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Chapter 8: Freshman

This time flying into San Jose the air is filled with clouds that make the plane bump alarmingly. My day pack is under the seat, with the computer, my medical kit, my documents and the campus map. My mountain pack is in the cargo hold, with the pistol, declared and inspected, and almost everything else I own. On landing I retrieve it and again I take the bus to Stanford's Student Union building. New freshman mill around. An alumni rep is passing out free coffee, which lion people can't drink, and answering questions. Heads turn wherever I go. I dig out the campus map. A student, female, is muttering about Serra.

Me: I'm going to Serra, and I think it's this way. Let's go together.

Student: Ulp, a lion person!

Me: We don't have to go together, but it is this way. I think. My name is Simba.

Student: Sorry, I was just surprised. I'm Linda, and I'm terrible with maps.

Me: According to the map it's just behind these buildings. There's more grass on this side; I was wondering where it had gotten to. There's the check-in desk; see the sign?

There are three experienced students and an adult supervisor, Prof. Sandra Meltzer according to her name tag, who introduce themselves sequentially to each freshman, with encouraging words. They know me by sight, which isn't any feat of magic if they've been told there's a lion person in their dorm, and they repress the startle response other humans had on meeting me. I receive a key, a temporary meal card, and another stack of papers. My room is on the third floor. There are room numbers, and on the door is a paper with my name and that of my roommate: Ken Aguirre. I knock. No answer. The knob is inert. Now, how do I get in? In the hall is a very brown male student in brown jeans and a brown patterned shirt, contrasting shades.

Me: Excuse me; could you show me how to get the door open?

Student: They said this floor was going to be diverse! I'm Tommy, and you... I'll bet you aren't Ken. Glad to meet you, Simba. OK, you have your key? Stick it in this little slot, the other way, teeth up. And turn it. The first person gets to pick which side, and the sun will wake you up in the morning if you choose that one.

Me: That's why I'm choosing it. Is there an activity schedule in this wad of paper? I've never really ever been on independent operations before, and I'm not completely sure what to do. I guess the first is to read the docs. And to get my computer working.

Tommy: I haven't finished going over it myself, but the second page has a schedule. The president's speech is at 11 and everyone is supposed to go. You want I should leave you alone to get settled? Hmm, do you know about the light switches and the plugs? Don't mess with the plugs or you'll get your fingers burned. And be careful of getting your tail caught in the door.

Me: Yes, thanks, we have plugs at the Lion Foundation. But I've never had a key before. Look, if you see me doing anything that isn't right, tell me and don't worry about embarrassing me, OK? And pass the word to other kids you see. I'm looking forward to being your neighbor, but I think we both had better finish reading our docs.

I'll deal later with the package of sheets and towels on the bed. The room is painted generic white, and as Tommy noted, it is sunny in the morning. The whole place smells of cleaner. We use the same brand, or at least the same smell, at the Lion Foundation. The furniture is oak, and can be moved around. I sit at the desk and read. I'm thankful the chair has an open back that my tail can drop through. The sixth page of the docs tells how to authenticate on the dorm's computer net, and it's a high security interface, not a common carrier nomadic setup. It would have taken me a while to figure that out. I jack in the laptop and boot up. The process is automated on their end, and I have my IP address in a few minutes. By E-mail I report safe arrival, and pass on to the other lions instructions for how to use a key. No mail from Tiger; she left the evening before for University of Michigan. I miss her badly already.

I have a small stash of paper; I make a tentative schedule for myself, plus a list of supplies. Heading the list are more paper, a spare ink cartridge for the little printer, a desk lamp, and a plug strip. Books have to wait until my study list is approved. My counseling appointment is mid-afternoon; the docs imply that some students have to wait until the day after tomorrow. I mostly know what classes I want, but my supervisor may have other ideas. Frustration, run, exercise, bar, this room has no exercise bar! I add that to the list of supplies. And a mat, of course.

There is a metallic noise at the door, and it opens. This must be Ken.

Ken: Oh! Um, hi, um...

Me: Hi, Ken. I'm Simba.

Ken: Um, I asked for diversity and I guess I got what I asked for. Hi, happy to meet you.

