This is a response to Vol 10 John 2 ("Fastbinder's Dream")...
[This is part three of "Indefinite Sabbatical"]
That evening, Amber returned triumphant from her first class.
"They are like fish, Emil! They sit with their mouths open, swallowing every crumb I choose to toss!"
"They are not fish! They are human beings! When they hear your first lecture on vending machines they will run laughing from the room!"
"I have already given it."
"Hook, line, and sinker."
"You're MAD! Release me this instant!"
"I like being a professor. I believe I will teach another semester of vending machines in the Spring."
"You will be discovered! They will miss me!"
"The grades will be filed at the end of the semester. That's all they care about."
"But my friends! My colleagues --"
"You have no friends. I checked."
It was true. He was a hermit. After five years they stopped bothering even to invite him to the faculty picnic. Professor Emil T. Fastbinder sank into his chair and calculated how many coins it would take to hang himself. He stroked his beard and his licorice eyes grew wet around the edges.
"I'm forty-five years old and I've never been kissed."
Amber was busy filling the hopper above the clock with coins. She wore a tweed vest over her sweater and a matching skirt. Except for the cigarette tucked behind her ear and the bulging money belt at her waist she looked quite correct, entirely professorial.
"Really? Why not pay for it?"
"I did once. In sixth grade."
Amber ignored him.
"Barbarous Barbara Breen. During recess she promised to kiss me if I gave her a dollar. I gave it to her with all my heart. She promised to meet me after school under a tree. I waited until after dark. It rained and still I waited. Her family moved away the next day and I never saw her again. Since then I've kept my money to myself."
Amber counted the faded hearts on the professor's shorts. Hot Stuff.
"I was married to a Pepsi man once."
"He gave me that machine over there. Not another one like it anywhere. We used to build machines for each other all the time."
"He got me drunk one night and I woke up inside a coin operated chastity belt. It really helped me to understand what being a machine is all about. But he tried to get in without paying one night and I pushed him a little too close to the shears in that mechanical tailor machine over there. That put an end to his sex life real fast."
Amber moved toward the door with a wistful expression on her face. "He never forgave me for that."
"You're not leaving me alone?"
Amber stepped out for a moment and returned with something that looked like an ancient gray duffel bag. She dumped it on the floor.
"What is it?"
"Grendal. Our cat."
It was huge. All but three of its teeth were gone. Its fur was falling off. One ear was in tatters and its ribs stuck out. It made an evil noise, part growl, part wheeze. And it stared at Emil with baleful green eyes.