Brian Goes To College
by Nick Brady
Copyright © 2015-2016 by Nick Brady, all rights reserved.
After breakfast Brian looked over his essay for English and decided that it would have to do. He put his books and papers in his pack and excused himself for class. He was curious to see what Gunder had come up with.
"Good morning," Gunder smiled when they were both seated in class. "Are you ready for this?"
"I came up with something, how about you?"
"Yes, I am prepared. I am a Scout you know."
Brian smiled, "Really? Are their Boy Scouts in Denmark?"
"Oh yes. Scouting began very early in Denmark, in 1909 I believe. It's very popular with boys, girls too."
"That's interesting. I love scouting, I'm an Eagle Scout."
"Oh that's very good. Well I am De Gule Speidere, a Yellow Scout. But we don't emphasize rank advancement like you do. For us it's all about the adventure."
Brian wanted to ask about Danish scouting but Dr. Brown entered the classroom and the murmur of conversation went silent.
"Good morning. I am interested to see your first efforts. Be sure your name is on your essay and pass it to the front please.
While I look these over you might start on tomorrows assignment. I would like a two page detailed description of some object or place. Think of it as an essay designed to make the thing you are describing appealing to another person, OK?"
Dr. Brown sat down at his little desk and began to read through the papers rather quickly, putting them in several stacks. After twenty minutes he stood and the buzz stopped.
"Alright, I have selected a few to share with you. There are several that I rather like, and a couple of stinkers. To protect your privacy, I will read them to you for your critique." He took a paper from one of the small stacks and began to read.
It was the description of a modest house in the arid and windy part of the middle east, inhabited by a family of seven, of which the author was the oldest male. The thing that he recalled as interesting was the local custom of kite fighting. Several boys would fly their kites together and try to knock each other out of the sky. It was interesting to Brian who had never heard of such a thing.
"Now what do we think about this essay?" Dr. Brown asked the class.
There was silence for a moment then Angela raised her hand. "It was interesting, especially the kites, but there were some wrong words, words used in the wrong way or out of order."
"Yes, that's true. It is full of technical problems. Any other comments?"
After hesitating for a moment, Brian raised his hand, "I really liked it. I got a nice mental image of the place where he lived and the thing about kite fighting was really interesting. I have never heard of that before, but it sounds like fun."
"Do you have no comment on the obvious problems with the paper?"
"Not really," Brian replied, "I was more interested in what he said. It made me want to fly a kite."
A chuckle ran through the room. "Any other comments?" Dr. Brown asked. "If not I will tell you that I like this paper very much. It has something to say and says it well. The technical difficulties are the reason we are here. By the end of the term I would expect to see a great improvement."
Marco glanced around to see that Akeem was smiling broadly. The author had revealed himself.
Next Dr. Brown read a paper quite obviously written my one of the females in the class. In it she described a pretty home and a nice family. Then she described her grandfather who she clearly thought highly of. It was a nice paper, maybe too nice. It was free of errors but not particularly interesting.
"What do we think about this?" Dr. Brown asked.
"Another girl in the class raised her hand. "I thought it was very good. I didn't catch any real problems with it."
"Did you learn anything from it?"
"Well, I think she had a nice home and family, and her grandfather was important to her for sure."
"What will you take away from this essay?"
"Um, her pretty home I suppose."
Another student raised his hand, "It was pretty generic actually."
"How do you mean that?"
"Well, it didn't really tell that much about the writer, it could be about a lot of people."
"Any comments on that?" Brown asked. No more comment, but several heads nodded.
Dr. Brown continued, "There were several others that I would share if we had time, but it's almost time for us to dismiss. I will mark your papers and return them to you tomorrow, then I will look at what you do with today's assignment. Your descriptions should run to one or two pages. See you tomorrow."
Brian and Gunder walked out together to find some lunch. "I think I can find something more interesting than McDonald's," Brian told him.
"Can we walk to this place or should we drive somewhere?" Gunder asked.
"There is a decent Mexican restaurant in Promenade Mall and that's only a block away. How does that sound?"
"That sounds like fun. One of the things I have discovered about America is the great variety of ethnic foods here, even in Tulsa which is not a large city."
"We are a people of diverse backgrounds. We could try a different place every day if we had time."
"I think I would like that. Can you be my guide?"
Brian smiled, "Sure, let me think about it. It can't be too far away, but we have almost two hours before the afternoon class. We can go to a lot of places in that time."
