Dr. Williams had seemed different from the beginning. I mean you'd expect a Current Events teacher to have more on the ball than most teachers, but Williams had a special talent for mesmerizing students; I was no exception. His classes were never boring, and he had the uncanny power to motivate even the laziest student to put out his best work on a lengthy semester project.
We were nearly through the school year when it happened. That day started out normally enough‑-Dr. Williams already seated at his desk up front when we entered--and class went on as usual.
"Peter, please go to the board and write down some pertinent factors involved in the Mid‑East Crisis,"
We always had to do the walking in his class. At first we had thought it strange that Williams never stood up or moved out from behind his desk, but then someone suggested that the man might be crippled and self-conscious about it, so we dropped the matter. Once before that, a few of us had stayed after class for nearly half an hour in a lengthy discussion, more hoping to see the man stand up or move from his seat than wanting to settle a point.. He had outlasted us, however, and so we gave up any attempts to pry into what might be a personal affair.
When I had written the only five pertinent factors I could think of, I sat down and Dr. Williams proceeded to name seven more (obscure ones, to be sure) in quick succession. That was another thing he excelled in: memorizing things. He never took notes on us in class, read from a text, or even marked down roll. Our names had taken him all of one day to learn. And he always managed to win his arguments by drawing on his seemingly endless storehouse of facts, both trivial and significant.
Dr. Williams hadn't looked sick—he never did—but suddenly he began acting very strangely. While George Barker was giving more details on the Crisis, Williams began to quiver. The entrancing gaze he so often trained on reciting students melted into a blank stare as the spasming became more pronounced. He put his hands over his eyes, and for a reason I still don't know, I looked up at the clock. It had stopped.
George broke off mid-sentence to ask Dr. Williams if he was feeling all right. But he showed no sign of even having heard the question. His entire body was now shaking slowly and rhythmically. The entire class froze into stunned silence as he shook before us. Thoughts of epilepsy, a heart attack, and other frightening possibilities ran through my mind like horses bobbing up and down on a merry-go-round.
Suddenly Dr. Williams withdrew his hands from his face; his eyes looked like two blazing fireballs. In one swift motion, he stood up, stiffened, and fell to the floor. I managed to break out of my stupor and rushed to his still form, barely yelling, "Dr. Williams, what is wrong?"
I was the first to reach him. Kneeling to touch his hand„ I surveyed his body for signs of what might be wrong. Nothing seemed out. of the usual, at first. His desk was very near the corner wall socket and a cord ran from the socket to a point under the desk near his leg.
Almost as quickly as he had fallen, Dr. Williams opened his eyes, rose and stared at me with the most chilling look of authority and pleading I have ever seen. He knew I had seen. I tried to tell him in the look I returned that his secret was safe with me; for we both knew no one else had seen.
I knew even before I checked that the clock would be running again.
copyright (c) 2000 by Steve Schlich
ABOUT THE STORY
This tale got me into a Creative Writing class at the University of Colorado in early 1971. The teacher was so impressed that he read it aloud at the first class, then stepped in front of his desk so we could see there were no chords. Talk about pressure -- nothing I did during the rest of the semester was a good as this. But I wrote a story a week.