Word Count

The perspiration has spread form my forehead to my lower back. The sensation of sweat trickling down fuels my anxiety. It’s only because of him; he is the point in which my anxiety spurs like electrons firing in the brain. My professors’ raised eyebrow screams convexity. His specific traits of creepy are alarmingly chilling. Each step creates a thud; it is he who creates the down beat in every musical score. His deep black eyes resemble a chalk board with eraser marks traveling from left to right; but the white is eradicated by the consuming blackness.

I tear my eyes away from my unnerving professor to glace at the clock that tells me there is three minutes left until Professor Shinning will collect the final exam. His name, despite what you think, isn’t ironic. I’m sure he was born normal and he was blessed to shine in the world. But as he grew up he opted for the more outstanding role, which is why my fellow peers refer to him as Professor “Jack Shining.” We believe he is the decedent of the King, of course.

I revert my eyes back to Shining, his back is now facing me. His broad, but extremely scrawny shoulders, are tense. The too tight dress shirt he is wearing is providing the students with a view of his shoulder blades expanding and deflating with each breath. His shoulders are lifted but his neck is slumped, giving us the illusion that his neck has sunken into his body. The chalkboards coming out of his head are peering at the clock, he has an impish grin that tells me he is shaking with excitement to shriek “Time,” insinuating that the exam is over and so is our lives.

With each second ticking by, I’m shaking feverously to race out of this lecture hall and obliterate any remembrance of this class from the rest of my life. My hand is rocking back and forth with my pencil suffocating between my third and fourth finger, both the tip and the eraser tapping the desk one and then the other. My left hand is holding the weight of my head from falling and smacking the desk with my sloshed brain. My thumb and forefingers are attached to my jaw, squeezing the breath from my lungs.

“5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1” I think in my head.

My eyes, momentarily stunned by the clock that I made it through the entire semester of this class, blink once, blink twice before Shinning shrieks.

“Time!” His voice booms off the sound barriers in the elevated lecture hall. Each student jumps from their seats and scrambles for their belongings. I toss my number two pencil into the front zipper pocket of my black backpack, although I notice it’s not the same blackness of Shining’s eyes, it’s a lighter black. I proceed down the aisle I’m seated in past three empty seats and begin to descend the stairs.

Professor Shinning is standing beside the drop box where each student is drifting by to deposit their exams with a bloodcurdling look of relief that he has no final words of wisdom to say to any of us.

“Milla Luxton!”

My feet halt in their midst. My eyes widen as if swallowing themselves. “Do I dare look at him?” I internally scream. I find my eyes shifting themselves.

His blank expression has descended onto me.

“Stop. Stand by my desk and wait until each student has left. I need to speak with you.”

My shoulders drop as if sinking into my body, my eyes stair at the floor and my feet move, left, right. I feel out of control of my body, as if I am still on the stairs watching myself walk over to his desk. “What could he possibly want to talk to me about?”

“Sit.”

I sit myself down in the single chair that faces his desk. I am alone with him. I am terrified.

“Is something wrong Professor Shinning?” I glance at his eyes, they speak nothing.

“Do you have somewhere to be?” He says in his monotone voice.

“Not for an hour.” I answer with both a statement and questionable tone of voice.

“Give me some time, I’m going to grade your exam in front of you. Right here, right now.”

“What, Why?” My brains screams to me from inside my head.

I think I’m going to cry. As soon as he spoke those words he began to read my final essay. His eyes were progressing, passing each letter my pencil stained onto the page. The perspiration began again. Why was he doing this to me? What was the point of grading my exam in front of me?

My hands have glued themselves to the arms of the chair. Although I can’t move my eyes away from my exam, I know my knuckles resemble the whiteness of snow; my fingers resemble red fire. The sweat has spread from my forehead to my back, with each passing second my shirt clings to my body.

After watching him read my exam in front of me, which I would argue in front of a jury was more difficult than the actual act of taking the exam, he looks at me and speaks.

“I have been teaching this class for eighteen years. In those eighteen years, twenty-two of my students, out of hundreds…” He stresses the hundreds part with an excruciating amount of judgment.

“Twenty-two have gotten an A in my class. You now make that twenty-three.”

“Ok. I expected an A. Even though I am one in however many, I don’t understand why you pulled me aside and told me this personally?”

“People with off the charts IQ’s receive A’s in my class. People who change the face of modern thinking receive an A in this class. People named Milla Luxton do not receive A’s in my class.”

“Wow. You’re a real jackass. How the hell does he think I got that grade?” I thought to myself.

“Are you insinuating I cheated?”

“I just want you to explain how you got this grade; how you wrote these papers.”

Oh. He wants my secret.

“I call it Word Count.”

“Explain.” He says without any emotion, surprise, or understanding crossing his brows.

“It’s a program I developed. I find the PDF version of the novels assigned to us in this class, and then I send them through the program. Each word is counted and then put onto a list, once the program is done reading the book, each word in the novel is printed out on a page with a number beside it. This number represents how many times this specific word appears within the novel.”

“Continue.” His face still ridden with a black expression.

I rolled my eyes and deliberated.

“Once the page has been printed out, and the program has done the reading for me. I read the page, one single sheet of paper, a two-hundred-page novel has just been condensed to. After bypassing prepositions and meaning less adjectives, I discover the novel within the page. Without too much effort, I elicit the meaning of the novel by comparing the most appeared words with their meanings, to one another.”

No words break the seal his mouth has created. His remarkable ability to maintain an expression that expels nothing is wondrous. So, I continue.

“Held in this page every important question a professor might ask the answer lies within these words. Theme, tone, voice, character, and so on.”

He expression remains vacant. I refuse to continue my formula for deconstructing the written word until he tells me the reason in which I am explaining all of this. We hold eye contact for a few minutes I presume. I have never felt more confident in front of him. All my anxiety has been dispelled, my skin is dry and free from any rain. I think he is developing a new opinion of me and I am curious to find out what it may be.

A smile. He looks at me, his eyes speaking a voice I have ever heard from him before. He is proud of me. His smile stretches across his form and he stands up, so do I, and he shakes my hand.

“Milla Luxton, you are a unique student. I spoke to soon of you. You will change the face of modern thinking. Excuse me. You have changed the face of modern thinking.”

I smile back at him and regard him with the same expression he gave me. He has now sat down atop his desk so casual. He continues to gaze at me with ease and happiness.

“Word Count?”

I smile back. “Word Count.”

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