Monthly Archives: March 2018

472. Teaching Space

I am writing this on February 10, three days after the first launch of Falcon Heavy. I’m impressed by the achievement, and amused by a mannequin in a Tesla floating through space. You would never have seen that during the days of Apollo.

For all the shift from government to private space flight, some things remain the same. All rockets have always been made by private companies, and the primary customer has always been the government. The degree of participation by private industry on the consumption side has changed considerably. Still, if it were not for the government contract to supply the International Space Station, it is unlikely that the original Falcon would have lived long enough to beget Falcon Heavy.

Falcon Heavy is a big deal, but not a total revolution. That doesn’t keep me from doing handsprings at its launch.

I know that teachers all over America are going to be using Falcon Heavy as motivation for their students to work hard and get ready to join the movement into space. Students who are in middle school today will be walking on Mars in thirty years. Any kid who isn’t fired up about that, doesn’t deserve to go.

Exciting tomorrow’s astronauts is the job of science fiction writers and science teachers, as well as those who are doing the actual work of exploration. I’ve been involved in two and a half of those enterprises.

For me it started with science fiction, first Tom Swift, Jr. and Rick Brant, then all the glorious writers of the thirties through the fifties when I finally got access to a real library. By the time I reached my teens about 1960, I was hooked.

That was about the time real astronauts first appeared. (And the time the words astronaut and cosmonaut appeared, so that we had to give up that wonderful word spaceman.) I also became aware of the X-planes, which had been making aerospace history since my birth year. It was an exciting time, culminating in a series of moon landings.

High school kids like me didn’t get to work at NASA, but I did research at the level available to me. Since my two science loves were space and ecology (starting before ecology became part of the public consciousness), I developed an “Ecosystem Operable in Weightlessness” as a junior and continued as a senior with “A Study of the Nutrient Uptake of Chlorella Algae”, both as science fair projects. That is the “and a half” from three paragraphs back. Those got me a summer job as a science intern and got me into college with a scholarship. I started in biology, switched to anthropology, got drafted, survived, went back to grad school then ended up being seduced by writing.

I wrote science fiction. I still do, but for twenty-seven years, a $ad lack of fund$ caused me to also teach middle school science.

Teaching math is teaching math, and teaching history is teaching history. Teaching science, however, is more than passing on skills and information; it is also firing up your students to become future scientists, or at least future citizens who understand and appreciate the role of science in our world. You really need to love your subject to do that, and I did.

It is also an easy subject to generate enthusiasm about. While others are teaching adverbs, food groups, the three branches of government, and quadratic equations, science teachers get to teach about explosions, dead animals rotting at the side of the road, poop, and the exploration of space. I pity my colleagues on a warm day in spring when every eye is out the window. I got to take my students out to throw baseballs into the air and analyze how the baseballs’ trajectories were the same ballistic path as a Redstone rocket with Alan Shepard aboard.

Middle school students are just the right age for this, and I loved teaching them. That probably tells you more about how my mind works that I should admit to.

The exploration of space, if you start about the time of Goddard and carry through Von Braun and his V-2s all the way to the moon, is the story of mankind in the twentieth century. You can’t teach it properly without including World War I and the rise of aircraft, the rise of the Soviet Union, World War II, the Cold War, the promise and danger of nuclear power, and the ugly political motivations behind the glorious achievements of Apollo.

History is a good starting point for firing up young scientists, but it has to be followed by a proper answer to the question, “All right, fine, but what will I get to do.” That part was tough. From the mid-eighties to the turn of the millennium was an era in which manned space exploration was undergoing a drought of imagination, will and accomplishment. Project after project failed to deliver, but those failures were not evident at the outset. Year after year I told my students, “This is your future.” And year after year, those futures faltered and died.

Maybe these non-starters don’t deserve to be remembered, but if you don’t know about the drought, you can’t appreciate the rain that follows. On March 26 and April 5 I’ll explore those projects which began with a flurry of excitement, then died quickly and quietly.

