Firewall Economics Primer

The short answer is capitalism for luxuries and socialism for necessities. All economies are mixtures of capitalism and socialism, but I contend that they do not mix well and should be separated by a firewall. Keep the profit vultures out of the home heating oil markets and let them play casino capitalism with sports cars, expensive watches, and anything else a person is free not to buy. If they have you over a barrel, that’s a necessity and the market for that good or service should be not for profit, regulated, and subsidized if necessary.

The best way for me to explain firewall economics is to simply ask people to read chapter 2 of THE FIREWALL SEDITION. It’s a short chapter, and I’ll put it up here with a brief setup. David Armstrong is my protagonist. He is a young economist at the University of Chicago. His father is also a professor of economics there and so is his future father in law. In this scene David and his fiance Dori go to dinner at her parent’s home. Her father is a traditional conservative economist and high up on the pecking order at the university. David is far to the left of all of them. Dori let’s it slip during dinner that David has written a big paper and her father suspects that it is too radical for his own good.  David explains and defends his paper as a rational centrist model that actually saves capitalism by restricting it to markets that do not involve human necessities.

 

Chapter 2

Dori opened the back door and sang out, “You ready?”

Let me close the windows and lock up.” He rushed back in and tried to pull a sticky window down. The others were no better. It took a while, but he got them all down and secured before locking the back door on his way back out. His shirt got tangled in the seat belt as he got in the truck and turned it over.

Dori was already there. “Did you say you were going to work on taxes tonight”? She pulled the mirror down to check her makeup.

No time. I’ll call him later.” He stomped the clutch and pulled the stick down into first gear.

You haven’t eaten anything yet have you? I’ll call Mom while you grab something. No telling how long before we eat there. What’s in the cup? Is that straight whiskey? I can smell it.”

There’s a hot dog stand real close.” He pulled down the driveway, drove three blocks and parked in a bus stop.

Dori made the call while David ordered two hot dogs from a tiny walk up stand. People in Chicago take hot dogs seriously. He laughed at a sign that said: “You can have Ketchup on your dog but we will have to kill you.” David liked mustard, relish, and lots of onion but he only asked for mustard, yet another sacrifice for tonight. He ate the first dog before he got back in the truck and stuck the second one in his mouth like a big cigar as he took off. Dori talked to her mother on the phone.

He’s back now Mom, but he can’t talk. He has something in his mouth. Talk to you later.” She snapped it shut.

Hmmmm,” he growled and grinned.

Take Lake Shore big boy. It’s faster.”

A garbage truck got in the way. “OK, hang on.” He grinned like a cab driver in a movie who was asked to step on it. The route was a straight shot east on Roosevelt Road to the downtown loop where they could turn north along the shore line and run that up to Skokie. The scenery on Roosevelt between Oak Park and downtown was depressing. This was the area that burned in the riots of the 1960s. Many of the buildings were gone. There seemed to be a repeating pattern block after block: vacant lot, church, funeral parlor, liquor store. Next block, same pattern, over and over, all the way downtown. One stop shopping for a short desperate life. David contemplated the vacant lots full of glass shards reflecting the late afternoon sun like a field of stars. They were the remnants of thousands of half pints consumed around winter fires in rusty fifty five gallon drums.

There seemed to be a red light every few blocks, but not once were two cars stopped at the same light all the way downtown. Roosevelt was typically deserted on early Sunday evenings. Once they were on Lake Shore Drive however, everything changed. Cars and trucks and buses and lots of cabs passed and changed lanes with wild abandon. This was serious driving. You paid attention and make no sudden decisions. If you missed an exit, the best thing to do was let it go by. Sudden lane changes were a bad gamble. To their right the lake looked like a sea. To the left were high rise apartments for the wealthy with glass front full length lake views, twenty thousand dollar under the street parking spaces, in house grocery, laundry, spa, and banking. David drove by without looking at the money. He just enjoyed the growl of the modified power plant under the hood and scanned the choppy lake all the way up north.

