In the quiet of the late afternoon I look up from my desk to see standing in the door a flea, a fat one, the fattest flea I've ever seen but nicely dressed, not sloppy like a lot of guys get when they bloat. If my life were The Maltese Falcon he'd be Joel Cairo, which I guess makes me Bogart, if Bogart were an English professor and a woman and still alive, but never mind.
So this flea comes sauntering in like he owns the joint, stops in front of my desk and just taps it gently with his walking stick--tap tap, like that, just to get my attention. "I heard you was looking for a flea," says the flea.
"Am I?" says I.
"That's what they say," he says.
He taps the desk again. "Never mind who," he says. "I got connections all over. Let's say a little bird told me you was looking to pay a fat flea for a pedagogy workshop."
"But--but wait--there's been a mistake--"
"My sources never make mistakes. Said youse guys need a workshop. Workshops I got." He unbuttons his overcoat and opens it up to show me rows of pedagogy workshops hanging there like fake Rolexes. "What'dya want? Got 'em in face-to-face, hands-on, online, whatever, all your big names--here, this just came in, a genuine learning communities workshop, just a little dent in the corner is all, good as new."
I try to break in but every time I open my mouth he slaps another workshop down on the desk. "Got a great deal here in online diversity workshops, all colors, just fell off the back of a truck, and you want to talk about assessment! Buyers' market in assessment workshops right now, but you'd better get 'em while they're cheap. Custom orders too--just tell me what you want and I'll make you an offer you can't refuse."
"But I don't need any of your workshops!"
The flea looks at me the way Dad looks at the kid who just wrecked the car. "I'm disappointed in you," says the flea. "I hear you have a need and I come right away to fill it, and wha'd I get? Nothin' but lip. What's the point of sendin' for me if you don't want my services?
"But I didn't send for you!" I insist.
"My sources tell me you did," says the flea. "Got the text message right here on my cell phone: says the provost wants the committee to pay a fat flea for a pedagogy workshop. Couldn't be clearer. When the provost says 'Jump,' I say 'How high?' So here I am."
The minute I lay my eyes on that text message, it's like somebody turned on the lights. "It all makes sense now," I say with a smile. "It's just a little misunderstanding is all. See, at the meeting today, the provost didn't ask for a fat flea," says I.
"What kinda flea did she ask for?" says he.
"None at all," says I. "She was trying to say flat fee but she got her words mixed up. A mistake, that's all it was. Simple spoonerism."
"Spoonerisms? I'm all out of those, but I got a great deal on a critical thinking seminar if you're in the market."
"Thanks," I say, getting up from my desk and ease him toward the door, "but don't call us, okay? We'll call you."
"Not so fast! You didn't even look at my symposia--"
But I had already shut the door.