The papers were, apparently, not research in and of themselves- but rather a sort of index of potential research projects, and a brief evaluation of papers from other journals, at least from the limited exposure that Tess had in her efforts toward assisting him.
"Are you a friend of Johan's?" The man asked distractedly, as he ran his hands over the ground in search for the stray documents, sighing tragically at one that was apparently sopping wet. Finally drawing the documents together he eyed Tess somewhat warily, as if he were certain she had some sort of subterfuge in mind.
"Professor Carraba, yes. He's my employer. Do you know of him?" The man eyed his pocketwatch briefly and then looked over at Tess expectantly, as if she were delaying him from an incredibly important appointment, though judging from the state of his papers, he wouldn't be having a very successful one.
Extending a hand, he smiled what might have been a winning smirk- had it not also been immensely distracted. "Professor Mikhail Hammond."
�No, I�ve never met the man,� Tess began to explain, handing over the last of the papers she had gathered. �At least not yet.� She smiled in a friendly, but too familiar manner, and carefully shook his extended hand, mindful of the papers he held. It would not do to send them flying once again.
�Tessalee Robinson,� the woman responded to his introduction. �It�s a pleasure to meet you, Professor. I�m a Graduate Student. At least I will be, if all goes well at my meeting with Professor Carraba in a couple of days.�
�But I hope I haven�t kept you for too long,� Tess added, by way of apology for the delay that was not entirely her fault.
The papers had shown her just enough to get her intrigued, but the chance to talk to a professor from her proposed Graduate School compelled her to find a way to prolong their contact. He had a lot of work to do, a short time to do it, and a mess of paperwork to deal with. The answer was obvious.
�Perhaps I can be of some assistance with sorting through your paperwork?� Tess suggested, smiling winsomely. It sounded utterly clerical, something a secretary would do, but it was an acceptable means to an end.
"A graduate student, eh?" A small smile on his lips as he chuckled softly. "Fresh meat, as they say. I suppose then, it's only proper that I allow you to help. Get you used to being at the beck and call of the professors, you know." Mikhail nodded sagely, almost wistfully, as if recalling his own days as a graduate student, fondly- or perhaps still a bit tired from the late hours his job doubtless required.
He eyed his watch once again. "I think I'd better get to the office, soon, though. Got some work to finish up, there." Lip formed an indecisive line upon the man's countenance and he seemed to be considering several options, weighing each in turn. After a few moments of deliberation, he handed the stack of papers over to Tess and waved for her to follow him.
"You can sort those out, if you want," he started off, moving backwards almost lethargically as he waited for Tess to match his own pace. "But for now, I think I shall be going to the office. Please, come with. It couldn't hurt for you to see your new place of work before you're formally employed, now could it?" He looked thoughtful and then shook his head. "I hope you appreciate that I'm trusting you, in this. I don't have any proof that you really -are- one of the graduate students we've applied for."
Shrugging his shoulders, he moved in the direction of uptown D.C.
Tess received the stack of papers with an inward chuckle. She was actually oddly pleased at the thought of spending New Year�s sorting papers in an office, and she easily matched his pace.
�I confess, I am very glad to have the chance to have an advanced look,� Tess replied. �And I do appreciate your trust in my. I�ve left the Professor�s letter in my hotel room, so I can�t even produce that for you just now. All I have with me is his name and telephone number,� she explained as they walked along.
�I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto,� Tess added conversationally, although it was also intended to provide her claim with some merit.
She went on to tell Mikhail of the professors she had studied under, certain that he would be familiar with them, if he did not actually know any of them personally. The discipline was still exclusive enough that a Canadian or American in the field would know at least one person at every university in the two countries, it seemed. It was one of those areas where the border seemed to fade if not disappear entirely.
"Well, who can resist a pretty smile like that? Worst comes to worst, you steal my documents and I have to reprint them. A bit annoying, but I'd be no worse for the wear." The man didn't seem especially affected, coughing and brushing himself off, even yet. He seemed rather relieved to be sharing his burden, truth be told, even if he did repeatedly peer at his timepiece, picking up his pace slightly every time he did so.
"Don't worry about it. I doubt Johan is liable to care, much. He's fond of women, some might say, and I mean that in the best possible way." A brief smile lit upon his face, as if at a fond memory, and then he turned to Tess, interested in her once again.
