The Great Frostbite Calamity

“Your homework,” said Professor Gerhard as his eyes darted back and forth across the mob of students, “is to write about the great frostbite calamity of 1756.”

There was a pause, a long moment of awkward silence that echoed around the lecture hall. That’s it, thought the professor to himself, relaxing his shoulders and breathing a sigh of relief. Another lesson over.

Every muscle in his body tensed at once as a single hand went up near the back of the class. It was a myth that the most eager and active students sat at the front of the room. In a lecture hall, the back gave them the best view of the nervous professor as well as the other, less studious students.

The student didn’t bother to wait until she was called on. “But Professor Gerhard,” she called out in her irritating nasal voice, “there was no frostbite calamity in 1756. Or ever. There’s no such thing.”

They’ve caught me, he thought, feeling his tweed jacket dampen with nervous sweat. I knew I couldn’t pretend to know what I was talking about forever. They had to find out eventually. 

He carefully considered his options. He could accuse the student of ignorance. Who would they believe, one student, or a tenured professor?

Or he could go with Plan B: just run the hell out of the lecture hall and never look back.


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