The Pushback

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened there.”

Professor Handel stared at the error on the whiteboard and scratched his chin with his middle finger.

The mistake was a three where there should have been an eight. An absent-minded error. What was I thinking?

He scrubbed the errant number off the whiteboard as quickly and thoroughly as he could with a rag well worn for the cause that only left a blood-stain smear that the professor quickly scrawled over with the correct answer.

Stepping back, his eyes scanned for any other mistakes. Seeing no other flaws, he turned to face his students and joked, “We are whole again.”

The student who spotted the mistake nodded back at the professor and looked down at his notebook. The rest of the students, in glass-eyed scholarly pretense, stared into the abyss of the whiteboard behind him.

“So, I guess with that, we conclude our lesson and lecture on whether light has weight. Any questions?” The professor forced a tight smile as he looked up on the students sitting in the dim light of the lecture hall.

“No? Then, I will see you all tomorrow as we continue into the next session.” Suddenly, the professor couldn’t even hear the sound of his own voice over the rumbling of desks, books snapping shut, and zippers being pulled closed.

As the last student shuffled out of the classroom, the professor took a deep breath. Despite being alone in the room, he felt the presence of something.

The sound of his throat clearing reverberated off the hard surfaces in the classroom. He grabbed his personal effects off the table and put them into his messenger bag. He patted his pockets for his keys and flipped over the ID attached to the lanyard around his neck.

The whiteboard was last on his mental checklist for leaving a classroom. He picked up the rag and noticed how the dried marker soiled his palm. He put the rag down and cleaned his hands by rubbing them together.

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