College Material, by Louis Wittig

Here, look, this guy you have to like: Rudolfo Daniel Guzman. Played JV ball at North Bergen. 2.54 grade points. Rudy Goosey writes that he wants to work with cars; Wants to restore hot rods, I bet.

Do you have a twenty? I must order sushi.

I just heard Mom in the kitchen making something.

Not sushi

Annie, you’re head admissions director.

Yes yes, at the University of Daytona Beach: the foremost fraudulent online college headquartered in this basement. We at UDB are proud of our six-week heritage of suckering fifty dollar application fees from America’s brightest high school seniors. Go Albatrosses! That’s the name of our football team, by the way. I decided. Give me your wallet.

All yours

How is it you have only three dollars and fifty-one cents?

I say we send him an acceptance.

For the thousandth time, why are we sending anything?

My college, my rules.

Fine. I vote rejection.

What? The kid’s applying himself.


Now I deny you. He’s in.

No he’s not.

Give it back. Don’t. Don’t do. That. That doesn’t change anything. His e-mail address is in the computer.


Moving on

I’m protecting him, them, everyone. You know that, right? We’ll take Rudolfo’s fifty bucks, but if we get him off college in the process, we’ll be saving him a lot more. The first day he would get to campus—assuming he’s signed over his hundred-thousand dollar loan properly; Remember, Rudolfo, the first rule of higher education club is Education is Priceless—they would sit him down in a room with five-hundred other freshman, and say that the most beautiful thing he can ever do is think for himself. Don’t think in any one direction for too long of course. That’s what makes Mormons and business students dreadful. No. Float through the Academy. Backstroke if you absolutely have to. Try feminist historiography. Didn’t work out? Try learning Slovenian. No luck? Give Slovenian feminist historiography a shot. There’s no penalty for dropping classes. No academic penalty. They won’t tell you how much you’re really paying when you’re twenty years old and you think you’re a success because you wrote 5000 words alleging that, if you read every fifth word in Ulysses, it proves that James Joyce was non-heteronormative. I.E. he was kind of gay, but not really. In college, this is an insight. Slouching through seminar as the professor who teaches with the aid of a portable oxygen tank maunders aloud through the bibliography of his 1974 doctoral thesis, counts as pulling your weight. Eleven semesters will go by like a happy yawn. And the worst part will be this: The sweaty afternoon Rudolfo gets his diploma, the afternoon he’s as tall as the clock tower, wearing his Sigma Tau Delta honor cord as if it was a medal he got for storming Normandy beach; That afternoon, he has no idea that he is completely ruined. Sometime during the rest of his twenties, which he thinks of as electives to, he’ll hear that a couple of guys he went to high school with started a web design firm and are now driving Lexuses. He won’t even know that things like that could happen. What courses did they take? After a few too many self-finding backpacking trips, he’ll take a job, at a comic book shop, for eight dollars an hour. Because, because, because life is a journey, because he’ll be helping to redefine mainstream narrative forms, because it will give him time to think about maybe potentially applying to grad school. And think and think and think he will, for a decade. Thinking is what he’s good for. The daydreams will want to get out so bad they’ll leave claw marks on the inside of his skull. But he can’t do anything. It wasn’t on the syllabus. This, actually, is the worst part: When he finds himself in his sweltering studio, staring through the TV at three in the morning, a panic attack about to crest over the top of his eyeballs, it won’t be because he’s useless, or because of the desertification of his reproductive organs. It will be because he knows that if he somehow manages to catch-up with real life real soon—grabbing the career, family, everything—there’s still no way he’ll ever be able to afford to put his kids through college. Education is a game played with fragile people.

It could be different for him.

If only. It’s only the tortoises, the slow-and-steady idiots who pass college right by, that come out ahead.

I’m an idiot?

What? I wasn’t talking about you.

I don’t remember going to college. I could have forgot. I am an idiot. Or a tortoise.

You’re doing things with your life.

Things? You mean this felony?

No. Yes. You’re doing this and, your band.

The band sucks.

That’s not true. I saw to your show, that time. Look. Things are all crap right now; the economy, the Internet, with people stealing music, iPods, Miley Cyrus. None of that’s your fault. Your CD was great. Right now the thing you’re doing is paying your dues. Everyone has to. It’s a thing.

They stopped cashing our dues checks a long time ago.

The Rolling Stones took 10 years to get a record deal.


I remember that, from a course. Domestication of Discontent: American Popular Cultures, 1957–74. There were hundreds of British bands at the time, trying to do R&B. Doctor Kabani, he was a huge, famous nerd for that stuff; he said it was only dumb luck, and because Jagger stuck at it, that they hit commodification lottery.

The Stones first real show was the Marquee, July ’62. They signed with Decca in ’63.

I was trying to help.

You have to realize, your degree wasn’t a fever dream. It’s real. It’s in your pocket, and when there’s nothing else in your pocket, you still make a jingling sound when you walk. Me, on the other hand—

Stop it.

My options are limited, is all.

That’s not true.

Fine. But trust me, the knot you’re in now is going to untie. You got your degree, you’re not even 40. You’re going to be okay. You know that, right?


Good. Next up is Kelly Pitt. 3.0 GPA. Key Club assistant treasurer. I think she’d make a good high finance woman.

You too, right? You know we’re going to make a ton from this?

Sure, sure


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