Scoundrel Time

Describe Hope: Assignment Given to Undergraduate Creative Writing Class on November 9, 2016

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The Professor rushes into a small university classroom. Twenty students sit around a large wooden table. The professor is ten minutes late; she appears rattled and as though she has not slept.
Professor: Class. So. Hello. I know we have many feelings about the election.

The students sit around the table. Some are staring, with hollow expressions, at nothing. A few are tapping pens on the table. One appears to be relaxed, but seems to want to hide this from the others.

Professor: Today I want you to write descriptions of the feeling of hope. Use sensory details. Use visuals, sounds, smell, etcetera. Okay? Be specific.

Student: Professor, I have a question. What do you mean?

Professor: Describe hope. I cant say any more. Just do it. Now write.

Hope is like the color of a fresh green new lawn sparking in the sunlight.

Hope is a bunny hopping by the road but right now its ears are cut off and mangled on the side of the road.

Hope is a blind child stumbling by the side of the road, feeling the world with his fingertips, trying to get where he is going by the eternal wisdom of his fingertips, his fingertips all-knowing.

Student: Professor, what is the grading scale for this assignment? I cant write anything unless I know the grading scale.

Professor: There is no grading scale. Just write. 

Hope is a swampy puddle full of piss and shit.


Hope is a great crane lifting off into the sunrise, dripping feathers as it lifts into the melting, soft rays of dawn. Hope is the thing with feathers (do I get extra credit for mentioning Dickinson?)

Student: Professor, are you okay?

Hope. What is hope, you ask? Hope is an ice cream sundae with caramel sauce dripping down the sides and turning into a river.

Student to another: What do we do?

Hope is nothing. Hope is air. I can’t think of anything. Sorry.

Professor, standing up: Class, Ill be right back. Continue with the assignment.

Professor darts out of class. Door slams.

Student to another: Whered she go?

Student: I still want to know the grading scale.

Student: Thats bullshit there is no grading scale.

Hope was Bernie Sanders.

Hope was seeing the 100-year-old woman vote for a woman for President for the first time.

Student: Do we need to see if shes ok?

Hope is a proud and natural woman standing on top of a mountain, about to crush everyone below her with an enormous and sharp heel going through their hearts.

Hope is that yesterday was a nightmare and soon I will wake up.

Student: Where is she?

Hope is a shiny penny.

Student: Can we leave?

Student: How long are these supposed to be?

Student: I thought this was supposed to be an easy class.

Student: If we had nominated Bernie, we wouldnt be in this situation, just saying.

Student: Shut the fuck up. Im serious. This is not a joke.

Hope is the me that will be me.

Hope is love falling into a soft warm bed of lovingness.

Hope is my grandmother making me a pot of chicken soup on a cold day.

Student: Shh, shut up, shes coming.

The class falls silent. The Professor opens the door, walks in, and finds her seat. Class regards the Professor, whose eyes are red and swollen and whose nose is running. Several of the students pretend not to look at her. There is a general sense of unease in the room.

Professor stares at the class: Please continue.

Student: Professor, would you like a Kleenex?

Student to another, warily, whispering: Hope is that this class will end soon.

Student: Professor, I don’t know what to write.

Professor (whispering): Write anything.

Hope is a text from Greg in the front row from Bio 101.

Hope is nothing. Hope is gone. Hope is a memory. Hope is located at the bottom of a pit reached for by a midget with tiny arms.

Hope is unbuttoning her shirt, one by one, then seeing her naked body.

Hope is a tiny crack of light in the darkness, a piercing ray at the end of the tunnel, a ferocious orgasmic explosion that rains stars across a resigned globe.

The Professor covers her mouth with her hand. She lets out a broken sob that sounds like she has been struck. The class freezes and looks up; she gathers up her purse and roll book. She walks quickly to the door.

Student: Professor, where are you going?

Professor (hoarsely): Im sorry. Sorry! Class is dismissed!

Professor flees the room. There is the sound of a wail in the hallway. The students look at each other.

Student: What just happened?

Student: Dont you know, you idiot?

Students gather their backpacks. The room is weighted with silence.

Student: What do we do with these?

Student: Throw them out?

Student: But she might grade them.

Student: We should collect them. Bring them here.

The students ramble to the place at the table where the teacher had been sitting and place their papers in a stack on the table. Most of the students leave. Outside, there are sounds in the hallway of students going to their classes. A few students stand, listless, by the pile of descriptions.

Student: Whens she coming back?

Student: Are we supposed to do something with these?

Another student shrugs. They stand by the pile of papers.

Student (leafing through papers): I don’t think I wrote enough.

Student (looking around, nervous): Where did she go?

Student: Lets just dump them. Mine sucks.

Student: Fuck this. Fuck all of it.

Student: Fuck you.

Student: We better soon, you idiot, the world is ending.

Student: No, really, fuck you, fuck any asshole who voted for him—

 Student: You going to that party in the dorm later?

 Student: I cant believe it. I cant believe it.

The room seems as though it is going to tip on its side at any moment, though it is perfectly still.

Student: Whered she go?

The students stand around the table. The descriptions sit, in a pile, by her chair.

Student (sighing sharply): Can someone just tell me what the hell we are supposed to do?