“The Honest Adjunct,” by Ryan Shoemaker

Dec 20th, 2015 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

Come on in. Ashley, isn’t it? No? Emily? Alexis? All you sorority girls look the same. I think you’re in one of my Tuesday classes. Hannah? That’s right. You usually sit in the back of the classroom, left side, and last week I distinctly remember seeing you order a striped bikini from Forever 21 during my lecture on affirmative action. Such forethought—and it’s only November.

Have a seat, Hannah. And no need to apologize for being late. Really, I expected it. I mean, you’ve really had a tough semester. All those stolen bikes, the glitchy computer, that needy boyfriend, and the debilitating skin rash you contracted in your sorority hot tub. It’s just so unfortunate how tragedy always strikes whenever a paper is due. And I thought I had all the bad luck.

Here, let me turn on this lava lamp so we can see better. Do you like my office décor, the lava lamp and the Monet prints? And all those postcards on the wall are the exotic places my meager salary will never allow me to visit. And how about this potted bamboo I picked up at a garage sale? I’ve just always felt that an office should be a home away from home, which is good because this office is my home. Really. Last year I lost my apartment when the university slashed adjunct salaries to fund the campus aquatic center’s wave pool and that new alumni fountain. You know the fountain I’m talking about? The one that’s shaped like a giant finger. Yes, I just sleep right here on an inflatable air mattress and pray the cleaning woman doesn’t walk in. Which reminds me: I need to get to the laundry mat tonight. My desk drawers are practically overflowing with dirty underwear.

So, how’s life? All well? Since I have no time or money for socializing, I tend to live through my students. Like how’s everyone in your sorority? And those sorority outfits are so cute! Do the Ugg boots, frayed skinny jeans, and low-cut T-shirts come with your Alpha Chi Omega membership? And what’s up with Taylor Swift? Do you think she looks like a giraffe? I kind of think she does. But a really beautiful giraffe. Hey, you mentioned last week that your dad owns a half dozen Allstate Insurance franchises in Scottsdale. That’s so cool. Do you know if he’s hiring?

Okay, now let’s spend a few minutes discussing your last paper on immigration reform. If you remember, I gave some suggestions in our previous conference, but it seems you completely ignored them and instead advocated for starting a nonprofit to provide undocumented workers with a free fashion consultation to help them integrate into American society. You argued passionately that no one wants to hire a cleaning lady who wears Baby Phat short shorts and an oversize Dodger’s jersey. My overworked colleagues and I just laughed and laughed about that. Well, I’m glad that paper’s behind you. I guess the bright side is that you were really thinking outside the box.

Now to your next paper on socioeconomic disparities in the United States. Why don’t you read the paper out loud? I love hearing the conviction in my students’ voices. Plus, I haven’t looked at a single draft you’ve emailed me. Let’s be honest, with 150 students, who has time?

Just a little louder, please, and less gum smacking.

Very good. Thanks for reading that. What an interesting perspective! It sounds like having a best friend with a Peruvian nanny and a Mexican gardener really connected you with the socioeconomic struggles of minority communities. Maybe I can add some personal perspective from someone who’s homeless and teaches five sections of freshman composition at a large state university. Like how on weekday nights I disguise myself in an Arab headdress and deliver pizzas to student housing. And look at my belt. It’s a bungee cord I found in a Wal-Mart parking lot. And here’s a pithy quote for your paper: Yo soy muy tired, muy hungry, and muy broke!

Well, I hope those sad insights help as you finish your paper. I really feel… Sorry, my stomach won’t stop growling. I guess it’s about dinnertime, isn’t it? Hey, I hear your sorority has its own private chef. All organic and free-range food, right? No GMOs. Actually, I’ve spent some time scavenging in your sorority dumpster. Amazing food. The butternut squash risotto and Portobello mushroom tostadas are fabulous. Tonight, though, I’m splurging on a microwavable chimichanga. And I can’t forget my vitamin C tablet. Doctor Chen at the Mission of Mercy Free Clinic prescribed a vitamin supplement when he diagnosed me with scurvy, the first case he’s seen in ten years of practicing medicine in the U.S.

Looks like we’re almost out of time. Any questions? No? Good. Because my sciatica’s screaming and I’m dizzy from hunger.

Hannah, I want you to know that I’m here for you. But let’s be realistic: with 150 students and course prep and grading and a job weekend nights hosing out dog kennels at the humane society to pay my car insurance, I’m here for you between 2:00 AM and 2:05 AM on Mondays if you need to email me.

Good. I think this conference was helpful. I’ll look forward to seeing a complete draft of your paper after Thanksgiving. Okay?

So you’re going home for Thanksgiving? That sounds nice. Since Facility Management Services is fumigating my office for vermin over the break, I’ll spend Thanksgiving in my car at a rest stop off the I-10. But I’m really looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner at the Phoenix Rescue Mission. Word on the street is they’re not stingy with the stuffing.

Okay, Hannah, see you after Thanksgiving. Well, maybe I’ll see you after Thanksgiving, unless the Arizona Fertility Clinic finally greenlights my sperm donor application or Universal Pictures buys my zombie screenplay.


Defenestration-Ryan ShoemakerRyan Shoemaker’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Booth, Word Riot, Gulf Stream, and Juked, among others. He lives and writes in Burbank, California. Find him at RyanShoemaker.net.

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