Me: Is that side of the room OK for you?

Ken: Sure, no problem. You got your stuff all put away already? I guess not all of it.

Me: None of it. Can I help you drag that box in from the hall?

Ken: No, don't bother, the suitcase has wheels. Thank God. That's all you have, the backpack?

Me: It's everything I own except for my picture. I should get it out of the way; I'll just unpack everything now.

Ken: What's that?

Me: My medical kit; I'd like you to learn how to use it, if you would, in case I'm too badly injured to take care of myself. Remember I'm putting it in this bottom drawer. And my portable printer and its recharger. Checkbook, into the drawer. It's not sloppy, do you think, to hang my day pack on a bed corner? Now let's get the mountain pack untied. This is a case of blood vials and needles; I have to mail these back to the Lion Foundation each month. My pistol, which has to stay in the case or I'd show it to you. And its Utah permit. I'm supposed to store it at the police department and I'll take care of that after I meet with my supervisor. Oh, I need ammunition too; I have a list of things to buy. My music and data discs can go on the bookshelf. My genotype is on one of them. I wish I could have brought the synth, but that goes with Leo. This is Tiger. To remind me of my mate. I'll just sit her up here on the bookshelf next to the discs. A year's worth of mineral supplements. Isn't this little rat cute? Leo carved it for me. Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, fur conditioner, shedding gel, dusting sulfur. I'll shed in about a month. Scrub brush. Music player. Do you use phones when listening to music? Two extra battery packs. Toolkit. That's about it. Do you think it's not too messy, just to put the empty pack on top of the big cabinet?

Ken: Sure, sure. That's all? Where are your clothes?

Me: Built in! No finer clothes will any human ever have than my fur. As for the rest, it's plenty. I don't have many music discs, but check out the data and software! It would take all day for me to show you all of it. My lion disc of course, and the genotype disc, and Project Gutenberg, and, well, I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to look at it all. Let's get your stuff put away. We have time before the president's speech.

There's a lot of it, mostly clothes. Music discs; Bach it's not. A small player, with phones, I'm happy to see. I'm also happy to see a lion person stuffed animal named Wilbur, who gets a place on Ken's bookshelf where he can look at Tiger. No computer; Ken intends to buy one on site. That's not a choice I would have made, despite what the university docs say. I'm not impressed by the extent of Ken's information resources, but I keep my mouth shut. I help Ken lift his two boxes and the now deflated clothing bag atop the tall cabinet; the flat bag hangs inside and, open, reveals more clothes.

Me: So many clothes! Willie and Cathy, they're the human kids at the Lion Foundation same age as we are, lacking fur they took clothes but they all fit in their mountain packs. Of course there's stuff we have that they don't, like the blood vials and the gun. When will you ever wear all this stuff?

Ken: Well, they do get dirty and you don't want to do laundry every day. And you may not need one, but a winter coat takes up a lot of bag space. I can only wear one jacket at a time. My mother was bugging me that I wouldn't take more. Speaking of laundry, let's see if they gave us what we ordered.

We open our laundry packages; I demonstrate my claw to Ken. At home I use a human fitted sheet on my bed. It turns out that Ken had only one hurried lesson from his mother in how to make a bed, and I show him how to get the bottom sheet on without breaking the elastic, but both of us kind of fake it for the top sheet. Normally I don't use one. I add to my list: lesson in bed making. The window looks onto one of the main trails and people are walking toward the Quad for the president's speech. I pop the computer into my daypack and we go downstairs to join the procession.

The main quad is spacious, paved with lion colored unglazed tiles spaced out with patterned brick. Despite my insulating fur I'm hot sitting in the sun and I can feel the blood flow shift in my nose to waste water on keeping me cooler. They start by singing the alma mater. Since words and music are posted on the Stanford web site, I've prepared and can sing along. Unlike Ken. A mated pair, with alumni name tags and a freshman offspring, look approvingly. There is ceremony, with flags and ancient clothing suitable for an ice age, that I don't understand, and neither does Ken. The Dean of Students speaks. The President of the Associated Students speaks. The Dean of Admissions speaks. Finally white haired President Wilson speaks. There are scholars from every state of the Union, fifty foreign nations, and even another species. The Stanford Experience consists in pursuit of knowledge, learning from each other in glorious diversity, and mutual respect. He says quite a bit more, and I remember as much as I can. Finally we sing the alma mater again and break up for lunch.