Brian set down his backpack when they found a place in the restaurant. Gunder had a leather shoulder bag. "He didn't read my paper," Brian mentioned.
"Or mine. Perhaps they were not so interesting."
"Dr. Brown said he had several others he found interesting. Maybe those were ours," Brian suggested.
"Yes, perhaps. I would like to read yours. Do you have a copy?" Gunder asked.
"I do, what about yours?"
"I made a copy for myself," Gunder smiled, "I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours."
"Sure." They ordered their lunch then exchanged papers and read silently as they waited to be served. Gunder described a stone house where he lived with two older brothers and an assortment of goats and chickens. It was located in a forested area and sounded beautiful. The thing that most interested him was skiing in the wintertime. Apparently Gunder had learned to ski when he was scarcely more than a toddler.
"Oh, this is a little sad," Gunder observed when he finished reading Brian's essay, "I think your father was not so nice. Am I wrong?"
"He was worse than that. I could have said more," Brian said, "Your story is very nice."
"I hope not too nice. Dr. Brown was not kind to that girl's effort."
"Well, hers was pretty dippy," Brian admitted.
"What is 'dippy'?" Gunder asked.
"That's slang, sorry. It means sort of silly and superficial, or that's what I mean by dippy anyway. Like the guy pointed out, it could have been about a lot of people, and kind of boring really."
Their lunch came to them and they started to eat. "How is your burrito?" Brian asked.
"This is good. Inside is meat, beans and rice all mixed together. I like it."
"I'm glad you like it. What sort of things do you eat at home? Is Danish cooking different from American food?"
"Well, we eat a lot of fish because we are surrounded by the sea. And maybe more root vegetables. Our growing season is shorter than yours," Gunder told him. "But I'm not sure what American cooking is. Everything here seems to be Italian, Chinese or Mexican."
Brian laughed, "I guess that's true, or French, German or English. Maybe the only uniquely American food is Native American fry bread or something like that. We borrow from everybody."
"I think I like America already," Gunder smiled.
"How long have you been here in Tulsa?"
"Only three weeks. I left Denmark six weeks ago and stayed in New York City for a week, then went to your capital, Washington DC. There are many things to see in those places, but they are very big and rather confusing to get around in. I think Tulsa is a nicer size."
"You made good use of your time. I have never been anywhere really."
"But you have a fine car, I saw it in the parking lot. You could go to many places, don't you think?"
"Well, yes and no. I suppose I could drive to a lot of places if I had the time, but the United States is a big place. We go from state to state like you go between countries," Brian explained.
"Yes, I think that's right. I saw a map of the US laid out over a map of Europe and what you say is true."
"You don't have a car?" Brian asked.
"No, I have no license for here and no money for a car. I use the bus to get to class."
"Does your aunt have a car you could use?"
"Maybe, but I am afraid to drive with no license. That is very serious in Denmark."
"Right, it's serious here too. You could get in trouble," Brian thought for a minute, "Where does your aunt live?"
Gunder told him and Brian realized that it would not be much out of his way from home to school. "I go near there when I drive to classes. I could give you a lift if you'd like."
"Oh really? That would save me some time. The bus is very slow. You wouldn't mind?"
"Not at all. I'm driving to class anyway. Write down the address and I will pick you up at about eight-thirty tomorrow."
"Thank you. That would be very kind," Gunder smiled. "I think you are my first American friend."
They finished their lunch and started back to class. "From your essay it sounds like you live in a beautiful place there in Denmark," Brian observed, "And the skiing sounds like fun. I have never been on skis."
"Oh you should try it. It is a wonderful feeling, skiing down a mountain is like flying really."
There are no mountains in Oklahoma," Brian chuckled, "and not much snow in the winter."
"But you can go to Colorado, are there not places to ski there?
"Yes, I suppose so. Maybe I will try it sometime."
"I could teach you. I am a good skier," Gunder offered.
Brian smiled. "That might be fun, but we would have to wait for winter."
"I should be here for four years if things go well for me. Maybe we could do that."
"Maybe," The idea appealed to Brian.
"Well here we are. I must find my classroom for American History. I will see you tomorrow?"
"Right, I will pick you up."
Brian went to his biology class to see fewer students than the day before. Only the brave remained.
It was much the same as the previous day. A long lecture, lots of notes, no questions. The lab had to be better.
