Wake-Up Callsby M. V. Montgomery
When it came time to renew my contract at work, I was routed to a back room. There, after some disorganized scrambling about amidst an ad hoc committee of the faculty, I found myself facing a “final termination” hearing. I was read a copy of a complaint from a student I had never heard of, concerning a poetry book she apparently found salacious, which had contained a short bio of me in the back. Curious, I asked to see it. I was handed not one of my own publications, but what looked to be an undergraduate magazine containing student poems—many of which, I had no doubt, were salacious indeed. One or two of my old pieces had been reprinted inside, but nothing compromising there. I gave a running account of these observations as I flipped through it before the now-abashed committee, which had clearly not taken much time to prepare. I came to a final illustration, of an attractive young couple depicted from the waist up in a partly-clothed embrace. Not me either, unfortunately, I sighed.
Moving into an apartment, unloading and unpacking, I keep imagining I hear scratches and odd thumps in another room. But so keen am I on the task at hand, I don’t even pause to investigate. Finally, when it comes time to carry things into the far bedroom, I walk in and see a strange man, hardly taller than a penguin, propped nonchalantly on a windowsill. I tell him we are moving into the place, my family and I, so if he has been squatting there, now is the time to move on. But this tiny man, who seems quite intelligent, replies in unrecognizably-accented English he understands what I need and will get it for me. He skips off to a kiosk on a nearby floor, where he downloads a document certifying his right to seek asylum in the apartment and my duty to quarter him indefinitely.
the helpful cop
I have just arrived at my fiancée’s place. The door is answered by an off-duty police officer wearing just a T-shirt and some boxers. He invites me in, says she’ll be with me in a minute, that he is hoping we can all remain friendly. Then my fiancée comes out, rubbing her newly dyed-blond hair with a towel and not looking too surprised, saying, Good. I’m glad you found out this way.
My daughter Rina asked me if we could pick up her friend Jillie on the way home. Then asked if we could pick up a couple of pizzas. I had some errands to run that evening, so left the two teenagers alone. When I got back, all in the basement was quiet. Rina’s kitchen note indicated she had gone to bed early. I shrugged, hungrily wondering what had happened to the pizzas, but didn’t want to descend the stairs and disturb her, so instead fixed a sandwich and read myself to sleep. That night I slept soundly, exhausted from a difficult day, quite oblivious to any banging doors, strange thumps, or muted giggles from below. But next morning when I entered the kitchen, twelve girls were crowded into the breakfast nook. Hey, can you fix us some pancakes or something?
My ex-wife told me she had a new child and handed me a small sealed container to babysit. In it seemed to be a tiny creature bundled like a baby. I took it around the park and thought I felt it respond to the sounds of children and their games, but all the bustling-about induced it to crawl out of its bunting—a millipede.
the black yak
A dream at a shopping mall, where I crossed one concourse and promptly got lost. Then, to make matters worse, a power outage. I felt my way along a corridor until I saw the red light of an emergency exit. I pushed open the unused door to find myself in an unfamiliar spot. The mall was surrounded by a vast grassland separating shoppers from their cars. I thought I spotted a likely-looking vehicle on the distant horizon; much too far away to tell if it was mine. I began to trudge across the field toward it, encountering an enormous black yak. The yak came threateningly close, but I managed to circumnavigate it, going far out of my way in the process. I finally made it to the car—not mine.
Finally it has come time for me to receive a long-coveted award at an assembly, a plaque to commemorate my years of service as a teacher of Zen. I’ve been passed over many times before, sat through so many ceremonies as others were honored! At the same time, though, I’m in no particular hurry to arrive and appear desirous of such recognition. So I wait until mid-ceremony to show up, taking extra time to primp myself before making my distinguished appearance. By the time I finally enter the lecture hall, the others have filed out.