A knock on the door pulled Evan Miller out of bed at six o’clock on Saturday morning. He planted his feet on the cold hardwood floor, grabbed a
bathrobe and trudged to the door. A quick glance out the peephole revealed his eighteen-year-old cousin, Joseph Albert Demptster. Evan resigned
himself to opening the door.

“My life is over,” Joseph said, pushing past Evan.

Evan, having grown used to teenage angst in his recent acquaintance with his cousin, ignored the dramatic statement.  Instead, he headed for the
kitchen and asked, “Want some coffee?”

“Alex Rivers slept through his English Lit exam,” Joseph said. “His final exam.”

“So? He’ll make it up.”

Joseph flopped into the kitchen chair and accepted a cup of coffee. “You don’t get it. Alex has the best dorm room on campus. He’s in the
accelerated program, and this exam would have qualified him as a sophomore.”

When Evan didn’t respond with the appropriate awe, Joseph raised his voice. “He won’t have to live on campus any longer. He has his apartment
lined up, and he promised me his room.”

Evan knew that Joseph currently lived in a crowded dorm room – a large box lined with beds, with one corner reserved for dirty laundry.

Joseph went on to explain that Alex’s room formerly served as the living quarters for the hospital administrator, back when the dorm building was a
mental institution. “Alex has a private bathroom, and two bedrooms. We’ve already decided to turn the den into a third bedroom.” The “we”
Joseph referred to included his spastic roommates—Charlie and Kemper. “I can finally have privacy!”

“Why do you need privacy?” Evan found himself asking. Aunt Flora had raised Joseph. Since "inheriting" his cousin three months ago after her
death, Evan found himself unwillingly pulled into parental territory.

Fortunately, Joseph, obsessed with his perceived loss, ignored him. “Professor Featherstone won’t allow Alex to retake the test, and he has to pass
English Literature as part of his self-styled major--Communication in the World of Law.”

“There are consequences to actions, Joseph. If Alex didn’t set his alarm, or stayed up too late –“

“You’re wrong,” Joseph said. “Alex lives for school. He hardly has a social life.” He gave Evan a serious stare. “Alex believes he was drugged.”

Evan blew on his coffee. “Sounds like Alex is full of excuses.”

“Hear me out, Uncle Evan."

"I'm not your uncle."  Joseph had started calling Evan "uncle" as a jab at their twenty-four year age difference.

"Alex was at the tea party with me last night,” Joseph insisted.

Evan’s brow shot up. “Tea party?”

“Every quarter, Professor Featherstone invites his most promising students to his living quarters for tea. It’s lame, but it’s considered a reward. You
have to go or risk insulting the professor.”

Evan knew he’d regret asking, but curiosity took hold of him. “Who else was there?”

Joseph looked pleased. “Penelope Winford, John Randall, and Norbert Hall.” He leaned forward, eager to show that he had given the situation
thought. “Penelope is, er, assertive. She and Alex are always fighting over honors and awards. John is a practical joker, and Norbert is a day student
who works for the campus security to pay his way. Norbert is very by-the-book, so you can rule him out. He’d never do anything illegal.”

Before Evan could respond, Joseph slid a piece of paper across the table. “Here are their addresses. Penelope lives at home with her mother, as does
Norbert. The others live on campus.”

“I’ll see what I can find out.”

The door marked Suite One flew open, and Evan stared into the crossed eyes of a rail-thin kid with thick glasses. His expression was arrogant,
though he did invite Evan into the room.

“I don’t know what Joseph expects you to do about my situation,” Alex Rivers said, dropping back into a leather desk chair that probably came with
the room. The entire suite was furnished in a left-over office ensemble. An executive desk had been shoved against one wall. The coffee table was
slight but serviceable, and vases of dusty, silk flowers, probably belonging to the original occupant, perched strategically around the room. There were
no attempts to personalize the space. Alex hadn’t even bothered to put out a family photograph.

Evan got right to the point. “Why do you think somebody drugged you?”

“Obviously, without outside interference, I would have made it to the exam.” Alex tossed a pen in the air and caught it behind his back in an
apparent attempt to look impressive. “I would have aced it, too.” He threw the pen in the air again and twisted his body.

Evan smoothly reached in and snatched the pen away. He had Alex’s attention. “Who would want to keep you from taking the test?”

“Everyone.” He drew the word out in a petulant whine.

“Could we narrow down the field?”

