Last Reunion

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By the time Jake Rodden got around to telling us about the murder, Doreen

Shipley was half drunk and Walt Feinman was telling the same bad jokes that got

him no laughs five years ago. Given the way things worked out, I would come to

wonder whether Jake had planned the whole evening, or just allowed events to

unfold according to their own course. Doreen told me later that she was pretty

sure he had calculated the entire conversation, because he had that kind of mind.

But she had always had a thing for Jake. Everybody knew that they had been an

item back in law school, notwithstanding that he was a married man. Now, at our

twentieth reunion dinner, she was gazing at him with the same doe-eyed

tenderness that we all remembered from the days when he broke her heart.

"Maybe you heard the one about the man who walks into the hotel lobby

with a little robot," began Walt, and everybody turned away in order to tune him

out. We were in the main campus banquet hall, fifty or sixty strong, seated

beneath the disapproving gazes of the dead white males who had founded the

university and built it into an Ivy League powerhouse, most of us preening

desperately, for a reunion presents an opportunity to impress your classmates by

pretending to be more successful than you really are. Because I teach at our alma

mater, they all seem to think I am something special. Actually, my career has

been rather ordinary, but college graduates tend to think like students, who

secretly believe all their professors to be geniuses.

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