The dormitory's dining room or cafeteria has a high ceiling and expansive windows to the south, and is decorated with a mural from California history. Ken thinks the food is good. My style is starch with interesting spices and vegetables, sometimes a few bits of meat interestingly spiced, and occasionally a piece of bone for variety. I take one each of a sesame bagel, a French roll, a Kaiser roll (Charlie would grin at the irony), and two slices of whole wheat bread. I'm thirsty after sitting in the sun and I take a big cup of water.

Ken: Is that all you're going to eat? These chicken legs look really good, and check out the cake!

Me: The oranges next to the cake are what I'm checking out. No, I'll have a banana; we only get to eat them when there's a supply run.

Ken: Nothing more, you're sure? Bread and water?

Me: Remember, lion people are autotrophic. You'd die on this diet, but I thrive. I wonder if there's a store where I could buy some spices and jam and stuff, because the rolls are good today but they could get boring after nine months. Later today I'm going to try to negotiate a special food plan. Clearly proper human food costs more than what I'll eat. What's your financial situation?

Ken: My parents are putting up about half the cost. I'm going to find a campus job, and the rest will be a student loan. I noticed you have a bank account already; I need to open one. I guess you're fully paid for.

Me: No way! We came up with fifty thousand per lion, that's for four years, and I've put my share in a mutual fund. The checkbook is for the brokerage core account. The university gave me a grant of nine thousand a year, which really helps. I'll be working, but there will still be debt. A lot less if I can cut a deal for the bread and water.

Ken: Do you know how we're going to get jobs?

Me: Yes, I have my list; I prepared it off the web site before coming here. Filing starts today, but the first round of selection is tomorrow, so we don't have to rush. You post your resume as a link from your home page, and file a notice of interest on up to four jobs, and put an interview schedule in the campus database. When they reject you, you file on a different job. If accepted you have 24 hours to hope for a competing offer. If you haven't gotten a job by day after tomorrow there's a counselor who will help you.

Ken: You seem to have this all figured out. I wish I could have brought a computer, but I don't know how I could have carried it.

Me: You can share mine for job registration. Come on, finish your food and we'll get you set up.

Ken: Gee, thanks! I'm not sure just what I'm supposed to put on a resume...

I may not know how to stick a key in a lock, but I have databases down cold, and the lions' quick study and pre-preparation of resumes, and long familiarity with our computers, save me from Ken's evident stress. I file for tree maintenance assistant, an obvious choice for a lion and a job that few humans will want. Ken files for food service worker since the prerequisites -- none -- fit well with his training, but the web information indicates that this category is quite popular and he is by no means assured a place. I file for programmer trainee. This is the job I will take if offered, but I'm sure there are lots of hotshot programmers with more experience than I have, and particularly more experience in a setting recognizable to the interviewers as being ``real'', so I doubt I will get an offer. Ken files for library cataloging assistant. I look at the electrician's helper position but pass it by, because Mr. Ragland warned me that I will have to wear shoes for safety in all the crafts positions. I may not be able to bear wearing shoes, and if I could bear it human safety shoes would not fit me. But I point it out to Ken and he files for both electrician and plumber because they don't require experience. The emergency room assistant position specifies basic medical knowledge and steadiness in chaos and blood. That's me; I file on it, and hope they realize that even though my training is veterinary, lions are not that different from humans physiologically and anatomically. There's a computer operator position that wasn't there yesterday and I file on it rather than data entry operator.

Me: I hope I get one of those. It's getting close to my appointment with my supervisor; I'd better get down there. The guy may want to see what I've been studying so I'm going to take the lion disc and the computer, just in case.

