Studying for the GRE

Lately I’ve been studying for the GRE. The Barron’s book recommended that I beef up my vocab by reading a lot and writing down all the words I don’t know or can’t quite define in words (I was shocked by how many of the latter there were). This seemed like a good idea to me, and between the Barron’s Book, Darfur Diaries and The New Yorker, I’ve come up with about 40 words over the last two and half weeks. Studying lists is boring, so I decided to write a story using all the new words. They used to make us do this in junior high, and I always thought it was really fun then, and I’m happy to report that it hasn’t lost its appeal. Unfortunately, writing a story for 40 random words ended up being a bit tedious and long, but here it is nonetheless. I promise that I’ll use a smaller set of words to write my next one.

The sun had no doubt been up for hours when the small liberal arts college graduate opened her eyes. As the memories from the previous night flooded in, she let out a lugubrious sigh. She was going to be evicted. It was only fair, she reasoned. She was, after all, living in a Specialists Village (Specialists Villages were a new trend following in the wake of Artisans Villages, except that everyone in a Specialist Village must have a specialty) and she was really more of a generalist, she guessed you could say.

Last night, she had returned from her daily meanderings (she was the peripatetic type – last year she had spent the year after graduation traveling the world earning money by teaching English. Though her money had long since run out, she still enjoyed going for long walks to view all the wonders of Mother Nature) and paused at her threshold to remove her shoes. That is, she would have if she had been wearing shoes (like many small liberal arts college students, she had spent the first 18 years of her life under the roof of her upper-middle-class-I-protested-in-the-60’s parents and thus learned to be ashamed of her family’s affluence. Therefore, she chose to dress in a way heterodox to one of her status – ripped jeans, faded T-shirts bought from second hand stores, unkempt hair and Apple’s latest iPod). She was just sitting down to her evening snack of yogurt and granola when she saw an unfamiliar man approaching her cottage.

The man seemed to possess a punctilious demeanor – stiff-backed, impeccably manicured hands, waxed and combed mustache. He held an old wooden pipe between his teeth and carried a pocket watch and looked like someone straight out of a Sherlock Holmes novel, except for the anachronistic hot pink Motorola RAZR hanging from a lanyard around his neck. He politely declined the SLACG’s offers of hospitality and instead informed her that he was the Village Coordinator’s Proxy sent to consign to her the following documents. The SLACG had scanned them with growing apprehension as she saw such phrases as, “egregious error,” “generalist languishing in our midsts,” “denigrating the very essence of the Specialists Village,” and “lease to be terminated.” At the time she had only managed to sputter, “You’re unilaterally abrogating my lease?!” before the Village Coordinator’s Proxy explained that they had discovered that a Bachelor of Arts was not an “unwed artist,” as she had lead them to believe, but in fact, it was a degree which held no pragmatic value. She had no skill, no talent, no specialty. She was a generalist, and as such, could no longer live in the Specialists Village. He was, however, happy to inform her that there was an opening in the Shitty Apartments Shared By Too Many People Village, as well as another, less enticing option, Moving Back In With Her Parents. After expressing his condolences, the proxy had turned to leave and the SLACG had called out, “But isn’t there anything I can do?” The proxy assured her that all she needed to do was to become a specialist by the end of the week and she could keep her cottage. If she needed any help, the Specialtilologist had some didactic videos. “The end of the week?” she thought, “But that’s tomorrow!” She had just been about to ask the Proxy where the Specialtilologist lived, but he was already out of earshot. The SLACG had repudiated her usual abstemious nature and snarfed an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food, which she had washed down with vodka.

Now she had less than 24 hours to become a specialist. What could she possibly do? Ratiocinate, she told herself. She could try to find the Specialtilologist, but she had no idea where he lived. She guessed she could ask the other specialists where he lived, but that could take hours. Oh well, she thought, at least she would get to spend one last day wandering around the village. With that, she hopped out of bed and threw some clothes on.

Her first stop was the Entomologist’s. She knocked, but nobody answered. It was then that she noticed the note taped to the door – “Tending the apiaries. Bee happy to see you.” She went around the back of the cottage and found herself in a garden filled with various flowers – snap dragons, pansies, asters, tulips, etc. Making her way further into the yard, she found the Entomologist dressed in her bee keeper suit examining the apiaries. “Dead, dead, dead,” she intoned. “I wonder what it is?” When the SLACG asked what was the matter, the Entomologist replied that all her bees were dying. When she examined their bodies, she found that they were suffering from every disease known to beekind, almost like bee AIDS. She went on to explain how lately, bees had been disappearing from hives, which was creating quite the uproar in the agricultural community. Without bees to pollinate their crops, farmers weren’t producing and soon consumers would be affected, too. This problem was affecting meat producers as well, since their animals relied on grasses like alfalfa, which were also pollinated by bees. The SLACG offered to set up a symposium addressing these concerns and then asked if the Entomologist knew where the Specialtilologist lived. She didn’t, but the oenologist might and asked why the SLACG wanted to know. When the SLACG explained her problem, the Entomologist responded,

“Oh my. A generalist, you say? I was one of those once, but I applied myself and went to graduate school. Why don’t you try that? Graduate school I mean?”

