End of January
The phone rings in Ren’s office.
‘You’ve really fucked things up now,’ says Miles’ voice.
‘The department are making me teach Social Psychology.’
‘Oooh. Nasty. How’s Lucius?’
‘Completely gone. He’s either been sacked or jumped. Nobody knows which at this point. But he is, in effect, no longer a member of the Psychology Department.
‘Poor Lucius. If he’d only managed to avoid having his innovative methods being detected for another five or so years he would have been all right, because by then that sort of data-collecting methodology will be compulsory in Psychology.’
‘And I wouldn’t have to take his Social Psychology class, on top of everything else I have, with only a week to get ready for it. And guess what? I’m still marking fucking exams. And guess what? I have another one hundred and seventy exams to mark, coming in on Wednesday. How is doing all of this achievable?’
‘At least your exams don’t take as long as mine do to mark. We’re in this impossible situation where you are supposed to properly read and re-read an exam in a ridiculously short time, and your classes start again the Monday after the last exam on Friday. You must get your exam marks in ASAP, by yesterday morning before nine, preferably the day before yesterday, but you must take care to mark each exam thoroughly and carefully. If I’d wanted an impossible job I would have gone down a fucking rabbit hole. You know how long it takes just to decipher the hand-writing in some cases?’
‘You should see some of the hand-writing I have to deal with,’ says Miles.
‘And then you have to decipher whatever the fuck the student is on about. And essays are even worse because they’re longer and more rambling and just when you think you have some time to do some research a big batch of them comes in and then you have to write long, insightful comments on every one. I must have done something bad in a previous life to have to spend so much time every term marking endless reams of undergraduate drivel.’
‘You’ve done enough bad things in your current life to justify any amount of torture, mate.’
‘You think you can’t go on, it’s 3am, and you look at your pile, and you’ve still got eighty left.’
‘It does my head in after a while,’ says Miles. ‘After about four I need a lie-down in a dark room. Then I start wishing that I worked on a building site instead. Sunshine, sports talk, physical work, that’s what I need.’
‘I usually look at the classifieds during every marking period,’ says Ren. ‘But I’d only end up a high school teacher, which would be even worse.
‘Or working for a funding body, which would be like a really crappy type of academic job, without the prestige.’
‘Hang on,’ says Ren. ‘Lucius was suspended, or given a sabbatical, however you want to put it, a week or so ago. Shouldn’t they have assigned someone to Social Psych at that point?’
‘They should have, yes, but they’re hopeless at making decisions. Wouldn’t have made much difference, I’ve had to spend the whole week marking, and couldn’t have prepared anyway.’
‘So when are you going to prepare? When’s the first class?’
‘Monday of next week.’
‘Blimey. So you’ll get like, Sunday evening to mug up on a whole field of Psychology?’
‘Yeah. Mind you, it won’t be hard will it, considering that the whole field seems to be based on nothing but the conviction that everyone’s a racist, consciously or unconsciously. Seriously. I’m not joking. That does seem to be the underlying insight, insight in quote marks, of the whole field. We’re all racists, and sexists, and our behaviour is driven by crude stereotypes. And there are so many influential papers in the field that look very dodgy to me. I wonder how many other Luciuses there are in Social Psychology? It’s enough to turn me into you.’
‘There are advantages to that, like the enormous cock, and the genius in varied fields that could be put to use one day, not to mention the fact that I’ve got a new hi-tech squash racquet. Are there any lecture notes, or overheads, from previous years that you can use?’
‘No. And Lucius isn’t going to give me anything now, is he?’
‘So, any idea what’s happened to Lucius?’
‘Last person to talk to him says that Lucius claimed, in an unconvincing fashion, that he was innocent. He seemed very rattled, and shifty, apparently. And then said he was going off to take his sabbatical, yes, he was still talking about a sabbatical, in Wales with his new girlfriend for a few weeks to start with. He refused to say anything more.’
‘But you said he’s gone for good?’
‘Yes, the Head told us a day after this happened that Lucius no longer works for the department. He wouldn’t say anything more. I presume that also means he no longer works for the University in general, because I doubt they’ve offered him an alternative job in the kitchens. Of course, everyone in the department, everyone in British psychology, is talking about his work, and poring over it. Suddenly, it seems, it was always obvious that his data was fake, even though some of the people now saying this had previously acclaimed Lucius for his fantastic work. Has Robot spoken to you about…?’
‘About the press conference esclandre? Yes, he was very pissed off with me, as usual, but I told him that I heard about the press conference at the last minute, and went for a listen. Then Lucius start libelling me in public, to the press, so I had to say something. He wasn’t happy about me producing that train station letter, but I told him I got that recently, which I did. And the University hadn’t seemed very interested in my help in the investigation anyway.’
‘So are you in the clear? Is he just jealous because you got your picture in the papers?’
‘Well, as I said, he’s pissed off with me. He’s always pissed off with me. I’m getting fucking sick of it, frankly. He walks around like he’s got a mouthful of wasps. He disapproves of lots of other members of the department as well, of course, it’s not just me, but it’s like the sight of me pains him every time he sees me. I could respect that if he had some achievements to his name, and an admirable character, but he doesn’t. He’s an all-round nothing. So fuck him. There’s not much he can do to me over this. It won’t look good if they try to do anything to me after I’ve exposed Lucius.’
‘How long do you think before the media works out that Lucius has been sacked, or quit?’
‘If it gets discussed on the Psychology internet forums then not long.’
‘Maybe they’ll run another picture of you?’
‘If they call me I’m going to say that most of the hard work was done by a couple of graduate students. I won’t say who, though, because I don’t think they want the attention, at least not at this stage when everything’s feverish.’