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THE INVISIBLE / Kent Nelson THE MAN CRANED his large head over the salads in the glass display case—potato, macaroni, lettuce-cucumber—while Orchard was making his pastrami sandwich. She was aware of him—something odd. He was smalUsh, maybe in his early thirties, curly hair, blue eyes fairly intense. She had noticed him a couple of days earUer, too. "Shyness is a protective covering," the man said. "It inhibits self-discovery." Orchard stopped chewing her Dentyne and looked up. "Are you talking to me?" "Ifs a camouflage which doesn't permit one to escape selfimages . That's a grave danger, very grave." Orchard pushed the pastrami sandwich onto the top of the counter above the meats and salads. "Please stay back from the sneeze guard," she said. "The mustard and mayonnaise are by the water cooler." The man leaned forward and touched the dish gently. "My name is Renner," he said. "Kurt Renner. I teach at the coUege. 'Teach' is not the predse term. Words are insufficient. But I urge you to think about what you might become." Orchard chewed her gum again and stood hand on hip. "Yeah, what?" "I don't know exactly," the man said. "But just looking at you I sense a sharpness, an acuity of spirit, a healthy appetite." "A good body, you mean." "TeU me about your famUy," Renner said. "I have two younger sisters and a mother. My dad is a jerk. He likes my hair long." Orchard paused. "Look, mister, people are behind you in Une." Renner took a half portion of macaroni salad and moved toward the cashier. "Next," Orchard said. She took an order for roast beef on rye. Solomon Sloan was six three, two hundred pounds, and could throw a footbaU sixty yards in the air and twenty through a The Missouri Review · 25 swinging tire. In his sophomore year he had broken the coUege records for pass completions and yardage in a season, and in the three games his junior year, he'd almost single-handedly defeated two good football teams and had annihUated a mediocre one. But he was flunking Basic Mediums of Communications. "I mean, ifs a gut, man," said Carlos Druce, the wideout. "Even I, Carlos the Dunce, am making a B." "You're not stupid," Solomon said. "Is the man going to ineUgible you?" "He has the snipers looking," Solomon said. "What a bastard. Just because he's written the book." "He's making a fucking mint," Carlos said. "So wUl we," said Solomon, "if we ever get out of school." "I mean, all that unconscious stuff," Carlos went on. "The vibes, like. Have you not been in an elevator with a woman and wondered what you were saying to her?" "Tm a literalist," Solomon said. "I mean, Uke, by shifting your feet or gazing with your eyes?" "UsuaUy you gaze with your eyes," Solomon said. "If I have something to say, I say it." "You intuit what she wants," Carlos said, "and she intuits what you want." "Carlos, you don't have to shift your feet. Every woman knows what you want." "But how can you be getting an F? We have a football team. You are the passer, and I am the receiver. Go see the professor, man. If you don't play, I don't catch the ball. If I don't catch the baU, I don't get a pro contract." "Or the woman in the elevator," Solomon said. The next afternoon Solomon waited nervously in Renner's reception area. The door to his office was open, and now and then Renner looked up from his word processor and fixed Solomon with a stare. Some students thought he was briUiant because he'd written six books, including the course textbook Borders, which Solomon thought should have been caUed Boredoms. Renner didn't call him inside, so Solomon waited. He didn't know what he'd done to get an F for a midterm grade. There had been no paper, no quizzes, no exam. Renner lectured in a pedantic style and a sing-song voice punctuated with long pauses which, Renner said, were opportunities to explore. 26 · The Missouri Review...


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