The Professor
by William Kitcher
Professor Earl
was nearing the end of his sabbatical, and he had
been working feverishly on research concerning
the equation of the universe. The four walls of
his study were blackboards covered with
mathematical symbols. When all four blackboards
had been used up, he realized he needed more
blackboard space, so he had two very skeptical
young men install more blackboards on his ceiling.
He still hadn't completed the equation after
these were filled, so he had the floor covered
with more blackboards. He also had a body harness
on a runnersandpulley system installed into the
ceiling so that he could complete his work
without smudging the chalk. It never occurred to
him to erect rows of blackboards or use a pencil
and paper. Professor Earl enjoyed flying about
the room.
He was
scribbling furiously near the last corner of the
room when he knew that his work was almost done.
He slowed down considerably as he wrote down the
final (x  yª)8. He paused for a moment, and
then wrote down the = sign.
He rolled
himself up into a ball in his harness, furrowed
his brow, scrunched up his face, removed his
glasses, put his knuckles in his eyes, and didn't
move for four days.
He stretched,
went back to the beginning of the equation, and
traced it all the way through, checking and rechecking
his work.
He was very
happy for an instant as he wrote down the answer,
but the universe didn't disappear as he had
expected. Professor Earl had very ambivalent
feelings.