He was back home by three-thirty, and the house was empty. He thought about trying to fix dinner but knew that Marco usually had specific plans for the evening meal and dinner was probably best left up to him. If the house was quiet, it was a good time to knock off his homework.
He reviewed his class notes for Biology then read the assignment. Not much of a stretch from what he learned in high school. Long but nothing too difficult.
Now for the essay – describe something in detail. Dr. Brown said a one or two page detailed description of some object or place, an essay intended to make the thing appealing to another person. OK, what object or place?
Brian thought of Marco's old 2007 Honda Fit. He had ridden in it and driven it many times. How to describe it? Short, stubby, faded, it's original white paint now oxidized into a dull haze. The driver's seat was mended with duct tape, the left rear tail light broken and taped over with red plastic, grimy four cylinder engine mounted transversally. The engine compartment emitted a warm dark odor and was liberally coated with a mixture of oil and road dirt. It looked like a large grubby computer mouse on wheels. Not a thing of beauty, but it ran faithfully albeit sluggishly. It had served its master well for many years and was regarded with the same affection as an old dog who had a little mange and scratched excessively, but still greeted his master with a wag of the tail.
Not bad, he went back and elaborated on some of the trips the family had taken in the old car, its peculiarities and quirks, the special manipulation of the shift lever required to get it into reverse. It had a personality all its own. When he finished he decided that he rather liked it, and after a final edit printed out two copies.
Brian stuck everything into his pack and went out to the kitchen. Marty was there going through the mail but Marco was still not home.
"Hey Marty, where's Marco? He's usually here by now."
"I'm not sure exactly. He called me at the office and said he would be late." Marty did not appear to be concerned.
When Sam and Ben rolled in on their bikes, they announced that they were hungry which was no surprise. With no Marco in sight, dinner was in question. "We could order pizza or I could try to fix something," Marty volunteered.
"Let's order something," Ben said quickly.
Pizza was always a good option and Marty placed an order for two large meat-lovers.
The pizza arrived and was followed shortly by the honk of a horn outside.
"I paid him. What does the delivery guy want" Marty said and looked out the front door. They heard him exclaim, "Oh. You guys need to come out here."
When they joined him on the front porch they saw Marco sitting in a bright yellow Mustang convertible with a very large smile on his face. "Is this fun enough?" Marco called to them.
They swarmed out to the shiny new car. "Wow, this is a beauty!" Sam exclaimed.
"Take us for a ride Daddy," Ben requested.
"Did you trade in the Honda?" Brian asked.
Marty stood on the porch and grinned.
"No, I couldn't part with the old Fit. It's at the dealer to be brought back to the house if I buy this," Marco explained.
"Well did you buy it or not?" Brian asked.
"Technically, this is a test drive. I wanted you guys to see it and get your opinion before I signed any papers."
Marty walked up to join the admirers. "So that's where you've been. What did you look at?"
"I looked at several things, from a Mazda Miata, to a Corvette. The Miata is priced right and the Corvette is a rocket ship but too expensive. Besides, they both are two seaters. I want us all to be able to get in it. So I looked at a bunch of four seat convertibles, VW makes a nice one, the BMW 4-Series and of course the Mercedes E-Class. There are a number of makes to choose from that I can't afford," Marco chuckled, "I decided I like the Mustang the best. It's a rag top instead of a retractable hard top, but those mechanisms take up a lot of the trunk and back seat. Besides, I just liked the looks of this thing. What do you guys think?"
"It's gorgeous," Marty said, "but why yellow?"
"Why not," Marco grinned. "I could order any color I suppose, but they had this one on the lot. You don't like the color?"
"No, I think it's great. You're getting it. I just wonder if you won't get tired of yellow. I know you'll drive it for the next twenty years," Marty suggested.
"Actually, you're probably right. They had a couple of others. I'll tell you what, let's all go down there and you can help me decide. Then one of you can drive my old Fit home if I buy something."
"So you're really going to buy a new car?" Ben asked.
"I think so. It's all your fault, you guys talked me into it."
"Now wait a minute," Marty told him, "It's your money, don't let us talk you into anything."
"No, I really want to do this. I went to a couple of places because you got me thinking about it, and fell in love with the new Mustang," Marco grinned, "I'm hot to trot,"
"Hey, we just ordered pizza. Do you want to grab a slice before we go?" Brian asked.
"Sure, no use letting it get cold," Marco agreed. They demolished the pizza in record time then wedged themselves into the Mustang. Marty was fine in the passenger seat. It was a bit tight in the back seat for three but it worked.