They tried to take a short cut to Skokie and got lost. After driving around for twenty minutes they saw a familiar landmark and found the right street. David picked a parking spot. A kid driving too fast with a hundred decibels of bass booming in his trunk missed sideswiping them by less than a foot. Cars were parked on both sides of the narrow street. After several tries David managed to parallel park and took a big gulp of his drink before chewing a handful of mints and manually rolling up the windows.

You’ll do great,” she reassured him.

I’m glad you think so.” He turned the engine off and looked up.

He don’t bite. And he likes you already.”

I know. Let’s get this over with,” he mumbled as he opened the door and stepped out and looked at the house. It didn’t seem that special. It was just a big bungalow. The yard was big and in perfect shape, but to him it was not worth anything near what people there paid for a house like that. He knew about location, location, location, but he could get the same house in Iowa City for less than half as much. They opened the gate to the back yard and were greeted by an eager dachshund who seemed to know both of them and rolled over on its back to beg for a belly rub.

Hello baby.” Dori pampered the dog and laughed in a high voice.

Her mother called out from the back porch. “Mitzi come. Come Mitzi.”

Hi Mom. It’s us,” she announced.

Come in honey. Dinner is almost ready. Abe! The kids are here”!

Dori escorted David into the dining room as everyone exchanged greetings. The good china was on the table but the atmosphere was informal. It was a warm Sunday and a time for family. Dr. Goodman brought the steaks in from the back yard grill. There was home grown salad and fresh fruit that looked delicious. Dori smelled the aroma of fresh flowers and felt good about being there. The dog started yipping from just outside the back door.

Go on Mitzi”! Mrs. Goodman shooed it away.

No Mom,” Dori insisted. “Let her stay with us.”

Dr. Goodman laughed. “He always was your buddy alright. He still goes right for your room when I let him in. That is, when he isn’t stealing my socks from the laundry.”

He likes you Dad.”

I think I need an insulin shot, thought David.

Dr. Goodman laughed. “There’s nothing like showing up in front of a class with one black sock and one navy blue sock and explaining about my little Nazi dog.” Everybody laughed. Mrs. Goodman popped the back door open and the little dog did three laps around the table before snuggling up to Dori’s feet.

Now be good and stay right there,” she warned.

Barbara Goodman was fifteen years younger and a lot more conservatively Jewish than her husband Abe. Her daughter looked just like her but was shorter than her mom. Mother and daughter were close. David was protestant and that was a problem. The very same independence that her mother instilled in her daughter gave Dori the resolve to resist the pressure to marry someone Jewish and started an ongoing circular argument between them.

Abe Goodman looked like a man who was comfortable with his age in his late fifties. The lines on his face made him look wise. His eyes were a sort of brownish blue. He wore reading glasses that hung from a chain around his neck, but never went for the pocket protector. Nightly walks on the Skokie sidewalks kept him trim, along with calorie counting and situps. He walked every night, good weather or not, frequently stopping to chat with families sitting out on their front porches. He liked to remind them that the new subdivisions were usually being built without sidewalks or porches. He was always a good listener, but usually did not linger too long in one place. He remembered the names of all the children, and loved to tell young car lovers about the classic Jaguar he bought years ago for two thousand and change. The one that was now worth more than the average home.

The steak platter went around with polite formalities and a little more small talk. Dr. Goodman kept the ball in the air. “No sun again today. I saw a study that attributed the higher incidence of depression in Chicago to only one hundred days of sunlight per year.”

That’s Chicago alright,” said Dori.

I’ve been to Florida in the summer,” said David. “I’ll take Chicago anytime.” He was ready for the insulin shot again.

Not the winters,” Dori broke in. “I hate the cold. It’s a wet cold.”

Yeah,”said David. “And thank God for the train when the door on my truck freezes shut. I came out one morning last winter, you know, worried that it wouldn’t start. Never got a chance to try it. I couldn’t even get the door open. The ice on the door was like three inches thick. I just jumped on the train.” He started wondering if he smelled like whiskey.

