The professor surveyed the room with satisfaction.
His seminar had apparently drawn the intellectual cream of the senior class. Eleven of the twelve chairs were filled by top students, and the twelfth chair was empty.
He smiled to himself. Apparently no one of lesser ability had dared to sign up.
He had done well for himself, he thought, extremely well for one so young. The seniors would be surprised to know just how young he was.
It had been hard work to get here, but he had done it in spite of the difficulties—the prejudice against his age, against his traditional values, against his criticism of current academic trends. He had embraced the rules, and played by them well.
A long and fruitful career awaited.
He imagined that he could detect the scent of wood smoke, through the odor of white-board1 markers which permeated the classroom.
Outside the window, the yellows and browns of autumn littered the sidewalk below the ankles of coeds. He had done well, and yet, there was something missing, some indefinable thing he still yearned for.
With a final glance at the clock, he perched himself on his desk, comfortably above the students, and cleared his throat.
"Welcome to The Problem of Humanity. I think we all know each other, so I'll move directly into the first topic. Feel free to contribute at any time—this is a seminar, not a lecture series.
"We're going to be looking at a series of texts which deal with the human condition. That problem is summarized nicely in today's text—from Genesis, the first book of both the Jewish and the Christian scriptures. I assume that you have all read it, since it has been posted outside my office door for more than a week.
"These wide-line copies may be useful for note taking. Jeremy, would you mind distributing them?"
A loud click echoed from the back.
The door eased open.
The professor looked up to see an oval face, framed with stringy blonde hair, peer into the room.
The face belonged to Sophia Simple—the least capable and most irritating of all his students.
*The Fall was the name given in the Judeo-Christian traditions of the period to a particular interpretation of the passage which the Professor is discussing in this section. Ironically, the basic thrust of that interpretation was that this story related the human rejection of a hierarchical, moralistic, worldview, to the consequent need to make a living by hard labor.
1A white-board was a primitive graphics board which operated on chemical and mechanical principles. It was otherwise much the same as any interactive display for use in front of a group. The markers were styluses which left a visible chemical residue on the board.