© 2018 by J. Eric Thompson

Unfellowed

Yes, hello?

 

Hello, sir. Is this Dr._____?

Yes, speaking.

Hello, Dr._____, this is Mrs._____, head of Public Relations here at the MacArthur Foundation.

Oh, why yes, hello, Mrs._____. How are you this morning?

As a point of clarification, Dr._____, you are the Dr._____ who was recently awarded a MacArthur Fellowship because of your extensive work in the field of molecular biology, are you not?

Yes ma’am, and very proud to be honored with such a distinction.

Yes. And as a final point of clarification, Dr._____, and I hope I don’t offend you in any way with the following inquiry, but you are also missing the gift of sight from your left eye. Is that correct?

 

…Yes ma’am. My eye was lost due to a hereditary degenerative eye condition that has been in my family for generations.  Why do you ask?

Uh huh. Simply a point of clarification, Dr._____.  And you’re doing well today, I hope?

So far, very well, Mrs._____. My family is coming by this afternoon for a long overdue visit, and I’ve spent the morning preparing a pot of grandpa’s famous chili.

That’s very nice. I’m sure you have a lovely family. I would like to take this time to tell you again how pleased the MacArthur Foundation is with all of your hard work and research in your chosen field, and to remind you that it is a great honor simply to be considered for such a selective and respected fellowship. I was especially fond of your children’s book, Atom and Eve: The Genesis of Incest and the Tiny Reasons Why We’re All Related Somewhere Down the Line.

It’s an even greater honor to actually receive the Fellowship, Mrs._____. And I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed my book. Thank you and your foundation again.  Is there anything else I can do for you?

Yes, well. I’d actually like to discuss with you something that was brought to our attention recently, after having received a phone call from your grandson, _____.

Dr._____?

Hello, yes. My grandson, you say? He contacted you? May I ask what about?

I will divulge that information momentarily, doctor. May I inquire first, however, if you thoroughly perused the contract that you signed upon accepting the MacArthur Fellowship? Did you have your lawyer review the document?

I might have perused…

So it isn’t unknown to you that there is a clause in the contract stating that should we ever discover that a MacArthur Fellow isn’t…how shall I put this…that a MacArthur Fellow is somehow discovered to be an…my this is difficult…um…discovered to not be a…that if we figured out that we might have made a mistake…

A mistake?

…in awarding a fellowship to someone who, come to find out, through one way or another, isn’t quite MacArthur Fellowship material…

What, exactly, are you saying, Mrs._____?

Yes, well. I’m afraid I’m going to have to put this bluntly, Dr._____. [Throat clear] In the contract you signed there was a clause stating that should something ever come to our attention that gives us reason to believe that a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship isn’t as…excuse me, sir, for saying this…as smart as we thought he or she might have been, that we may legally take the award back.

Dr._____?

Take it back, you said?

Yes sir.

Like, the money?

Yes sir.

You’re calling to tell me that you’re going to take back a five hundred thousand dollar grant that you awarded me because you think in some sort of delusional hindsight that I don’t deserve it? That’s ludicrous!

Well, in all honesty, Dr._____, it’s not that we don’t think you deserve it, it’s that we made a mistake in thinking you were…um…more intelligent than you actually appear to be. More deserving of the grant, maybe I should say. The often titled Genius Grant. I did mention that we have talked to your grandson, yes?

…He told us, doctor.

[Unintelligible mumbling]

Hello?

Yes, hello. I’m afraid I have no idea what you’re talking about. He told you something? What could an eighteen-year-old boy have to tell you? He’s just a boy! He makes things up. A very good imagination on him, the rascal. Heh…

 

A degenerative eye disease, Dr._____? That’s how you lost your left eye?

 

Um…yes. Quite right. Hereditary. Goes way back.

 

Yes. So it’s not true then, what your grandson brought to our attention?

 

Very doubtful, ma’am. I wouldn’t say this to his mother, but the boy is…how shall I put this…well, honestly, Mrs._____, and I hope you’ll forgive me for being somewhat crude, the boy is just a little shit. Really. Just a little, smarmy bag of shit, that kid is. And a liar. Big liar.

