The TA

“Come in”, I said.

A tall, bulky graduate student came in.

“So you’re my new teaching assistant”, I said, gesturing at him to sit.

He sat, laughing nervously. “So the department tells me.”

“Great. Well, since the department tells me I ought to talk to people, which I myself don’t really see the need for, I’m not here to research people for Pete’s sake… uh, why don’t you hype yourself up a bit?”

“I am the best teaching assistant in the world.”

“Oh.” The thought seemed revoltingly improbable. “Please, prove that.”

“I know everything this course can contain, and twenty percent more.”

“Good.”

“I am resistant to all foul play. I am so hunky” — chunky, I thought — “nobody will start anything with me. I drop into my teaching suggestions of gang affiliations, and good relations with all possible thesis advisors. I speak smoothly and act dashingly, but am impervious to all attempts of sexual seduction.”

I blinked; he explained.

“My wrist is my only lover. I desire no other. Also, I do not form emotional attachments to my students, for I could never love a creature lesser than myself” — not setting the bar very high there, I thought — “and thus if the need arises to silence a troublesome student, I can do it with no hesitation, and I live on the outskirts in a house I own, next to an old graveyard.”

“Wh— where you can…” I hesitated. “Bury the—”

“No no! I am financially stable and in no need of bribes, that is all. And finally, I have no sense of humor.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Is that a good thing?”

“A very good thing. If necessary, I can memorize your jokes and pretend uproarious laughter at them, if necessary.”

Eyeroll. “Not necessary.”

“If the students attempt to escape my inquisition by cracking one, I shall not react to it. Not at all. I will stare, unsmilingly, and persist until my evaluation is complete. If absurdist teaching is required, with its heightened peaks of anxiety-caused concentration, why, I can introduce any statement as if it was a joke and one ought to understand it to laugh at it!”

“I don’t really hold with all this pedagogical stuff…”

“Me neither. I have no pedagogical training.”

“Is that good? I’m told people should… well, not that I have it myself.”

The TA smiled. “What is pedagogy but baggage? Lists of what to do, what to not do? I do not believe limiting myself is the right way. There is no law in the classroom. No routine. No human rights… nothing for the little ones to hide behind when my brilliance flares at them!”

“Right. Right.”

“You are Zeus! I am Heracles! There’s a hydra in the stables!”

“Right.”

“When the clouds of chalk-dust dispel, I will be the only one left standing!”

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