God’s Farm … A Story

20 Apr



God’s Farm … A Story

By L. Stewart Marsden



Charles Chandler Wilson, III walked into his Survey of Shakespeare class at Virginia Tech and sat down in one of the combination chair-desks at the back of the room. Looking about him, he saw no one he recognized. The class filled in, students plopping into desks that formed several straight rows towards the large desk and wooden lectern at the front of the room.

On the front wall chalkboard the name “Professor Anne Calloway” was scrawled in large white cursive letters, and below that, ENG 308 – Shakespeare. A stern-looking woman in her thirties sat at the desk, bent over and writing something.

When the final bell rang in the hallway she began to call out the roll, the names responded to by here from scattered randomly throughout the class.

“Wilson,” she finally called out, and Chandler cleared his throat and answered here much too meekly, he thought. She paused and looked up, scanning her eyes in his direction until she found him, then marked something on the paper she read from. Thankfully, his was not the final name called. That would have been more than he could bear, having his name linger in the air conspicuously. Today he wanted to be anything but conspicuous.

Professor Calloway stood and gathered a stack of pamphlets with light blue paper covers. She walked to the far row, counting out books which she handed to the first student in the row, then stepped to the next row and repeated the act.

“Pass these back, please. Put your name in the upper right-hand corner of the outside cover of your blue book. Put the course number and my name under that, and today’s date and class period. Print your name, last name first, above the pledge. Do not sign the pledge until you have completed the exam. Do not begin the exam until everyone has received the questions. Place your question sheet face down on your desk until I give you the okay to start.

“Penmanship is important. If your answer is not legible, it will be marked wrong. If you want to print your answers, that will be much easier on my graduate assistant’s eyes as well as mine.

“No books, notes, or other materials should be on your desktops other than your blue book and test questions. Put all else away now under your seats, and do not refer to them during the exam.”

The sounds of books and papers fluttered through the room.

The professor returned to her desk and picked up another stack of papers which she began distribute in the same manner as she had the blue books.

“Do not write anything on the question sheets. If you need a pencil, raise your hand and my assistant will get one to you.” Several hands went up. The boyish graduate assistant responded with self-importance, plucking a sharpened pencil from a shoe box and placing it on the desk of each raised hand. “And if you should need another pencil during the exam, raise your hand and one will be provided.

“There is no talking of any kind during the exam. Should you need clarification about a question, come up to my desk. You have until the end of the class period to complete your exam, which is now about 80 minutes, ample time.”

She hesitated a moment, allowing the tension to build. It was like those moments at the starting gates of the Kentucky Derby, when each stall is finally filled with thoroughbreds and their riders. It was nearly an eternity. Chandler would have preferred to be at the horse race.

“Good luck, and you may now begin,” she finally said.

A flurry of question sheets being turned over was followed by various gasps, groans, and blue books opening. Then the classroom went deathly silent, disturbed only by the low crackling of one of the ceiling fluorescent lights and the hurried scratching of lead on paper.

Chandler turned over the test sheet and shook his head as he read the first question.

1. Shakespeare’s authorship is questioned by a number of scholars. In addition to Sir Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, Christopher Marlowe and William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby have been identified as the more likely persons who penned plays and poetry held to be Shakespeare’s. Is that argument valid? What do you believe? Support your thesis. Quotes from the works will result in bonus points.

There were five more questions –– all requiring written answers. He quickly did the math in his head: six questions at a value of just under 17 points per question. Already he was cut down to a potential 83 for the exam. The second question was no better.

2. In Hamlet, foils for Hamlet include Horatio, Fortinbras, Claudius, and Laertes. How does each compare and contrast with Hamlet? In what ways are they alike or different? How does each foil react to the conflicts faced?

He felt his grade slip to a 66.

Jeesh! Whatever happened to multiple guess questions, he thought. At least then I would have a remote chance of passing!

Chandler leaned back in his chair, his head beginning to throb. What the hell did any of this have to do with Shakespeare? Then it dawned on him perhaps he had made a mistake signing up for this course. Perhaps he had made a mistake taking the eight o’clock class. And, just perhaps, he had made a mistake not attending class except for the first and last day.

He flipped the test sheet back over on its face and opened his blue book. Gripping his pencil close to the shaved point, he began to slowly scrawl.

Dear Professor Calloway . . .






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