Boston Solutions Incorporated
Chapter 16

Copyright© 2021 by Lazlo Zalezac

Stephen dropped the huge report on Magus’ desk. He said, “Here it is.”

“I can say one thing about it. It is thick,” Magus said eyeing the stack of papers.

“Yes, it is.”

Magus asked, “Why are you giving it to me?”

“You said you wanted it,” Stephen said.

“What is it?” Magus asked.

Stephen answered, “It is my homework paper.”

Magus said, “For which class?”

“History,” Stephen said. “It is my report on a proper approach to understanding history.”

“I wanted to read that,” Magus said picking up the stack of papers.

“That is why I gave it to you,” Stephen said.

“See how nicely that worked out,” Magus said. He lifted the cover sheet and said, “Nice. You’ve got a table of contents. A good report should always start with one of those.”

“I agree,” Stephen said.

Magus flipped to the back of the report. He said, “Over three hundred references. That’s a good number for a report this size.”

“I had to balance thoroughness with reasonableness. I could have done a little more, but it would have gotten stale in places,” Stephen said.

“Hey, you even put in an index. I am really impressed,” Magus said.

“It was easy enough to do,” Stephen said.

Magus said, “I’m sure it still took a little time.”

“It did, but I felt like it completed the report,” Stephen said.

“I agree,” Magus said. He started flipping through the pages of the report. After a few minutes, he frowned and then said, “Hold on a second.”

“What?” Stephen asked getting worried.

“Have you turned this in yet?” Magus asked.

“No,” Stephen said. There had to be a horrible mistake in the paper somewhere for Magus to be asking that question.

“Good,” Magus said.

Stephen asked, “What’s wrong?”

Magus pushed the button on the side of his desk. The desktop lifted up and then slid forward. The screen was projected on the far wall. He said, “You need to fill out a little paper work before you turn it in.”

Stephen turned to look at the screen. He asked, “Nondisclosure Agreement? Copyright Form? What are you doing?”

“I’m busy protecting your interests,” Magus said typing away furiously.

“It is a homework assignment,” Stephen said a little confused.

Magus looked over at Stephen and said, “This goes well beyond a little homework assignment.”

“I went a little too far?” Stephen asked.

“I would expect no less,” Magus said. He looked over at Stephen and said, “I’m still collecting royalties on my homework assignments.”

“I didn’t know that,” Stephen said.

“Now you do,” Magus said. He left the office and then returned a minute later with a stack of papers. He said, “Sign these.”

For the next few minutes, Stephen signed the various forms that Magus had printed out for him. Once he had finished, Magus said, “You need to replace the cover page on the one that you want to turn into your professor with the one that I printed for you. Once that is done then you can deliver it. I’ll mail this one to the publisher.”

“Okay,” Stephen said.

On the walk to the university, Stephen kept having a feeling that he was being watched. He stopped several times to look around, but he couldn’t spot anything unusual. The sidewalks of Cambridge were filled with harried students rushing off to an exam and frazzled students staggering back from one. After about the fifth time he had paused, he said, “I must be getting paranoid.”

The feeling of being watched accompanied Stephen up until he reached his destination. He knocked on the door of the office of Professor Sigmond. A tired voice called out, “I’m grading papers in here. Come back later, preferably after I retire.”

“Professor Sigmond, I’m Stephen Osfeld. You asked me to write a paper on a proper approach to understanding history and you told me to deliver it at the end of the semester,” Stephen called through the closed door.

Professor Sigmond threw open the door and brusquely said, “Give me your paper.”

“You need to sign an NDA first,” Stephen said holding out the form.

“An NDA? You want me to sign a Nondisclosure Agreement on a homework assignment?” Professor Sigmond asked incredulously.

“Magus insisted,” Stephen said.

“Very well. Give it here,” Professor Sigmond said rolling his eyes.

After the NDA was signed, Stephen held out a bound copy of his paper. He said, “Here it is.”

“What is this?”

“This is my paper,” Stephen said.

“That’s not a paper. That’s a book,” Professor Sigmond said looking at it. There was no way that he was going to be able to grade it before grades were due. He opened it up and glanced at the table of contents. He flipped to the end and looked at the references. He went to the index and looked up a term and then turned to the indicated page. He read a little bit of the page. Mumbling, he said, “Come in.”

“Thanks,” Stephen said.

Professor Sigmond looked at the stack of papers remaining to be graded on his desk. He said, “Nearly every one of these papers is garbage. I should give them all zeros except for one or two of them.”

“I thought that Mel’s paper was pretty good,” Stephen said.

“She’s the shining star in that class,” Professor Sigmond said. He paused and asked, “You read her paper?”

“She’s my study partner for the class,” Stephen said.

“I can tell. She actually learned something,” Professor Sigmond said. He sat down and looked at Stephen’s paper. After reading a couple of pages, he said, “You’ve got an A on it. Who are you sending it to for publication?”

“Magus knows a publisher,” Stephen answered. Actually, the head of the publishing house was obliged to accept calls from Magus.

“I look forward to reading it in print,” Professor Sigmond said. “Will this be the second book with your name on it?”

“I guess so,” Stephen answered. He thought he heard a shuffling noise from outside the office.

“There aren’t many students with your talent. It is a shame that you aren’t a history student. I would have enjoyed seeing you struggle through one of my independent studies. You’re too good for regular classes, way too good.” He sighed and said, “Did you know that Bicameral Legislation is a law written about camels that are attracted to both sexes?”

Stephen laughed. He said, “That’s a good one.”

“I found that little jewel in one of the papers that I just graded,” Professor Sigmond said.

“I don’t even know how that fits in with the topic of the paper,” Stephen said. The paper was supposed to be about whether or not Waterloo was actually Napoleon’s downfall.

Professor Sigmond said, “Neither do I. Well, I have to get back to grading this garbage.”

“Okay,” Stephen said.

“You know, I really expected about a ten page paper from you,” Professor Sigmond said.

“I guess I got carried away. I assumed that since you gave me almost the whole summer to work on it that you wanted something substantial,” Stephen said.

“Enjoy your break. You earned it. School starts in ten days,” Professor Sigmond said. He sighed, “It is a pity that you’re not a history major.”

Stephen was scheduled for his English final examination an hour after leaving Professor Sigmond’s office. During the entire hour he waited for class, he had the feeling that he was being watched. The problem was that he didn’t spot anything out of the ordinary. It was really starting to unnerve him. By the time he settled into his chair for the exam he was in a state of mind that wasn’t exactly conducive to making a great score.

His English final was his last test of the summer session and he was just ready to get it over. Looking over the test, he realized that he could finish it in fifteen minutes. Of course, this professor believed that good grades took just the right amount of time to earn. She would mark it with an F if he handed it in too early. He pitied the poor student who turned in his paper at the very last minute. It was doomed to an F as well. He had to hit the magic time at which to turn in his paper in order to get an A.

Magus was right that half of solving a problem was in knowing what people wanted (or in some cases didn’t want). Of course, not everyone wanted something that was good for them or even possible. In that case, solving the problem was more a matter of convincing them to accept something other than what they wanted. Applying those lessons to his current situation meant that Stephen had to dawdle until his professor started looking around with an expectation of people turning in their papers.

 
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