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Back To School
Author: Richard H. Williams

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On returning to Storrs, Connecticut from Miami Beach, Florida, Howard Flanigan began his spring semester study in Psychology at the University of Connecticut, or, as it is commonly called, UConn. Although he enjoyed his vacation on Miami Beach, and returned with a nice tan, as did Angus and Maggie, he was ready to continue his studies. His best friend, Angus Ross, continued his work in History. Howard resumed his affairs with the two redheads, Aunt Maureen and Maggie Connelly, as well with the attractive blonde, Basketball Betty.

Betty was unusually well endowed, and yet no one called her "Basketball Betty" to her face. She was a secretary at UConn and wrote Haiku Poetry. She was teaching Howard to create Haiku and Maggie was teaching him to work with watercolors.

"Maggie would say, "You aren't using enough water, Howard. Your watercolor paintings look like oil."

And when Howard tended to include rhyming in his poems, Betty would say to him, "No rhyming, Howard, and write in the present tense. Strictly speaking one should make mention of the seasons and of the human senses, and of nature in your poems. Also, avoid writing in the first person, and follow the 5-7-5 pattern."

Once again Howard attended Saturday night games of Strip Poker at Maureen's house in Windham and usually ended up in Maureen's arms. She was presently reading and re-reading the last section of James Joyce's Ulysses. She said it was "juicy."

Nydia Lopez remained in Miami and had kept her word in corresponding with Maggie, Ross, and Howard. All three were somewhat in love with her. Nydia was a curvy model with raven black hair and creamy white skin. One might say that she was a Latin version of the famous actress, Ava Gardner. But Nydia had married the great football tight end, Orvil Wilson. Because of his serious knee injury in the National Championship game against Oklahoma at the Orange Bowl, the pro teams no longer expressed interest in Orvil. The multimillion dollar contracts vanished.

As they settled down in Connecticut, Howard began to favor Maggie. Late one night they went swimming in Mirror Lake on the UConn campus and ended up making love. On weekends they usually spent the nights at Maggie's place in Windham.

Of the faculty members of the Psychology Department, Howard favored Professor Zorman, who taught Experimental Psychology. Zorman would sometimes speak of the Mental Institution ten miles to the west of the University of Connecticut as "our sister institution to the west." He sometimes used their inmates as subjects for his experiments.

Professor Zorman also had his students conducting experiments using albino rats as subjects and introducing various schedules of reinforcements of food pellets. Secondary reinforcers, such as blinking lights and intermediate sounds, were also employed.

This professor and his lab assistant worked as a team and they bragged that if their schedule were placed on a pinball machine, persons playing the machine would be compelled to continuously play until they lost all of their money. The general idea was that during acquisition the schedule of reinforcement was employed---say one food pellet every ten bar presses. And then during extinction there would be no food at all and the number of trials to extinction---e.g., number of bar presses---would be recorded. But one of the student teams irritated by such bragging snuck into the lab at night and fed the professor's rat during extinction. The professor and his lab assistant were puzzled by their rat's inactivity, and their rat placed last in the competition.

In another experiment with rats, Howard committed a blunder. He placed his lab animal on a treadmill and then went to a campus party involving heavy drinking. But Howard forgot about his rat and by the time he returned to the lab the poor animal was unconscious from exhaustion. Funny but not so funny!

Late one Wednesday afternoon Basketball Betty and Howard decided to have a two-person Haiku Conference in Birch Forest just outside of the UConn campus. They brought a blanket, pads and pencils, some red wine, a copy of Roget's Pocket Thesaurus and a bottle of Johnson's Baby Lotion.

Betty said, "Here are some poems penned by the master, Matsuo Basho. He was the pioneer of Haiku poetry and he wrote travelogs in both poetry and prose." And she turned to a well worn page of a slim paperback book.


Sleeping at noon
the body of the blue heron
poised in nobility

It gives no sign
that it knows its death is near
the cicada's cry

Summer grasses
where stalwart soldiers
once dreamed dreams

On a leafless bough
a crow is sitting:---autumn,
darkening now


Howard said them aloud and exclaimed, "I really like them! But they do not follow the 5-7-5 pattern of Haiku."

Betty said, "That is because these are English translations of the original Japanese poems. In the Japanese langauge they are 5-7-5."

Betty and Howard undressed each other. They gave one another a slow, sensuous massage using a slippery lotion and this led to pleasurable love making. Later they got dressed, walked to Howard's Jaguar, and drove to the small, cozy restaurant on the other side of the campus called Mellow Mushroom. Betty ordered a Half Vegetarian and Howard ordered a Whole Tufu. They split a pitcher of draft beer.

On the following weekend, when Howard arrived at Maggie's house in Windham, she had a surprise for him. Maggie said, "I know you don't care for Watercolor, dear, so I have here an Acrylics Kit. It contains 12 middle size tubes of paint, one-half dozen brushes, some Retarding Fluid--- as Acrylics dries rapidly--- three 16"X 20" canvases and a palette knife. I think you will enjoy yourself with these materials. Have fun!"

