On Susan Amos

There was a mother bear in the language department at my university.

I don’t know what I expected from Weird Things Agriculture and Mayhem University (though judging by the name, they at least had their priorities straight). I can tell you it was not a fierce woodland creature teaching me how to pronounce “oso.” When I looked around at the rest of the class, I saw they weren’t even fazed, just copying down verb conjugations because they were going to be on the test. Duh, pay attention, Vera.

She was a mother bear not only because she had two sons for whom she would level armies with a single swipe of her mighty paw. It was also because she protected her students from the other wild things that roamed the halls. It turned out that to get around in the Business Department, you had only to keep up a steady stream of Spanish numbers in order to pass through safely, but they couldn’t be the same numbers twice. I learned this when she accompanied our class the first time, down the stairs past the Business floor. The entire time, she growled melodic accounting figures as some kind of patchy shadow thing skirted around us, hissing and spitting because it could get no closer.

I worked to commit the foreign words to memory. Someday, they might save my life. More importantly, though, they could get me that A. My bear teacher was more than willing to award good grades to those who survived the semester.

And her tests.

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