Symphony 108

Neil sighed and said, “I am the person you are asking about, but you don’t have your facts straight. I was not dismissed; I took a leave of absence for one year with the intention of returning. And I did not have sexual relations with my students, forced or otherwise. I was accused, but found innocent.”

“Then you won’t mind if I check for myself?”

“Mind? I certainly do; I mind the whole damned affair. I’ve been hounded for a year over something I didn’t do and I’m sick of it. But go ahead and check. You will anyway.”

“Yes,” she said primly, “I will.”

# # #

That night in bed with Carmen, he said, “I made a mistake in Oregon.”

“Tutoring that girl?”

“No. That was stupid, because I knew her reputation. The real mistake was taking Dr. Watkins advice and leaving for a year. I should have stayed to fight it out.”

“It would have been hard.”

“Yes. But now I have to make my stand here, and I have already compromised my position. No matter what I say, people will believe that I ran because I was guilty.”

Carmen could not dispute the truth. Instead she put her hands where he could not ignore them and made him forget everything for a while. Later, when he was sleeping, she held him in her arms and whispered, “No matter what happens, I am glad you came here. To me.”

# # #

The next afternoon, a stranger was waiting at his classroom door when the children left. Neil ushered him in, observing his expensive suit and silk tie. By the time he handed Neil his card, Neil had a pretty good idea who he was.

“Russell Danvers,” he said, and his card said attorney-at-law. He shook Neil’s hand politely before taking a seat, then added, “Mrs. Boyd works for me.”

“I rather thought she might,” Neil replied dryly.

“She told me all about your situation,” Danvers said.

“All? As a lawyer, you should know the value of accuracy. She told you what she knew, which is not much.”

“It is enough to tell me how to proceed in finding everything.” He put just a slight emphasis on the last word.

“Then I suggest you do so. When you know everything, you will know that I am innocent and there is no work for you to do here.” Neil did not try to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.  He was sick of being balanced and understanding. If it came to lawyers again, he was ready to be aggressive this time.

Danvers crossed his legs, carefully pulling at his pant leg to avoid a wrinkle. He said, “I can get a statement from young Ms. Hamilton to introduce to the school board here. They are not a court of law, but it would be enough to get you fired.”

“Do it.”

Danvers looked surprised. Neil outwaited him, until the lawyer finally asked, “Why are you so anxious?”

“Danvers, before you decide to take this on, step back once. Just for the sake of argument, be devil’s advocate to your own position. Consider just how I might feel if I were innocent.  Consider how I would feel about Alice Hamilton and her father.” 

He paused to let the words sink in. “If you bring a statement by her to the board, it will be in writing. I will have a right to a copy. Then I will take her to court for libel. So go ahead, get your statement if she is foolish enough to make one. But she has other things on her mind these days, and you may have a hard time finding her. Her daddy hid her away when she turned up pregnant.” more tomorrow

471. Sunshine Blogger Award (2)

JM Williams nominated AWL for the Sunshine Blogger Award, which he and I both consider a chance to give a shout out to bloggers we follow. I started on Monday, and ran long, so here is the rest of the story.

There are four rules to the SBA. I took care of two of them on Monday. The remaining are:

Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you.
Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.

I only nominated four blogs, and only wrote three questions. Michael, Thomas, Joaquin and James, the questions are at the bottom, should you chose to accept. (There is no penalty if you don’t. This post will not self destruct.)

 JM Williams’ questions to me were:

1. When did you start writing?   In the early seventies I started by writing a few articles for magazines. I started writing fiction in 1975. not counting the answer to question five.

2. Which genre do you prefer to write? To read?  Fantasy for both.

3. Which genre do you actually write most often? It is about equal between fantasy and science fiction, with a few contemporary novels as well, but only SF seems to sell.

