class that even if we get a hundred and ten percent on the midterm, we’re still probably going to fail the class. My rhetoric professor, Dr. Jerry Mathers, gave this long speech about how we’re never gonna learn to write good if we don’t pay attention to his comments, and that he’s our lord and savior, or something along those lines. In the middle of class, he took somebody’s paper, took out his lighter, and burned most of the paper, saying that the F the student got was for fire. The only cheerful teacher I have is Lindsey, and she’s a hippie, so of course she’s gonna be happy. She can just meditate at a commune in the Yucatan, and she’ll be fine.

                This morning, I found out that Tom’s nine girlfriends all found about each other when he got their names confused, and now Tom is extremely single. Apparently our RA Harington has put extra security on our room because the nine exes want revenge on Tom, and might try to use me to get to him. Maybe they’ll kidnap me or bribe me or something like that. But according to Harington, the nine exes don’t really like each other, so they’re having trouble working together to get revenge. They can’t agree on who should throw the water balloons or who should buy the lighter fluid or who should catch the scorpions or who should put them in the water balloons. So at least Tom is safe for now. Not that I condone having nine girlfriends, and not that I think he should get away with it, but I don’t wanna get hurt in the crossfire, or stung in the crossfire, I guess.

                All day, I’ve been hiding up in this lounge area in the Student Union where janitors and Student Union workers keep passing me. I’m sure they’re all part of the lost-and-found people. I don’t think they’re on to me. I still don’t know for sure what happened to Maxwell, and I don’t want to make any assumptions about what happened to him without any evidence to back them up, but I’m afraid I might end up murdered just like him. So I’m just quietly minding my own business and writing a paper for Dr. Corddry’s class about how Shakespeare predicted the colonization of the Yucatan in The Tempest, and another paper about Cannery Row.

                Out of all the books I’ve read in college, I think Cannery Row is my favorite. John Steinbeck writes really weirdly, I think, but the way Lindsey explained it was cool. She has this weird hippie way of making old literature by dead people actually fun. Steinbeck goes on and on about how the Row is an ecosystem and everybody is related like in the ocean, and there are predators and prey and other species all trying to survive on their own, even though stronger species keep getting in their way. I think NAU is like that. It’s a kind of ecosystem. I said that in class during a discussion, and everybody looked at me like I was high, cause I never talk in class. But I think NAU is like this crazy ecosystem. Maxwell and the herd of cynics are like a school of fish, and the gorilla is like a migratory killer whale, and the lost-and-found people are like the sharks, and everybody is interdependent. I wonder where that puts me in the food chain, but it’s probably pretty low. Maybe I’m just caught in the middle of everything.

                Or maybe not. I guess I could be wrong. But that’s where I’m at right now. Midterms are terrifying, the gorilla has moved into Cowden, Maxwell is gone, Tom’s nine exes want to murder him, and I still have Autumn’s book in my backpack. I need to find a way to get back into the library.

                Good luck with your own school of sharks.

                -Karl

A Very Bad Night to Be Out

Karl has an unusual Wednesday when he first is invited to a cheesy dinner, then gets caught in a blizzard, and finally finds himself facing his archenemies, a person in a gorilla suit and the lost-and-found people.

Library

October 6, 2011

It’s weird how things spiral out of control and then before you know it you’re locked in a building with drug dealing librarians. Maybe I should start from the beginning.

A chick from my German class, Sam, invited me to go hang out with a campus church group thing. I don’t remember what they’re called. Presbythodists or Luthiscopalians or something like that. Anyway, they hide out in this blue house type building behind a big parking lot behind the library. I’m not much of a church guy. I don’t have anything against them, and definitely not the way Maxwell and his herd of cynics do, or the goths I used to hang out with in high school who used to smoke in the parking lot of the Mormon Church. I’m not like those guys anymore, very much, really. It’s just that I’m not really like the church people, either. But Sam seemed nice about it, and she told me there’s free food and that I don’t have to get baptized first, so I decided to go.

                So I went with Sam and some other friends of hers who all wear plaid shirts to get dinner with the Luthodists or Methiscapalians or whateverites. They made these casseroles that must’ve been like eighty percent cheese, and these chocolate chip cookies that were only twenty percent cheese. The Chrisbytarians were nice enough people, but I gotta be honest, I’d never heard so many dirty jokes in my entire life. And not just profanity, either. I mean the really kinky stuff. Maybe they’re all just that comfortable or that liberal, but it was a little freaky to hear so much innuendo when there’s this big cross in the middle of the room. I was confused, but I was filled with cheese, so I was happy.

