This is a scene that comes early in my new novel (title still secret.) While writing that early part I had not yet imagined this scene. But now, a year later, while writing an era further along in the future, I see its place in the big picture. So I will go back and put it in.
“The dean had chosen to stand during her meeting with Alistair Worley, Ph.D. so that the smallish, artfully dressed psychology teacher would have to look up at her.”
Formerly the headmistress of a New England girls’ prep school, Susan Fox is now the dean of a junior college for women in the south. We know that she left the New England prep school under a cloud and we have had hints of the cloud. We have seen her in her present job striving to coax the quaint stalwart little college cunningly and diplomatically to join the modern world. Though she had been meaning to replace it with a painting representative of her taste, the dean has let the months go by and the embroidered college motto, ESSE QUAM VIDERE, still hangs above her desk. At first its message had reproached her, then she came to admire its exquisite crewel embroidery from a former century, and finally she has adopted it as a resolve for her new life: TO BE RATHER THAN TO SEEM.
Here is what has to transpire in this “Warning Lothario” scene. The dorm mistress has reported to the dean she overheard some girls murmuring about their private counseling sessions with the psychology teacher, Dr. Worley. (“I really like learning more about myself, but I dread the end of the session. He chews mints, but you can still taste his awful breath when he mashes his mouth into yours.”
Susan Fox has to confront Dr. Worley with his sins, put an end to the counseling sessions, instill fear and shame(even if it’s only for having been caught) in the dapper psychology professor whose classes are a big hit with the girls (“Melancholy Biographies,” “Divided and Distorted Famous Personalities,” “Is virginity still relevant? If so, why?”) and send him away on his Christmas vacation relieved if not repentant.
Dr. Worley is one of the two Ph.D’s on the faculty.
The board of trustees is comprised of nine men and one widow of a trustee who never opens her mouth.
It is 1958.
Well, I have written several drafts of their exchange. Each time making it sharper and closer to the bone. It still has miles to go before it appears in final form. But I am fascinated with it and what it promises to become.
As his two term presidency drew to a close, Barack Obama talked to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in the Oval Office. Here is what he said about “peculiar ambition,” taking off on Lincoln’s “Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition.”
Obama went on to explain that when you’re young you want to prove yourself, but as you get older your ambitions become peculiar: “You’re not just chasing the idea of ‘me’ being important, but you, rather, are chasing a particular passion.” (He goes on to say more. The complete interview from September 2016 is in Vanity Fair.)
Dean Fox’s Take on Persephone
One of Dr. Worley’s “divided self” sessions featured Persephone, and Dean Fox, in her diplomatic foreplay, tells him she wishes she could have sat in on that class. Persephone has always fascinated her, she tells him. “Oh, Why do you think that is?” Dr. Worley asks, slipping happily into his counseling role. “Because it seems to me that when the goddess returned to the upper world she could never be comfortable with it again. She knows now that the flowers die. And also there is something about the King of the Underworld that she longs to return to. But I’m not going to let you psychoanalyze me, Dr. Worley.”
That was a writer’s reward for sticking to her passion. Which I guess could be defined as a fascination to see where something is leading you.
One more thing. My social security blog quoted from a faulty source. A faithful blog reader, who has just written a book on Social Security, tells me women and minorities were not excluded even at first. The first monthly retirement check went to Ida May Fuller,a retiring legal secretary, in 1939. She started collecting benefits at 65 and lived to be 100, collecting a total of $22,888.92 over her lifetime.
And since domestic workers and farm workers were at first excluded, it meant in effect that people of color were unable to receive it.
These days, more than ever, be on guard against faulty sources!
An unfinished drawing inspired by Susan Fox’s vision of the Persephone story. The King of the Underworld alone with his black dogs, missing Persephone. Those will be skulls on top of his throne. The face and feet are yet to come.