4. What is your favorite piece of work and why? By other writers, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin. From my own work, a short story The Prince of Exile. Of everything I’ve written, that was the only story in which I had no idea where it came from, nor where it was going while I was writing it. On the inspiration-perspiration continuum, it was way to the left.

5. Where is the most interesting place you came up with a story idea? This is not so much a where as a how.

A couple of years before I started writing fiction, I was with my wife in the stacks of a library. I had finished for the night and she was still working, so I took down something to read. The only tolerable book in the area was Beowulf. I flipped it open to a random page and read, “All that lonely winter . . .”

A vision exploded in my head, of a young boy, at an open wind hole in a castle, looking out over a snowy scene. He was living with relatives who had taken him in after his father was killed. They expected him to grow up and avenge his father’s death, but he had no interest in revenge. He just wanted to be left alone.

I saw him and his situation with instant and absolute clarity.

The next day I wrote the first chapter of the novel the incident called out, then put it away. Four years later, it became my third novel, but it remained unfinished for decades. Now it has grown into a three book series, and if I ever find a publisher, I’ll announce it here.

6. If you could win any writing award, which would it be? The Nebula, of course. A Hugo wouldn’t be bad either. I can’t hope for a Nobel Prize since I can’t sing, play guitar, and blow harmonica at the same time.

7. Do you associate with other writers? Are they at the same level as you? My level  is totally weird. I have been published since 1978, but I went unpublished (and unknown) for a long time after, and now am published again. I work strictly alone. I loved meeting writers at Westercon this year, and I love meeting them on the internet, but there is a huge generational gap.

8. What’s one of your writing goals for 2018? I have two actually. I want to see my recently finished steampunk novel find a publisher, and finish the second steampunk novel I am working on now.

9. Are you a plodder or a plotter? 100% plod. I outline very little. When I was a teacher, I was always in trouble because I refused to write lesson plans. I carried everything in my head, and that scared the principal half to death.

10. Where do you currently live, where are you originally from, and have you ever lived in a foreign country? I live in the foothills of central California, on three acres with wild turkeys and bobcats. I grew up on a farm in Oklahoma. In between, I lived in cities and hated it. When I became a teacher, and finally had a dollar in my pocket and summers off, my wife and I spent six summers living in a tent and subsisting on bread and apples, four in Europe and two in Australia. You can go far on little, if you want to badly enough.

11. If you could travel anywhere in the Universe, where would it be and why?   If?  What do you mean if?  I travel everywhere in the Universe I want to. Why else would I be a writer?

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Now the questions for my nominees. Three instead of eleven, and loosely organized at that.

1. List your favorite authors. Length of list is your choice. A reason for the choices would be nice as well.
2. List your favorite books (That’s not the same question, since it it quite possible to have a favorite book by someone with only one great book.) Again, reasons would be nice.
3. List your favorite genres (or sub-genres, if you that works better for you) and tell what you look for as a sign of quality in that particular genre.

#                #                #

I had a great time doing this exercise, but my nominees may not feel the same way. If they don’t respond, no problem. The reviewers in particular have a tightly formatted product that might not work well with the Sunshine Blogger Award.

The main idea is to send them some new customers.

Symphony 107


The next ten days were the happiest of Neil’s life. He and Carmen spent every night together, at her apartment or his, and there was no end to her variety, her passion, or her joy of life. For ten glorious days and nights, it was as it the affair of Alice Hamilton had never happened.

Even school was better. Neil had always noted the difference between his two classes. The morning class was calm and easily managed, attentive and easy to teach. The afternoon class was none of those things. He had attributed it to a different mix of students and the fact that they were tired when they came to him in the afternoon. Yet as soon as Jesse was permanently gone, a change came over his afternoon class. Neil could not believe what a difference the boy’s absence made.

He did not know what other events were taking place at the same time.

