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forgot to pick up a freshman
composition course card!
MR. MULLER: (In a derogatory
manner) You forgot to pick up a
freshman composition card.
Eureka! The key to the univer
sity is in my hand. Open sesame!
(He draws back the beige cur
tain, which reveals a plotted
chart of English sections drawn
witti different colored chalk to
denote whether or not a par
ticular section is open or closed.)
I have a very artistic tem
perament with a latent talent for
portrait painting, wouldn’t you
say? I call it my blue period. Of
course any great work should be
ju(feed from a distance. (A beat)
It is time for you to ms^e your
decision. (He pantomimes a
KEITH: What would you
MR. MULLER: Whatever sec
tion is open. I’m afraid you don’t
have much choice.
KEITH: I wanted section eight if
it’s not already closed.
MR. MULLER: You came too
late. I’m sorry but there are too
many students enrolled in that
section already. You’ll have to
take something else.
KEITH: All right, then how about
MR. MULLER: Nineteen....no
I’m afraid that’s closed too. Any
KEITH: No, I’m afraid not.-
MR. MULLER: It’s closed now,
but of course it may open again
Later this afternoon when we get
the word from the Administration
KEITH: What’s open?
MR. MULLER: Sections twenty
KEITH: They won’t fit into my
MR. MULLER: I strongly doubt
KEITH: Why? What time do they
MR. MULLER: Seven a.m.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
I don’t suppose you have any
pressing engagements at that
KEITH: Oh I don’t know, I could
think of a few offhand.
MR. MULLER: Remember, this
isn’t supposed to be a rest cure.
Maybe I didn’t make that clear
from the very beginning.
KEITH; (Resigned) All right,
give me section twenty-six.
MR. MULLER: Congratulations!
You’re our first student to land on
her. (Salaciously) Take a ride on
Miss Redding and pay owner
twice the rental shown. She’s
quite a little utility, if you know
what I mean. How would you like
to tail her caboose on Free
Parking? (He laughs crudely)
Listen I’ll get you a course card.
They should be on top of my desk
somewhere. Let me go check.
(He walks over with Keith to the
side of his desk.) That’s funny,
they were here this morning.
Someone must have moved them.
I’d better call upstairs to check
and see if there are any left. (He
picks up the phone and dials ‘0’)
Hattie, would you connect me
with Miss Redding please. (To
Keith:) These new dial tones can
drive you deaf! That’s the con
venience of modem day science
for you! (Into receiver) Hello,
Celia. I’m fine - and how is your
cocoon this afternoon: Listen, I
have a young man in my office
who wants to take your freshman
English course. No, I can’t find
the blue cards anywhere. The
yellow ones...I thought those
were for English X. (He checks
his desk again.) Are you sure
they aren’t beige with red
asterisks tatooed onto the cor
ners? No, we’re out of those. All
right then. I’ll check with you
later. (Hangs up) Those sections
are closed. Unfortunately,
they’re already reserved for
preregistered students. Sections
three, eight and twelve are open
again. That’s all that’s left.
KEITH: Wait, I’ll have to check
my schedule. Section eight seems
good offhand. Yes, it was my first
choice to begin with. I’ll take it!
MR. MULLER: (Relieved)
Here’s your card. Keep it in your
identi-pack until you pay your
(The phone rings. Mr. Muller
goes over to answer it, while
Keith gets all of his things
MR. MULLER: (Into phone)
What’s the problem now? (Keith
is hurriedly on his way out.) I
think I can catch him.
(Mr. Muller bangs down the
phone and runs over to Keith,
who is almost out of the door by
this time. Mr. Muller grabs his
registration packet away from
No dice. All of these years I’ve
tried to pass go^and prize boy,
you’re not going to get ahead of
me so quicMy. Sit down and wait
your turn, it’s going to be a long
KEITH: I’ve been here all day.
MR. MULLER: Yes, and I’ve
been here close to a lifetime. I’ve
never been kind to parvenus who
use me as a continual stepping
stone. Oh yes. I’ve known your
line of action all along. I’m tired
of machines getting all the credit
for the idiot work that I’m sup
posed to do around here! Yes,
even machines break down once
in awhUe-«specially when they’ve
been fed too much information.
Just remember at all times that
I’m your personal advisor. Come
to me to solve your everyday
problems. Those personal
anxieties which mount up in your
diminutive brain. (In a highly
conciliatory but artificial
manner) Shall we start again?
(Mr. Muller shakes Keith’s
hand.) Ira 6. Muller, glad to
meet you. Please forgive my
cynicism. When you get to know
me better, you’ll understand ttie
dark side of my nature. (He
pauses) Won’t you sit down? I
didn’t catch your name the first
KEITH: (Quietly) Keith
Sorenson. I just came in for a
MR. MULLER: Fine. Fine. So
glad to see you. Would you like
something to drink?
