Posted by: stillironic | December 10, 2009

South of the Border University—1

Writing about your problems can be a very clarifying experience. It wipes away the cobwebs and frees you to move forward. Satirizing people and organizations that’ve wronged you, however, is much more satisfying and way much more fun.

Thus came about the fictitious South of the Border University, aka SOB U.

But first some backstory. Gregor Paddington, the hero of this tale, is a nice if clueless young man who grew up in a Vermont farmhouse crammed full of cats and their countless generations of offspring. He was raised by his grandparents, who hoarded newspapers as well as cats. It wasn’t till he started watching television that he learned that married people could actually engage in direct conversation. Nana and Pap-Pap mostly talked past one another and through him. Or they argued with people on television like news commentators and characters in sitcoms.

Gregor daydreamed a lot about his real parents, Nana and Pap-Pap’s daughter Dorothy and some guy, who abandoned him to his grandparents when he was a newborn. A note pinned to his blanket said they’d be back soon or at least before he was eating solid food. But they never returned.

So Gregor grew up daydreaming about places where they might be living and pursuits that kept them away from him. Sometimes, they were spies who had to live a secret life in a distant land—even on a planet in a distant galaxy—to keep the country, or the world, safe. They were forced into service as double or triple agents, whose lives were far too dangerous and complicated for phone calls back home. Or sometimes they were traveling with a circus, entertaining children brought in from hospitals, children soon to die. And his parent’s trapeze act was so dangerous and so thrilling—and required every moment of their free time to perfect—that the kids were able to forget about their illnesses if only for a few precious minutes.

While Gregor was in high school, Pap-Pap dropped dead smack in the middle of a tirade while watching “Kate and Allie” on TV. “Kate, you’re a damned fool to give up as a travel agent to start a catering business with Allie” were his last words. Pap-Pap’s sack of ashes hadn’t been sitting a month atop a pile of newspapers in the dining room when Nana traveled 40 miles for a day of beauty.

Gregor stayed in New England to attend a college he chose based on its architecture. The gray stone buildings reminded him of giant dogs resting on their haunches. All his life he’d wanted to have a dog, which had been, of course, impossible given the cat situation.

After majoring in media studies, with an emphasis on the audiences that watch daytime TV, he headed to the Carolinas and landed a job at South of the Border University as a groundskeeper. Eventually he snagged a part-time position instructing foreign students in English and was able to reduce his grounds maintenance job to part-time also.


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