Lee Boyd had a cousin in Oregon to whom he wrote occasionally. By sad coincidence, that cousin lived in the same town Neil had come from. The excitement of a Valentine’s Day party ending in a bar-room brawl prompted Lee to send a letter, and for the first time he mentioned his teacher’s name. The cousin laughed at Lee’s story, and read the letter to his older sister. She recognized the name McCrae and mentioned it to her mother. Her mother called Toni Boyd to make sure it wasn’t the same person.

Toni Boyd came to see Neil. She was waiting outside his classroom door when the students ran to catch their busses. Neil had only seen her once before, when she had come in to see why Neil was giving group grades. She had told him then how difficult it was for her to get off work, so Neil knew that something unusual was up.

She gave her son a hug and said, “Go on and ride the bus. I am going to stay here and talk to Mr. McCrae.”

“What’s the matter, Mom? I’m not in any trouble.”

“I know. Just go on.”

Toni was wearing a long navy blue dress of conservative cut and her short, black hair was flawless. She looked like an expensive lawyer’s secretary, which was exactly what she was. Neil ushered her in and they sat. She came right to the point. “Mr. McCrae, where did you work last year?”

“Why do you ask?”

Her eye sharpened and she pursed her mouth. “Please just tell me.”


“Where in Oregon?”

Sooner or later this had to happen. He told her.

Her face grew even more severe. “Why did you leave there?”

“Mrs. Boyd, I may not work for a lawyer like you do, but I do recognize cross examination when I hear it. What is on your mind?”

“Why did you leave Oregon?”

“You sound like a person who already knows, or thinks she knows.”

“I do, now. I couldn’t believe it at first, because Lee really likes you and thinks you are a good teacher. I got a phone call today from my sister-in-law warning me about a Neil McCrae who was dismissed from their school for forcing a student to have sexual relations with him. There can’t be two teachers named Neil McCrae from the same town. You can either tell me if it is true, or I will find out for myself. Without even trying, I can think of ten ways to find out, and the lawyer I work for would think of twenty more.”

Neil sighed and said, “I am the person you are asking about, but you don’t have your facts straight.” more Monday

Shut the Door, Martha!

This is unnumbered because it will be short — not so much a post, as a post script. In Serial today, Neil and Carmen finally make love but they do it off stage. I prefer that, most of the time.

Several reviewers of Cyan complained about the amount of sex in the novel. I don’t understand that. It was absolutely necessary to the story, since Cyan was a description of how the exploration of nearby extra-solar planets might actually happen. Given the isolation the explorers would endure, sex was a essential part of the mix.  Even then, most of the sex takes place off stage or nearly off stage.

This subject came up in a panel at Westercon. I was in the audience, not on stage. The question they were considering was, “When your characters have sex, do you shut the door?” Some did; some didn’t. No one asked me, but unless there is an overriding reason otherwise, I usually shut the door.

Even fictional people deserve some privacy.

Symphony 106

He whispered, “No,” as he withdrew. Yet she did not let him withdraw altogether. She caught his hand as he sat up and gripped it like a lifeline.

He rolled over and sat back, feeling his heart booming in his chest. “Too fast?” he asked, and his voice cracked with the urgency of his need.

Carmen shook her head. “I have to talk to you first,” she said.

“I’m not really in the mood to talk right now,” he answered, and bit his lip to control the shaking of his voice.

She took both his hands in hers and said, “I’ve been holding something back from you. You have to hear it now, before we go any further.”

He shook his head in pain. Not again. It wasn’t fair. How much could one man take?

“Neil,” she cried, shaking him. “Please.”

“Tell me,” he said through set teeth.

“Neil, I love you. I’m not going to tell you that I don’t. Just listen, please.”

The world turned over for him in that moment; she had never told him that she loved him before.

Now she released his hands and sat back. She said, “Neil, when you first came here, you must have noticed that I acted badly toward you.”

“You froze me out. You were the only one who did.”

“I was the only one who knew about Alice Hamilton.”

“How did you know?”

“Bill told me. I was the only one he told.”


