The Erotic Mind-Control Story Archive


Chapter Twenty-Three. The Book Club

Professor Frank Desmond was feeling absolutely wonderful when he arrived at his office in the Psychology Building at State U. He had slept like a rock and woken feeling wonderful. The weather, he had noticed, was wonderful too. And so, for the first time in years, he’d decided to forgo his coveted reserved parking spot and walk the mile and a half from his home on University Hill to his office on North Campus. By the time he got there, the slight exertion and the late-summer morning air had made him feel even better.

“Wonderful,” in fact, was the word that kept coming to mind.

He strode into the office building whistling. He had a good day ahead. Lindsey, his latest protegee, was due to come by for some individual … tutoring. Lindsey was an excellent student, bright, eager to please. Attractive and sexy. And suggestible. Just the sort of protegee he liked to locate, groom, and enjoy every year, and today he was planning to pounce.

That would be … what? Oh, yes, wonderful.

What was behind his good mood? he asked himself as unlocked his office. The weather was great, Lindsey was lush—but the truth was that his good mood seemed to stem from having been the guest of honor at the Town-Gown Book Club dinner the night before. That had been a wonderful night—wonderful food, wonderful company, wonderful conversation. He though back on the occasion; he couldn’t quite put his finger on what had been quite so wonderful—he’d probably drunk one glass of wine too many, and the later part of the evening was kind of a blur, to be frank—but “wonderful” was the word. He’d do it again if his colleague Shahrzad Green asked him to another meeting of the club.

Hanging his jacket in the closet, he surveyed the office. As a senior member of the department (oh, let’s be frank, he thought: he was the departmental star), he rated a corner office with a nice view of the Elman Quad, a spacious desk, and his prized leather couch, so useful for . . . individual counseling.

He prided himself on a clean desk, so he was surprised to see a small parcel, wrapped in brown paper, in the center of his green blotter. He buzzed his staff assistant on the intercom. “Trilby,” he said, “What is this package?”

“Oh, that,” her voice said. “Professor Green brought it by just as I was opening up. She said it was a ‘thank you’ for your coming to the book club last night.”

Frank smiled. That was . . . wonderful . . . of her. Eagerly he slit open the parcel with a letter opener. Secretly he was hoping that it might be a provocative bit of fiction, perhaps even erotica, setting off a slow-burning inter-departmental flirtation with his stunning colleague. Thinking of Shahrzad Green put him in an amorous mood—she was not only beautiful, she was . . . wonderful.

He unwrapped the gift, an old leather-bound volume. Collected Poems of Sidney Lanier, he read from the spine, in some puzzlement. He had dimly heard of Lanier—or thought had—some kind of Southern poet. But he couldn’t entirely figure out why Shahrzad had thought it was the right gift for him—Frank wasn’t from the South and didn’t care all that much for poetry.

He opened the book. Shahrzad had written something on the flyleaf. “For Frank Desmond,” he read, “Something you can perhaps use in the years ahead. Regards, Shahrzad and the ladies of the Town Gown Book Club.”

It was a conundrum, but Frank didn’t have time to ponder it. He put the book aside and fished a pocket squeeze bottle of breath spray from the drawer. He was waiting for Lindsey.

But he still found himself thinking of Shahrzad Green and the evening at her house. Whatever had happened, he thought again, had been . . . wonderful.

* * *

He had been surprised when Shahrzad Green knocked on his door a few days earlier. Of course he knew her; there wasn’t a soul on the State U. campus who didn’t know who she was. With her towering height, endless legs, flawless olive skin, stunning eyes, and beautifully tailored clothes, she dominated attention anywhere she went. But, more than that, she was one of the faculty’s true stars—nationally known, energetic and active in her field, outspoken and well informed in faculty meetings. Even senior administrators had learned that one crossed Shahrzad Green only with great care.

“Shahrzad,” he said. “Great to see you. What brings you across campus?” As a professor of Gender Studies, Green had an office on the other side of the Quad. Humanists and psychologists mixed uneasily; the psychology department considered itself part of the State U. scientific faculty (although the physicists and biologists sometimes dismissed experimental psychologists as “rat trainers”). Nonetheless, he felt his professional smile growing and growing until he was genuinely beaming a welcome to this stunning goddess and feeling without quite admitting it that whatever she wanted from him—his vote at the faculty assembly, his service on an inter-departmental committee—anything—she could have.

