Original prologue for the book, "Prisons" that didn't make the final cut.
The first few leaves had begun to scatter in the light, September breeze. Their brilliant reds, and yellows contrasted sharply with the well manicured deep green lawns on the campus of Marmont State College.
The leaves, still covered with dew, swished under the feet of Dr. Warren Q. Fitzpatrick. Fall had always been his favorite time of the year. When the leaves began to change colors and flutter to the ground, when the air became crisp, when all things were preparing to go dormant. On a college campus it symbolized new life, and came with a certain excitement. There was a renewed energy. Dreams were about to be reached for. Goals were going to be achieved. After the long, quiet, hot summer days, where there were always more groundskeepers than students out on the commons, the ratio was righted once more, and the whole campus bristled with activity again.
But his walk today was of a more sullen nature. When he passed by the commons, students stared at him, pointed, and whispered to their friends. He’d always had the desire to be noticed when he walked down a sidewalk anywhere, but this was one of those “be-careful-what-you-wish-for,” moments.
Truth be told, Dr. Fitzpatrick was wondering if he was making his last walk on this campus. He had an urgent summons to the President’s office, which he assumed, was for his own firing. He would probably be met there by Campus Police, and escorted off the premises. His belongings would be boxed up and sent to him.
With leaden legs, he climbed the 130 year old cement stairs leading to the Administration building front doors. Making the sharp right inside the doors, he walked into the entryway of the office of the President, Dr. Philip Baden. Maddie, his attractive, forever-effervescent executive assistant, looked up at him when he entered. Nervously she spoke, “He said for you to just go straight in.” Then she quickly looked back down to her computer screen, and rapidly clicked away on her keyboard.
Swallowing hard, Dr. Fitzpatrick pushed open the large, solid oak door to the President’s office. At the far side of the paneled room, behind a massive ornate wooden desk, sat President Baden, thick, black-framed readers hanging off his nose, staring intently at his computer screen. He looked up briefly and then back to the screen. “Get in here, Fitz. Have a seat. We need to talk.”
Dr. Fitzpatrick closed the door behind him and walked over to one of the blue leather chairs sitting in front of Dr. Baden’s desk. The old floor creaked loudly. Bookshelves, and antique side-tables covered with knick-knacks, lined the plaque covered walls. Dr. Baden’s office was far more elegant than the little concrete bunker he was given, which sat right off the lecture hall. He waited for the president to finish whatever he was reading.
Dr. Baden appeared slightly disheveled this morning. His normally tight tie, was already loose, and his thin gray hair could use another comb through. Dr. Baden, pulled off his readers and dropped them on the desk next to his monitor, then turned to face Dr. Fitzpatrick and leaned in on his arms. “Yesterday was my 36th wedding anniversary.”
“Save it.” Dr Baden waved him off and jumped up from his chair. “It was anything but a happy anniversary. Because instead of taking my wife, to the extravagant dinner I had reservations for, I was at an emergency meeting with the Board of Trustees to determine how to handle the shit-storm you’ve put us in.”
Dr. Fitzpatrick held his breath. He braced for the bad news.
Dr. Baden opened a small refrigerator from behind his desk and pulled out a bottle of water. “It’s not only the cover story of the local newspapers every damned day, it is national news fodder. Those YouTube videos are getting millions of viewers, and next week Global Info Network is sending a crew down here to our little town to do an in-depth report on the situation. Were you aware of that?”
“No, I wasn’t.” Dr. Fitzpatrick shifted in his chair. “How can I help?”
“We need to start getting ahead of this crap.” Dr. Baden took a long swig from his water, then recapped the bottle, and pointed it in his direction. “American Psychology wants to publish an article on your findings. It will give some legitimacy to this crazy-ass thing we allowed you to do. Hopefully take some of the heat off.”
Nervously pushing his glasses back up on his nose Dr. Fitzpatrick spoke, “Well, uhh…we have just really started scratching the surface of the data we collected during…”
“Let’s put it this way.” Dr. Baden plopped back down into his high-backed black leather chair and tapped his water bottle on his desk. “If you can’t write this article, you are of no more use to this institution.”
“Well, you give a convincing argument.” Dr Fitzpatrick wrung his hands. “What is it that you need, exactly?”
“Three thousand words by Friday.”