Alex reached for another pen from the desktop, but contented himself with chewing on the cap. “Penelope is jealous. She should stop worrying
about me and do her homework.” Alex laughed. It was a snickering, breathy sound. “She actually considers herself my nemesis. Poor, disillusioned

“What about John Randall?” Evan asked.

“If anyone would be into drugs, it would be John. Life is one, big joke to him. I don’t know why he’s wasting our time in school.”

“You mean wasting his time.”

Alex blinked. “My time and the time and space that a serious student could occupy. Maybe someone who would challenge me,” he added wistfully.

“Maybe he has different ambitions than you,” Evan said, sticking up for a kid he hadn’t met because the one in front of him annoyed him. “Not
everyone aspires to be a Communications major with a side of Law.” Evan couldn’t keep the smirk out of his voice.

Alex continued, oblivious to the sarcasm. “Why don’t you talk to Professor Featherstone? He’d do anything to hang on to a student like me. I
probably provide him the only stimulation he’s had since taking the job, although I can’t say that the reverse is true.”

Evan left shortly after this statement. He was losing his desire to solve the mystery, and only thinking of Joseph kept him from telling Alex to enjoy
repeating English Lit.


Professor Featherstone was a small-boned man with a hooked nose and quick, nervous movements. Evan accepted the offered tea and claimed the
straight-backed chair closest to the window.

“Alex Rivers is an obnoxious twit.” The professor settled back into a stuffed armchair and blew over his cup of tea. “And his belief that the rules
don’t apply to him is just another example of his arrogance.”

So far, Professor Featherstone hadn’t given Evan a reason to disagree with him.

“Is there no chance of a make-up test?”

“None.” Professor Featherstone said this with a great amount of satisfaction. “Maybe the boy will take English Literature more seriously, now that
he sees what effect it can have on his progress.”

The professor added milk to his cup and focused his small eyes on Evan while he stirred. “Remind me. What is your interest in Alex Rivers?”

“None,” Evan answered, truthfully. “I couldn’t care less about the little bugger.”

This earned him a smile from Professor Featherstone which melted into a frown.
“Then I don’t understand why –“

“He believes he was intentionally drugged to keep him away from the final exam.” Evan did not want to explain Joseph’s, and therefore his, motives.

Professor Featherstone’s eyes flew open wide and he dribbled tea down the front of his tie. “Responsibility for one’s actions is missing from the
student body.” He set down his cup and focused his nervous attention on Evan. “I’ve been training young minds in English Literature for over
thirty years. A little respect would be appreciated, though the selfish young men and woman trudging through my classrooms probably wouldn’t
hand that precious commodity over to their own mothers if it wasn’t beaten out of them.” He stressed this last part with approval.

“I understand Alex is one of your brighter students.” When Professor Featherstone refrained from answering, Evan added, “He must be, to have
been invited to one of your teas.”

This compliment pushed the professor into a reluctant admission. “An invitation to one of my quarterly teas is an honor. Yes,” he said, “Alex was
here yesterday evening. Along with several other outstanding students,” he added hastily.

“Did Alex seem himself yesterday?”

Professor Featherstone puckered his lips. “He was, I am afraid, much as usual.” He brightened. “We did have an interesting discussion on Tess of
the d'Urbervilles. I am considered quite the expert on Thomas Hardy, you know.” The professor gestured toward a framed document that hung in a
place of prominence over the fireplace. “I did my theses on Thomas Hardy as Medievalist. Alex disagreed with me on several points, which was
presumptuous. I suppose I should be grateful that I had the support of Penelope Winford.” He said this without enthusiasm. “Of course the
discussion was above the heads of the other students, and they seemed bored.” He pointed a democratic finger at Evan. “That is not a criticism of
their intellectual talents. I, myself, have studied Hardy for years and still regularly learn new things about the man. I should mention that Alex was
not kind when the other students tried to join in. He specifically referred to Norbert as dull-witted.”

“What time did Alex finally leave?”

“He left at nine exactly, with the rest of the students.” Professor Featherstone sniffed, a prissy sound. “Civilized entertainment has a definite start
and end time.”

“Other than his complete lack of charm, is there any reason why anyone would want to see Alex fail?” Evan asked. “Anyone he might have ticked off
more than usual?”

The professor folded his hands and leaned forward. “Isn’t it time we stopped babying Alex Rivers? These theories about enemies out to undermine
his academic success are a bit fantastic, don’t you agree?”  The professor chuckled. “Next, you’ll have banshees rising up from the quadrangle,
blocking his route to the library.”