"You studied under Johanssen? That must have been quite an honor, then," Mikhail shook his head in appreciation. "What's your speciality, if you don't mind my asking? It seems these days everyone is finding one specific area to focus on... I think it's the end of the age of generalities, really." An almost tragic nod, despite his smile, and he winked in the young woman's direction.
"I'm more for Arabian cultures, myself."
The fact that the professor did not seem interested in her on a personal level came as a relief to Tess. It was tedious having to give the �I don�t get by on my back� speech. Still, she smiled at the polite compliment, however hollow and then she chuckled at his suggestion that she might steal his papers. It was the sort of thing only academics could find plausible. After all, who else would want them?
Tess nodded once again, as she spoke of the Canadian professor. �He provided me with an excellent reference, which I�m sure had a great deal to do with having the position at George Washington extended to me.� She was well aware of the calibre of her references, hard-earned though they were. It was the only reason that she could even consider graduate studies. Anything less and a woman had no hope of continuing on, at least not in this field.
�My specialty isn�t geographical,� Tess said, responding with a look of sympathetic understanding. �I�m focusing on ancient religions and religious practices. I find it a fascinating area,� she explained, her passion for the subject clear in her voice. �So much to learn. So much to discover,� the woman added, gazing off into the middle distance with unseeing eyes, as she momentarily lost herself in the possibilities.
�The Arabian cultures are certainly worthy of study,� Tess went on, bringing herself back to reality, and casting a smile at Mikhail. �From the nomadic tribes to the more sophisticated cultures in which civilization began� I had the honour of accompanying two of our professors on an excavation in Jordan two summers ago. But I imagine you�ve been to many places in the middle east,� she observed, although her tone suggested that she was inviting him to tell her more.
Not personally interested in Tess was perhaps the understatement of the year-- for Mikhail seemed to look at Tess as if she were just a tool, or a vessel. It was the familiar way that a professor treats his graduate students, though perhaps not so dismissive. The young man didn't seem to believe himself to hold dominion over Tess, but he was certainly not looking her over even remotely. One of those fellows who were always consumed with their studies, and regarded everything else as secondary to that. Certainly not unfamiliar to Tess, given her experiences.
"George Washington seems pretty determined to accept primarily American applications, to be honest," eyes still upon the ground in front of him as the pair of them drew nearer to the impressive campus of George Washington University. Already, the famous statue of the school's namesake could be seen- the golden surface glinting in the moonlight. "It seems somewhat odd that a Canadian woman would get into the program. You most definitely must be something special, considering the fact that you are here at all."
A smirk on his face, as she mentioned ancient religions. "You'll probably get along well with Johan, then. He's always blathering to me about the Incan Sun God, or whatever. I really don't know what he's talking about..." a kind of far-off look entered Mikhail's eyes, his gaze no longer on the road but on someplace beyond it. "... but I can't help but listen anyway. There's something passionate about him that just... draws people to him. His formality mixed with eccentricity... I don't know."
"Wow, Jordan? That must have been very intriguing." He smiled a bit widely, glad to see that she shared his interests. "I've been on a few digs, but it's only recently that I've had the luxury to really explore at my will. Before, I was always just a consulting expert on small and particulate areas of study. It'll be a relief to get to manage my own projects. Johan is very keen on that sort of thing... people controlling their own little sphere of knowledge."
Again, that far-off smile as he concluded, "It's a really intelligent approach to things, to tell the truth."
�Thank you,� Tess replied to the man�s comment about her being �something special�, although she expected that it was meant more as an observation than a complement. She was, of course, fully aware of the �honour� being done her, and there were always those who would be more than happy to remind her, in case she were ever in danger of forgetting it. Mikhail was not one of these though, in Tess� estimation.
Well, whatever Professor Carraba might think upon meeting her, Tess was pleased to find that they shared a passion for ancient religions. That could prove a definite advantage to her. It was also clear that Mikhail thought the world of the man, although the way that Mikhail spoke of him was just a touch unsettling.
This feeling, however, she set aside with the turn of the conversation. Tess was pleased to have the reports confirmed that the university was moving in that direction. It was one of the things that drew her here. She loved the adventure, the thrill of discovery.
