For Faculty Only

Submitted into Contest #116 in response to: Write a story that centers around a parking permit.... view prompt

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Drama Friendship

“What do you mean, it’s private?”

Under normal circumstances, Professor Kline never lost her temper. Unfortunately for the parking clerk, she was running late for her very first symposium at Clark University that day, her alma mater. The consequences of showing up late were potentially disastrous. Surely, she was bound to be a laughingstock among all of her former mentors in the chemistry department. New appointees do not just “skip” on their first symposium. In light of this, her response came out not so much like a mere annoyed complaint, but more like a raging bark.

“I’m sorry Ma’am,” said the clerk, without an ounce of true apology in his voice. “This parking is for Faculty only.”

“I am Faculty! Look!”

She displayed her ID, but the clerk remained unfazed on the other side of the glass panel that protected his booth from the wrath sometimes manifested by the likes of Professor Kline.

“I don’t see a permit.”

“It’s my first day, I don’t even know how to get a permit.”

“You have to fill up Form 22B.”

“Form 22B.”

“Yes,” he said with utmost indifference, sliding a piece of paper through the opening at the bottom of the glass panel. “Form 22B.”

She grabbed the piece of paper through her car window in one swift gesture that betrayed a mix of indignation and murderous tendencies.

“The next indoor parking lot is a mile away, I’ll never make it to my symposium in time.”

“How sad,” he replied, emotionless. “You could also just park it outside.”

“Outside? You think I’ll leave my Mercedes parked outside, for anyone to key?”

“Just a thought, I suppose.”

“If you would just call Professor Stein, he would tell you this is insanity. I was his most treasured student you know. You’re making an enemy out of him.”


Professor Kline leaned back into her seat, bewildered, refusing to accept one might not know about her famous mentor.

“Professor Gil Stein! Chairman of the Faculty. Do you know nothing about your bosses?”

“Never heard of him. Last I heard, Professor Wilson is Chairman of the Faculty now.”

Her indignation faded into disappointment. Surely, Professor Stein could not have retired yet, he was too young. She also knew his passion for chemistry to be too great for early retirement.

“You must be mistaken.”

A steady stream of honks rose behind her.

“And you must be blocking the way,” said the clerk. “Please leave now. Unless you want one of the other angry Faculty members to ram into your Mercedes.”

Livid, Professor Kline closed her window, let out a scream of exasperation, and backed out of the concrete garage, navigating her way around the line of cars waiting behind her. Throwing Form 22B on the passenger seat, she zoomed away towards the next parking lot. She would have no choice but to run for her life with her stilettos.


At last, Professor Kline found a free spot on the top floor of the parking garage. For a moment, the fear of finding all floors filled to capacity had crept up inside of her. She now had a narrow window to get to the symposium on time; further setbacks were simply not an option.

As her hand hovered above the car door handle, she glanced at her reflection in the rear-view mirror to make sure her appearance was impeccable. Her flaming red hair was firmly fastened into a bun, and the scarlet lipstick shown no sign of having worn off. The shiny metallic glasses perched on her nose gave her an edge that made her wonder why she had desperately hidden her myopia behind contacts all these years.

Ages ago, she stood afraid of being the nerdy science girl. Today, the same traits made her successful, powerful even. The student was coming to her alma mater as a respected scientist, and she had a hunch no one had ever felt as in control as she did in this very moment. Her bright, sparkly future lay ahead of her, shinier than ever.

From the corner of the mirror, the parking permit application on the passenger seat entered her field of view. This would not fly by. She was a faculty member and deserved that parking spot! Professors simply did not walk for a mile in heels. Surely, someone in the office would rectify this ridiculous bureaucratic mistake and hand her the permit with a copious amount of apology. Just as swiftly as she had thrown it on the seat, she picked it up again and shoved it inside her faux-crocodile purse. The matter would be resolved today.

As she hurried towards the elevator, the sound of her heels reverberated into a waterfall of clickity clacks. If people made fun of race walking at the Olympics, she secretly prayed no one would record her on the street race walking in heels.

Professor Kline rolled her eyes as she reached the elevator: a homeless man with the thickest of beards was kneeling by the metal doors in perfect silence, a grey woollen blanket wrapped around him. From underneath the blanket, two hands covered in dirt poked out, their fingers wrapped around a half-torn coffee cup.

“Could you please spare a little–” he began.

“I have no cash,” she bluntly replied, paying no heed to the rest of the sentence.

He respectfully withdrew the cup, seemingly unperturbed by the outburst. At least, this man had more decorum than the parking clerk, she thought. As she pressed the down-arrow and waited for the elevator to come, the beggar kept looking at her intently, which bothered her at first. She noted it wasn’t a look of malice or resentment however, but rather one of deep reflection, as if the man yearned to recall a crucial piece of information.

“Abby? Is that you?”

The mention of her name startled her. She flinched and stared back into his eyes. There was something there, beneath the thick beard; something strangely familiar. The cogs of her mind spun for what seemed like an eternity before it finally dawned on her. She gasped and took a step back.

“Professor Stein? It… it can’t be, I mean… what are you doing here?”

“Well,” he replied with a teasing smile, “the faculty parking garage was a bit riskier. Here, at least, I’m completely anonymous. Most of the time, that is.”

“I– ”

No word could complete her sentence. The situation had rendered her completely speechless. She had almost lost hope of ever speaking again. The elevator came and went, without Kline ever noticing.

“I know it’s a bit of a shock,” he said, smiling on. “I imagine you’re here because they finally offered you a Faculty position?”

“Yes,” she said, speaking so slowly she almost split the word into two syllables.

“Congratulations,” he said, benevolence splattered across his face. “I read your paper on the use of organic polymers in nanoelectronics last year, truly a fascinating read.”

“But… Professor, how…”

“How did I end up here?” he asked, finishing the question on her behalf. “First, I lost my wife. Then, I lost myself in the process. Please don’t ask for more, I’m not very proud of the specifics.”

“There must be something we can do. I mean, you can stay at my house if needed while we figure it out, we’ll speak to the new Chairman and he’s bound to have a position–”

He hushed her into silence. Suddenly, Professor Kline was no more. She was now nerdy science girl Abby again, standing before her mentor and listening to his every word, albeit desperate to help him deep inside.

“There’s nothing to be done,” he declared with resolute finality. “That ship has sailed. You’re a Faculty Professor now. Focus on your future, you worked hard enough for it. I accepted my reality.”

“Professor, please… there must be a way I can help.”

“There might be one.”

“Then by all means, tell me!”

“I would be over the moon if you promised not to forget me. Please visit from time to time. You know where to find me.”

Abby felt a flow of tears surging inside of her, but kept it buried out of respect. The last thing Professor Stein needed was to see her cry with pity.

“I promise. I’ll be back every day, believe me.”

“You should go now,” he said, calling back the elevator for her. “The symposium starts soon, if I remember correctly.”

The metal doors opened. Reluctantly, she walked inside the tiny compartment, addressing one last smile to her mentor before they closed again.

The minute Abby reached the ground floor, the repressed tears surged once more. It ruined her mascara, but little did she care. Through the blurriness of the water pouring out of her eyes, she noticed a recycling bin by the elevator. Without an ounce of hesitation, she pulled the permit application out of her purse and threw it in. Who said a Professor couldn’t walk? Faculty or not, she knew which parking garage she’d be using every day from now on, and it was public.

October 23, 2021 00:37

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1 comment

Claire Clayton
00:10 Oct 29, 2021

I love your excellent and fitting vocabulary! Great opening!


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