It was baffling to her how many college students thought it was acceptable to use chatspeak in a professional college paper. Kristina Pagan often thought of setting these particular papers on fire and then handing back their ashes to their authors, or potentially setting the authors themselves on fire, but decided that would more than likely lose her her job, no matter how irritating the students were. She was meeting with one of these students today, Cadie Harris, whose papers were normally quite average, but this time, had been a disaster. Seriously, who names their daughter Cadie, and spells it like that? As the teaching assistant for the class, Kristina was privy to certain registration information, and Cadie alleged that that was what her birth certificate said.
This was not Cadie’s first time visiting Kristina’s shared office. Professor Atkinson, Kristina’s boss, was out at the moment, which left Kristina to handle all the disgruntled students who failed the paper on the Twelve Olympians. So far, she had found one plagiarist, one who cited Wikipedia and nothing else, one whose paper was nothing but the names of the Greek gods (and Zeus listed twice), a bimbo who handed in her entire paper in chatspeak (lyk so zus n hera h8 each otha n stuf), and one confused young man who wrote his paper based on the God of War series. Kristina tried to pass him, but since he included Kratos and left off Ares, she had to watch as his grades went down in flames. Metaphorically of course.
Kristina sipped from her Devlin University coffee mug and wrote a big, red F on the top of another paper. She tossed it into her ‘done’ pile and sighed deeply. She hated bitch work. Sadly, that was most of what being a TA was about. She always ended up doing most of their editing for them. If they would just come to her before writing their papers, some of them could pass. There was little chance that Cadie would be one of those people, but there was always hope.
‘Speaking of Cadie,’ Kristina thought as she sipped her coffee again. ‘She’ll be late if she doesn’t show up soon.’
As if on cue, Cadie Harris, of the NYC Harrises, sauntered into Krstina’s office on her Uggs. She sat down on the chair across from Kristina and brushed a lock of blonde hair out of her eyes. Kristina really wanted to meet her parents, the NYC Harrises, and find out what kind of mental patients would name their daughter Cadie with a ‘C’ and a ‘D’ instead of the way a normal person would goddamn spell it. Kristina changed the first two consonants in her name from ‘CH’ to ‘K’ because she hated her parents. They named her a good, normal first name and spelled it the right way. Kristina picked a slightly more adventurous avenue
“Why is your hair pink?”
“Because my father never loved me,” Kristina said dismissively. “Now, let’s talk about why your grades are pulling an Icarus this semester.”
“What does that mean?”
“That’s kind of my point, actually,” Kristina said, suppressing the urge to sigh in exasperation. “You failed your last paper. Epically. I’m sorry to say, but you probably aren’t going to pass this class. You’re not doing very well.”
“But, but I watched every episode of Xena when I was growing up,” Cadie said, her eyes suddenly large and somehow even bluer than before. “Plus, my favorite movie growing up was Disney’s Hercules.”
“That’s not exactly an accurate-”
“Plus I’m super rich,” Cadie interrupted.
“I know, of the NYC Harrises,” Kristina added.
“You’ve met my parents?”
“Honey, your mother hosts that godawful competitive reality show and your father can’t stay out of the tabloids,” Kristina said. “Everyone has met your parents.”
“You don’t like Wrestle Your Way to A Man?”
“It offends me a little,” Kristina said. “Now let’s talk about why you failed your paper.”
“I failed my paper?”
“Sweetie, you alleged that Dionysus was the God of, and I quote, ‘getting crunk and shit’.”
“But he is!”
“You called Aphrodite a ho-”
“She is a ho!”
“-and you said Zeus was probably a fag since he captured Ganymede and forced him to be a waitress for the rest of his life.”
“Am I wrong?”
“Technically, no, but I have to fail you anyway,” Kristina said, and she flung the paper on the desk in front of Cadie with effortless malaise. “The language is not up to what Professor Atkinson expects from a college-level student. Also, some of the people grading your paper may or may not have been slightly offended by the fag comment.” Just slightly. Kristina didn’t particularly care about that word but Sarah, her girlfriend, would probably want Kristina to get offended for her.
“Just the gays,” Cadie retorted. “And they get offended about everything.” Kristina put her feet up on the desk.
“Personally, I find that it’s quite difficult to offend me,” Kristina said evenly. “More often than not, I’m the one doing the offending, you walking sperm donation clinic.”
“What did you call me?”
“I said you’ve have more meat in you than a Subway,” Kristina said.
“I’d rather wrap myself in barbed wire and roll down a hill,” Kristina continued, keeping her even tone. “I’m not mad, I’d just like you to know that you’re quite possibly one of the stupidest bimbos I’ve ever run across.” Cadie’s eyes flared and she stood up from her chair with fire in her grimace. “Hit me. I dare you. Please, give me an excuse. I haven’t had a good hair-pulling session in a long ass time. I will rip that fake ass shit right off your head and feed it to you. Try me, I beg you.” The sorority girl let her glare smolder for few more minutes before she spat out another sentence.
“I’ll file a formal report.”
“You do that,” Kristina said. “I’ll show them the paper in which you used the ‘F’ word, which hurts me greatly as a poor, disenfranchised member of the marginalized LGBT community, and the case will turn on you. You’ll get nothing, and I’ll win. Being a minority is sort of awesome.”
