Private: Ned Reform
My dearest Melinda,
This should be it. We head into the week that will likely be the biggest of my entire career.
And yet – why do I feel so unsettled? Why do I feel as if there is a snake hiding in the grass?
Benedict Reform, PhD
Sunday, March 26, 2015
Pat Cassidy and Jimmy Dufresne’s Apartment
Jimmy Dufresne rolls over in bed, accidentally knocking over a collection of trash that had been sitting on his night stand. Looking toward the ceiling, he sighs deeply before rolling over again, this time wrapping himself up in his blanket.
The bedroom door swings open, and in barges Pat Cassidy. Cassidy wrinkles his nose in disgust.
“Jesus fucking Christ, dude,” he says. “Are you hiding a dead body in here?”
Cassidy gestures around to the room: various fast food wrappers litter the floor, empty soda cans as far as the eye can see, and clothes are everywhere.
Jimmy grunts in response, not bothering to open his eyes.
“Get your ass dressed,” says Cassidy, pulling the blanket off Jimmy’s body. Dufresne grunts as light hits his face. “You’re coming out with me.”
Cassidy gets nothing but another grunt as Jimmy pulls his pillow over his head.
“It’s been two months of the waa waa pity party. Take a shower, throw on something clean…”
Cassidy looks around.
“…if you have anything. You’re getting out there and doing something with yourself. Not optional.”
Jimmy sighs, finally opening his eyes and looking up at his roommate. He has one question.
“I’ve got tickets to a wrestling show. Me and the boys are going.”
Dufresne barks out a laugh. “Fucking wrestling. Are you shitting me?”
“Fuck off. You wanna get your mind off the one that got away? Nothing like a bunch of dudes in spandex beating on each other. They do some crazy shit at these indy shows… trust me, you’ll forget all about…”
“Alright,” Jimmy interrupts before he can say her name. “Whatever.”
And that is how James Dufresne agreed to go to his first professional wrestling show.
Friday, January 14, 2023
New Haven, Connecticut
“We want to thank you for agreeing to meet with us on such short notice, Dr. Reform.”
Ned’s face breaks out into that little grin he can never suppress when someone uses his title. He adjusts his tie as he stands in front of a long conference table. All along the table are various old white dudes of “authority” and “importance.” There is one younger man: he sits near the end, far away from Ned. The white-haired man at the end of the table gestures.
“Please, have a seat.”
“If it’s all the same to you, gentlemen, I think I’ll stand.”
This seems to ruffle a few feathers around the table, but they’ll allow it. Head honcho continues.
“Dr. Reform, it has been brought to this committee’s attention that there have been some… concerns about your increasingly divided time. Know that to be an educator at an institution such as this requires a substantial commitment, and as you continue to divide your time between being a member of faculty here and…”
The man pauses. A few faint snickers can be heard.
“…professional wrestling, it becomes increasingly unlikely that you have the time to make that commitment.”
“I understand your concerns, Dr. Chase. But as I’ve repeatedly told the committee, my experiences in professional wrestling are contributing to my research. Wrestling is an experiment, gentlemen, and it is continuing my scholarship as well as this university…”
“Yes,” butts in the younger man at the end of the table. “So you’ve said. But regardless, your research should not be overshadowing your duties to this institution.”
Reform’s eyes narrow. Some bad blood between himself and this guy. “Agreed. And they are not.”
He addresses the entire group. “Is that all or may I go?”
“Just a moment,” says Dr. Chase, reaching down to pick up a manilla folder. He takes out several pieces of paper. “I have here your latest batch of student evaluations.”
Ned rolls his eyes. “Oh, please. As if we should take any stock…”
“‘Dr. Reform seems to have a lot of subject knowledge, but he increasingly seems distracted,’” Dr. Chase reads.
“‘This guy never shuts up about Elon Musk. Aren’t we supposed to be learning?’”
“‘Reform’s disdain for his students is only rivaled by his love for himself.’”
“‘It’s like he’s not here half the time.’”
“‘Really enjoy seeing my professor act like a fool on national television.’”
Dr. Chase puts down the paper. “Should I go on?”
Ned’s face has grown increasingly redder. He seems to be restraining himself.
“And this all means what, exactly?”
“This means that we are concerned with your extracurricular activities. We believe what you do in your free time – ‘research’ or not – is impacting your performance in the classroom. Furthermore, we do not believe that your appearances on television paint you as a suitable representative of Yale. We’re formally requesting that you cease – or at least cut back – your obligations outside this institution. We also ask that when you do appear in the media, you conduct yourself in a manner befitting the Yale legacy.”
“We are not in the habit of allowing the faculty to publicly feud with media clowns,” chimed in the young man.
Through this entire spiel, Ned has tried to hide his clenched fist – but he can’t hide the redness in his face nor the giant vein appearing on his bald head. He takes a moment before he responds.
“Understood,” he says, desperately trying to keep his voice neutral. “Is there anything else?”
“That’ll be it, Doctor. Thank you.”
Moments later, the committee is filing out of the conference room – and Reform is lurking in the hallway. When the younger man – the man who seemed to be taking particular glee at seeing Ned sweat – exits, and Reform grabs him by the shoulder, forcing him to turn and face him.
“Buchanan,” Reform sneers. “I know you’re behind this.”
“That’s DOCTOR Buchanan. And yes – I did alert the committee about my concerns. They deserved to know.” Buchanan straightens himself, trying to regain some dignity.
“Listen to me, you jealous little twit,” an angry Reform growls. “You mind your own affairs. You do NOT want to go toe to toe with me in the academic world… or otherwise.”
Buchanan’s eyes falter for a moment, but then he fires back. “I will not be intimidated by a ruffian who spends his free time in spandex. I’ve been looking into you, ‘Doctor’ Reform.”
Buchanan leans in, so the two men are mere inches apart.
“I know you’re not who you say you are, Mr. ‘Reform.’ And I don’t know who you are yet, but I’m going to make it a priority to find out.”
This breaks through The Good Doctor’s veil of rage. Unconsciously, he withdraws a bit. “You will leave that well enough if you know what’s good for you.”
Buchanan smirks, straightening the tie that just got ruffled. “I’ll be in touch with you soon… sir.”
Buchannan turns and walks away, while a wide-eyed Reform watches him go.
And for the first time in a long time, Ned Reform wonders about what to do with his life.