So he was not only surprised but relieved when it turned out she had only come to beg him very sweetly to come to be the guest of honor at a meeting of her book club a few days later. Frank had never heard of the Town & Gown Book Club, but it sounded charming—a small group of Shahrzad’s friends, most not from the faculty, who met every month or so to discuss a new book by a professor at State U. Frank didn’t know whether to be flattered that they had chosen his new book—TWILIGHT OF THE WILL: A HISTORY OF HYPNOSIS—for this meeting, or nettled that it had taken them so long. The book, after all, had been published at least five years ago.

Still, it was very, very hard to say “no” to anything Shahrzad Green suggested—especially when she mentioned that she and her partner Justine would be cooking a Persian feast—green herb stew, kebabs, and little doughnuts with saffron and rosewater—and that the club members were all her friends—her female friends. Frank had always enjoyed female company, and the chance to impress women with hypnosis. Even better, he thought, if no other men were around to compete for their attention.

Anyways, the evening had been . . . wonderful. Shahrzad had introduced him to her partner, Justine, who—though almost the opposite of Shahrzad—in her way was a stunner as well. She was petite, blonde, and buxom, her cheeks and shoulders spangled with fetching freckles, and Frank found himself imagining being between Shahrzad and Justine under silken sheets. Not likely—but not entirely impossible, especially if a little hypnotic demonstration could be arranged.

Justine introduced Frank to the other members. Selene was tiny—just over five feet—exquisitely made, with graceful cheekbones in a face dominated by huge green eyes so compelling that, for at least a moment, he forgot what he had planned to say.

And finally there was Alice. She was older than Frank usually liked them—sixty if she was a day—but had quite a presence: tall, slender, and graceful, she drew the eye with elegant gestures and an expressive mouth. He found her company relaxing; though Frank’s libido tended to focus on college sophomores in his introductory hypnosis class, he did enjoy talking to someone who recognized books, movies, and plays published before 2000. She seemed to find his jokes irresistible, and as she laughed she laid one elegant finger on his lapel as if they were old friends, and soon he thought that perhaps they were, or would be.

The food was as advertised as well—the rice fragrant and just barely firm to the bite, the lamb rich and flavorful. When he had finished the last doughnut, washing it down with jasmine tea, Shahrzad instructed him to take the seat of honor in the middle of the room to talk about his book.

He had worried about having no prepared remarks, but it turned out the ladies had all read the book with care and prepared questions. There’s no feeling for a man quite as intoxicating as having four beautiful women ask him to hold forth while they gaze at him worshipfully. As far as Frank was concerned, the evening could have gone on forever—though sometime after 10 he found his attention flagging. He tried to conceal a yawn behind his hand, but the alert hostess saw it and exclaimed, “Ladies, we are wearing our guest out. Let’s let him relax for a moment, shall we?” She poured more tea and said, “It would be ironic to have our expert in hypnotism fall asleep in mid-sentence, wouldn’t it?”

Frank laughed, yawning again at the same time.

“But hypnosis and sleep are very different, aren’t they, Professor?” Justine asked. Shahrzad tried to hush her, but Frank waved his hand magnanimously. “Yes,” he told the pretty blonde. “But the suggestion of sleep is used to induce trance, because if the hypnotist can keep the subject’s attention on himself, then the idea of sleep allows the subject to ignore everything else that is going on, the way one does when actually sleeping.”

“So in THE WOMAN IN GREEN, when the hypnotist tells Watson he’s drowsy, he’s on the long road, the winding road, the road to sleep, it’s not really about sleep?”

“No,” Frank said. “It’s really about the spiral holding his gaze and shutting out other stimuli—”

“I remember that spiral,” Alice said. “It really drew me in—it went round and round and round and I think I must have gone out for a few minutes because I had to ask my date what had happened.”

Frank remembered the scene from the Sherlock Holmes film. It had been filmed in 1945, before the British had become squeamish about filming actual hypnotic inductions, and more than one viewer had actually glided into trance watching it. The scene showed Watson staring at a spiral while a hypnotist did a disguised induction, guiding Watson along “the long road, the winding road, the road to—”

“But you can do it without sleep as well, can’t you, Professor?” Selene leaned forward. Her luminous eyes captured and held Frank’s. “If I just told a subject, ‘you want to focus on me, just on me, don’t let your mind wander—’”

“I am quite . . . sure. . .that would work, Sel—Selene . . . .”

“What if people mixed them all together?” Shahrzad asked now. “Sleep, relaxation, focus, relaxation, focus, focus, relaxation…”

“If they told someone to relax and focus,” said Alice in his other ear.