KEITH: That would be very nice.
MR. MULLER: Sorry there’s no
water in the cooler. (He points in
the direction of the water cooler.)
I’ll have my secretary bring
something in in a few minutes.
(He pauses reflectively) You
know I used to be like you.
KEITH: In what way?
MR. MULLER: If I made it hard
for you. I’m sorry. I just wanted
to show you what you’re up
against out here.
KEITH: Yes, I understand.
MR. MULLER: No, I don’t think
you do, and that’s the tragedy of
the whole situation. It’s right in
front of you and you don’t even
see what you’re looking at. You
came so far to see so little. I
moved out here with the intention
of spreading the written word.
My father was a Unitarian
minister in the great tradition of
William Ellery Channing and
other true transcendentalists. He
preached for the Salvation Army
when his church closed down
in the East Bronx. He sacrificed
his Godly mission and instead
sang idyllic Christmas carols on
Fifth avenue. Where was the
inner core of meaning behind
“Silent Night”? That is how I
have become, estranged in a
mass of whirling faces with an
ideal that no longer applies, and
never did. I belong with him, we
aU do-to share a world of
universal harmony. He died in
my arms as if the branch of an
olive tree in a rising storm
cracked off and fell to the ground,
assuaging the roots of his life
long existence in a moment of
belabored sorrow. For I stand as
firm as the olive tree-only to be
withered by words as yet un
spoken. (Breaking off quickly)
All ready to play the second
KEITH: I’m sorry-
MR. MULLER: You needn’t be
KEITH: (Abruptly) You see, the
other two English sections
couldn’t possibly fit into my
MR. MULLER: Then you’ll have
to change it.
KEITH: I’ll try to - but I really
must go now.
MR. MULLER: Wait, I’m sure
we can work something out.
What’s wrong with section eight?
KEITH: You just took the course
card away from me.
MR. MULLER: So I did. (Over-
compensatingly) But what’s an
KEITH: (Dryly) That’s what I’d
like to know!
MR. MULLER; (Starting it up
again) You don’t want an
education, do you? You want free
advice, which you don’t seem to
be getting. Talk is cheap! But not
that cheap! Sometimes you have
to pay for what you don’t want to
hear. (The telephone rings)
Saved by the bells of Friar Tuck!
(He goes over to his desk to pick
up the phone.) Yes Hattie, put her
on. (Holding receiver) It’s Miss
Reding again. Perhaps she has
some good news from the outer
world but I wouldn’t count on it.
(Into receiver again) Yes, well
look - if she has encumbrances
how does she expect to register?
Honestly, you think we were the
ones who made up the God given
rules. Celia, I’m still trying to get
that young man a course card for
freshman composition. Sure, I’ll
hold on. (To Keith) It may take a
year but she’s checking right now
with the head of the English
Department. I only hope - (Into
receiver again) Hello, Yes. No,
that’s fine. No, that’s quite all
right. I appreciate that - really I
do. Look I’ll check with you later.
No, I have them in my hand. All
right - fine. I’ll put them in your
box when I leave tonight. Have a
good weekend now. Lock the
main office when you leave, O.K?
Fine - good-bye, Celia. (He hangs
up.) You’ve won your first battle;
now on to the war grounds. You’ll
be happy to know that section
eight is officially open again.
KEITH: (Politely) Can I have
my course card back, please?
MR. MULLER: (Correcting him
with winning knowledge) May I-
KEITH: (A bit annoyed) May I
have my course card back,
MR. MULLER: Yes you may.
(Mr. Muller hands the course
card back to him, and then in a
tone of winning confidence-)
Welcome to my composition
KEITH: You don’t mean you’re
MR. MULLER: If I couldn’t
preach to men, at least I could
preach to youth. The sopranos in
the chorus have to be converted. I
am their temporal guide to the
empyreal realm of deliverance.
(He smiles enigmatically)
Learning by doing...That’s John
Dewey, isn’t it? That’s what both
of us have been taught. We follow
the same God but in a different
direction. You’re going forward,
and I’ve ah-eady been. I wish I
could make it easier for you, but
I’m only your advisor...Your
sanctified mentor, advising you
on what’s already unadvisable.
The glories of mass education,
the gospel according to Ira B.
Muller, a multiple choice
catechism from the new college
(He stands on top of his desk,
totally immersed in the fervor of
an evangelist’s sermon as papers
from all sides of the desk fly to
This is a test of your ability to
read directions from the text and
to repeat what’s already been
spoken at previous lectures. “As
it is written in the prophets.