She moved about uncomfortably on the couch. “Bill is an old and dear friend. He probably trusts me more than anyone else in the school because he has known me longer. And I trust him. You see, he was my teacher in high school; he arranged for me to get a scholarship when I graduated. If it weren’t for Bill Campbell, I would be an ignorant housewife with ten kids and no education. So when he asked a favor of me, I had to say yes.”

“And the favor was . . . ?”

“To watch you. To make sure that you were as innocent as James Watkins said you were.”

Neil sighed and shook his head. “That is one hell of a job to take on.”

“I didn’t want it, but I couldn’t refuse. If you had been an abuser, we had to know it.”

Neil said, “I understand. But do you know what? I’m sick and tired of understanding. I never did anything to deserve all this, and I’m just about ready to pack it in. It isn’t worth it. It just isn’t worth it.”

She reached for his hand again, and said, “Neil, I’m sorry.”

“You did a lousy job, you know. If you were going to spy on me, you shouldn’t have acted like I had the plague.”

“I couldn’t help that. I have never been able to conceal my feelings. With me, what you see is what you get.”

She had taken both his hands and moved in close again. He looked at her, wondering how she had meant that last phrase, when she took away any doubt.

“Neil, if you want me, I am yours. I love you. I began to love you even when I didn’t trust you, and now I love you without reservation. I would never have agreed to spy on you if I had known what you were like. If you can forget that — if you still mean what you said when you said you love me . . .”

Neil stood up. He raised Carmen up and drew her into his arms again. Then, with their arms around each other, they walked to her bedroom. more tomorrow — and check out today’s short post in A Writing Life for a take on Neil and Carmen.

A Timely Note

I found it amusing to set my clock to Daylight Savings Time on Sunday, then turn on the computer and write a critical chapter in my new novel about a device called The Great Clock. That entity is also known as The Enemy, The Clock That Swallowed Time, The Clock that Put Time in a Cage, and quite a few other names.

I’m about a third of the way through the book, and it finally has its proper name. It’s called Like Clockwork. Of course. I should have known that from the beginning.

My computer must have been amused as well, because as I was typing in the title of this note, I hit a wrong key and it activated Time Machine, which is Apple’s name for the backup program I use.

Although — can there be any irony without surprise, and can there be any surprise in a multiverse where everything that can happen, must happen?

Yeah, it’s that kind of book. I have a short excerpt scheduled for April 11.

Symphony 105

Bill nodded in satisfaction. “In other words,” he said, “you made the mistake that I refused to make with Hector.”

“No. Well, practically, yes; but morally, no. The essential difference is that Hector was innocent and Jesse was not.”

“You still can’t see it my way?”


Surprisingly, Bill laughed. The sound seemed to sweep away the gloom that had gathered around them. He said, “You’re young, and the young have to fight a few battles to know when to fight and when to step aside. There are some students you should go out on a limb for, and some students you can’t save. Ten years from now, Jesse Herrera may come back and thank me for sending a clear message that he can’t get away with murder. Or not. Who knows? We just do the best we can.”

Bill came around the desk and led Neil out with an arm on his shoulder. He said, “You struck out this time. But you can never make a home run unless you swing at the ball. Don’t give up.”

# # #

During the months of winter, the Central Valley of California fills up with fog. It is a time of grey mornings and coldly steaming nights. While mid-western schools are closing because of snow, California schools are delaying their mornings until the fog clears enough for busses to safely run.

Here, at the change of the seasons, daytime belonged to spring and the nights still belonged to winter. Fog came rolling in from the orchards to curl its ghostly hands about Neil’s knees as he walked to his car. He started the engine and slid out onto Kiernan, driving automatically. When he reached Carmen’s apartment, he was a little surprised to see where his unconscious mind had brought him.

She met him at the door with a kiss and asked, “How badly did it go?”

Neil told her the whole story. She sat very close, holding his hand in hers with her hip against his. When he had finished, she said, “I was worried for you.”