Cadie twisted her face into what was surely the most menacing glare she could manage. She looked like a kitten pretending to be a tiger. It would have been adorable if she wasn’t such a useless tool. Her nostrils flared and flexed as she got madder and madder. She swallowed and hocked up a giant loogie before spitting it into Kristina’s coffee.
“I hope someone sets you on fire, Kristina.”
“Me too, actually,” Kristina replied. “Have a nice day, Cadie. Try harder next time.” Cadie huffed and puffed and stomped out of the office. Kristina looked forlornly into her coffee mug and sighed. That was the second bimbo who had spit in her coffee that week.
“You probably didn’t need to be quite that rude.” Kristina looked up from her coffee mug and saw her boss and mentor in the doorway. Kendra Atkinson was a tenured professor at Devlin who worked for the history department. Her primary class, Mythology for the Modern Scholar, was a popular liberal arts class for people looking to coast through their Fine Arts requirement. The class itself covered several different religions throughout the world, including Greek, Roman, Hindu, and Christian mythology, with additional units on Buddhism, Zoastrianism, and Deism. On April Fool’s Day, she’d asked Kristina to give a talk on Pastafarianism. The class was pretty low key, and despite Kristina’s frustrations, most of her students did well and were pretty eager to learn about the topic, or at least eager to get a good or passable grade.
“I think I was just the right amount of rude,” Kristina said. “She called me a fag.”
“She called Zeus a fag,” Kendra corrected. “And she’s not wrong. You admitted so yourself. All you had to do was say ‘You probably should have worded it more carefully, Cadie’.”
“That’s what I said on her paper,” Kristina said defensively. “I thought it was sufficient. I was just going to go over ways she could improve and speak with her like an adult, and then she went and spit in my coffee.”
“That’s the second time that’s happened this week.”
“I know! How weird is that?” Kristina opened the window and, with a firm grip on the handle of her mug, tossed its contents out the window. There probably wasn’t anybody walking underneath it at the moment. “I think she’s the only one that failed this paper though.”
“Who was the other one?”
“The Fisher kid who failed the Twelve Olympians quiz,” Kristina explained. “He’s convinced Kratos is the real God of War. Pretty sure he’s only played the second and third games, the pansy.”
“All joking aside, you really should be kinder to my students, Kristina,” Kendra warned. She walked over to the chair that Cadie had left askew and fixed its position back to normal. “I’ve been getting a lot of complaints again, not only from the students, but from the faculty as well. You don’t get to determine if someone is a human being or not, Kristina. You have to treat them all like they are. You’re a good TA, but I can’t keep you on if this keeps up. If you’re going to work for me, I need you to be a good deal more professional.”
“I know, I try,” Kristina said sheepishly. She hung her head, pretending to scrub out her coffee mug with a tissue. “I’m just not good at… well, It really doesn’t matter does it? I just need to do it.”
“Exactly,” Kendra smiled. “I knew you could do it.”
“Well, I haven’t exactly done it yet.”
“You will. I have faith in you.” Kendra smiled warmly and began to leave, but she stopped at the door like she forgot something. “How do I look, Kristina?” Kendra turned profile and smoothed down her outfit. Her wine-colored tweed power suit was one of Kristina’s favorite things about her wardrobe. It brought out the flecks of dark brown in her eyes, and it made her legs look amazing. Not that she had any attraction to Kendra, but Kristina was not above appreciating the attractiveness of a good woman.
“You look lovely,” Kristina said, opting for honesty. “That suit makes you look stunning. Why do you ask?”
“I have a date later tonight,” she said. Kristina could see the light creeping into her eyes that always showed up when she talked about her husband, Patrick. “We’re going out to dinner, but neither of us have time to change before work. We’re going out to Angelo’s again.”
“Is it your anniversary?”
“No, but when you’re a tenured college professor, the money rolls in like waves on the beach,” Kendra said with a dramatic flourish. “And of course, it has nothing to do with his securing the money for his grant.”
“Oh, good for him,” Kristina said. “You two have fun.”
“What are you doing tonight?”
“My girlfriend is going home to visit her parents, so I’m all alone in the house tonight with my cat,” Kristina said.
“Don’t you ever go out and have fun?”
“I’m studying for my doctorate, Kendra, I mean, Professor Atkinson,” Kristina said. She tried to pretend like the thought of someday holding a higher degree of education than her boss didn’t fill her with warm, fuzzy butterflies. “I have to spend most evenings in on my laptop. It’s my best friend.”
“If you say so, sweetie,” Kendra said apprehensively. “Have fun. I should leave soon, or I’ll be late. It’s almost four.”
“Isn’t the meeting happening two rooms down the hall?”
“I know, it’s so far,” Kendra joked. She waved a quick goodbye before leaving the room with a faint clack of her heels. Kristina sighed and continued working. The papers wouldn’t grade themselves, although that would certainly have been nice. Soon, she lost track of time, not bothering to look at her cell phone for the hour. When she finally did, it was nearing six o’clock, and the offices in her building would shut down for the night soon. She sighed and entered one last grade into the computer before shutting the whole thing down and reaching for the lights. Kristina was about to leave for the day when another knock came at her door. She resisted the urge to hurl her coffee mug at the intruder, more because she liked the mug than anything else. She swallowed her anger and tried to speak evenly again.
“My office hours are almost over, actually, so if you’ll come back later, I can…” Kristina trailed off when she saw who was at the door. A smile crept across her face. “Clara. Clara Redmond.” The blonde lady standing in her doorway