Evan humored the professor by chuckling along, but the professor’s laughter halted abruptly when he said, “No. I’m sure whoever did this was
human.”  By now, Evan Miller was certain that Alex Rivers had goaded someone into drugging him.


The townhouses at Council Hill gave off an aura of sadness, despite sporadic attempts to announce pride of ownership. Cheap Halloween
decorations hung from the occasional window, and a planter depicting the Virgin Mary overflowed with dead leaves. Her upturned palms seemed to
offer an apology for the dismal brown lawn she occupied. Unlit Christmas lights, presumably left over from last year, lined the balcony above Evan;
the missing bulbs depressed him.

He heard a flat, tinny chime when he depressed the doorbell, and a woman he could only describe as “put together” answered the door. Her purple
suit and pink silk blouse were “off the rack”, but she had accessorized with a bright silk scarf, silver pin and pointed-toe shoes that probably cost her
a paycheck. Her blonde hair, streaked varying shades for a natural affect, was pulled back into a bun, and when she smiled, she was a walking
endorsement for whitening toothpaste.

Her voice was low and soft, on the cloying side. “Can I help you?”

“I’m here to see Penelope,” he said. Her gaze faltered. Obviously, the idea that her daughter had reached an age where men might call for her did not
set well with Mother.

“Penelope, dear,” she called over her shoulder, holding the door open and sweeping a hand in invitation. Evan stepped into a hallway of gleaming
tiles. Every effort had been made to brighten the dull, off-white walls with pictures that someone had deemed classics. There were imitations of
several artists – Renoir, Picasso, Matiste. The result was to make the home look like a depressed art gallery.

A thick-featured girl with pink glasses and frizzy auburn hair popped into the hallway. She wore a Sleepy Hollow College sweatshirt and jeans. Her
feet were in white cotton socks.

“This gentleman is here to see you, Penelope.” Mrs. Winford relayed the information to her daughter in doubtful tones. She looked with
disapproval on her daughter’s outfit, as if the girl should have at least combed her hair before presenting herself to male company.

Evan stuck out a hand. “I’m Evan Miller. You were at Professor Pendergrass’s tea party with my cousin Joseph.”

The guarded look behind Penelope’s eyes only increased at this announcement. “Joseph’s in my English Lit class,” she explained to her mother.

“Your son?” Mrs. Winford asked.

“My cousin.”

Mrs. Winford’s predatory eye slid over Evan’s bare ring finger, and it was with a satisfied smile that she invited Evan and her daughter to follow her
into the sitting room. Several more reproductions lined the wall of the sitting room. A silver vase with silk flowers sat centered on a low coffee-table
– the busy woman’s ode to nature.

“Penelope has a lot of little friends from school,” Mrs. Winford said. “It’s difficult to keep them all straight.”

“Joseph’s about five-ten,” Penelope scowled.

“It’s an expression, dear,” Mrs. Winford said, motioning for Evan to take the seat on the couch closest to her. “Now, has Penelope been up to
something naughty?”

A red flush crept up Penelope’s neck and face. “I’m not three, Mother. I’m a grown woman.”

Mrs. Winford gave her daughter a pitying glance. “Of course you are.”

Evan interjected before the conversation turned hostile. “I’m actually here to ask a few questions about the tea party last night. I don’t know if you’ve
heard, but –“

“Alex overslept and missed his exams,” Penelope finished his sentence. Everybody knows.”

“Why’s that?” Evan asked. “I’m not sure I understand why Alex Rivers’ success or failure would be on the lips of every student.”

“Because he makes such a big deal about it.” Penelope flopped back in her chair. Her expression of boredom might have been genuine, or it might
have been the typical expression of an eighteen-year-old girl; Evan wasn’t sure.

“Was everybody glad to hear that the exalted one had been knocked from his high horse?”

A startled expression forced its way past Penelope’s mask. Evan smiled.

“I’ve met Alex.”

When Penelope laughed, it was a pleasant tinkle that surprised Evan and caused her mother to frown. She quickly forced her way into the

“My daughter is a liberated girl who believes that an education will take her far,” Mrs. Wilford said with disapproval. She looked her offspring over
and blurted out, “Why don’t you try a barrette, dear. They’re not all plastic with ribbons, you know.” She touched her own bun as if stressing what a
little effort would do for her daughter. She glanced at Evan through thick lashes. “Poor thing takes after her father.”

