A Short Story for Sunday (by Stephanie): The Thesis
They claimed that no one had ever been killed by a thesis . . .
While I’m hunched over a computer writing lesson plans on this lovely Sunday, I do hope that you’ll enjoy a short, possibly-fictional story that I wrote several months ago (you’ll probably be able to guess what was going on in my life during this time):
“Come on brain, don’t fail me now! Think of something – write, write, write!” Jane coaxed herself, leaning her head so that it rested on the back of the chair. She stared at the ceiling, willing it to speak to her, to provide some semblance of idea, of anything!
“This thesis is going to kill me,” she muttered at last, running her fingers through her uncombed hair. She glanced at the clock: three in the afternoon. And, yet again, she was still in her pajamas. Her gaze lingered for a moment on the dancing cupcakes that covered her pants, as though expecting one of them to suddenly speak up with a suggestion. Any suggestion would have worked; as it was, she’d been writing all day and had thus far managed to add only a page to her work. One page. One lousy, meaningless page that barely added to the length and contributed nothing to the argument.
“Maybe a block quotation would help,” Jane thought aloud, but she quickly dismissed the idea. “No, Dr. Ogden will just slash through it with his red pen without even reading it.” Dr. Ogden, her stern and humorless thesis chair, was notorious in his intense hatred of block quotes. She could hear his booming, chastising refrain in her head: “Don’t tell me what they said, tell me what you say!” Jane rubbed her forehead wearily, feeling the encroachment of another headache. She eyed the computer screen with loathing, thinking of the movies she could be watching and the novels she could be reading, if not for this miserable thesis that stubbornly and cruelly refused to write itself. Her stomach grumbled unpleasantly, informing her that six cups of coffee do not satisfactorily take the place of two meals. With a loud sigh, Jane stood up and headed for the kitchen, visions of sandwiches floating through her weary mind. She left her laptop open on her desk, the nearly-blank page of thesis she had just begun glaring out at her, mocking her with its lack of words.
A moment later, an unexpected boom of thunder startled Jane, making her drop the plate she had just picked up. It fell to the floor with a dramatic crash, landing in that rare, special manner that caused it to shatter into several pieces. Jane swore, stepped on a piece of broken plate with her bare foot, then swore again, a bit louder. Lightening flashed, lighting the dimly-lit kitchen, and successfully startling Jane yet again. Clearly, this was not her day.
While Jane crouched in the kitchen, gingerly picking up pieces of plate and trying diligently not to cut herself again (all the while unknowingly trailing blood from her cut foot), the thesis stared out from its computer-bound imprisonment, glaring at the room. As lightening played across the wall, the thesis suddenly gained self-awareness, and crawled out from the computer screen. It snorted disdainfully at the laptop, then hopped to the floor and cautiously scuttled out of the bedroom, through the living room, and toward the kitchen.
The thesis froze as it neared the kitchen, then gave the air a thoughtful sniff. Its eyes narrowed into slits as it sensed its prey: Jane. So close, so close to the tiny, flexing claws that hungered to shred the skin from her pallid, sleep-deprived face. Unaware of the lurking danger, Jane continued to collect and dispose of the plate fragments, muttering to herself all the while. The thesis stiffened, arched its back, and listened, eyes glimmering.
“Well, that’s done; time for that sandwich,” Jane said to herself as she tossed out the last shard of her robin’s egg blue plate. She collected bread, peanut butter, and a fragrantly ripe banana. The thesis peered around the corner, careful to stay hidden in the shadows, and watched as she expertly built her peanut butter and banana sandwich. The thesis licked a drop of drool from its sneering lips. So close; she was so close. Just a few feet more and it would have her. The thesis suppressed a delighted chortle.
Jane rinsed the butter knife, then grabbed a diet soda from the refrigerator. She carried her sandwich and beverage toward the living room —
“RAAAAAAARRRRRRRR!!!!” The thesis sprang forth, fangs bared and gleaming, silvery claws outstretched. It gave a springing leap and caught its prey by the calf.
