Part VIII: Fahrenheit
Adam stood before a class of three hundred, his first teaching assignment for a class this big.
“I first discovered the science of atmospheric anomaly via anthropogenic means in a laboratory,” he explained. “I have been studying it twelve years now, and am as convinced as anyone could be that it is real, that it is measurable, that it is detectable, that it is growing – and that it can be stopped.”
“Sir,” said a pink-haired girl in a middle row, “I don’t understand the bit about stopping it. Most academics are preaching an adaptation strategy – they say that the lag time to mitigate is too long, that we have to adapt now to conditions that will change no matter what we do.”
“Ah,” said Adam, “that’s true enough.” He fingered a piece of chalk and whipped it at her. The little nub twirled end-over-end right at her, arching down over a tall lad in a baseball cap towards a spot just over her nose. She reached up and snatched the chalk out of the air. A giggle sounded through the classroom, and the students that had been dreaming of the hot last days of fall suddenly woke up and looked around.
“Was the chalk inevitably going to hit you?” asked Adam.
“Your aim is pretty good.”.
“My father taught me to throw. But it was going to hit you. No doubt. A well-placed strike, wouldn’t we all say? And yet it was stopped at the last minute by a perfect catch. And that’s what it’s really all about: planning, developing and executing the perfect catch. Now, let us talk a little about what 3 degrees Celsius really means in the global context…”
Later, he met Eleanor at the bus stand. She was wearing a thick plastic scarf over her bare shoulders, and her mini-skirt covered down to her ankles. “Hello Professor Ritten.”
“Don’t call me that. Good day?”
“The best. How were the little kiddies? All eager and enthused?”
Adam explained as they climbed onto the bus. It was crowded, but they found a set near the back, between an old lady and a fat man who kept squirming to fit within a single seat. Adam snuck a leg under Eleanor’s.
“Maybe you should come to one of my classes,” he offered.
“Nope. Too doom and gloom.”
“It’s science. It’s fact.”
The fat man squirmed, forcing Adam closer to her. She raised her leg up and over his thigh. “Your science isn’t pretty, Professor. It’s dark and hollow and cold, just like space. And if you drew your boundary of concern around the solar system instead of the planet, you’d come up with a different answer, but you science types never seem to look that far up.”
“Last I heard, the human race only inhabits one planet.”
“Not trying hard enough,” she said. The fat man sneezed, splaying his butt cheeks over the entire width of the half-padded seat. Adam thrust into Eleanor’s side until she was pressed against the old lady, who pretended not to notice that Eleanor’s mouth was at the level of her breasts – and not far from them.
“Professor,” breathed Eleanor, as the fat man tried to fight off the next sneeze but instead launched into a volley of noise and mucus that sent his bulk flying repeatedly into Adam, “are you having sex with me right now? I think you might be. It’s nice and all to be spontaneous, and yes I might have been on you for that for some time now, but this is all a bit public.”
“Don’t you mean ‘pubic’,” laughed Adam, as the fat man’s squirming sent his crotch hurtling into the area beneath Eleanor’s leg. Despite herself, she inhaled and gave him a look that was the very definition of dangerous. Adam bit his lip, wondering what she would do to respond – it could be anything. But then the bus came to a stop and a mass of people exited, including the fat man.
“Now what?” asked Adam, flushed. She looked at him. Outside, the sun was shining fondly on the bus and its passengers, as though it knew the answer to a question that no one had yet thought to ask it.