A Lecture on the 19th Century

Doc drags Mark to the nearest seats available at the back of the auditorium. Each seat is spaced from the other enough to walk through in a sunflower seed pattern, leaving Mark just out of arms reach from Doc, but not out of pain-gun reach. The hover-seats themselves are very comfortable, adjusting themselves automatically to the weight and height of the sitter.

The clamor of the students begins to die down as the lights dim slightly and the doors slide quietly shut. A man enters the stage dressed in a gaudy plaid suit with leather elbow and knee patches. The plaid pattern subtly changes colors as he approaches the podium.

"Good morning. I am Professor Zanathos Schoefield," the man introduces himself to the audience in a deep, heavily accented Eastern-European monotone. "I've been invited to Orbital University by Dr. G. S. Lucasberg to give a series of lectures the live and culture of Earth in the 1800's." An holographic slide appears behind him saying so in big, blocky letters. "Today we begin our journey on the North American continent where the frontier boundaries were continually pushed towards the Pacific by enterprising frontiersmen and women using simple iron tools and unending ingenuity." The hologram behind him changes to a map of the continent.

Prof. Schoefield approaches the oak table littered with relics. "I have here some artifacts of my collection relevant to todays discussion. Many of these items were used in the daily life of American frontiersmen. This," he says, holding up a horse shoe, "is a simple device for protecting the hooves of horses during travel. People traveled by horse and because were no cars invented until later in the century when Henry Ford invented the internal combustion engine in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the birthplace of the modern automotive industry. Trains and boats were also popular modes of travel in the later half of the nineteenth century, although most people were restricted to horseback by the expense."

The professor's lecture is senselessly long and boring. His dragging monotone, wandering and disorganized topics, inaccurate facts, and excruciating run on sentences puts many of the students to sleep. The most response he gets is when he talks a bit about the chamber pot. Some students giggle, and others voice their disgust.

The speech goes on for hours. The slide show is as boring and inaccurate as his lecture. "This rifle was used by fur traders in the Great Lakes area during the early part of the 19th century. " A picture of 18th century trappers appear behind him. "This flintlock pistol," he says, picking up Marks old gun, "was the weapon favored by most military commanders prior to the Civil War. They also carried swords, but were used mainly as a decoration to the uniform. It was rare that a sword such as this," he picks up a saber, "would be used in actual combat."

Mark seems livid. "That's my stuff!" he half shouts.

The professor notices him. "Very good, student. Your costume is an authentic representation of a US Marine in the 1820's. However, these particular artifacts were recovered from the site of an old farm in Toledo, Ohio where no Marine division served at the time as they were assigned to battling pirates in the Caribbean. "

Mark stands and replies. "No, my 'costume' is the Captain's uniform of the 21st Division of the Michigan Militia, from the 1830's. And the Marines are in Peru," he corrects himself, "..were in Peru, at the time."

The students begin to rouse themselves. Something interesting is finally happening.

"I see that you are right about your uniform, I apologize I cannot see all the way to the back of the auditorium because it is so dark and I am due for another session at the laser surgeon's. Why don't you come up and tell us more about how you assembled this costume and what you learned from your research?"

Mark looks at Doc, briefly, then starts marching towards the stage.

1 comment:

Doc said...


Let him go up and make his little speech and have him discuss what the 1830's were really like, but I will always be within three feet of him, just in case. I will keep quiet, but if pressed, I will casually mention that he and I are historians ourselves, and are waiting for our colleagues, so we thought we would take in this excellent lecture that has proven quite enlightening. Let Mark say whatever he wants, but if I need an explaination for some element of bizzare behavior, fall back on the old chestnut of him being eccentric/touched in the head.

Whatever happens, keep him here in the auditorium with me. Stay put. Because we can't miss meeting up with Steve and Thunderhorse. If I miss them, I'm stuck babysitting Mark with nothing more than whatever pack of lies I come up with, my towel, and a hand-held microwave which will come in handy if I find some popcorn. I've got nowhere to run to, and not a friend in the universe.

I can't wait to see how this turns out.