Professor Dudley Worthington’s Lifetime Achievement Award

Professor Dudley Worthington did not want to go to the award’s ceremony. He detested them.

He and his wife were about to walk out the door.

“I’ve been to these things before,” he said. “I hate the chicken. They just order out from Kentucky Fried Chicken. It’s always fried and this suit went out of style ten years ago.”

“But, dear,” she said. “It’s for you.”

“They could just drop it by my office or classroom,” he said. “It’s a whole lot of bother for an achievement award. You know what an achievement award is don’t you? It’s when you’ve done nothing of note and they just appreciate you’ve hung in there and they didn’t have to hire some other dolt to grade papers and make cutting remarks. It means you should have retired five years ago. If this college would have had a decent retirement I would have been gone ten years ago. Forty years teaching uninspired twits is painful.”

“Just think,” she said. “It will all be over within an hour and we can go home and catch the end of the game.”

They drove to Everett Hall on campus.

“There must be something big going on here,” he said. “The parking lot is full. It’s probably some global warming conference. How many gallons of gas did it take for all these people to get here – twits!”

They parked the car. “Let’s go in the side entrance,” he said. “That way we don’t have to rub up against all those twits who think they can change the world one plastic bottle at a time.”

“Where do you get your award?” she said. “Down at the Beacon Room. That’s where the sideshows take place. Global warming and plastic bottles, that’s the big time. I hope they don’t have that Jell-O salad stuff, but I’m hungry now. I‘ll eat anything.”

They walked a small corridor toward the Beacon Room, Professor Worthington looking uncomfortable in his suit and Mrs. Worthington looking smart.

“You sure look good tonight,” he said.

“Thank you,” she said. “It’s a special night.”

“It’s not,” he said. “They have these things every so often for us professors who kept our mouth shut and accomplished nothing. Peterson down at the physics department dug some data out of a trashcan and published it. He toured for two years and made big money while still collecting here. All he had was big mouth and funny hair.”

A man in a suit approached them. “This way Professor,” he said showing them to the door to the main auditorium. “They’re introducing you now, just walk to the lectern.”

“I don’t understand,” Professor Worthington said. “I’m supposed to go to the Beacon Room.”

“The response was so overwhelming we had to use the main auditorium,” he said.

“And now here is Professor Worthington!” The President of the university said from the lectern on the stage and gestured for Professor Worthington.

Professor Worthington shuffled astonished to the lectern before the packed auditorium.

“Professor, your award.” He was handed a plaque.

He squinted and looked out over the well-dressed crowd. “I thought this was going to be in the Beacon Room and we’d have fried chicken and Jell-O salad. Can somebody take my wife and I out afterwards. I only got a couple bucks in my pocket. We thought we was at least going to get fed.”

There was laughter.

“I really don’t know what to say,” Professor Worthington said. “I prepared something for a few colleagues. Some off-color stuff meant to go no further than the Beacon Room, but I look out over the audience and I see a lot of you twits who were in my class over the years. Margaret Stanton, still enough adverbs to choke a horse. Chester Gooding, still trying to write a good paragraph. Mike Smith, I told you to teach because you couldn’t write. Rebecca Boswell, talented, but not disciplined. I’m sure glad none of you didn’t take my advice and continued to work hard and write well.”

Professor Worthington scanned the audience. “When I first took the job here it was supposed to be only long enough to finish my first novel. I had a hundred pages done. I got busy teaching. That novel still has a hundred pages. I’ve just been too busy, but I’ve read nearly every book my students have written and I see something I’ve taught in every one of them. So I suppose I’ve written a thousand books by now. You will never know how much you have enriched my life. Thanks for this award. Now, I think my wife and I are going to grab something down at Kentucky Fried Chicken. She’s got a few bucks squirreled in the back of her purse. Thanks.”

Professor Worthington started to exit and quickly came back to the lectern. “By the way I see a lot of plastic bottles out there. This global warming and recycling thing has become quite the rage. Don’t just toss them in the parking lot when you leave here tonight.”


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