Then she was in his arms, her mouth was on his, and for a long striving time they forgot everything but the urgency of the moment. When the first passion had spent itself, they leaned hard against the back of the couch, so tangled together that there was only the space of a hand’s thickness between their faces.

She moved her hand to brush back his hair and her fingers lingered on his cheek. There was a fire in his loins and she could not be unaware of the urgent hardness pressing against her, but she did not move away. Then she kissed him again. He drew her deeper into his arms until he must have hurt her, but her groans were not of pain. They fell back on the couch and he moved above her, settled his weight upon her, settled his mouth on hers again, and slid his hand up to cup her breast. Their tongues touched and wrapped about one another. She locked her arms hard about him, and all outer realities slid away into unimportance.

Finally he raised his head to catch his breath. Carmen’s eyes were shining and she was breathing hard. He leaned above her, memorizing the lines of her face, and feeling a warmth of love as great as his passion. It was a moment to be treasured, and a moment to be repeated. A lifetime would not be time enough to exhaust its joy.

Then a shadow crossed her face. It crept in from the edges of her eyes, crept between them, and shut him out. more tomorrow

470. Sunshine Blogger Award (1)

The logo above is for the Sunshine Blogger Award, for which JM Williams just nominated A Writing Life. It’s not a HUGO, but a way for bloggers to give a shout out to other bloggers. Thanks JM. I appreciate it.

The rules of the contest (if that’s the right word for it) are:

1.) Thank the person who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
2.) Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you.
3.) Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
4.) List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

Okay, I’ve done 4 and I’ll do 2 and part of 3 on Thursday. Here come 1 and the rest of 3, all mangled together.

JM Williams who nominated AWL, is a writer with a long list of stories, mostly published electronically, and one anthology of flash fiction, The Adventures of Iric. I mentioned Iric recently in a post about author’s names, and reviewed it positively on Amazon. JW Williams has a new website, and an old one that you might still fall into if you are using a search engine, along with an author page on Amazon.

Our connection came when he liked one of my posts, some time ago. I don’t formally follow any blogs, since my time is limited, but every time someone likes one of my posts, I drop in to their site and look them over. I get a lot of newbies, and a lot of people who are working out problems in the semi-public sphere of the internet.  I like that. I hope this doesn’t sound smart-ass, but it seems to me that baring your soul to the universe, without telling anyone your home address, is a safe way to both vent and find support. I also get likes from a lot of new and would-be authors, and every time I post a poem, I snare a lot of poets.

I end up reading a lot of poetry and fiction and occasionally something really grabs my attention. JM Williams and Iric did that. I have also found a lot of useful information on the world of e-publishing on his site. I’ve been in this game a long time, but the “e” side of publishing is something I’m just learning about. So thanks for shared interests and information. I’m glad we’ve met. I liked Iric and I’m anxious to read your novel when it comes out.

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I’m only going to nominate four new blogs, one by an author and three by reviewers.

Michael Tierney was another whom I discovered when he liked one of my posts and I backtracked him. His blog, Airship Flamel, is largely devoted to steampunk and victoriana, and to publicizing his writing. That makes him a man after my own heart. I enjoy his blog, but this is primarily a shout out for his novel. I bought, read, and reviewed To Rule the Skies. I recommend it as a very British romp.

The remaining nominees are reviewers of novels that they consider really old — but which I read when they first came out.

Thomas Anderson is the voice of Schlock Value, which is the only blog I read without fail every week. His subtitle, Reading cheap literature so you don’t have to, is probably all you need to know in order to understand his perspective.

I found him in an odd way. About the time I was starting my blog, I googled myself. Strictly business, you understand, and I found a review of Jandrax, my first novel. It had been out of print for forty years, and here was a review dated 2014. Did I read it? Does Donald comb his hair funny?

Thomas didn’t love Jandrax, but his review was fair. More important, compared to the reviews it got when it came out, he had obviously read it closely.  I went to the contact me section and sent him a letter, saying something like, “Since you review books that came out forty years ago, you probably never expected one of the authors to respond, but here I am.” We’ve been going back and forth ever since.