                Here’s where the story goes downhill. We got done like around 8:30 at night, and I was hoping to get back to Cowden before Todd (unless his name is Tom, and I’m starting to think it is) got there. If I get there first, he takes whichever girlfriend is with him somewhere else, which means I get to sleep in my actual bed and not in the hallway like all the other nights I get there too late. So I wanted to get there early. When I walked out the doors of the Methutherans or Methbrytarians or Methheads, I saw like two feet of snow! It snowed while I was eating casseroles. Can you believe it? And it was still snowing, like a thick blanket of snow that some jerk in the sky kept waving back and forth in front of me. I had an entire parking lot to get through to get back to Cowden, in the middle of a blizzard, in early October, in the “Dark Sky City” darkness. I couldn’t see in front of me, and I didn’t have a coat on or anything. How the hell does Flagstaff get away with crap like this? Flagstaff should be indicted for this sort of thing.

                Anyway, I started my trek back to the dorm, but because I couldn’t see anything except for snow, I bumped into a car in front of me, and the stupid alarm went off. So I did the first thing that popped into my head and ran away. At the end of the parking lot, I slipped on the snow when I was running and hurt my hip. The car alarm kept blaring at me until I reached the sidewalk where Cowden is to the right and the library is to the left. That’s when I saw the goddamned person in the gorilla costume walking toward me from the right, only the costume was covered in snow, so it looked like a zebra yeti, just sort of lumbering through the two feet of snow toward me.

 Maybe the car alarm angered the gorilla. Maybe it felt threatened when I walked into its natural habitat, in the middle of a university road at night during a blizzard. The person in the gorilla suit costume lumbered silently at me like some stealthy predator. I turned around and got out of the snow into this little pathway at the front of the library that’s protected by columns or pillars or collars or something like that.

                I ran, and my hip was throbbing from when I slipped, but I made it to the entrance of the library. When I looked back, the person in the gorilla suit costume was still lumbering toward me through the columned path. I went inside the library, got snow everywhere, and hid for a while in the little coffee shop restaurant thing they have on the first floor and started working on a paper for my rhetoric class, since I had taken my backpack with me to the church thing because I got out of rhetoric late. After a while I tried to get back to Cowden, but the snow outside was like four feet high. Plus, I saw the gorilla pacing around this statue of a dude on a stack of books they have outside the library. It was like the gorilla was waiting for me to come out to attack me.

                How the hell does NAU get away with four feet of snow and zebra yetis? It’s terrible. I went back into the library, which closes at two in the morning, I think, and did more homework and goofed around on the internet. Then things got weird. I was up on the third floor in the farthest corner of a room, when I looked up and saw Maxwell walk behind a shelf, stop for a minute, and keep going. After that, a librarian went behind the shelf, stopped where Maxwell had stopped, and kept going again. I was curious about what happened, and I know they all say that curiosity kills cats, but I wasn’t a cat, I thought, so I prowled my way to the other side of the shelves.

                On an empty shelf close to the ground were two very nicely rolled joints, or roaches. They were so nicely rolled, you’d think a professional had rolled them. I guessed the lost-and-found people worked with the librarians, and I guess Maxwell needs to supply his herd of cynics with joints. What I thought was strange was that they would miss two whole joints. It seemed weird for a business that was so organized to forget two whole joints. I figured they wouldn’t miss them, and I could maybe use them to bargain for something I might need, so I stuffed them in my pocket and went downstairs.

                When I walked to the second floor, I passed a janitor. I was going to check outside to see if the gorilla was still there, but when I was on the second floor, going toward a window, the same janitor came rushing by me, shouting on his cellphone. I think he didn’t see me. Anyway, the snow hadn’t stopped, and it was up to maybe twelve feet. It looked like twelve feet, at least. So I stayed in the library on the second floor, in the furthest corner I could find, hoping the janitor wouldn’t catch me. That’s where I am now. That’s where I’m writing this.

                Oh, and by the way, they shut the power off. It’s 2:30 in the morning, and they locked me inside. I can’t get out. I tried and the doors are all locked. I wonder if the gorilla had something to do with this. It’s dark. I’m cold. I want to go back to my dorm room where I don’t have to run away from gorillas and drug-dealing librarians. So that’s where I’m at right now. I hope you’re having a better night than I am.

                -Karl

Waiting for Autumn on a Spanish Inquisition Bench

More short fiction about Karl, who wishes for more comfortable seats in the Liberal Arts Building.

October 4, 2014

                So I have an update about Autumn and her lost copy of The Book Thief. Dr. Corddry told me that ENG 254 meets in room 219 in the Liberal Arts Building, so I went there to wait for her, or at least wait for somebody who smelled like the apple pumpkin nutmeg that reeks from her book.

