My friend was telling students about his own tweedy professor, one of those “back-in-the-day” pieces of apocrypha that we hold dear and carry forward. He recalled being able to smell the essence of pipe smoke on the papers that were handed back, and it fit the general archetype of the faculty member with leather patches on his jacket, dark wood trim in the den, and yes, a pipe being drafted as he adjusted his glasses and considered the paper in front of him.

My friend’s students wondered aloud, since he doesn’t smoke, what trace evidence their papers might harvest.

“Stains of bourbon, taco meat, and tears,” he told them.

It’s the image I hold dear every time I’m grading, especially during finals.


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