Flash: Truth and Consequences

Image from the Internet Hive Mind (it’s hard to find a small lecture hall image)

Gael and Braxton sat together in the upper row of the university lecture room continuing their catching up on the summer apart. Best buds since freshman year, the ticking clock of their senior year pushed at their friendship in new ways. Today marked the first time they took a class together, their majors of production management and bio-chemistry intensely separate tracks. The political science course neatly filled a slot on both their liberal art requirements. After putting up the finishing touches in their room this morning from last night’s town-run, they hightailed it across campus.

Gael, on a business track, was used to the lecture rooms in Yeh Hall though not this room in particular, but Braxton usually spent his time deep in the lab rooms. Deep being the operating work, as nearly all the bio labs were located in the basement of the much older Armstrong Science Building on the other side of campus with the dorms. The University started as a hard science school and expanded into the “softer” skills as time went by.

This room was smaller than most, surprising for a 100-level poly-sci course that clicked off a liberal arts requirement, with only three rises of seats half-circling the lecture pit fitting forty students and plenty of the seats were empty, unusually so for the first day even for an early morning class. Gael counted twenty-eight students including him and his pal and wondered how this course paid for itself.

At exactly eight-thirty, the petite instructor entered the room from the door beside the white board. Barely older than them, the brunette smiled at the room, placing her books on the table.

The sound echoed strangely through the room, and Gael swore he heard the door at his back lock.

Braxton turned his head to look behind him, then met Gael’s eyes and raised his eyebrows.

“I heard it too,” he responded quietly.

After walking around the table, the woman hopped on the flat surface, her linen-covered legs swinging several inches above the floor. “Welcome to Truth and Consequences, Political Science 120. If you do not mean to be in this room for this course, now is the time to leave.” She pointed left at the double door at the bottom of the lecture room leading out to the general hallway, her hand covered in rings on every finger and some with double rings, above the second knuckle. Her wrist sung under several metal bracelets.

No one left, but the noisy room calmed as students adjusted their laptops and papers. Gael took notes by paper, having learned over time he retained things better than straight typing, and Braxton just leaned back to listen.

“My name is Madden Pelphrey. For this class, you will address me as Professor Pelphrey. How many of you are here because you heard this class was an easy ‘A’?” She raised her hand as an example, causing her oversized houndstooth jacket to slide down over, exposing a white blouse buttoned tight at wrist, and sending the bracelets jingling down her arm. Like the other hand, the raised right hand was covered in silver, gold, and gems, with the middle finger covered in a full-length ring harness with chains connecting it to rings covering the lower half of the thumb and little finger.

While students squirmed, no one raised their hand except for a freshman in the front row, shrugging an apology.

The professor dropped her hand. “Good, what is your name?”

“Wren, um, Wren Faukner-Brennan.”

Pulling a plain black book off the top of the pile behind her, the woman opened it up, placed it in her lap, and made a mark. “There is the first easy A of the class.” She then looked up at the room, her heart-shaped face becoming serious. “And the last. Let’s try this again.” Snapping the book shut, she set it aside and jumped down. “How many of you are seniors?” She nodded as most of the back row raised their hands. “Juniors … Sophomore? … no sophomores, good … Freshmen? Just the two. Both of you alumni brats?”

Wren looked at the other person in the front row who raised their hands, and they both nodded at each other. Wren explained, “Mom, class of ’02. She said this was the course to take, an easy way to get my head on straight on what to expect in school.”

“Oh, was your mom Marya Faukner?” At Wren’s affirmation, Professor Pelphrey laughed, “I remember her. Great workaround on her part. You may be the only one not lied to. Everyone else, now, raise your hands if you were told this was an easy ‘A’.”

This time Gael and Braxton raised their hands slowly, as did everyone else in the room. Some bashful chuckles broke out. Braxton whispered to Gael under the noise, “There is no way that chick has been teaching for twenty years.” Gael pressed his lips together, privately agreeing. The teacher looked like someone he would hit on in a bar, now that he was finally twenty-one. Maybe three years older than him, max.

“Truth and Consequences. Inside this room, is the truth. Do not lie to me again.” Placing her hands on her slim hips, she glared at the room. “I will be teaching you how to stretch it, bend it, manipulate it, and destroy it. How many of you still think this is an easy ‘A’?”

Hands dropped like stones. Gael leaned forward, interested beyond expectations of the blow-off course.

“First rule, inside this room, you will tell the truth. Second rule, outside this room, you will lie and tell anyone asking, it is an easy ‘A’. Even if you fail the course, it is an easy ‘A’.” The petite woman paced in front of them making eye contact with each of the students, her brown eyes darkening to a black in the light, “Caprice?”

Gael and Braxton nodded agreement.

“I’m going to give you another chance to duck out since the manipulation of expectations was used against you. Again, inside this room is the truth. Reading is about four hundred pages from three different books I will give you. You will not need to buy them, but they do not leave this classroom. You are allowed to mark in them. Just remember the marks already in there are from other students, not experts. I will warn you: one book is a grimoire more than a normal textbook and has really obscure words. If you are good at Latin, you will be ahead of the game.”

Braxton perked up at that, and Gael became really grateful to have a roomie study buddy.

“I will be assigning at least one essay a week, and pop quizzes are the rule. I don’t do formal exams. Plus the class will be broken twice into groups for large projects, one mid-term for 10% of your grade and one final for 25% of your grade. Four times small projects will have you pairing off. I will be assigning the pairs. That is another 15% of your grade. Half your grade depends on others. They will need to trust you and you them. If you can’t handle this, leave now.” She pointed at the double doors to her left again.

The other freshman scraped up their things, “I’m sorry, sorry, I just can’t, sorry,” and scuttled out the door. Two seniors in the backrow tried to cut out the doors in the back of the hall and confirmed that they somehow had been locked, and made their way to the front. Three juniors joined them, leaving twenty-two students behind.

“Better,” Professor Pelphrey nodded. “Still a little much. The course is a 100-level course, so you seniors should be okay, unless you are buried under your major’s courseload. If you need this for the political science credit, Dr. Torbett had Twenty and Twenty-first Century Politics in this same time slot and is used to having people transfer over. Coursework outside his classroom is about an hour a week; coursework outside classroom hours for my course averages five per week, about an extra hour of effort from you per day. The coursework is done in this room. On the plus side, you may get help from the other students taking the 300-level Hard Truths and Soft Lies. The only time this room is not available for your use is during their afternoon class three to five on Wednesdays and Fridays.”

She strode behind the table, dragging her black book toward where she stood. “Last chance for you to leave with no impact on your grade. The University will transfer you to whatever you need. Countdown starts, ten … nine …”

Two seniors and junior packed up their laptops.

Gael and Braxton looked at each other. “You?” they asked nearly simultaneously.

“Nah,” Gael shook his head. “This may be the edge I need in running that business I’ve been talking about for the last two years. You?”

Braxton gave his half smile. “She had me at Latin Grimoire. I will figure out how to work this around my labs to see what that is about.”

“four … three …”

One more person abruptly stood and made their way out of the classroom, and someone else started packing.

“two, one and a half, one and a quarter…”

The final student slammed out of the room with their gear, juggling the last of their books into their backpack strapped to their front.

“Oneeeeeeee.” The teacher looked over the eighteen left, her hand pointing at the double doors. No one moved. “And zero.”

She closed her hand into a fist and the sound of the door locking echoed against the cement walls.

“Now I will take attendance, then I will take your oaths.”

(words 1,628; first published 3/17/2024)

Madden Series

  1. Truth and Consequences (3/17/2024)
  2. Endlessly Creative (5/12/2024)

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