At the Ford dealer Marco went to find his salesman and told him that he had brought some consultants. There were two other Mustang convertibles on the lot besides the yellow one. One was black and the other a bright red.
"Wow, the red one is cool," Ben exclaimed, rattling the locked door and looking inside.
Marco shook his head. "I don't think I want to drive an arrest-me-red convertible. That's asking for a ticket. What do you think about black?"
The glossy black paint caught the highlights and revealed all the subtle curves of the sleek body. It was absolutely gorgeous. Inside the interior was all black with silver accents. It was an evil looking car.
Brian walked around looking at it from all angles murmuring, "Oh man, oh man."
Sam stood with his arms folded over his chest, "That's the most beautiful car I ever saw," he said reverently.
"Let's go in and let me talk to the man," Marco told them.
The salesman pulled some extra chairs into his little cubicle to accommodate everyone and he and Marco began to negotiate. He named a price which he said was terrific. Marco shook his head and said it was too high. The sales man enumerated all of the wonderful features of the car and Marco shook his head and repeated his objection.
"Well what would you like to pay for it?" the salesman asked.
Marco named a price that was about two thousand dollars lower than the salesman's 'best' price.
"Oh, no way, we have more than that in it."
Marco smiled and said quietly, "No you don't, that is about five hundred over your invoice price. You can sell it for that and still make a profit."
"I really don't think I can get close to that. What do you have to trade?"
"How about a check for the full amount? Or if you would rather, I can go to the bank and bring back the cash."
The salesman paused and took a deep breath. "I'll be right back."
"I think you got his attention," Marty whispered to him.
"Nothing as warm and fuzzy as cold hard cash," Marco replied.
A different gentleman came to replace the salesman and introduced himself as the sales manager. He asked Marco to join him in his office to discuss the situation further.
"Why don't you wait here for me guys, I won't be long, either way."
Marco disappeared and the rest of the family spread out over the showroom to look at the other new cars on display. In about thirty minutes Marco came looking for them. "Well, did you buy a car?" Marty asked.
"Who would like to drive my old Honda home for me?" Marco asked in reply.
"Whoa, how cool!" Ben was bouncing up and down and Sam was all smiles.
"I'll drive your old car home," Marty volunteered. "Take these boys home in that nice new Mustang."
"Did you get the deal you wanted?" Brian asked.
"I did, and got them to extend the factory warranty in the process. They called my bank and verified that the money was there and then caved."
Marty drove the old Fit, Brian climbed in the passenger seat and Sam and Ben sat in the back. They put the top down and were off with the radio blaring some classic rock and roll. Everyone was singing at the top of their lungs.
It was dark by the time they got home, Marco let Ben put the top up, then locked it up tight. It had been an exciting afternoon.
About nine o'clock, Brian's phone rang. "Hello? - Hi Louisa. Are you in California? - It's raining? I thought it never rained in sunny California. - Oh right, you're in San Francisco. Well how was your trip? - great, great. - What's new here? You won't believe what Marco bought today – a brand-new black Mustang convertible – yes, that's right. We all went with him to drive it home. - Yeah, it's a real beauty. - So are you with your aunt? - great. Well I miss you. - yes, classes started Monday, English is fine, Biology is boring but OK. - yes, I did, a student from Denmark. - Yeah, he seems OK. - When will you be back? - OK, I will see you in two weeks I guess. - OK, Bye."
He was pleased that Louisa called. It would be nice to see her again. He wondered if Ethan was serious about playing singles on Sunday. He would have to check. His work was done for class the next day, and he was eager to see Gunder again. Who would have thought he would meet somebody interesting the first day of classes? College was not like high school.
The next morning Brian pulled in front of the address he had been given and honked his horn. Gunder smiled when he saw Brian and strolled out, his long legs taking determined strides. He got in the car. "Are you ready for today?" Gunder asked.
"Yep, what about you?"
The class began. As with the day before, they handed in the day's assignment and Dr. Brown handed back the previous day's essays, then made his next assignment while he went quickly through today's papers.
He picked up a paper and began to read. It was a vivid description of a clearing in a wooded area that was the secret place of a young boy. It was green, dark and filled with the smells of earth and water. The sounds of birds filled the air and small animals darted through the underbrush. The picture was of a magical place. What happened there was that it was the hiding place for a boy who was ill-treated by a grandfather. But in this place he was safe and at peace. He spent as much time there as he could but eventually had to return to the house of his grandparents. It evoked a lovely sanctuary and a mixture of joy and sadness. It was quite moving.