“Or to just go ahead and relax,” Justine whispered.

“You’ve given us so much to think about,” Shahrzad said. “I could just get lost in your words, drifting and imagining . . . .”

“You’ve been wonderful, you must be so tired, you’ve worked so hard,” Selene said.

Now all the voices began to wash against his ears like warm waves, overlapping with words of heaviness, focus, safety, freedom, quiet, relaxation. He realized that this was a group induction. He had read about them—written about them—and seen them—but never been the target of one. It was strangely effective, he thought; he could see how they might work against easier subjects than himself. He would tell them that they had almost succeeded, almost put him into a deep relaxing trance, they would laugh about it soon, laugh and laugh and laugh . . . .

“Let go, Frank” said one seductive voice.

“Let us take care of you—” said another

“You are so tired after all these years—” said a third.

“It’s late, you want to sleep”—he didn’t know who was speaking.

“Relax”… “Let go” … “the long road, the winding road, the road to . . .

How quiet it had gotten, he thought. So peaceful, like a night in the country, a night without moon or stars, without birds or crickets, just the deep silence of the woods and the deep velvet blackness of the sky . . . .

But even in the quiet, a chorus of voices murmured on just out of his hearing like the chuckling of a distant stream, and as he glided toward the sound, a new voice, a fifth voice, began to speak and he felt warm and grateful as the voice explained to him exactly what he was going to do ….

“So I hope you’ve had a wonderful time,” Shahrzad was saying, shaking his hand. “You were a wonderful guest.” Frank blinked slightly, thinking he’d almost dozed off, which would have been rude after such a wonderful evening.

“Yes,” he said. “The food was wonderful, the company was wonderful, your friends are wonderful, it was wonderful to talk about—about—what did we talk about?”

“Your book on hypnosis,” she gently reminded him.

“Oh, yes,” he said. “That was wonderful.”

The trip home was wonderful. Once back at his house, he mumbled a few words to his wife, then fell into bed and slept wonderfully well, with wonderful dreams….

* * *

He looked again at Shahrazad’s strange gift of this obscure Southern poet, and vowed to chalk it up to the beautiful professor’s idiosyncratic taste. There was no time to think further about it, because Lindsey knocked on the door.

Lovely Lindsey, so young and beautiful, with her red hair and her bright mobile mouth and the luster in her eyes when he told her she was special. In all the years he had been teaching at State U., he had almost never encountered a potential conquest who did not respond to being told that she had a special gift and that he would help her in her studies and her career. He picked out his protegees for the semester after observing the class taking a hypnotizability test, and picking out attractive girls who went under easily. He always told his students that suggestibility did not equal gullibility—but he did not add that a suggestible person who opened herself to a hypnotist could be made more gullible with a few carefully planned suggestions.

“Hello, Professor,” Lindsey said. “I went to the career office like you said, and found some internships that might be good—” She consulted a list in her hand. “The Center for Anxiety internship looks amazing—”

“Oh, yes, the Center for Anxiety—I know the director, we were in grad school together, I could put in a word—”

“Would you?”

“Well, Lindsey, if you keep performing in your studies the way you have so far, I would tell him he’d be a fool not to hire you.”

“Oh, my gosh, thank you so much—”

He waved his hand dismissively. “It’s my job to find talent like yours,” he said. “I think you’re doing very well, and I can’t remember a student who has made such a strong start. Would you be available to work as my research assistant next term?”

Now she was so happy she was blushing. He reached out and took the paper from her unresisting fingers. “Lindsey, look at me,” he said. He felt a predator’s excitement as he prepared to reel in this latest unsuspecting victim. “Look at me, don’t look away, I want you to listen carefully—”

He paused for a moment in confusion. “Listen carefully to this poem—” He found the book of poems in his hand, and he began to read:

High o’er the hills of Habersham,

Veiling the valleys of Hall,

The hickory told me manifold

Fair tales of shade, the poplar tall

Wrought me her shadowy self to hold,

The chestnut, the oak, the walnut, the pine . . .

Wait—what was he doing? Why was he reading this doggerel? He could tell that Lindsey was confused too. “What—what is that poem, Professor? Did you write it?”

“Never mind,” he said, closing the book decisively. “Pay no attention—listen to me now.” He went back to his induction. “William the Conqueror, whose cause was favored by the pope, was soon submitted to by the English, who wanted leaders, and had been of late much accustomed to usurpation and conquest. Edwin and Morcar, the Earls of Mercia and Northumbria, and even Stigand, the patriotic archbishop of Canterbury, found it advisable—”

“Found what advisable?” Lindsey said.