I shut off the computer and pop it in my pack and head down to the lounge; generic white walls with green carpet. Some nice picture reproductions are on the walls. My supervisor, Professor Morton, is just starting with the previous student. Several other faculty members are also talking with students. I listen carefully from a distance to the interaction. This student has no clear career choice. Neither do I, but at least I know I'm suited to technical or scientific work. They decide on the Civ and writing classes, which are easy because all freshmen have to take them and the university has preassigned them, and she tentatively agrees to the calculus I studied three years ago, the easy version. Prof. Morton gives her some suggestions where to look for career info, and makes an appointment to see her again late tomorrow. She thanks him and gets out of there, and I take her place, wrapping my tail around in the closed back chair.

Prof. Morton: Well, you must be Simba. I'm Dave Morton from the Chem Engineering department.

Me: Yes, sir, pleased to meet you. At the college level, I'm not sure exactly what a supervisor does for those he supervises. With so many students, I'm not sure if the relation can be as detailed as I had with Mr. Chernik.

Prof. Morton: Supervisor isn't exactly the right word. My role is to advise. You need my approval for your courses but you do most of the work of selection. If you have trouble during the quarter you should contact me, but many students make it through without needing my help. As you say, there are a lot of students.

Me: Yes, sir, I think I understand. Next is the matter of career choice. I don't have one. I do know it will be something technical, though.

Prof. Morton: Good for you. You shouldn't decide too early; the general area is enough at the freshman level. Do you have an idea about your study list?

Me: Here it is.

Prof. Morton: Someone who knows what he wants, a good sign. The math courses are rather advanced. I assume you have the prerequisites? Were you proposing a choice of abstract algebra versus numerical methods, or to take both? And chemistry at the same time, in addition to Civ and writing. I don't want to dampen your ardor, but even with the legendary strength of the lion this list would be daunting. There's also the matter of general education. Any idea what you want to take for your requirements, and when?

Me: Well, I used the web to look at the courses, and went over them with my supervisor. You know, at the Lion Foundation. I've done differential equations, off the lion disc. I brought it if you want to see. Algebra is the gateway to most of the advanced math classes, while numerical math is something I could get a job in. I meant a choice, not both at once. Not having a definite career I want to keep making progress in math, but...

Prof. Morton: Take numerical methods. I assume your programming skills are good enough?

Me: Yes, sir.

Prof. Morton: It's a gateway too, just not to advanced math and not marked in the catalog. Most projects end up needing numerical skills, and many require them extensively. There's nothing wrong with algebra, if you're suited to higher math, but I recommend to wait on that. Now as for chem: are you working?

Me: Yes. I don't have a job yet, but I will.

Prof. Morton: Chem takes a lot of hours. So does the job. You may have to choose between them. This may sound odd coming from a chemical engineer, but I'd recommend delaying the chem, at least one quarter, if not a year. Take three courses, and do them right. The first quarter is the hardest and a maximum pressure study list is not a wise move. If your pride, sorry for the pun, demands that you take four courses, the fourth should be something fuzzy that meets a requirement and doesn't take a lot of time. People seem to enjoy intro to music, or maybe you would like one of the art survey courses. My students tell me which courses are good when they talk to me about the next quarter. What do you think?

Me: I'm not ignoring your suggestion, but chem is required for several majors that are possible for me. Biochem, most of the engineering majors, physics. Only math and computers don't require it.

Prof. Morton: Did you study chem at all in lion school? Here's a little test. What's the atomic structure of sodium?

Me: Sodium, sodium, two electrons in level one, two plus six at level two, and one at level three.

Prof. Morton: Very good. How about gadolinium?

Me: Two at level one...

Prof. Morton: That was a joke. I'd have to stretch my brain to get that one. The point is, you have the familiarity that you need to start taking engineering or bio courses as a sophomore, plus chem, rather than taking chem first as a freshman. You even know what gadolinium is. Whereas if you had said, duh, what's sodium, I might change that recommendation. So what do you think?

Me: I'll take your recommendation, including the fine arts course.

Prof. Morton: Reluctantly, or enthusiastically?

Me: Scaredly. I can hardly be enthusiastic when there are so many ways to get into trouble. Sorry.

Prof. Morton: Don't be. It's better to be cautious than too brash or too timid. And remember, enjoy your courses; they're not meant to be a punishment, and the people who flog the books joylessly don't learn as much, freshmen or seniors.