 

Ah. And that’s the reason that you refuse to write him a letter of recommendation so that he might get into the school of his choice?

Insatiable liar, that one. Pathological. That’s what it is. Lies. Pathologically. And lazy. Lazy, pathological liar.

 

He actually sounded very confident in the details of the story he told us about the time that you took him to see a movie when he was seven.

 

…Big liar.

 

The Karate Kid?

 

Oh God…

 

And he mentioned the Chinese buffet that you and he patronized after the movie was over. Does any of this sound familiar, Dr._____?

 

…I, um…

 

And he might have accidentally let slip that upon seeing a fly near your table, you playfully attempted to catch the fly in the chopsticks that were were using for your dumplings, mimicking a scene from the movie that you and your grandson had just seen?

 

 

Are you there, doctor?

 

…He really is a liar, ma’am. I did a terrible job raising his mother. Big liar, too, my daughter. I raised a family of liars. A shame really.

And does it sound familiar to you that the fly momentarily landed on your face, giving you the opportunity you’d been waiting for, now that the insect remained still? And that you took that opportunity to attempt to chopstick the fly from your face, poking your own eye out, terrifying your grandson, and being banned from Wok Don’t Run for the rest of your life in the process?

 

 

Hello?

 

 

Doctor?

 

…Mrs._____. Let me just say that you simply shouldn’t believe-

 

We saw the security camera footage.

 

[Loud bangs, muffled curse words, farting noise]

 

Are you there, doctor? Hello?

 

[Loud bang] Yes, yes, I’m here. I…I, uh…I can…I’m not sure…

A degenerative eye disease?

Uh…yes. It’s been in my family for generations. Hereditary.

You poked your own eye out trying to catch a fly with chopsticks, sir.

[Lots of loud bangs, unintelligible curse words]

So I do regret to inform you, Dr. Miyagi, that-

I’ll write the letter!! God dammit, I’ll write the little prick a letter to get into whatever third rate community college he wants to go to!!

I’m sorry, doctor, but that’s not-

I’ll bribe the dean!! The whole selection board! I’ll put a new wing on the library! Anything!!

I really don’t think this is appropriate, Dr._____.

God dammit!! What can I do?? I’ll do it! I’m blind, for God’s sake! You’re taking money from a blind man!!

You were handicapped under false pretenses, sir. And you’re not blind, you’re only missing an eye. You’re depth-perceptionally challenged. You look into a microscope all day, right? Isn’t it helpful? No winking?

No, it isn’t fucking HELPFUL!! What’s the matter with you?!?

I’m only doing my job, sir.

What’s your job title? Shitty asshole lady who…takes money back from…MacArthur…man…after, with blind…

I’m really not sure what you’re saying to me right now.

I’m saying that you’re acting like a mad woman!! Who in their right mind-

Well, sir, I suppose now would be as good a time as any to inform you that when something like this happens-

How many times have you done this before??

Never.

[Unintelligible cursing, more banging]

That in the un-Fellowing clause in the contract, it states that you are to keep fifteen percent of the grant money, after taxes, as a token of our sincere apologies for our mistake concerning the level of your intelligence.

Asinine! You, madam, are a-

Also in section two point one dash four, it states that you are to pay us an additional fifteen percent of the grant money awarded, before taxes, as a penalty for interrupting our now delayed Fellowship awarding schedule.

You lunatic!! I’m not going to pay you money to take your…money that you…that I…you gave me…back away from you to me!!

Doctor, you’re really not making any sense. It’s as if you were trying to prove our suspicions about-

[Yelling, loud cracks and bangs, sound of sloshing, big splash, hissing/searing sound, loud scream] OH MY GOD! MY LEGS!!

Sir? Um…

JESUS IT BURNS! OH MY GOD MY THIGHS ARE MELTING!!

Thanks for your time, doctor. My apologies for the inconvenience. Although it appears that we’ve made the right decision.

[Sound of running water, moaning, splashing] CALL SOMEONE!! I CAN SEE MY KNEECAPS!!

I will not yell over you, sir. Good day.

HEL-