“Who found? Oh, wait, found ‘it,’ you know—” he realized he had no idea what they were talking about.

“Professor, do you feel all right?” Lindsey said, her brow furrowed with concern.

Frank did suddenly feel a bit disoriented. He sat down heavily in his office chair and fanned his face.

“I’ll get you some . . . water,” she said.

“No, wait—come back—” But she was already gone, and the door closed behind her. He closed his eyes. What was happening to him? It had been the perfect moment to put the girl under and draw her to him—but instead he had begun reading this perfectly wretched poetry, then spouting gibberish about William the Conqueror—

After a few minutes, he heard the door open again. Without opening his eyes, he reached out his hand for the water. “Thanks, Lindsey,” he said.

“I’m not Lindsey.”

He opened his eyes to find a stunning woman standing over him. She was about 5′7″, graceful and buxom, with thick tawny hair that fell to her shoulders, and deep hazel eyes. Something about her seemed familiar.

“Hello, Professor. Remember me?”

* * *

In the middle of the night, Louis awoke with a sense that something was not right. The room was dark, but he could feel the body of his wife Elle next to him, tense as a coiled spring. He glanced over at her head on the pillow. Was it a hallucination that he could see her eyes, glowing from within, as she stared at the ceiling, or was it some psychic effect of her power over him—her total access to his mind, his will, and his body? He didn’t much care one way or the other—all he knew was that waking or sleeping, at home or elsewhere, he was always aware of Elle, wondering where she was and planning ways to do whatever she wanted, if possible before she knew she wanted it.

“Elle?” he said. “Are you all right?”

Her eyes burned in the darkness for a moment, then she answered, “Yes, Louis, I think so.”

Elle was usually a sound sleeper. “Something has to be bothering you.”

“Still thinking about . . . what we discussed,” she said.

“Oh, God,” Louis said. “I am so sorry I stirred those memories up, Elle, I would do anything to undo it.”

“No, Louis, you don’t understand,” she said. “It’s good. I am glad you did. I am glad I remember this stuff. It’s upsetting—but I feel lighter somehow. For the first time in a long time I feel . . . optimistic, if you know what I mean. Like things can change for the better.”

Louis blinked. He had never thought of Elle as a pessimist. She embodied energy, ambition, and desire—either hard at work on her writing projects, deeply enmeshed with the concerns of her clients, or thinking up new services—sexual and otherwise—that her hypnotized husband could be persuaded to perform.

But now he realized that all that energy had a grim underside too—as if she was harnessing it to keep her moving forward even when she didn’t want to. “You feel different now?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said. “I have those memories back and now I can decide what to do with them.”

“What do you think you should do?”

“First I need to feel them. And that’s . . . complicated.”


“The pain … well, yes… but Louis, the pain isn’t the problem.”

“No? What is, then?”

“Well,” she said—and for a moment, if he didn’t know better, he would have sworn that his wife sounded . . . embarrassed, even sheepish, as well as angry. “Well, what’s really hard to remember is the . . . pleasure, Louis.”

“The pleasure? Not sure I follow.”

“Don’t look at me right now,” she said. “No, I mean it! Look away so I can tell you.”

He averted his gaze.

“Louis, Professor Desmond was the first grown man I had ever been with,” she said. “I had a boyfriend . . . well, more a boy-toy… in high school named Arnie McNair. He was cute and eager to please and he had abs you could cut your wrists on—but no particular . . . well, skill . . . if you follow.”

Louis was trying not to get jealous, but he wasn’t sure he liked where the story was going. “I follow,” he said.

“Anyway, Desmond was older, he had been around. He was a real bastard but he had . . . skills.”

“You mean hypnotic skills?” Louis said somewhat hopefully.

“Well, those too—but I mean … you know, skills. I mean, the man knew his way around a woman’s body …”

Louis was starting to feel a bit nervous and a bit … inadequate. But, with difficulty, he kept listening.

“So he snapped his fingers and I fell into his arms, and once he had me he didn’t let go until he had me on my knees begging him to let me give him blow jobs any time he wanted them, day or night.”

“I . . . see,” Louis said.