Then Tess noted the far-off smile return once again, and ventured, �You seem to think very highly of Professor Carraba.�
"How can one think anything but?" The question asked, almost desperately incredulous, that smile on his face. It wasn't quite leery, or really disconcerting- indeed, it was as if Mikhail had simply grown up as an avid fan of Carraba. "You've read his treatise on the religions of Central America, haven't you? Truly remarkable stuff, really. I was thoroughly impressed with it- I practically think of it as required reading for anyone who wishes to enter that particular field of study. Hell, even thouse who want to study the generalities of religion would do well to familiarize themselves with Johan's work."
A sort of feigned casualness had very slowly entered Mikhail's voice, and his eyes did not seem quite capable of meeting up with those of Tess, and the subject change was rather sudden, as he blurted. "Don't you have any figures you look up to? I've worked with Johan for many many years- so I assume you must have a similar regard for your colleages, yes?"
He at last looked at Tess- with a sort of forced winning smile- as the two of them rose up the steps that led into the Jefferson Building of George Washington University, the building that Tess would soon come to know as the place where all of the history professors were forced to tolerate students of archaeology with only a sort of feigned interest. The archaeologists, for their part, viewed things according to the wise addage:
"Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." And that was exactly what the relationship seemed to boil down to- both sides feeling vaguely condescending.
"But be careful of Johan. Like I said, he tends to flirt with most women, whether he's aware of it or not. It makes me wonder if he will ever settle down with anyone." Quietly spoken, in the tone of warning, of course. "But then, I guess he's rather young, by professorial standards."
Tess nodded as Mikhail spoke of Carraba�s achievements. It had seemed to her that his work focused on Central America, and she had hoped not to specialize in one particular region, but she had naturally read the professor�s published papers.
�Yes, certainly,� she agreed, as Mikhail paused before changing the direction of their conversation.
�Oh, yes,� Tess replied, smiling openly as she thought of a couple of her professors. They had been staunchly opposed to her serious pursuit of archaeology at first. Perhaps it was the challenge of winning them over that added to the value of their regard. �I have two associates at the University of Toronto who are for me just as you describe. While I respect every member of the faculty, these two professors stand out as� examples of greatness to aspire to professionally.�
If not personally, she added with a laugh to herself. One was a womanizer and the other was divorced, his wife having left him for another man, so rumour had it.
Tess looked around them with interest as they approached the building and then ascended the stairs. Then Tess flashed Mikhail an amused smile.
�I won�t forget,� she said, chuckling softly. �In fact, it will be a little taste of home,� Tess added, thinking of the former of her two mentors. She had proven uniquely immune to his charms, but had eventually won his professional respect.
�Is he quite young then?� Tess asked, interested to learn more of the professor. �And not married then?� She kept her voice politely neutral with that particular, practically rhetorical question. The last thing she wanted was to give the impression that she was trolling for a husband. �I shall be particularly careful then.�
�Forewarned� and all that, she chuckled to herself.
Mikhail cursed as he struggled to find the correct key for the Jefferson Building. Not realizing his company, he didn't even recoil the language, but instead muttered in an earthy tone, "Why they lock the doors to a building full of useless text books I'll never understand."
Trying one or two keys from the well-endowed key collection, he at last found the correct one and opened the wood-paneled door revealing a darkened hallway beyond. Classrooms bordered the tiled hall with regular bulletin boards cast in between the doors. The torrents of education had long since drained from the premises and an eerie stillness radiated from within.
"Hm? Young, yes. Perhaps. He can't be much older than I am and much farther along I'd say. After all, he is the one with the assistant damning him to make a New Years Day deadline."
The man quickly made his way down the hall talking as he went.
"Do you know what you will be studying then? I assume the boss has a lab planned for you already."
Tess chuckled to herself at Mikhail�s frustration with the formidable key collection. Yet it was understandable, as the man was facing a rapidly approaching deadline. She followed him down the darkened hallway, gazing about with interest as they progressed, despite the lack of light.
�I really don�t know much at all,� the woman replied to his query. �The Professor seemed more concerned about ascertaining whether or not I was serious about pursuing my masters, rather than settling down and starting a family.� Despite her attempt to keep her tone neutral, her lack of enthusiasm for the domestic life showed in her voice as she spoke. �I suppose we�ll work that out at our meeting,� she concluded thoughtfully.
"Well," he said mostly to himself as they went, "Hopefully he's going to unload these Rogelj papers on you. . . assign them to you, that is. Did you say you had an affinity for the Holy Land? Surely I heard you say that."