Behold, I send my messenger
before thy face, which shall
prepare thy way before thee” into
a world of right and wrong, true
or false, fair or four -er any
equivocation we will meet on the
Judgement Day called
graduation! A human being has
no internal dimensions of his own
making. He is forced to be
denuded of strength and his
sublime capabilities to reason.
He is as epicene as the eunuch-
standing on the threshold of
Armageddon, caught in a vice of
self-deception. Repent!, sinners.
Repent! We are forced to teach in
class a different stoiy, although,
our hearts call to a different God
of communication; for we are
forced to acquiesce in a bucolic
reverence for untaught
KEITH: I don’t understand. I’m
sorry I spoke out of turn. I didn’t
mean to upset you. Anyway, I’d
better be going home now - I
mean back to my dormitory
(Keith goes across the room and
tries to open the door.)
MR. MULLER: Are you ready
for our first lesson?
KEITH: The door’s locked. I
can’t seem to open it.
MR. MULLER: At four-thirty
just like clockwork, I am her
metically sealed between these
vacuous walls of scholasticism. It
was my order.
KEITH: I don’t understand.
MR. MULLER: Oh, I have the
master key, so there’s nothing for
you to worry about.
KEITH: But I have to get home
MR. MULLER; I’U only detain
you for a few more minutes -
besides, I haven’t served the
refreshments yet. There’s much
to be said for the Socratic Method
you know, although, I never rellly
cared for hemlock. I suppose it’s
an acquired taste of sorts.
KEITH: (On the verge of
hysteria) Please let me out of
here! You’re sick - you’re really
sick -1 don’t understand what you
want of me. Please let me out!
until you have gone through the
initiation of fraternal brother-
ship, the mystogogue of life - (In
mock religious tones) Come to
me, my son - and enter into my
sequestered world of communal
KEITH: What do you mean?
MR. MULLER: (Over-
poweringly) Virgin bough of
youthfulness support my falling
member of disseminating seed!
KEITH: Stand away from me. I
don’t want to stay here.
MR. MULLER: Man of sorrows!
Pitiful misogynist, avanti!
PAGE 7 - N.C. ESSAY
KEITH: Here’s your course
card; I don’t want to be in your
MR. MULLER: But you are.
KEITH: You are no teacher! You
don’t know the first thing about
teaching. I can only be polite for
so long, and then it’s my turn to
teach you. You can’t destroy
what I already know. You don’t
have that power.
MR. MULLER: (As he takes a
stopwatch out from his pocket:)
Silence! I am the teacher! Time
for the first question. Skin is to
snake as A. Wood is to fire. B.
Goat is to milk. C. Pluck is to
chicken. D. Feather is to ostrich.
Time is running out, would you
hazard a guess....Time’s up!
Plethoric is to superflous as
subliminal is to -
KEITH; I really don’t know.
MR. MULLER; Then shall we try
our word problems instead? Let’s
try one more analogy problem
just for the record, shall we?
Scientific facts are to data as A.
Theories are to laws. B. Eggs are
KEITH; I’m not a testing
MR. MULLER: No, that’s right,
keep on convincing me you’re a
real person. But first can you
verbalize your hostility in a more
effective sentence stracture?
KEITH: Can you? It’s my turn'
for questions now.
MR. MULLER: But you haven’t
raised your hand. This is my
classroom you forgot. You signed
up for my course out of your own
KEITH: I haven’t registered yet.
MR. MULLER: You needn’t
bother. You’ll be registered
before you leave here today. Are
you ready for one more round?
KEITH: When will you hand me
MR. MULLER: After you’re
sworn in under oath.
KEITH: I don’t understand.
MR. MULLER: Are you ready to
answer the toss-up?
KEITH; Can’t you see I have a
MR. MULLER; (Derisively) If I
was Saint Veronica I’d throw you
KEITH: It’s so nice to know
who’s the martyr! (His nose
keeps bleeding throughout the
remainder of the scene.)
MR. MULLER; Oh! you’U get
acclimated, don’t worry!
(Speeding ahead) For the
scientist, “Publish or perish”
might be rewritten as A. Publish
or cease to exist. B. Perish the
thought. C. Publish to exist, or D.
Publish in spite of the parish.
KEITH: (As he rubs his head:)
MR. MULLER: To whom?
Notice the grammatical con
struction of the indirect object.
KEITH: I haven’t registered yet.
I can still go home - even back to
New York. Nothing’s keeping me
here once I open that door.
MR. MULLER; Once you open
the door, - but by that time it will
be too late. (Keith crosses over to
Mr. Muller’s desk.)
KEITH: I don’t want to stay here.
You can’t control my destiny.
(Keith reaches for the
MR. MULLER; No one else is in
the building, and we’re on the
other side of the campus. Your
call won’t go through. I heard
Hattie leave a few minutes ago.
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