By the time you reach Kaplan, he is surrounded by the usual claque of admiring students, saying goodbye and making their final comments, as though they are graduating from high school instead of just having finished one of many classes they will take before getting their degree. But eventually they disperse and Kaplan notices you. “Can I help you?” he asks.
“You can tell me why I got a different test than everyone else,” you say.
“There was only one test,” he says.
“Mine was the only green one,” you point out. He frowns at it. “Well, it certainly isn’t a pleasing color,” he says. “But the department uses whatever paper they can get a good rate for. You know, budgets are awfully tight all around. Did you know, in fact, that the University’s faculty compensation rate ranks 28th among the top 30 institutions … or 27th, or is it–”
Your patience snaps. “Well, look at the answers,” you say.
Kaplan squints at the coincidental spelling. “Well, that’s odd,” he says. “But I still fail to see your point.”
“It is an odd coincidence! It’s too odd! And I don’t believe everybody got this test!” Before you can stop yourself the whole story spills out about your winning the contest and losing the ticket, right up to taking the test and getting the message. Kaplan stares.
“That is certainly an extraordinary tale,” he says loftily. “But I assure I am no part of it, and if you continue to pursue this with such misguided zeal, I’d have to say that you might be better off spending spring break in a therapist’s office than in some tropical paradise.”
He turns to leave. Something about his arrogant tone makes you even more suspicious. “Wait!” you say firmly. You spring after him, and then something horrible happens.
You’ve grabbed his arm, but he keeps going. For just a minute, then you are both staring at his arm, which you are holding. His prosthetic arm.
“Are you happy?” Kaplan snaps. “Can’t you people leave me alone? All us one-armed men aren’t criminals!”
He drops his satchel and sits down with his head in his hands. You can’t believe this. Now he’s weeping.
“I’ve been made a suspect all my life. Every time my neighbors don’t get their morning paper they give me this look. It’s the fault of that show! ‘The Fugitive!'”
You feel terrible.
“– and you know, the original real-life story, it wasn’t even a one-armed man at all! It was a ‘bushy-haired intruder!'”
You glance at the clock. Prof. Kaplan is a disturbed man, but you’re pretty sure he’s not behind the theft of your airline ticket. Time is of the essence here, but what can you do? Throw the man’s arm in his lap, say ‘my mistake’ and run off to follow up another lead?
By now, Kaplan is beside himself: “– and why did they have to make a full-length movie out of it!” he is wailing. “Just when people were starting to forget!”
You would gladly trade two vacations if only you could get this man to stop crying. So after the two of you reattach his prosthetic arm, you go out for drinks. He outpaces you and launches into a long story about how he once saw had dinner with Milton Friedman and the great economist needed help figuring out the tip. Afterward you go home and call your sister in Eau Claire to tell her you’re going there for spring break instead of Baja. You never find out what happened with your test, but Kaplan is apparently so mortified by his loss of composure in front of you that he gives you an automatic A.