“Mr. Miller doesn’t give a crap about my hair.” Penelope defiantly stared at Evan, waiting for his agreement.

“I’ve seen a lot of girls trying to match your hair color with a bottle,” he said, cringing at the look from Mrs. Winford. Penelope seemed satisfied.

“Do you remember who served the tea?” he asked, desperately trying to get back on subject.

“Sure. Professor Pendergrass played mother,” she said, referring to the term for the one who pours. “It was his party, after all. Sometimes I think the
purpose is more for him to be the center of attention, rather than to give attention to his students. But the Professor is an alright guy.”

“Could anyone have had the opportunity to slip anything into Alex’s tea?”

Penelope tilted her head and smirked. “Is that his excuse?”

“Alex seems to think that someone had it in for him, that someone wanted him to fail.”

Penelope gave this serious thought. “He does make a perfect target. He’s bossy and arrogant and lords his intelligence over the other students. He’s

Mrs. Winford gently placed a hand on her daughter’s knee. “If you don’t watch it, people are going to think you’re in love with him.”

Penelope made a gagging sound. “You’ve been reading those romance stories again. In the real world, arrogance is not an attractive characteristic.”

Mrs. Winford smiled to herself. “Whatever you say, dear.”

Evan was learning more about women then he wanted to know. “It’s been suggested that you might have a grudge against Alex, that you might
consider yourself his nemeses.”

“Is that what they’re calling it now?” Mrs. Winford asked. She slipped her daughter a knowing look. “She may have been trying to capture this boy’s

“I do enjoy besting him,” Penelope confessed. “It gives me something to aim for, when he’s in the class. But I didn’t drug him,” here she glared at
her mother, “and I’m not in love with him.”

Once Penelope understood that she was a suspect, she wisely clammed up. Evan extracted himself from Mrs. Winford with a promise to drop by
and have a “grown-up” talk, sans her daughter.


Next on the list was Norbert Hall. Joseph dismissed him as a possible suspect, but Evan preferred to exercise caution. Until Norbert Hall answered
the door.

He knew it was Norbert because the name tag on the security uniform worn by the lanky kid who answered the door said so. His face was a map of
acne scars, and his hair had long ago lost the battle against several cowlicks.

“Norbert, I’m Evan Miller.”

“I remember you,” Norbert said, referring to the first time Evan visited Sleepy Hollow College campus in search of his cousin Joseph. Norbert had
insisted on escorting Evan all the way to the dorm room, as if he were a serial killer searching for victims.  “Joseph’s uncle, right?

Evan checked the urge to correct his status and asked if he could talk to Norbert about the tea party yesterday evening.

“I’ve already heard from Joseph. Alex thinks he was drugged.”

Norbert shot a glance back at the messy apartment and stepped into the hallway, pulling the door closed behind him.

“I’m assuming that you have good observation skills,” Evan said, motioning to Norbert’s campus cop uniform. It was the right thing to say.
Norbert stood taller.

“I arrived at the Professor’s a little late, at eighteen minutes past the hour. The others were already there – Penelope, Joseph, Alex, and John. And the
Professor, of course. Professor Pendergrass had already poured the tea, except mine. He was handing out the cups when I walked in.”

“Did anyone handle Alex’s cup other than the professor?”

Norbert narrowed his eyes and thought before answering. “Definitely not. Professor Pendergrass operates on strict protocol.” Norbert said this with
approval. “It was almost as if he had mentally assigned the cups.”

“How do you mean?” Evan asked.

“Well,” Norbert said. “He called out each student’s name as he picked up the cup and handed them their tea, like he was distributing Christmas

“Did Alex leave his cup at any time? Maybe he went to the washroom?”

“Nope. We filed in, had our tea and crumpets, then left. It was very orderly.”

Evan thanked Norbert and promised to keep him informed.

“If you need assistance,” Norbert called out after him, “then I’m your man.”

Evan waived acknowledgement and returned to Sleepy Hollow Campus.

He spotted Joseph in the cafeteria, grabbed a cup of coffee from the vending machine and sat down to join him. Joseph’s roommates, the blonde-
haired Kemper and the red-headed Charlie, crowded next to him, fighting over a Butterfinger candy bar.

“Back off, Charlie. I bought it.”

Charlie snatched the bar out of Kemper’s hands and took a large bite, right through the wrapper. He spit the jumbled mess into his hand and held it
out to Kemper. “This is your half.” His freckled lips squirmed into a grin.

