Waking Rose: A Fairy Tale Retold (7 page)

BOOK: Waking Rose: A Fairy Tale Retold
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“So have you seen much of the area since you’ve moved here?” Dr. Anschlung asked Fish when the rest of the company was involved discussing the latest politics.

“Not really. I’ve only out to drop off some furniture at Mercy College since I’ve gotten here,” Fish said.

“Is that the college near Meyerstown?” Dr. Anschlung asked.

“Mercy College? Isn’t your facility located near Mercy College?” Dr. Storck turned to Dr. Prosser’s companion, a Dr. Schaffer, who was sitting on her right. Fish had learned that she was a surgeon at the hospital.

Dr. Schaffer rolled her eyes. “Unfortunately, yes,” she said distastefully.

Dr. Prosser had overheard the last remark. “What’s unfortunate?”

“Mercy College.”

“Ohmygawd!” exclaimed Dr. Prosser. “If I had weapons of mass destruction, that’s where I’d use ’em!”

Dr. Anschlung cast a quick sidelong glance at Fish and grimaced.

“Why do you say that?” Dr. Storck asked. Then she seemed to conjecture. “Is that where your protestors are from?”

Dr. Prosser swore. “That’s right. Every single Saturday morning, with their placards and rosaries and hymns!”

“I had no idea,” Dr. Anschlung said. “Whatever are they protesting?”

“It’s the old religion versus science thing again,” sniffed Dr. Prosser. “Who knows? The religious right versus progress. Bigots versus the people.”

“Let me guess,” said Dr. Carpenter. “A mixed crowd of impressionable freshmen, crew cuts and Bibles in hand, with old ladies in mantillas praying the rosary, right? Led by some emaciated priest or senile church lady with a sexual repression?”

The others laughed, but Dr. Prosser shook her head and exchanged wry glances with Dr. Schaffer. “Actually, the ringleader is this half-breed chick in denim with long black braids, a megaphone and an attitude. She’s quite a character.”

Dr. Schaffer sighed. “At least we have interesting protestors.”

“Interesting? Like a study in criminal pathology. A female Unabomber waiting to happen.” Dr. Prosser said.

“What do you mean, she’s a half-breed?” inquired Dr. Bosworth, who didn’t seem comfortable with the term. “Is she a Native American?”

“Looks like one, with tan skin and colored-string-bound-braids,” said Dr. Schaffer.

“No,” said Dr. Prosser to her, a bit triumphantly. “I forgot to tell you, I just got the report. She’s actually Polish and Vietnamese!”

“Really?” Dr. Bosworth seemed visibly relieved. “How unusual.”

“The amount of bad publicity she’s given our hospital is damaging,” Dr. Prosser said. “So I thought it prudent to have her investigated. She’s already been arrested, twice, for trespassing, and she’s made threats about our work and against our personnel. It’s in our interest to watch her.”

“The second time she was arrested, it was because I caught her in our dumpster going through the trash,” Dr. Schaffer informed the rest of the table.

The other women shuddered. “Disgusting.”

“Literally looking for garbage to unearth about us,” Dr. Prosser said. “Fortunately, we don’t have anything incriminating in our dumpsters. She just got a little more smelly for her trouble.”

“Why do people do these things?” Dr. Carpenter wondered. “These are college students, you say? What in the world do they teach them at that school?”

“Religious hysteria,” Dr. Prosser said firmly. “They encourage them. We’ve considered preparing a lawsuit against the school, we really have. I mean, I’m all for academic freedom,” she gazed around the table, including Fish in her gaze. “But this kind of intolerance is too much! Suppose they actually managed to damage our facility? Plant a bomb? Are we going to wait for that to happen?”

There was a reflective silence at the table while Dr. Prosser took another bite of her salad.

“So what is it that you do at your hospital that they find objectionable?” Fish asked calmly, since no one else had asked.

Dr. Prosser looked up at him, chewing on a bread roll. Her blue eyes were cool. “Full reproductive services for women,” she said at last. “You’re not familiar with our facility?”

“I’m new to the area,” Fish said apologetically.