“You probably do see, but you may not realize it yet,” she said. “When he seduced me, he had a lot of things going for him. I was 19 years old, just learning about life. I knew that hypnosis was powerful and that I wanted to learn it and practice it—and he was a world famous authority. He could teach me what I wanted to know, he could open doors for me…and with a few words, a wave of his hands, he could open . . . me.” She gave a deep sigh that unsettled him further. “I had never had orgasms like the ones I had on that stupid couch, Louis. I loved it. Every time he sent me away I walked out of his office counting how many hours it would be before I could come back and let him fuck me again. It was like a drug, Louis. I wanted him all the time, day and night, I thought about him when I woke up in the morning and when I fell asleep at night, I shopped on weekends for clothes or shoes or perfume or makeup I thought he might like. And when I didn’t see him, I .. I touched myself in the dark and whispered, his name. ‘Frank…Frank…’” He could see she was shivering.

“It’s okay, Elle,” he said. “It’s over.”

“I know that,” she said. “That’s the problem. I … well, since I remember, I realize I’ve missed it. I still miss it.”

This stunned Louis; to think that his brilliant, self-sufficient, dominant wife would miss this episode, in which a predator took advantage of her—it seemed impssible.

“I don’t follow,” he said. “I really don’t.”

“Bless your heart,” she said. “Let me see if I can explain it.” She put a forefinger against her forehead and thought for a moment. “Louis, listen carefully. I want you to imagine you are me—not me as I am now, but me at 19, me as a college student, a sexy little thing just finding her way in the world of sex and men—I have already realized that men find me attractive, and that some of them want to do things for me—but I don’t know what I can get away with and I don’t know what I want. Imagine how I felt at night, studying my body in the mirror, my legs and my breasts and wondering what I can do with them—can you feel it? I am small, feminine, I have a nice figure, I enjoy touching my own nipples—”

Louis gave a sharp intake of breath. His eyes had fallen shut. “Yes, Louis, that’s right, feel that body—the full breasts, the narrow waist, you can stroke yourself—” as if moving on their own, his hands began to move up and down his sides—“and now imagine you are standing in front of me, and I am the famous professor, Louis. I am bigger, older, smarter, stronger, wiser than you, I am magical, I look at you and you melt, you can let yourself feel that”—his breathing had become ragged now—“and I push you down and I say, ‘I want you now.’”

She turned on her side and pushed him until he was facing away from her toward the wall. Then she reached across him and took hold of his erection as she pressed herself against his back. “And I push you down on the couch and you can’t resist, you don’t want to resist, you want to drown in me, to disappear, and I push into you from behind, feel that, I’m fucking you from behind and you never knew you could be so open, you are blank and open and all you can feel is pleasure and now I say to you ‘You are going to come NOW!” and you do.” Louis gave a stifled scream, then he came in her hand in powerful spurts.“More! More! MORE!” she shouted in his ear. After his breathing slowed, she whispered, “And then I say you are special, I am this experienced man but I have never felt like this about a woman before, you made me face the emptiness of my marriage, my life means nothing without you and I will let you come back again soon and I send you home with a little kiss. How do you feel?”

“I . . . don’t want to go home,” he whispered.

“Did you enjoy what we did?”

“Yes, Professor,” he said.

“If you’re good I’ll fuck you again, do you think you can be a good girl for me?”

“Yes, Professor, I will do anything, anything—”

“That will do, Louis. Wake up now.” She snapped her fingers.

“Where . . . where am I?” he said.

“You’re in bed with me, Louis,” she said.

“Where is … where is the professor?”

“He’s gone, Louis. He’s not coming back.”


“How does that feel?”

“Um . . . Are you sure he won’t be back?”

“Pretty much. Louis, pay attention to how you feel. You’re addicted to the way I made you feel. You miss the feeling. Isn’t that right?”

There was a long silence, then he said softly, “My God, it wasn’t real?”

“The feeling was as real for you tonight as it was for me back then. I am not ‘really’ the professor—but he wasn’t ‘really’ who I thought he was either. And when I found that out he didn’t feel about me the way he said, something broke in me. Then before I could get over it, he built that wall in my mind so I couldn’t reach those feelings—abandonment, loss, addiction, and just plan inadequacy that I couldn’t make him want to stay with me. And when you helped me look past the wall all the feelings came rushing back.”

“Oh, God, Elle,” he said. “If you are feeling what I am feeling then it’s agony and I don’t know how to help you.”

She took his head in her hands and stared into his eyes. Once again they seemed to glow from within and he found himself helpless to look away. “The reason I am lying here awake is that for the first time in 15 years I was able to feel that grief. I missed the way he made me feel. But he made me forget it so I didn’t know I was missing it. I just missed something, my life seemed incomplete. Now you let me feel what I was missing. Louis, Professor Desmond’s wraith came slithering out from behind the wall and began to hiss at me—pretty soon I started to laugh! Once I realized I missed it, I didn’t need to miss it any more. And all I need now is to make amends to my younger self and the other girls he hurt.”