Me: I've had that lesson. We say, leave smiling faces behind you, your own included. But I'm afraid there's another part to the lesson: no matter how much you hurt inside. Being here at Stanford is a great opportunity, but I'm already hurting. My mate is gone, my supervisor is gone, everyone I ever knew is gone, sorry, that's not your problem, and I know I have to go through an event with as much joy as there is in it, because my choice is to feel bad and have joy, or to feel bad and miss the joy and probably screw it up besides.

Prof. Morton: How's your roommate feeling?

Me: He didn't say.

Prof. Morton: How do you think he's feeling?

Me: I don't know. You want me to figure it out. He doesn't know anyone here either, and if he's not hurting yet, he will be. Mr. Chernik told me that I should try to meet one or two new people each day, and I should interact with them like I do with Tiger and Charlie and him. I will survive.

Prof. Morton: Good for you. What's that phrase, tough as a lion? You have tentative approval for Civ and writing, obviously, and numerical methods. Pick a reasonable general education course; it doesn't have to be fine arts, but my advisees seem to have better luck with fine arts in the first quarter. Maybe attend the first lecture of several courses and pick the one you like best. When you have it all together, mail me the transaction record; I'll append the authorization code to it and send it back, and you can file it. Smiling faces?

Me: Smiling faces. Thanks, sir.

Prof. Morton left me with a lot to think about. But not immediate action items: I return to my room for my pistol. Ken is elsewhere, probably exploring; it's what I would do. I drop the case and the Utah permit into my day pack. I search for and find the police station. The campus cop jokes, with those teeth and claws what do I need a gun for? He says students and faculty are allowed to use the police gunnery range and virtual reality set, though very few do; I count four gun cases besides mine in the cabinet. He gives me the address of a weapons shop where I can buy ammo, to be stored with the pistol, not in my room.

Next stop is the board plan office, for a key negotiation under the category of special dietary needs. I show the person the letter that the financial aid people gave me. She expresses doubts about my proposed diet. I explain about autotrophy, and give her Dr. Newman's phone number. He explains about autotrophy, apparently more convincingly. She gets her supervisor. I suggest setting a price on various categories of food. The supervisor asks if I eat like she imagines a lion might. I tell her I can handle five MJ per day for a week without losing mass, but I'm a lot more comfortable with seven, and if I do hard manual labor or sleep overnight in the forest in February, as I did once (not from wisdom), I'll eat more. She says that seven MJ of cereal is expensive, and she offers a very reasonable price for bread and pasta only, no cereal, milk, and so on. She gives a considerably higher number if cereal is included. I ask, suppose we forget the cereal but allow fruit and vegetables. The price is about one third higher than for starch alone. I think about nine months of Kaiser rolls. I accept her offer. With this accommodation my student debt will be only about one thousand per quarter.

On my return I find Ken was out buying a laptop computer. He has it set up, step-by-step instructions spread on his desk, and is struggling through the history department's web site.

Me: Hey, what a nice machine! Are you picking courses?

Ken: Yeah. I wish, you know, you just look at the machine and it does things for you. You had everything ready to take to your advisor. You have a mutual fund account while I paid for this on my parents' credit card. You can file for jobs with experience and you come in here with a list all ready. Look, I don't mean to sound whiny, but, you know, I came in here this morning the big proud Stanford student and now I feel like shit.

Me: Funny you should mention it. I said something similar to my advisor. Come over here on the bed and sit by me. When Charlie, he's my best friend besides my mate, and he gets real scared sometimes because he's a little weird in the head, and a hug really helps.

Ken: I don't need a goddamned hug.

Me: Well, maybe I do. My mate is missing. I didn't say anything, but when we were doing the jobs you might have noticed me checking mail at the Lion Foundation, and she hasn't checked in. It doesn't take any sixteen hours to get to Michigan. No Mr. Chernik. No Charlie. If you want to really feel alone, try being a lion person. I need a hug.

Then Ken comes over and put his arms around me, and I around him. He dampens the fur of my shoulder. We sat that way for a few minutes and I try to imagine standing under the small waterfall in our stream and mud and bark chips being washed out of my fur.