“He’s from New York City,” Dr. Anschlung informed them all. “He did his undergraduate at NYU.”

“I see,” Dr. Prosser took another bite. “Well, we only do what every other free public hospital does in this country. We provide the full range of health care for women. But to some of these weirdoes, that means we’re homicidal money-hungry baby-killers.”

“Surely not!” Fish said. Dr. Prosser looked at him suspiciously, so he tried to look guileless.

“I suppose it all comes down to what you consider human. Clumps of cells? Tissues? These people would have us give our fingernail cuttings a decent burial if they could make laws about it.”

“Maybe that’s why her hair is so long,” Dr. Schaffer said in a low voice to Dr. Prosser, who laughed loudly.

“When’s that food coming?” Dr. Prosser asked. She looked around the table, and returned to her practice of ignoring Fish. After a moment, Dr. Carpenter hesitantly offered an opinion on the latest governmental election. For the rest of the meal, Dr. Prosser pretended he wasn’t there, which was fine with him.

On the ride home, Dr. Anschlung seemed embarrassed. “Quite a faux pas of me, asking you about Mercy College. I certainly hadn’t expected such a firestorm.”

“Oh, don’t worry about it. I had no idea. I just mentioned the college because my sister-in-law’s sister goes there.”

“I see,” Dr. Anschlung said. “Well, it certainly doesn’t sound like the sort of place that’s going to look very good on a resume,” she added dubiously.

“I actually have only been there once, and it seemed fairly normal. Just another private school,” Fish assured her. “Nobody chanting rosaries or beating themselves with chains.”

“All the same, it does give religious schools a bad name when they allow their students to become involved with those kinds of protest activities,” Dr. Anschlung said.

“Well, our university has its share of weird protests too, doesn’t it?” Fish asked. “Those environmentalists spray-painting the walls around the goldfish pond?”

“I suppose we do,” she said, sighing. “It all comes under academic freedom, doesn’t it?”

4
...and each of the wise women stepped forward to bestow on the princess a gift…

 

Hers

 

Rose swiftly decided that her favorite class this semester was going to be theology. “Theological Foundations” was taught by a middle-aged professor with a compelling Boston accent, who liked to quote poetry to illustrate a theological point. Rose was spellbound by his performances, even when she didn’t understand them.

“The ineffable paradox of the Divine Love,” Professor Dawson was saying, “communicates the totality of His Being.”

During the third class, Rose couldn’t help noticing the student in front of her, one row over. At first, seeing only out of the corner of her eye, she thought it was a girl, because of the long, black, glossy hair. Then when he turned his head, she saw a scrub beard and realized, with a slight shock, that the student was a boy. He was short, broad-shouldered and muscular, with mirrored sunglasses, dressed all in black, including a rather modish black trench coat. When he caught her stare he turned and smiled. Despite the black, his smile was friendly.

“Are you confused yet?” he said as class ended.

Rose nodded. “A bit. But it’s a wonderful confusion.”

“Oh, so you appreciate profs like him? That’s a good sign.”

“Good sign of what?” Rose was curious.

“Oh, probably nothing significant. You must like poetry.”

“I do,” Rose admitted. “But mostly older poems. Still, Professor Dawson makes me
want
to read T. S. Eliot.”

“He will do that,” the boy stretched. “I’m Alex O’Donnell by the way. You must be a freshman.”

Rose laughed. “Technically I’m a sophomore,” she informed him. “I’m a transfer from community college.”

“Good for you. You did the smart thing. Much cheaper than Mercy College. What’s your major?”

“English literature. And yours?”

“Double major in poly-sci and history,” he said. “This is my junior year. Where you from?”

“New Jersey.”

“Ah, Joisey. I’m from Virginia. You going to the cafeteria?”

“Actually, yes.” Rose liked this. It was so easy to get to know guys here, without any pressure of it turning into a date too quickly. She was pretty sure that Alex was not the type of guy she would be interested in, but knew he would be interesting to talk to.

“So what do you think of Mercy College?” Alex asked as they walked outside. “Heaven on earth or purgatory?”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, haven’t you picked up that not all the kids who go here want to be here? Parents love this school because of its sterling safe reputation. So your parents didn’t make you go here?”