Thomas likes to review schlocky books, and he has a talent for finding them, skewering them, and still finding something worthwhile in most of them. It’s an odd approach, but I really like it.

I discovered Joachim Boaz (actual name unknown to me) and his site Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations via Schlock Value. He reviews book of the same era, but takes them all on, the good, the bad, and the weird, and with a more serious demeanor. If you check out one of his many indexes you will be amazed at the breadth of his coverage. If you are curious about an old SF book, this should be your go-to site.

James Nicholl  of James Nicholl Reviews also came to my attention when he reviewed one of my old novels. His site covers publications over a wider time scale, and anybody who has review categories like 50 Nortons in 50 Weeks and The Great Heinlein Juveniles (Plus The Other Two) has something worthwhile going on. I have read a dozen or so reviews so far, which means I have just scratched the surface. This is going to be fun.

Okay, I’m up to a thousand words and I haven’t started answering questions yet. It looks like this post is going to roll over into Thursday.

Symphony 104

“Evelyn saw him run by, and Glen heard you chewing him out beforehand. I heard from both of them before the hour was over. They weren’t spying. Its just that we help each other here, and we share information so everyone knows all about every student. It is the one advantage a small school has that offsets our lack of funds and personnel.

“When you didn’t come to me, I knew that you were trying to go it alone. I called Mrs. Herrera and asked how Jesse was doing. She told me about your midnight visit, and never knew that I hadn’t known of it.”

“You are one sneaky bastard,” Neil accused, with left-handed admiration.

“Only because you made me be. Why didn’t you come to me? And be straight with me; your career is riding on your answer.”

Once again, Neil caught a glimpse of the iron hand beneath the velvet glove. He was reminded of Dr. Watkins, only Bill Campbell was more straightforward about it.

Neil said, “I knew that you would have expelled him.”

“Yes, I would have. Are you telling me your motives were completely impersonal?”

“No. I was also afraid you would be angry because I sent him home instead of sending him to you. But that was a secondary consideration. My real reason was to keep him from being expelled.”

Bill nodded and sighed. He said, “Yes, I believe that.”

“May I ask why you believe me? I’m not sure I would.”

“I believe you because I seldom see people doing things that are out of character. It is your character, as I see it, to champion your students to the point of foolishness. Like you did when you tutored Alice Hamilton against your better judgement. And like you did here not an hour ago when you argued with me about Hector Van Vliet. It is a noble trait, and someday it is going to destroy you!”

“Hector didn’t even deserve the punishment he got.”

Bill slammed his hand down on the desk top in anger. “Damn it, Neil, do you think I don’t know that? So what? It won’t hurt him, and he will always remember it. The next time he starts to lose his temper, he will think twice. The real point is, what would have happened if I had let him go? These are just kids. They can’t weigh the fine points of justice like you and I do. They would just know that Hector got away with murder, and we would have a rash of misbehavior like you have never seen. If I had let him go unpunished, I would eventually have had to suspend twenty other students that I won’t have to suspend now.”

There was another period of silence, while Bill sat brooding.

Neil said, “If you follow that thinking to its logical conclusion, you have to punish me as well.”

“Don’t push your luck, Son. You are in the same position Jesse Herrera was in. The only thing I can do to you is fire you, and I don’t want to do that.”

“I was aware of the similarity of our positions.”

“Is that why you went out on a limb for him?”


Bill Campbell made up his mind. He said, “Neil, if you know what you did wrong, tell me.”

“Of course, I know,” Neil replied bitterly. “It wasn’t because I endangered your authority. I kept you out of the line of fire by not telling you. I was wrong because if I had not championed Jesse Herrera, my classroom would have been more calm, my students would have learned more during these last weeks, and four innocent students would not have been suspended for attacking a devil I kept in their midst.” more tomorrow