Ken: I'm sorry I snapped at you. I hope your mate, Tiger, isn't it? I hope she turns up.

Me: I should have my machine running so she can contact me. Look, when we have ten people working together, plus our supervisors and the rest of the staff, we don't miss much. And we've been trained for years to be organized. I think you did a pretty good job: You bought the machine, you got it working, and you got a class list on the screen from some department. I'd do the same in your situation.

Ken: Thanks, Simba. I guess I'm just being over-emotional

Me: It's not a fault. We're going to have a tough time without the people we depend on. Let's help each other, OK? Particularly emotionally.

Ken: Thanks, Simba. Could I show you my study list, if I ever figure one out?

Me: Sure. Hey, I have to pee. If my machine beeps and shows an icon of a lion talking, would you click on it and answer by voice that I'll be right back? Thanks.

Passing the open door of the room next to Tommy's, I hear frustrated muttering. A female is glaring at her computer screen. I pass by. My bladder appreciates the relief but my feet are not so happy. I decide that I had better wash both my feet and my hands after using the toilet. Returning to my room, I still hear muttering. I pass by.

Me: Ken, I'm back. Did she call?

Ken: Not a word.

Me: I see an opportunity to meet someone. In the room next to Tommy. Could you come and get me if Tiger calls? Thanks.

The sign on the open door indicates that the person on that side is called Jan. I put on a face that I hope represents friendly commiseration.

Me: Hi, Jan, I'm Simba. Trouble with your class schedule?

Jan: Yaah! Get away from me! Shoo, shoo! I've got Mace! Get out of my sight! Get away from me!

I drop and roll. The weapon that came from her bag seems not to be a gun but a small cylinder. Heads pop out of doors; Tommy nearly gets his toes rolled on, and Ken is there. This has to be dealt with. I sign for silence and stand next to the door but out of visibility.

Me: There are people in the hall. Careful with the weapon.

Jan: Don't you come any closer!

Me: I'm not close, I'm in the hall. Let's talk.

Jan: Shove it up your ass, cat, or I'll shove this Mace up it!

The resident assistant approaches rapidly. I signal for silence and he reluctantly complies.

Me: We can't distress everyone in the dorm whenever we meet.

Jan: Get out of my life!

Me: I'm afraid there's no choice; we're going to have to deal with each other.

Jan: God damn you, you have my dreams; do you have to take my whole life?

Me: I plan to avoid you but if we walk into the hall at the same time what do you want to do?

Jan: Tear your damned eyes off! Rip your stuffing out!

The resident fellow, Prof. Meltzer, comes out of the stairwell. I again motion to her and to the assistant for silence and they comply reluctantly.

Me: Would it be acceptable if you simply imagined ripping my stuffing out and didn't yell?

Jan: I'm not yelling!!

Me: Prof. Meltzer is here. People are getting impatient with the noise. Wouldn't you like to negotiate this on your own terms rather than being told what to do? If so, we have to make progress.

Jan: I don't want it! Take it away! Mama, make him take it away!

I have a mama to provide. I hand-sign for Prof. Meltzer to go in the room, but give a double-hand blocking sign as the resident assistant tries to follow. ``Him'' is undoubtedly not welcome.

Prof. Meltzer: Dear, dear, I'm here, nobody's going to hurt you. There, there, it's all right. What did he do?

Jan: He put that thing on my pee. I don't want it, I don't want it! Make him take it away! Yaah, I take it back, he didn't do it, oh, no, yaaah!

Prof. Meltzer: There, there, there.

There are lots of distress moans after that and statements of very doubtful logic. A few people return to their rooms shaking their heads. After a rather long interval of blubbering, Jan seems to recover some function.

Jan: I'm ruined, aren't I? Everyone knows.

Prof. Meltzer: I think you're going to be just fine. I'm not sure what the secret is.

Jan: The cat.

Prof. Meltzer: I think whatever the cat's problem is, people haven't figured it out. Your secret is safe. Do you think you could come with me to talk to someone who could help you feel better?

Jan: Is that thing still in the hall?

Me: I'm here. We have to have a settlement eventually, but it doesn't have to be now.

