I leaned against the edge of my desk glancing across the empty class room that held the memory of my students’ faces. As the years tumbled by they would graduate and move on without me.
“Professor, where do you want me to put this?” I looked up to see Lewis, one of my students, standing on a wooden chair holding a large painting.
“Let me help you with that.” I helped him lean the painting against the wall.
He looked at the unusual art work. “During class I often stared at this, amazed how you and the King of Hearts shared the same motto.”
“The painting was a thank you gift from a former student of mine.” I thought of the young man who after graduation started his own publishing company. By now he would be in his forties.
The painting looked like a large playing card. At the bottom in the right corner sat the grinning Cheshire Cat and in the left corner the hookah smoking caterpillar. In the upper right corner the sleeping dormouse with an upside down tea pot on his head. The opposite corner the Mad Hatter wearing an over-sized top hat. In the center of the painting the Queen of Hearts and Alice played croquet with flamingos as mallets and hedge hogs as balls. In the foreground the King of Hearts stood in his powdered wig and a tall crown talking to the White Rabbit dressed in his waist coat. Across the bottom of the painting in story book print it read, 'Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end.'
He looked closer at the painting. “The Mad Hatter looks like you!”
I shook my head. “Thank you for helping me, I couldn’t have done it by myself.”
He grabbed his back pack, “Glad to help, I’ll see later you at the party.”
I glanced out the window to watch Lewis stop and look at his pocket watch. He would soon graduate with a degree in journalism and broadcasting. Like the White Rabbit he never seemed to arrive on time. Just then I saw a large white rabbit disappear behind a tree. I thought it must be the glare from the sun.
I sat in the wooden chair looking at the painting. In the years of teaching journalism it felt as if I had fallen down my own rabbit hole. My students were much like the characters from Alice in Wonderland. There was the dormouse that slept through my classes. How often I had a strong desire to stick his or her head into a tea pot. The Queen of Hearts, a pretty co-ed who saw herself as the college sweetheart. When one questioned her writing abilities she turned into a foul mouthed would-be monarch. Then there was the Cheshire Cat who once in awhile appeared in my class. Much like Alice it left me baffled.
I noticed a book lying on top of a card board box. I picked it up and read the author’s name, a former student. She had her first novel published and sent me a copy. To my amazement she dedicated it to her journalism professor. Inside the front cover she had stuck in a short note, ‘I won’t be able to attend the party. I will be in Cleveland promoting my book. Forever my appreciation, Carroll.’
I left the Journalism Department and hurried toward the Student Union. Walking past the library I saw a blond haired girl wearing a blue knee-length dress with a pinafore over top. My old eyes were playing tricks on me. Either that or the beginning of senility.
I arrived at the party surprised by a room full of large White Rabbits and Mad Hatters. Alice came in a variety of many different shapes and styles. The servers, dressed as playing cards, served ice tea in pink flamingo glasses and cheese balls shaped into hedge hogs.
The Dean, dressed as the Mad Hatter, made an announcement. “Ladies and gentlemen, our honored guest.” He motioned me towards him
As I moved through the crowd the White Rabbits and the Mad Hatters applauded. Across the back wall I saw a large banner, ‘Congratulations on your retirement.’
When I stood beside the Dean he continued with his speech, “We gather in celebration of Professor Maude Hatter who gave thirty eight years of her dedication to the Journalism Department.”
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