The SLACG thanked her but said that she didn’t think she wanted to make a precipitate decision by jumping into something so time-consuming and costly. The Entomologist said that she understood, but looked at the SLACG nervously as she wished her good luck.

The oenologist didn’t know where the Specialtilologist lived, although she did go on and on about a bottle of wine that was supposedly from Thomas Jefferson’s personal stock that she was almost positive was a fake. The Military Ordnance Inspector didn’t know either, but it was difficult to tell if he even heard her over the machine gun fire (he had borrowed some prisoners from CIA black sites and was testing his weapons by strafing the prisoners in a nearby field. Those that offered intelligence about future terrorist attacks were invited up for coffee. Currently all the prisoners were enjoying scones and Starbucks and the Inspector was left to use hay dummies for target practice).

More of her day was wasted at the Philatelist’s, who insisted on showing her his stamp collection, and at the Numismatist’s, who wanted her opinion on an ancient coin. She walked with as much celerity as she could muster past the Raconteur’s because she knew she definitely didn’t have time for a story, only to get held up in the high school gym being lectured by the Reverend about how gays were responsible for the decline into moral turpitude that was currently plaguing society and couldn’t a man go to a public restroom without getting arrested, er, hit on. When he saw that he could not hector the SLACG into syncretism, he dismissed her and what he called her “ingenuity.”

The SLACG had run out of people to ask and places to look. Dejectedly, she decided to give up and return to her cottage to begin packing her things. On her way back, she encountered a young woman busking in the street. She was reenacting the scene in the musical 1776, when John Adams asks Thomas Jefferson’s wife what she sees in TJ. The SLACG dropped some coins in the Busker’s hat just as she was singing the chorus, “He plays the violin! He tucks it right under his chin…”

“Hey thanks!” the Busker called out.

“No problem,” the SLACG replied. “Are you a Thespian or something?”

The Busker explained that she wasn’t a Thespian, but that she had taken some theatre classes at her small liberal arts college. At first this excited the SLACG, thinking that she might finally have found someone who could help her, but she was disappointed. It turned out that the Busker’s lease application had been rejected at the Specialists Village due to her liberal arts background, so she went and got a medical degree. But the Specialists Village already had their quota of general practitioners and when the Busker failed to produce a more specific specialty, she was rejected a second time. Now she lived under a tree making money acting out musicals and scenes from TV shows. The SLACG gave her a few more coins and asked her if she knew where the Specialtilologist lived.

“Nope, can’t say that I do,” she said and then launched into a scene from Grey’s Anatomy. The SLACG continued along the road to her cottage, the General Practitioner turned Homeless Busker’s voice saying, “Seriously?” fading into the distance.

With each step, the SLACG became more petulant. “This isn’t fair!” she whined. I may not know a lot about any one thing, but I do know a good amount about a lot of different things. I’m well-rounded! Balanced! I specialize in generalizing! She stopped abruptly on the shoal in the middle of the river she was crossing. That was it! She specialized in generalizing! As suddenly as she’d stopped, she splashed up the bank she’d just come down and ran toward the Village Coordinator’s Proxy’s home.

The Proxy had his cottage on top of a very steep and very high hill so as to discourage anyone from visiting. The sun was setting as the SLACG climbed up the loose shale. She arrived at the top dizzy and breathless and for a moment even thought she had been blinded. In her delirious state, she figured she must have reached the empyrean itself, until the sun dipped below the horizon and revealed the metal sculpture that had just been reflecting the day’s remnants of light directly into her eyes. The door to the Proxy’s cottage was open, so she let herself in.

Inside looked as if all the nuclear powers in the world had engaged in an internecine battle. Surely this was the wrong cottage, she thought, as she made her way through the coalesced scraps of metal and heaps of dirty laundry. At one point she stubbed her toe on something, and when she looked to see what it was, she had to stifle a gag since it appeared to be month-old macaroni and cheese. She walked into the next room, where she found the Proxy, deep in concentration, fretting what looked to be a wooden door. The work was intricate and beautifully designed. The Proxy was apparently quite skilled. Finally, he put his tools down and looked up at her.

“Ah yes, the SLACG. I see you have found my atelier. I assume you now have a specialty?”

The SLACG answered in the affirmative and explained to the Proxy what her specialty was.

“Specializing in generalizing? I’ve never head that one before. Doesn’t matter though, doesn’t matter. New fields are being created all the time. You’ll just need to fill out the necessary paperwork, pay a few nominal fees and provide me with a copy of your summa.”

“My summa?” the SLACG asked, eyebrows raised.

“Yes, yes. It needn’t be the apotheosis of literature in the field, but we do like to keep these things for our records. Oh, and please sign the waiver allowing us to publish it on the Internet, in case anyone wants to Google the topic. Just leave it on my desk by tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?” the SLACG thought. Well, it didn’t matter, she grinned. If there was one thing SLACGs truly did specialize in, it was bullshitting their way through a paper.

The End!

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