“Om nom nom nom nom nom,” the thesis greedily tore at the leg, while Jane shrieked and kicked, fighting to free her leg from the hideous thesis. The determined little beast would not be so easily removed, and clung to her all the tighter, digging sharp claws into her skin while delightedly chewing at the leg.
“Leggo, leggo, leggo!” Jane screamed, thrusting this way and that. The thesis growled and clenched its fangs into the warm flesh even tighter.
“Oh help, help, oh someone HELP ME!!!” Jane screamed. The thesis released its hold, then, before Jane could react, leapt onto her chest, knocking her down with surprising velocity. She struck her head on the kitchen counter, and abruptly went limp. The thesis snickered, a high-pitched noise of ultimate and triumphant evil, its claws jubilantly clutching at the unmoving shoulders. It eyed the now docile, immobile prey with a satisfied toss of its head. Then, taking pride in its accomplishment, the thesis stood on its hind legs upon Jane’s chest and roared, the proud, defiant roar of the victorious predator . . .
The thesis sniffed at the air. A heavenly aroma entered its quivering nostrils. It cocked its head, curious. The thesis gave another sniff and the delectable scent became even more beguiling. What was it? The thesis crawled down from Jane’s chest, and crossed over to where the sandwich had landed when Jane threw it in her panicked fright. Spilled soda covered the wall nearby, but the thesis paid it no mind. It sniffed yet again, then sighed. The scent of mingled bread, banana, and peanut butter was unlike any the thesis had ever known. Drooling, the hungry beast sank its fangs into its new quarry. Euphoria; the sandwich was a treasure previously unknown, a delectable dish that made human flesh repugnant in comparison! Eagerly, the thesis downed the meal in a series of rapid mouthfuls. It sniffed about, unsatisfied. More, it must have more!
Sighing again, this time in reluctance, the thesis crossed over to Jane again. It looked her over for a moment, nodded to itself, then sprang onto the counter. Grabbing a paper towel, the thesis dampened it with cold water from the sink, then sprang down to the floor with it. Gently, it bathed Jane’s bleeding leg, then bound it with a dishcloth. The thesis returned to the sink with another paper towel, then climbed onto Jane’s chest and wiped her face. Her eyes opened, slowly and painfully. She gasped in fright at the glowing eyes staring directly into hers.
“Slave, make me another sandwich,” the thesis demanded in a gruff, gravely growl. Jane stared in silent panic, swallowed, then, from nowhere, gained a sudden burst of confidence.
“Will you write yourself if I do it?” She entreated, wincing as she tried to sit up. The thesis continued to clutch at the front of her shirt, its hungry eyes regarding Jane intently.
“That will cost two sandwiches,” it decided at last.
“Okay, that sounds fair,” Jane agreed. “But no more attacking me.”
“That will cost three sandwiches.”
“All right.” Jane stood up, and the thesis climbed onto her shoulder, where it perched comfortably. “Will you also agree to stop calling me your slave?”
“That will cost four sandwiches.”
“You also need to make sure that you write yourself in such a way that I can defend you well.”
“I do not need defense; I am offensive!”
“Yes, that you definitely are,” Jane agreed with a weak smile. Outside, the storm was now over, and Jane thought she discerned the pleasant whistling of a cheerful robin.
“No crusts, please,” the thesis requested. It was the beginning of a much different relationship between the two. And though Jane’s grocery bill grew quite a bit higher over the next few weeks, it was all worth it in the end.
“I’ll almost miss the little monster,” Jane smiled as she handed the completed thesis to Dr. Ogden.
“Yes, well, I told you all along, no one has ever been killed by a thesis,” he commented in a rare moment of joviality.
“No, just maimed,” Jane said lightly as she exited the office.
Posted on August 14, 2011, in Humor, Stephanie Thompson, Story and tagged grad school humor, short story, short story for sunday, Stephanie Thompson, Sunday, thesis. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.