Jan: Are you the cat?

Me: No, I'm called a lion person. My fur is actually a mixture of raccoon and otter. Not a cat.

Jan: Did my father send you?

Me: No.

Jan: Let me see you. Not close, don't come in here!

I stand on the opposite side of the hall.

Jan: I can't see you. Come out of the shadow.

Me: That would put me blocking the door. Is that OK? In your position I wouldn't like the door blocked.

Jan: Let me see you. You have a cat's ears.

Me: Yes. I have a pocket, see? It's for my, um, baby, like a kangaroo.

Jan: Are you going to tell?

Me: If you want, I'll keep quiet. But my best friend Charlie would sometimes wake up screaming. I and the other lions would go to his room and comfort him. It eased his pain to tell us about the crazy dreams, and now they're a lot less frequent. When I'm hurting inside I feel better after talking to someone. My mate is lost and I'm worried about her. I told my roommate and it helped. You may tell if you want to.

Jan: Wouldn't I be ruined? Everyone will know.

Me: I don't think that would be a problem.

Jan: I'm going to tell. My daddy put the cat on my pee and made me feel things I didn't want to feel. Mommy said I'd be ruined if I ever told.

Me: Your supervisor made you practice mate with a cat? That's terrible! He did wrongly. This was a stuffed animal, right? If it was a lion person stuffed animal I'm going to be even more angry. At him, not you.

Prof. Meltzer: You did nothing wrong. Your parents did. Could we put the Mace away?

Jan: It was a cat. Stuffed. I thought you were the cat. I said some pretty nasty things. Are you mad at me?

Me: No, I'm mad at your supervisor. Suppose you were in the hall and I came out of my room; what would you do?

Jan: Be embarrassed for acting so stupid.

Me: Don't be. I'd like to be your friend but let's just smile at each other to get started. OK?

Prof. Meltzer: If you could come with me to Student Health, I know a nice person who could help you.

Jan: A shrink! I have to get my study list! I have to sign up for jobs!

Me: May I tell a story about Charlie? He talked to Dr. Deutsch a lot, and Dr. Deutsch helped him live with his craziness. Charlie is cruel, but he figured out to be cruel to his stuffed animals so he didn't have to be cruel to real people, and Dr. Deutsch said it was OK. If you could find a person like Dr. Deutsch it would help you a lot. But... Charlie is very brave. He fears the night, because of the dreams, but he does his lessons, and he puts himself to sleep every night at the right time, so he'll be ready the next day to learn more. He doesn't refuse to sleep even though he fears it. I think Jan is kind of like Charlie: she has work to do and she'll do it and survive, and see the shrink person when the work is done. In her position I would make the same choice because I would want to prove to myself that I could keep myself alive. But I would go to the shrink, later. What do you think?

Jan: Prof. Meltzer, if I promise to go to the Student Health shrink tomorrow, not be brought, would that be OK?

Prof. Meltzer: Call me Sandra. I'm not sure...

Me: I know that attitude; I share it. When they draw my blood it hurts, more than for a human. I hated so much having things done to me that I learned to draw the blood myself. Jan has had things done to her that shouldn't be.

Prof. Meltzer: I see the inference. OK, Jan, see her tomorrow, and please tell me when you've done it because I'm going to be worrying about it. If I leave you two alone, can I trust you not to explode?

Jan: I know he's not my nightmare. I never knew your name.

Me: I'm Simba. I heard you cursing at the computer and asked if I could help.

Jan: Oh, how stupid I am; I'm acting like three years old. I need the help but...

Me: How about if I sat on your roommate's bed; I could see the screen. OK?

Jan: I promise I'm not going to flip out again. OK, do you know how to file on a job?

Me: Put the interest form and the job list in separate windows. Transfer the job number onto the form, and your student number. Do you have an idea what jobs you want? No, use ``window, new''.

Jan: I didn't know you could do that. I was frustrated because I couldn't get it to take my filings, and I thought I wasn't going to be able to get a job, and then, well...

Me: I'm frustrated too. I don't know if I should stick around and wait for my mate to check in, or do something to calm myself down. Aw, jeez, I'm acting stupid too. I'm no use to anyone all stressed out. Do you run?