He laughed at what must have been a joke with a subversive and involuntary snort. Eventually they summated two landings of a staircase before at last emerging into an classroom having recently experienced a hurricane of deadline-related work. Desks were pulled against the wall to make room for large folding tables that carried stacks of paper, fileboxes, files, and slides. A projector, still running, flashed photos on a blank wall. Two office desks were buried under more of the same and the distant sound of a radio played jazz from an unknown pile in the room.
He flipped on the florescent lights and dumped his pile on one of the few remaining untouched areas of the room. Stretching his back he yawned and said, "We have to compile a filebox for a speaker tomorrow. Four years of college and you too can do this."
--Laveaux 18:03, 11 December 2005 (CST)
Tess chuckled at Mikhail�s desire to pass on the paperwork. She did not bother to mention that Central and South America held more interest to her than the Hold Land. There was plenty of latitude in the area of religion and mythology. If the Middle East was the area she was assigned, then so be it.
The woman looked about at the chaos as her eyes adjusted to the florescent lights. It was a truly daunting sight. Surely it was in better order than it appeared. If not, then she had just volunteered to spend until the wee hours of January 1st sorting through it all.
Talking a deep breath, Tess replied, �Alright then, where do we start?�
Mikhail crossed his arms and sighed.
"Well. I'll start on this end of the room and you start on that end. Pull everything having to do with mythology."
After a moment he said, "Don't worry, this room has been widdled down to circumstantial mythology relating to Latin and Arabic rooted languages."
Humming a song he went to his side of the room and immediately went to work. After a pile of files were collected he set them into the communal file boxes at the center of the room.
"Becomes a meditation after a while," he said.
It would be hours before they were finished.
--Laveaux 18:03, 11 December 2005 (CST)
With a half-shrug, Tess started in on the papers at her end. �The sooner started, the sooner finished,� as her mother was fond of saying. Besides, it would be interesting to find out more about the research going on here at the moment, before her meeting with the Professor. She knew, of course, what had been published by members of the faculty. That was a large part of what drew her to this particular university. Yet, the specifics of ongoing research that had not been published was often less well known to other schools, let alone those in another country. It was going to be a long night, but it was also a unique opportunity, and Tess preferred to focus on that aspect of the evening�s employment.
Hours passed as the two sifted and organized the mountains of paperwork, files, and photographs. The work was methodical, repetitive and as her colleague pointed out, somewhat meditative. Patterns were beginning to emerge with each passing collation and filing. The documents were clearly comparing similar mythologies between western and middle eastern cultures.
There were three file boxes alone drawing comparisons between the Judeo-Christian creation myth and the origins of Zoroastrianism. Some secondary sources cited various ancient oral traditions that spoke of the same collage of events that made up creationism leading up to the exile of Adam and Eve from Eden. Yet another set of research discussed startling similarities to Native American traditions and Buddhist ones. Two file boxes were about the similarities between Christ's teachings and those of an obscure Hindu sect.
By the time the sun rose, the two were compiling the last of the research for the guest speaker. They had managed to widdle things down to five boxes.
"I suppose you'll want some coffee, then?" Mikahil asked after a heavy sigh.
--Laveaux 18:03, 11 December 2005 (CST)
Tess laughed. What else could she do? She was exhausted and in desperate need of sleep, and he was offering her coffee, grudgingly.
�Coffee, or sleep,� she replied, as soon as she was able to contain her laughter.
�Either way, I�ll give the desk clerk at my hotel a bit of a surprise, strolling in after dawn.� Tess grinned broadly at the thought of the youth�s expression.
�I will need your help finding my way back to the Veldt though,� Tess admitted, finally abating her chuckling. �Getting here is like a vague memory, of something that happened� last year,� she jested, stifling another fit of laughter.
The researcher laughed without realizing it when Tess mentioned sleep. He stopped abruptly as he considered she may not be joking.
Scratching the back of his neck he said, "Don't think there'll be any sleep for a while yet. I make a mean cup of joe, so don't worry too much.
"Fact is, the seminar is in an hour and for the sake of your career, you won't want to miss it."
He poured coffee from a hidden machine behind four file boxes and and handed the sludge to her.
"Some may say it was serendipity that brought us together, I'd say you are in good with the Almighty. Who knows? Maybe you'll earn a field trip out of this. God knows I've avoided them long enough."
He took a sip and cringed as if it were whiskey.
--Laveaux 18:03, 11 December 2005 (CST)