“How will you do that?” Louis said dreamily. He was not entirely following his wife’s explanation, not because it wasn’t clear but because their encounter had left him drained and her voice was rippling over his mind like a breeze ruffling a quiet pond and he was sinking deeper and deeper into the dark cool depths.

“Don’t worry your pretty little head about that, my darling boy,” Elle whispered. “That’s women’s work. Let’s make sure you’re okay, though. All you need to do is relax . . . relax and sleep . . . .”

* * *

“It’s Miss—Miss Murphy?” Desmond whispered to the woman who had appeared in his office.

“Please, Professor—you called me ‘Elle’ when you had me on the couch with my clothes off, it seems silly to be formal now, doesn’t it?” She looked over at his couch and said with a tight smile, “It’s the same couch, isn’t it? Tried and true, I guess. If those cushions could talk.”

“Miss Murphy, I am going to need you to leave my office before I call—”

“Call who? Security? Good idea! You can turn yourself in for your misconduct with female students, that would probably help the situation.”

“Don’t be silly,” he said. In his mind he wanted to quibble over the term “misconduct,” but it didn’t seem like the time to do so. “I don’t know what ‘misconduct’ you think you’re talking about, but if you cause a scene with unsubstantiated accusations—”

“You’ll deny them, will you?” said the blonde, seating herself gracefully on the couch, crossing her legs, and smoothing her stockings with her hands. “Are you quite sure about that? Look down at what you just wrote.”

“What are you talk—” He looked down at the desktop and saw a sheet of paper on which someone had written in large letters, I AM A SEXUAL PREDATOR.

“What? How?”

“I remember class session 12, Professor—Advanced Post-Hypnotic Suggestions. Is it still number 12? You know, I was madly in love with you but I still paid very close attention to your classes. Post-hypnotic suggestion can be very powerful, especially when delivered by five hypnotists at once. If I tell you to march over to Polgar Hall and confess to the provost every single dalliance you have conducted since you joined the faculty at State U., you will do it. And the next time you try to bed a little sophomore, you’ll end up doing more than reciting ‘Song of the Chattahoochee.’ In fact, Professor, you will never have one of your little romps again. And you are going to apologize to every single one of the girls—women—you did this to. In person. Do you understand?”

“Miss Murphy, I hardly think this is necessary—

“Professor—oh, do you mind if I call you Frank? Of course you don’t, do you, Frankie? Payback is a bi—payback is a bastard, isn’t it, Frankie boy? And if you put any brick walls in these women’s memories you’re going to have to tell them you did. You won’t be able to remove them now, of course, because you can’t hypnotize anyone anymore, but you can send them to me—I will clear the walls away so they can remember how you used them and threw them away. And if they want to notify the authorities about what you did. And finally, you will never hypnotize even a chicken again. If you try, you’ll end up reciting gibberish about medieval England or ridiculous Southern poetry or maybe just flipping your lip with your finger and going ‘Wubba wubba wubba,’ so don’t think even think about it.”

“But—but—if I can’t hypnotize—how can I teach my class?”

She waved a hand in the air to show how little she cared about that. “Good lord, I don’t know. Do what the other lazy profs do. Show a film strip. Have a grad student do it. Or stop teaching hypnosis and teach the kids about training rats to run through mazes or whatever experimentalists do.”

She rose to her feet, a tidy, trim package of outrage. “So here’s wishing you the best, Frankie boy. You’d better get busy on that apology tour. Shahrzad will be checking on your progress. Think of her as your parole officer—and don’t even think about trying to fool her. She’s got a few triggers to use—you might end up clucking like a chicken in front of the faculty assembly.” She picked up a small clutch purse, smoothed her skirt over her hips, and said, “Oh, by the way, Lindsey won’t be back this morning. She and I had a talk and she is re-examining her academic schedule. Ta-ta for now, cutie-pie.”

Then she was gone. And with her went that invigorating sense that life was wonderful. Instead, nothing waited for him today except the eventual long walk home, which was, he realized for the first time, entirely uphill. And after that—after that, endless recitals of “Song of the Chattahoochee.” No hypnosis, no adoring sophomores, only long nights at home with a wife who had basically stopped speaking to him around the time of Hurricane Katrina.

Twelve years until retirement. Suddenly it seemed a long, long time.