In honor of the first day of the semester at my own college, here is the first unedited page-ish of Trapped to Death. Unfortunately, there is a Thanksgiving scene at the end of the book, and therefore I can’t publish until Thanksgiving – and the election – have come and gone.
This takes place on Jamie’s first day of the fall quarter at UCLA. Since they’re on the quarter system, they start far later than we do. (Lucky.)
Trapped to Death
Thursday, September 22, 2016
“When you’re researching the history of science, your results will be more relevant if you don’t use the science databases.” I pointed to the screen. “We have databases for history and biography. For this class, it’s best to use these…”As I spoke, my audience gazed back at me, passive as a herd of sheep. In the front row of the classroom, a guy in a Star Trek t-shirt was writing down every word I said. In the back row, a couple of guys were passing their phones back and forth. The rest of the class – nearly forty of them – were either slouched in their seats or propping their heads on their hands. A couple of female students were smiling coyly.
Terrific. I sighed inwardly and plowed on. “The most frequent barrier to success when searching the databases is choosing the wrong keywords.” I tapped the search box at the top of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography landing page. “Don’t use too many words, and don’t type in an entire thesis statement. Use the two or three best words – the key words – that describe your topic. If you’re searching for a person’s name, surround it with quotation marks.”
It was the first day of fall quarter. Yesterday I’d received a panicked call from the instructor, Sam Herzog, an adjunct hired the day before, asking me to do a library presentation for this History of Science class. I’d asked him what his relevant assignments would be; he’d laughed and said, “Dude, I’m still writing the syllabus.”
Dude. I switched the screen to the History of Science research guide. “Everything you need – lists of appropriate databases, websites that we’ve chosen for their reliability and validity, tutorials on using the library website – is here. If you have a question, search here first for the answer. If you need more help, you can email me.” I tapped on the profile box containing my smiling visage and my email address. “My office is in the Young Research Library, and my hours are 8:30 to 5:00 Monday through Friday. If you have any questions once you dive into your research, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.”
Sam Herzog stood up. “Thanks, Dr. Brodie. Students, I hope you paid attention, because at the beginning of class on Tuesday, you’ll have a quiz on the material that Dr. Brodie covered today.”
There were a few audible groans. The guy in the Star Trek t-shirt smirked. The guys in the back sat up straighter and stared at Herzog, their mouths open.
Heh. Served them right, the little assholes. Herzog said, “I’ll see you all Tuesday.”
The class scattered. I logged out of the computer and turned off the projector. Herzog said, “Thanks again. I appreciate this.”
“You’re welcome.” Just doing my job. The suckiest aspect of my job.
He grinned at me. “You’re a history guy, not a science guy, right?”
“Right. Coming to the science building is like visiting Mars for me.”
“Ha! I hear ya.” He shook hands with me. “Thanks. You’re free to return to Earth.”
As I left the classroom a young woman pushed away from the opposite wall. She’d been in Herzog’s class; I recognized her hair – a headful of tiny blond braids that hung down to her waist. She gave me a dazzling smile. “Dr. Brodie?”
I stopped. “Yes?”
“I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your presentation.” She moved within a couple of feet and tipped her head slightly. “I’m glad to know that I can come to you whenever I need assistance.”
Uh huh. “Whenever you need research assistance, I’ll be pleased to help.” I held up my left hand. “But I might be able to save you some time. A, I’m married; B, My husband and I are very happy.”
“Well, dayum.” She grinned and stepped back a couple of feet. “Can’t blame a girl for trying.”
“No, I can’t. What’s your name?”
“Ashley. Ashley Bennett.”
I shook hands with her. “Pleased to meet you, Ashley Bennett. A word of advice?”
“Visit the science library.”
She laughed. “I will. Thanks.”