"Any comments?" Dr. Brown asked the class.
"That was very nice," Angela volunteered. "I could almost smell the wild flowers. I felt both sad for the boy and pleased that he had a peaceful place to go to. That was very good."
Most heads were nodding in agreement. Akeem spoke up, "I am no expert with English but this was very clear to me. I like this very much."
Brian glanced at Gunder who was sitting quietly and listening. It was clearly his work and very beautiful. "It was well written and made me feel what I think the boy must have felt. That was excellent," Brian said.
The professor looked around, "Does anyone disagree? Any other comments? Yes, that was well written. Good job."
He took up another paper and began to read. Brian recognized it as his essay on Marco's old Honda. As Dr. Brown began to read, several students began to smile, then chuckle. By the end there was real laughter. Even the professor was smiling.
"Do we have any comments on this one?"
Gunder laughed and said. "Yes, that was very funny. It didn't seem to try to make jokes, but the way it described the old car was clever and witty. I like that. It was well written too."
Several others agreed. Dr. Brown smiled as he laid it on his desk. "Yes, there is some talent there. Very nice."
On the way out of the building Gunder said, "That was my paper about the forest. I think he liked it."
"I knew it was yours," Brian said. It sounded like you, and from what you said about the house where you lived as a boy, there was no doubt. I'm sorry that you had problems with your grandfather. That was sad, but you described it very clearly without anger or resentment."
Gunder shrugged, "It was a problem at the time, but my grandfather is dead now so it doesn't matter. It's in the past."
"You write very well no matter what your native tongue. Like Dr. Brown said, there was no accent in my mind."
Gunder smiled, "Thank you Brian. I am pleased that you liked it." Now who wrote about that old car? That was very clever, funny without trying to be funny. That's not easy."
"You don't know who wrote that?" Brian asked.
"No, wait, was it you? Oh that was very good, Brian. I think you will be a wonderful writer. No, you already are."
Brian was pleased. "Thanks, you know he still has that car. He bought a new one just yesterday but he couldn't bear to trade in his old clunker."
"Who owns that old car, a friend?"
"No, my dad, he has had it forever and loves it. Just like the old dog."
They got in Brian's car and drove to a little barbecue place not far away. "I hope you like smoked meat. This place it pretty good. You might order the pork ribs."
"Is this authentic American food?"
"Pretty much. I like it, but you can judge for yourself."
Their ribs came and they began to eat. "Oh, this is delicious, very tender with a smoky taste. I like it," Gunder said.
Good," Brian said. "We do this at home sometimes. My dad, the one with the old car? He does this."
"I think you have a good family. You are lucky."
"I am. Can you tell me why your grandfather was so difficult? Why did he mistreat you?"
"Ah that is a long story," Gunder said. "I think he didn't approve of me."
"It's hard to describe. Maybe I didn't live up to his expectations. Not everyone approves of me. It's a long story, maybe I will tell you some time. Perhaps it is like the story of how you came to live with the family you have now. Some things are difficult to talk about, is that true?"
"Yes, that's true," Brian nodded, and wondered to himself if he and Gunder might share a secret.
After their afternoon classes, Brian met Gunder at the car so he could give him a ride to his Aunt's house.
"How was American History?" Brian asked.
"We are talking about the indigenous people of this country. I didn't realize that there are so many tribes. Did you tell me that some in your family are Native American?"
"Yes, Seminole. They were originally in the southeastern part of the country in what is now Florida, but were forced to move to this area a long time ago."
"I think that those people were not well treated," Gunder remarked.
Brian grimaced, "It was not one of our finest hours."
"Does your family preserve some of the old customs?"
"Yes, I think I told you that my brothers dance at powwows. It's very colorful."
Gunder smiled, "I think that is the real America. I would like to know more about such things. Do you suppose I might meet your family sometime?"
"Of course, maybe you might come over for dinner with us this weekend. Let me check to see what is going on at home."
"Thank you Brian. We have just met but already I think of you as a friend. It is hard being in a new place surrounded by strangers."
Brian nodded, "I can see that. To be honest, I don't have many good friends myself. I am a little shy I suppose. Now that I've started college, I am sort of in a new place surrounded by strangers as well. Maybe we have some things in common.
Yes, I think so. It might be a good thing if we were to know each other better, do you think?"
Brian thought so.
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