If you don’t know LA, which is what we call the Liberal Arts Building because I guess it’s filled with hipsters like LA is, it was renovated this summer, so now it’s supposed to be all knew and fancy. It has these weird chairs on wheels that go all over the place really slowly. They’re like daleks or something. Seriously, it’s like they have a mind of their own. They sometimes sneak up on you or move around when you’re not looking. Dr. Corddry kicked one when it got too close to him in the middle of a lecture, and the next day all of them were gone from the room, so we had class standing up. It was ridiculous.

                People also put up propaganda posters about the building’s renovation. They have pictures of what it used to look like, with splintery chairs and old school chalk boards and some dead guy in the corner and boarded up windows, next to pictures of the new building, with the dalek chairs and these gigantic white boards and people being happy and smiling and doing homework, as if that were realistic in any way. But you know what? They have these dalek chairs all over the place, but they don’t have new benches. It’s like they took pews from a really old Catholic church from back in England or wherever it is they have Catholics these days. These pew benches are made of splintery old wood, and when you sit on them, it’s like they beat your ass with baseball bats or something. They’re the most uncomfortable things in the world. Maybe they’re from the waiting room of the Spanish Inquisition.

Church Pew Bench

                So I sat out there until the class got out at like 10:50 or something, and while I waited I listened to the lecture. The teacher. Dr. Gardner, was talking about how communism saved the world in 1961 or something like that. I don’t think the Holocaust came up even once. Anyway, I sat there reading Cannery Row by John Steinbeck for my Honors class. I think I was supposed to have read it for last week, but I guess I missed that part of the syllabus or something. Anyway, I’m supposed to read it and write a paper about it for mid-terms. My Honors teacher, Lindsey, keeps telling me that I need to improve my writing. Like, apparently, I keep using the word “like” in all my papers. And I guess I keep starting sentences with conjunctions, which is like bad or something. And like my papers are all being written in passive, which isn’t supposed to be done by me, I guess. I had no idea my papers were passive until it was told to me by Lindsey.

                I guess I’ll get better with more papers. I’ll figure it out. It’s only college, right?

                Eddie stopped by at one point. He popped out of the elevator and left a purple bag next to the window. I asked him what it was about.

                “Don’t ask about that.”

                “Is it for the lost-and-found people?”

                “What did I just say to not do? Seriously, Karl, don’t get involved with the lost-and-found people.”

                “Harrington is involved, though.”

                “Don’t get me started on Harrington. He’s the one who’s making me. . .”

                “Leave purple bags near the window?”

                “Seriously, don’t get involved. You know the construction they do on NAU all the time, all over the place, whenever and wherever possible?”

                I moved because the inquisition bench was injecting tranquilizers into my butt, apparently.

                “Yeah, I know the construction.”

                “Well, when people ask too many questions, they end up in the construction.”

                “Like working there?”

                “Like in the holes covered in cement with pipes through their corpses. Don’t ask too many questions. I have to go wash my hands.”

                Eddie is a weird guy, but he’s not a terrible human being, so he’s that makes him cool, I guess. I kept reading, cause I have all these mid-terms coming up. Last week My Psychology professor Dr. Freudenjungenheimstein or something told us we need to get ready for the mid-term. I think she might be a cynic; she told us that half of us are guaranteed to fail the mid-term, and she had this dead stare in her eyes when she said it. Every time she looks at the syllabus, she gets this glazed look on her face, and one time I think I saw tears rolling down her face. Maybe Maxwell and the herd of cynics got to her. Or maybe her mid-term is just that impossible to pass. Or maybe she just hates us all. I think it’s that last one, actually. That makes more sense. She just hates us all.

                The door to 219 opened and people came rushing out. I closed Steinbeck and started sniffing as best I could, but I’m not a very good smeller. I even took out the book and started reading it so they would all see it, like holding it up to my nose with the cover wide open, but everybody just passed by. Some of them were really chatty and happy, which seemed weird for a class about Holocaust fiction. Anyway, by the time they were all gone, I gave up on ever returning the book to Autumn. I’ll just be a weirdo with a stranger’s copy of The Book Thief in his backpack.

                When I stood up and got ready to go to my own classes, I looked at the window in front of the elevator and saw that the purple bag was gone. I looked around to see if anybody was carrying it. At that point, I wondered if I’d just witnessed a drug deal or something, but I didn’t actually witness it, so I guess not. I stood up, and then saw one of the dalek chairs in front of me, in the middle of the hallway, just sitting there. If it had a face, it would have been staring at me, I bet. I slowly walked around it and tried not to anger it. Those chairs scare me.

                That’s where I’m at right now. Good luck with your own lives.

                -Karl

Dalek Chair