“No. My mom went here, and this family whom I’m friends with had their older kids go here and they loved it. I wanted to come.”

“Good for you. I guessed ‘Heaven on earth’ was your option as soon as you didn’t understand the question.”

“And you?”

“Ah, purgatory—maybe. But an interesting experience all the same. When I first came here, I was afraid it was going to be an inbred hothouse of Christianity, but there’s enough diversity among the students here that it’s actually kind of fun. Hey, Burrito!”

This last remark was addressed to another student in dark glasses walking ahead of them, who turned and flashed a grin at them. Rose did a double take when she saw him. It was the guy from bioethics class. Tall, brown-haired, good-looking—he looked like someone who might have been a stud in high school, not the sort that would hang out with a punk like Alex.

The next moment Alex had dropped his books and launched into the air towards the other student with a high-pitched yell and a karate kick. The other student responded by dropping into a crouch and blocking the kick with his upraised forearms as he spun to one side. Alex landed with agility on the grass and hurtled towards the tall student again, who stepped and caught his foot around Alex’s ankle and threw the black-haired boy backwards. As the boy went over he kicked again at the tall student, who tumbled backwards, landed on his feet, and did a complete flip forwards the next moment.

“Burrito takes out the Bull!” he shouted as he sprang over Alex and landed five feet away.

Alex had shied away from the flip. “Okay, that’s good, you’re on your guard. I was just testing you. So what’s up with you?”

“Nothing much. Just 300 medical terms to memorize by Friday,” the tall student said, picking up his scattered books. “Hey, who’s this?”

“Aw, some transfer student. But she looks intelligent.”

Burrito shot what was intended to be a surreptitious glance at Alex. “Heaven or purgatory?”

“Earth,” Rose interjected. “I’m Rose Brier.”

“Good!” the tall boy exclaimed, pulling off his dark glasses which somehow had stayed in place during his fight with Alex. “That’s where I live too!”  He shook hands vigorously. “I’m Paul Fester. Hey, aren’t you in Cooper’s bioethics class?”

“I am,” she said. With his glasses off, she could see that his eyes were happy, almost too happy to be really attractive by the standards Rose had learned in high school. He was not what her girl classmates would have called “cool.” But she liked him instantly.

The conversation fell into the predictable routine of college small talk about academics and hometowns until they reached the cafeteria. As they approached the building with its stone pillars flanking the entrance, Rose noticed another figure in a black trench coat and dark glasses standing on top of one of the pillars, looking down on the crowd below. When they were within shouting distance, Paul hailed him and Alex gave a small salute. The student dropped down to the ground easily and strode over to meet them. He had thick, dark brown hair cut in 50’s style with sideburns, and his appearance was a touch more flamboyant, a purple shirt and black pants. Rose felt as though she were caught in the middle of a Mafia huddle, with these men in black all around her. It was interesting.

“So you’re learning to look down on the world, Leroy? Is that a good thing?” Alex said, by way of introduction.

“I just wanted to find out if I could climb those things. You can see a long way from up there,” the pillar-stander said.

“You could be the campus stylite. You know, like Saint Simon, who lived up on a pillar for years. Hey, it could work. Right outside the caf. We could throw food up to you.” Paul said.

“I don’t know if G. K. Chesterton would approve, however,” Rose said.

Three pairs of male eyes in sunglasses looked at her. She continued on, not intimidated.

“There’s this one detective story he wrote about a priest who always prayed at the pinnacle of the cathedral, and grew so proud that he played God and committed murder. It was a good point, I always thought.”

There was a silence. Then Paul looked at Alex.

“She knows Chesterton.”

“She lives,” said Alex.

Ten minutes later they were all sitting at one of the round cafeteria tables, having successfully crossed the bridge from small talk to what Rose termed “real talk.” Philosophy, Theology, and Political Ideology had joined the conversation, and Chesterton was wrestling with Lord Acton in magnificent contest.

BOOK: Waking Rose: A Fairy Tale Retold
13.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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