Howard said, "Thank you, Maggie. I think you are putting me on the right track. Although I don't like to attempt Watercolor myself, I do appreciate Watercolor paintings that are well done, especially those of the masters. Of course, yours are impressive."

Angus Ross adored the notes from Nydia. He was unable to get the gorgeous Latin woman out of his mind. He liked sunny Miami and he liked Nydia and didn't care for the cold snowy winter of New England. He also didn't care for her marrying Orvil. He felt that her marrying him would turn out to be a disaster. Ross felt he could make her happy.

Ross was studying hard and was achieving all As. He did worry about what one could do vocationally with a major field of History, viewing it just one step better than Philosophy. He supposed he could teach high school. He did write very well and was well read. Another possibility would be to pursue graduate work. With his excellent grades he should be able to obtain an assistantship or even a fellowship. His mind drifted back to Nydia. Maybe he could arrange to visit Nydia during the spring vacation.

Howard's thoughts went even further along academic lines than those of Ross, but his undergraduate record wasn't going to be as impressive as that of Ross. Howard had a C+ overall grade point average and a B+ in Psychology. Also, Psychology alone as an undergraduate major wasn't very good vocationally. It was like having only pre-med without medical school. But if he could get a masters degree in Counseling at a lesser school and compile a good graduate record, that might be satisfying.

"Who should I marry?" thought Howard. "Perhaps I should put off marriage for a while. But which women could be candidates? Should it be Nydia? Or Nydia? Or Nydia? But she was already married! Nydia loved men, but soon tired of them. What about Maggie? Yes, a good choice! Or Betty? Yes!" Howard liked her. Should he consider Aunt Maureen? Interesting, but He would have to buy her the complete works of Henry Miller for Christmas or a birthday.

The four years of college sped by rather quickly and Ross was pleased to learn that he had been awarded a University of Connecticut Fellowship in History and International Studies. Being a pure fellowship, he had no obligations to UConn except to maintain his excellent grades. The award extended for three years, so he could pick up a masters degree on the way, and if all went well the academic honor could be extended so that it would be possible to attain a Ph.D.

Howard's situation was not so simple. Because his grades were not impressive and his aptitude test scores were only in the upper half of test scores on the GREs. Howard was unable to get a fellowship of any kind and could only be awarded an assistantship from some of the schools of lesser reputation. For example, he was completely rejected by the University of Connecticut, by all of the big ten schools, and by the University of Miami among others. Howard had had the foresight, however, to apply to dozens of schools, some of intermediate quality. He made application not only for acceptance, but also for scholarships, assistantships, and loans to all such schools.

In July Howard received a nice letter of acceptance from Professor William Carson, who was the Head of Counseling at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, offering him an assistantship. The award would require him to work 15 hours a week in the clinic and he would obtain free books and tuition plus a reasonable stipend. Additional funds could be available for Howard if he proctored tests, gave additional interviews, conducted labs, or gave lectures or tutoring. Boone was located in the western part of North Carolina, 3300 feet above sea level. He knew two friends who had resided in that area and both of them liked the region and said it was quite attractive to tourists. The only drawback was that the winter season could be quite cold with heavy snow, in which case transportation might be troublesome. Of course, New England was also a cold place in the winter.One winter Boone had been declared a disaster area so that food and health materials had to be flown in by helicopter.

Professor Carson had indicated in his letter that Howard would be given two weeks to reply to the offer made by Appalachian. Howard consulted Basketball Betty on this matter and she contacted friends who had lived near or in Boone. The consensus was again that it was an interesting place in which to live with scenic highland attractions. Some of the most well known were Tweetsie Railroad, Mystery Hill, the Mast General Store, Grandfather Mountain, Blowing Rock---both the rock itself and the charming town---Daniel Boone Inn, and Horn in the West---an outdoor play. Howard learned that the Appalachian coeds were attractive, friendly, and interesting . How would Howard get along with his Northern accent? Possibly his speech patterns would turn out to be a benefit. Perhaps he would be considered to be an interesting novelty.At any rate, he had never had trouble relating to women. Thus far he had not received any other offers. Suppose he did accept the offer and went on to Boone? How would Maggie, Maureen, and Betty feel about this? And what about Nydia?

Howard decided to speak to Professor Zorman of Psychology about the offer of an assistantship. In doing so, he showed Zorman the letter from Professor William Carson.

Zorman said, "I see nothing wrong with this. It is a good offer." The two of them also looked at Appalachian's Graduate Bulletin perusing the offerings in Counseling and Psychology.

Again Zorman said, "It sounds good to me. I would give it serious consideration."

Howard said, "But it is not a top school academically. Would I be at a disadvantage later on?"

Dr. Zorman said, "Just go there and do your very best. Make a good academic record for yourself, both in terms of grades and the assistantship. If we here at UConn are impressed with your work at Appalachian, we will give you serious consideration into one of our doctoral programs, probably Psychology. And at that time I would write you a strong letter of entry, just as I did to Appalachian, saying that you are ‘Kind, courteous, courageous, bold, clean, etc.' If you receive any other attractive offers, let me know. Good luck!

[To be continued]

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