“Just keep it,” Kemper said, disgusted.

Joseph calmly spooned up the last of his soup, oblivious to the ranting of his roomies. Evan watched Kemper speed off toward the vending
machines, Charlie leaping after him like a monkey.

“You’re sure you don’t want to move back home?” Evan asked.

Joseph’s gaze rested on Kemper and Charlie, fighting over who was going to push the button on the machine. “Builds character,” he said. “Besides,
they don’t always act like this.” He pushed away his empty bowl. “So how’s the case coming, Uncle Evan?”

“Cousin. You’re friend Alex is quite the character.”

“He’s not my friend. He’s the current occupant of a dorm room I desperately want. So am I going to get it?”

“I have a theory, but I still need to talk to John Hill.”

Joseph jerked his head in the direction of a large, oafish boy in expensive clothes, busying himself eating off a skinny young kid’s tray. “Here’s your

Evan reluctantly left his coffee on the table and walked the three rows to the kid indicated by Joseph.

“Are you John Hill?”

The large oaf pulled his fingers out of the skinny kid’s pudding and sucked his fingers. “Who wants to know?”

“I’m Evan Miller, and I have a few questions about last night’s tea party.”

When the skinny kid giggled, John flashed out a hand and knocked him upside the head.

“Could you give us some privacy?” Evan asked, and the skinny kid gladly picked up his tray and moved off.

John narrowed his eyes and studied Evan. “My dad says I’m never supposed to talk to the cops without a lawyer.”

Evan wasn’t surprised that this advice had been necessary. “That’s fine, but I’m not the cops.”

John grinned. “Then I don’t have to talk to you at all.” He turned, his eyes seeking out the skinny kid like a cat wondering where the mouse has

“I’m trying to clear up the matter of Alex Rivers before the police are forced to become involved,” Evan bluffed. The effect was satisfying. John’s
interest was back on him.

“What happened to Alex Rivers?” John’s grin held malicious anticipation.

“He believes he was drugged in order to keep him from taking the final examination for his English Literature class.”

John thought about this, and then seemed to finally understand. He let out a whoop and slapped Evan on the shoulder.

“That is classic!” he said.

“You have a reputation for practical jokes,” Evan said.

“Yeah, but it’s no fun unless you have an audience.” John held up his hands like a salesman preparing for a monster pitch. “Imagine this. Alex
Rivers crosses the campus, skipping his way to class.” He swept his hand across the horizon for effect. “Suddenly, he cramps up and craps his pants
in front of a hundred students. Girls run screaming, dorks are retching. Now that’s funny.” He suddenly stopped laughing an narrowed his eyes. “I
don’t need to get my dad’s lawyer, do I?”

Evan gave him a thumbs up. “I have a hunch it wasn’t you after all.”

John seemed to take this as a compliment, and Evan returned to his coffee.


The woman behind the desk was for all purposes a bulldog. Her jowls hung down over the collar of her floral print dress, her under bite
emphasized her wide jaw. She planted her hands firmly on the desktop when he entered the office, ready to guard her master against wayward

Evan flashed a smile. “I’m hoping to have a moment with Dr. Withers,” he said. “I haven’t got an appointment, and I’m well aware he’s a busy
man, but a five minute interview may clear up a problem that could potentially embarrass the college.”

Though he liked to think it was his smile, Evan was sure that his announced allegiance to the reputation of the school is what gained him entry into
Dr. Withers’ office.

A short, bald man with soft features and a pleasant expression rushed forward to grasp his hand.

“Mr. Miller. I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure.”

“I’m Joseph Dempster’s uncle,” Evan said, foregoing an explanation of their relationship as older and younger cousin. “He’s asked me to help out a
friend of his – Alex Rivers.”

At the mention of Alex’s name, the pleasant expression on Dr. Withers face was replaced by a worried grimace.

“What does that boy want now?” he said, more to himself.

“I’m wondering about Alex’s relationship with Professor Featherstone,” Evan began. “I know that Mr. Rivers’ personality is a bit…strenuous.”

Dr. Withers bobbed his head in agreement. “The boy’s a menace. An intelligent menace, which is worse.”  The dean leaned forward and said, “What
I’m about to tell you is confidential.”

“Of course,” Evan demurred.

