In Literature as in Life


In Literature as in Life cover

A novel by Sophia Pemberly. Fiction. Trade paperback, illustrated. ISBN not yet assigned. Projected publication date: 2015. A Reader's Guide will be available for this title on publication.

About In Literature as in Life

After nearly fifty years at one or the other of the Seven Sisters, living a thoroughly predictable academic (but surprisingly unpredictable personal) life, sixty-nine-year-old Sophia Pemberly is suddenly at loose ends. Recently retired as a Chaucerian scholar, she sells her house, donates her library, and heads to Maine, planning to spend her remaining years with the tempestuous Robert, the long-distance love of her life for the past forty-five. But the Wheel of Fortune, that very medieval construct, is in motion, and where Sophia will end up is anyone's guess.

From In Literature as in Life:

I cleared my desk and carried the graded papers to the departmental office at the far side of the building on my way out. The rain had stopped, and as I walked around that long cranellated rectangle that had housed my department for some one hundred years I was ruminating without pleasure on a wet ride home. Over the weekend I had polished and oiled Sir Walter, and forced a little more air into his surprisingly full tires, and then this morning, impulsively, I had wheeled him out of the garage, stepped across the frame, settled my skirt and, with a snap of the brass bell, glided out of my driveway into the street.

This morning the sun was shining and the thought of rain never crossed my mind. I just wheeled along, a fairly brisk wind at my back and, simultaneously, in my face. Twenty-five minutes later, when I dismounted, I noticed that I had forgotten my lock. I had a brief moment’s disquiet about it, but then reminded myself that Sir Walter was unique among the campus stable, and no one had ever troubled him before.

Which made it all the more shocking as I rounded the building seven hours later and saw the empty bicycle rack. I know my hand went to my mouth to suppress a gasp just as it started to rain again.

I don’t know how long I stood bareheaded in the cold rain, cursing the thoughtless impertinence of the spoiled undergraduate who had, well, probably not stolen Sir Walter, but who, looking up into the rain-soaked sky, borrowed him to preserve the suede of her jacket, the leather of her boots, the fall of her coiffure. The best I could hope for was that he was safely tucked away, maybe even out of the weather, and would, tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after, be found resting in this same empty rack, probably without a note of explanation or apology.

I hate her, I thought. I hate all of them, I hate her, I hate them. I hate her. I hate them.

When I had finished cursing her, I burst into tears. Marcia’s thoughtless tormenting of James, my realization that in a few months I would be stepping off the cliff of the familiar into experiential freefall, the small tally of scholars I was able to motivate to study medieval literature, the empty file drawers, the truly uninspired term papers I had been grading all week, the rain that was soaking my hair and freezing my feet, the indecipherable scribbles in my research notebook, the realization that I could truly hate my students, and now, even a temporary loss of Sir Walter – it was all too much.

I stopped crying and decided to go back to my office and call a cab, and with every sloshy footfall towards the nearest door, I continued my pathetic little chant.

The wind was blowing against the door, and it finally opened with a whoosh of expelled air.

Inside, leaning up against the stairwell, was Sir Walter.

Two pages had been ripped from a spiral bound notebook. One was rolled into a tube and inserted under his saddle, between the rails. The other was folded, a neat crease straddling the lip of the basket on the handlebars, and said: SECURITY: THIS IS PROF. PEMBERLY’S. DO NOT CONFISCATE OR MOVE!!!!!

The second page, when the ragged ripped edges were pulled apart, read: PROF. P.: YOUR BIKE WAS GETTING REALLY WET, SO I BROUGHT IT IN. HOPE YOU FIND IT BEFORE THE KAMPUS KEYSTONE KOPS DO. BIKE ON!!!!!

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I burst into tears again. I hadn’t given way to such an amount of emotion since menopause.

 

 

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