Chapter 2: La Aruña

See previous post for Chapter 1 of my first (serial) novel, "Bluer Than Blue."

Sheila was sure he'd stare into her breasts at any moment. (They were elevated by the latest "Luxius" boob technology.) No, no, not Harold. Director Aruña. This was yesterday. The Director, known to some and mostly himself as "La Aruña," had introduced Quill & Ink University's graduate studies open house with his lilting and rolling accent. That was earlier in the morning in Ballroom 1 of the Mercy Hotel, one of the city’s finest, though the carpet choice in some places was questionable and the podium a little scratched. La Aruña had shuffled his notecards, exercised his practiced smile and waited a bit long for one the presentation's slides to change over, pushing a button on the small remote repeatedly.

"I'm technically challenged."

Truthfully, he wasn't. No amount of button pushing could've convinced the humming program's crosshatch transition to move any faster. Otherwise, he did what he could to pump up the University's writing and publishing program.

"One hundred and fifty years strong, Quill & Ink ranks among the top graduate writing programs in the country."

Which top five in which publication was up for grabs. So, there was a little truth stretching. Times were tough and the jawlines of the other presenters were tense. They felt the pressure to make the sale and that definitely detracted from the mojo of the message. They didn't look convinced it was worthwhile to spend that much money. Sheila, for one, did not rise that morning planning to spend a pile of dough. Yes, she loved to write, but the great motivating factor that morning was the Mercy Hotel. It was the real star of the open house, and made the University seem more attractive than it was. The light fixtures overhead were constellations of galaxy class baubles, like brilliantly taxidermied sea creatures of the deep, glowing of their own volition. Under the heat lamps, plump croissants glistened, waiting to be devoured. The buffet was quite the spread, so neatly organized by the hotel. "I would go to school at this hotel," Sheila thought. She was in fact being schooled by the situation.

That morning, she'd arisen much earlier than usual. Her feet hit the floor after five rounds of an ethereal alarm ring tone. Through the part in the bedroom window curtains, yellow leaves blew upturned by the wind. It was an idyllic morning. She'd left herself just enough time to disguise the t-shirt she slept in with a sweater, jacket and pants, and get out the door to the Mercy. She was in search of impressions and indirect answers about the future. Grad school, yes. A community of writers. The sound of it was good, but she had no actual intention to shell out for what could amount to creative coddling.

She sat in Ballroom 1, listened to the introductory presentation, and spoke sincerely with a student representative.

"Oh yes, I love to write. It would be wonderful to be among like-minded people."

"Well, it sounds like you would be good for this," replied the curly-haired bespectacled student.

Good, yes. “For a price,” she thought. Truthfully, Sheila was unsure about the program's wonderfulness after the secondary presentation in one of the Mercy Hotel's meeting rooms. The chairs were very uncomfortable. Faculty and alumni and hangers-on took turns "umm-ing" and "aah-ing" at another scratched podium. To Sheila they looked a bit unsure of themselves and uninspired. She viewed them through her emotionally colored glasses. But yes, the secondary presenters were rather quiet and subdued, unconvincing even and their eyes lacked luster. Among the speakers a tall man, a short man, and a woman whose face looked like it belonged in a seventeenth century Flemish painting. They all looked like they could use a nap, due to nocturnal tendencies. One student introduced himself by saying he'd had a rough night at the department party. This illicited a "Really? Come On - Really??" type of laughter from the audience of mostly women with long hair. Sheila winced a little and later skipped the campus tour.

Back at Ballroom 1, through a corridor of textured walls, was another round of snacks. Sheila took a modest amount "To Go." But before emerging into the sunny outside world, she was intercepted by Director Aruña.

"Why hello - how did you find the presentation today?"

La Aruña fancied himself quite the charmer. Nevertheless, he noticed no fur-trimmed parents in Sheila's company, so he kept his social setting on simmer.

"Oh...very nice, very nice. This has given me a lot to think about. And the buffet - very generous."

She glanced up at the large presentation screen and La Aruña's eyes took the opportunity to dart downwards at her Luxius shelf. Truthfully, he wasn't trying to hit on this not so prospective student who'd stowed away Mercy goods in her bag. It wasn't even deliberate. La Aruña had somehow conditioned himself to lightning fast clandestine boob gandering. At times it was a reflex. Generally, he was wired that way. And when it was a problem, he would say, "I am from La Coruña, Spain." La Aruña took pride in his virility as a sign of vitality, that hot blood coursed through his veins and thus - well, you get the idea. He love you long time. It was pride of a special Spanish flavor.

"Do you have any questions I can answer?" He said to her face.

"Oh, well, now that you mention it...Are you a writer?"

Director Aruña raised his eyebrows and kind of stuck out his lower lip. This, he thought, is probably not a sales question. But he liked this interest in himself instead of another statistic.

"Yes. Sometimes I write sonnets."

This was true. It wasn't a come-on. Some nights he would prop up his house slippers on a leather hassock and compose with a great passion inside, unquenched by educational administration.

"Really. That is very interesting. I also enjoy writing poetry, but I've only written two sonnets...One of them was in Spanish."

Now she really had La Aruña's attention.

"I - I write them for my wife."

"Oh, that is so wonderful..." Sheila sensed La Aruña's discomfort. Plus, she'd had her fill of pretend grad school.

"Well, thank you so much. I need to get going."

"Of course. I hope you will consider Quill & Ink for your graduate studies."

"Yes, I will. Thank you."

Sheila had seen what she needed to see and eaten what she needed to eat. She felt like she had done something. Something...