Jan: That's one thing I'm good at. To run away from the cat. It sounds stupid, doesn't it?

Prof. Meltzer: It looks like you two have things under control so I'm going to leave you. But either of you, if there's any trouble come to me immediately, and Jan, do check in at Student Health tomorrow. Promise?

Jan: Yes, Prof. Meltzer... Sandra.

Me: I'm going to run. I'll invite Ken, and anyone else who's in the hall. You're invited too, if you don't mind running with the cat. I'll post a message so if Tiger calls in, she'll know what's happening. We can come back in time for dinner.

And that's what we do. Both Jan and Ken have special outfits for running; I've been told that typical humans have a special outfit for just about every activity. Jan and I take it slow so Ken can keep up, but after a few thousand meters he decides he's had enough, and after that it's hard and fast to burn out the frustration and rage. Jan keeps right with me, and occasionally curses the cat, and her father. I feel a lot better on returning to my room.

Me: Hi, Ken. Did I miss her?

Ken: Not a sound.

Me: OK, let's all go to dinner together. I'll change the message.

At that moment the lion icon pops up showing Tiger's name. I throw myself into my chair and click. The audio comes on: some kind of crowded place at the other end.

Me: Tiger, I was worried about you!

Tiger: I was worried about me too! I hope flying isn't always like this! I have to make it fast because there's a long line waiting to use the ISDN pay phone. Someone showed me how to work it.

Me: Where are you?

Tiger: Chicago, O'Hare. From Atlanta. Salt Lake to Denver was on time, if a little bumpy, but the flight to Omaha was late leaving, and there were thunderstorms; it was like going through a maze, and the plane was jumping all over. About half an hour from Omaha the plane flipped completely over and ended up nose to nadir. I thought we were going to die. There were people and luggage on the ceiling, anyone who didn't have their seat belt on. Really, the ceiling. I got hit on the head at least twice. This old lady hit an overhead bin and I could see the blood as she slid by. I pulled her into my lap and the neighbors held her down and I did compression on her leg like we were trained. I figured we were all going to die but I was going to go out fighting.

Me: Jeez!

Tiger: Well, the pilot got the nose up, and I worked the medical kit out of my pack and put a couple staples in her. Lion staples work on humans, you can remember that. I slashed up the neighbor's coat and made a compression bandage out of it. That and the staples got the bleeding under control. The old lady was pretty cool, didn't scream, thanked me and apologized for bloodying my fur. We had to break off the landing in Omaha because there was a tornado and they were afraid it was going to trash the airport before or after we got there. It didn't, but by then we were half way to St. Louis. We tried to land at St. Louis but the storms were so bad the pilot thought the plane wouldn't survive after the jolt we had. There was a channel of relatively clear weather to the southeast, and the pilot said the company told him to just get out of the area, to bring it into Atlanta if the injured passengers could handle it. Which the old lady could, thanks to my staples. They say they're going to give me some kind of certificate.

Me: So how did you end up in Chicago?

Tiger: All the schedules are totally screwy. I tried to call in from Atlanta but I couldn't get the ISDN to work and I lost my turn. Look, people are waiting. They promise a direct flight to Lansing from here, someday. There's a group of Michigan students and we're all going to stay at someone's aunt's place on the floor, unless it's morning when we arrive. I'll check in when I get there. I had the machine mail out a short message to the project staff and a complete report to you, in store and forward mode while we were talking. Could you post the report for me? I love you, I'm scared and alone, I want to hold you, but I've got to shut down now.

Me: I love you too. Bye.

Jeez! I'm shaking. I get started on the posting.

Jan: My God, I would have flipped out completely. I'm so ashamed.

Me: Don't be. Our rule is, do your best each time. And if your best isn't very good, keep coming back until you can do it the way you want. You did that, coming out to run with me. Look at my hands; I can hardly type. A lion is supposed to be steady.

Ken: I think we should tell Prof. Meltzer, so if parents call into the dorm asking if their kids have arrived, there's something to tell them. I'll bet half the Stanford student body is stuck in some east coast airport.

Our subdued little group passes on the news, then heads for dinner.

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