Dr. Withers reached into his top drawer and pulled out a file, without opening it. “Every quarter we collect surveys from the students, an evaluation
of the performance of each teacher. They are supposed to be anonymous.” He slipped a paper out of the file and slid it across the desk. “This came
from Professor Featherstone’s English Literature class.”

The evaluation was a scathing criticism of Professor Featherstone. It accused him of  lacking the qualifications necessary to teach today’s savvy
students. The note went on to advise the school to spend their money more wisely in the future on a teacher of higher standards. At the bottom of
the critique was the scrawling signature of Alex Rivers.

“Did Professor Featherstone see this?”

Dr. Withers paled and snatched back the paper. “Never. I never show my teachers the evaluations. We do have a discussion about any concerns…”

“Did that note come up?”

“Indirectly,” the dean admitted. “Featherstone was a clinch for the Outstanding Educator award. For the most part it’s an honor, but the award does
come with a small monetary stipend. Of course, with a letter like this in his file, we couldn’t possibly present him with the award. The honor went to
Ms. Markum, one of our mathematics teachers.”

“But the accusations may have been unfounded,” Evan protested.

“Undoubtedly they were,” the dean continued. “However, in this day of litigious action, I couldn’t take the chance. Can you imagine the
embarrassment if someone had accused us of favoritism and demanded that we make the letter public?” Dr. Withers shuddered. “It was better to
direct our attentions to a less controversial educator.”

The dean hesitated, then pulled out a second letter. “Featherstone is aware of this one, of course.”

The second letter was Alex Rivers’ presentation of the subject for his thesis.

“The boy is jumping the gun. He won’t be required to write a thesis for several years. And he may change his mind about the subject matter by then.”

Alex Rivers was proposing to contradict a previously written paper on Thomas Hardy as Medievalist, written by Wilfred Featherstone.

“He’s going to trash Professor Featherstone’s own thesis?”

Dr. Withers looked depressed. “It appears so.”


This time, no offer of tea was made upon his arrival. Professor Featherstone remained standing and waited for Evan to begin.

“Let me tell you what I think happened,” Evan said, “and you can correct me if I’m wrong.”

He accepted the professor’s silence as agreement.

“You worked your tail off and gained a certain amount of prestige for your paper on Thomas Hardy as Medievalist. You accepted a position at Sleepy
Hollow College, where you spent the next couple of decades educating the young minds of the future in English Literature – a job you love that
revolves around your passion for English Literature. Then some arrogant nobody comes along and threatens to mock the very paper that catapulted
you into your career. You would be made a fool, even if Alex’s paper didn’t make its point, because as soon as a student were to question your
expertise, you would lose credibility. Where there’s smoke, there isn’t always a fire, but people run anyway.”

Professor Featherstone dropped into his armchair and stared at the floor.

“I propose that you thought that Alex needed another quarter under your wing to give you the chance to change his opinion. You drugged him with
the best of intentions, only now you’re sorry and wish you could take it back.”

The professor glanced up sharply at this last statement. “You’re being very generous in your opinion of me.”

Evan shrugged. “I don’t like the kid either. But it’s only fair that he be allowed to pass or fail on his own merits, don’t you agree?”

“He wrote a horrid review of me for the teacher critiques,” Professor Featherstone said.

Evan raised a brow in surprise. The professor responded with a slight smile. “Teachers are terrible gossips. Anyway, I don’t understand why this
little punter has chosen me as his victim.”

“Maybe it’s because he’s intimidated by you. He tends to dismiss those he considers beneath him.”

Professor Featherstone brightened. There was a responding challenge in his eye. “Perhaps I made a rash decision about the retake.”

“Good for you,” Evan said. “Fight him on your own turf. Don’t condescend to his level.”


The knock at the door awakened Evan on Sunday morning. He crawled out of bed, donned his robe and slippers, and scooted across the hardwood
floor to the front door.

“Uncle Evan!” Joseph greeted him with a bag of donuts and a tray of coffee. “Guess who’s going to retake his English Lit exam?”

“Alex Rivers,” Evan muttered, following the smell of freshly brewed coffee.

“Professor Featherstone changed his mind. But thanks for trying, Uncle Evan,” Joseph said, handing him a Styrofoam cup. “It looks like I won’t
need your help after all.”

Evan choked on his coffee.

“But I’ll keep you in mind for the future,” Joseph said, as if he were granting a favor.

“Thanks,” Evan said, grabbing a donut. Maybe this was what selfless parenting was all about. “I’ll try harder next time.”
Class Dismissed

by Jacqueline Vick