Dori smiled and patted his arm. “Was it busy”?

Standing room only all day,” he laughed.

You mean you didn’t get to ski down Roosevelt Road,” joked Dr. Goodman.

David laughed for real and sipped his iced tea. “I saw a bumper sticker on Roosevelt Road the other day. It cracked me up. But not because of the joke. Because I knew the driver didn’t…well…have a father in the house.”

What did it say”?

Well it was an old Chevy, but it was in pretty good shape. Pretty clean. There were two girls in it that must have like just turned sixteen. They were obviously cruising. The radio was real loud. The bumper sticker said ‘Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere.’ I’m not kidding.” Everybody laughed and David insisted, “If there was a father in the house, and that car was in the driveway, you know. That sticker wouldn’t survive one day.”

Right you are sir,” Dr. Goodman approved. “What kind of music was on the radio? What do you call that stuff dear? Salsa? Samba”?

It’s not important,” she said, waving her hand. “The kids just need to rebel, just like they always do.”

It’s worse than that,” he said. “Some of that noise. Grunge? You can rebel against the laws of society, but not against the laws of physics. Playing a C next to a C sharp is not a revolutionary act. It’s just dissonance.” Everyone laughed. He knew David felt uncomfortable and he thought he knew why. It was a vicious cycle. He avoided coming over because he felt funny, but if he came by more often he wouldn’t feel that way.

Mrs. Goodman broke in and asked Dori about her job. “And how is work? Are they keeping you busy down there? Are they giving you challenging things to do? I know you like it there, but you’re so smart. You could be a lawyer yourself and show them a thing or two I’ll bet.” She stabbed a whole potato with her fork. David wanted to visit the flask in the truck.

I’m fine Mom. I don’t just answer the phone and do word processing. I meet a lot of important people. It’s really interesting.” She changed the subject. “David has a new paper. Haven’t you David”?

He was glad that he had a bit of chewing to do before he could reply because he was not at all ready to talk about it and carefully considered his reply before responding. “Yes. But it’s anything but finished. And I’m not exactly sure how it will be received.” Well done, he thought.

I’m sure anything you do will be well received,” said Dr. Goodman. “But why do you say that”?

It might be a bit too progressive for U.C.”

Tell me about it. It sounds interesting.” He sensed he wouldn’t like it. He worried about his daughter’s future economic security, his own reputation, and his prospects for being a grandfather without raising the child himself.

It’s broad.” David decided to relax.

I like young people who think big. When you’re young you feel like you can change the world all by yourself. How broad”?

Broad broad.” He smiled inside.

Broader than a breadbox”?

Yes.”

Broader than a new mathematical proof”?

Oh yeah.” He started to enjoy the tension.

Is it mathematical or theoretical”?

That’s right. It’s theoretical.” Here we go now, he thought.

Oh why not. Sure. Just because we see you as our math whiz. You know. Don’t think we don’t respect your theoretical talent. Of course you should do a theoretical paper. Your father no doubt has something to do with it. We have nothing but praise for his theoretical work. Are you expanding on some of his recent work on the relationship between technology and productivity”?

He doesn’t know anything about it.” He laughed to himself and thought, This is the most fun you can have with your pants on.

Dr. Goodman lost it. “I suppose it’s the next socialist manifesto then. Shit! Here we go.” He dropped his fork on his plate.

Hey, look at the time,” interrupted Dori. “Mom, why don’t you and I clear the table while these two distinguished gentleman retire to the library and vent all this wonderful testosterone and finish all this lovely male bonding”? She stood up.

Yes dear. That’s a fine idea.” Her mother backed her up, but not before throwing a glare at her husband that needed no clarification.

Yes young man,” Dr. Goodman insisted. “Please come into the library.”

David took Dori’s hand and smiled. “If I don’t come back you can have my CD collection.”

Dad please, he didn’t kill anybody.” She loved it.

I’ll be the judge of that.” He shook his head and pulled open some sliding wood doors that retracted into the walls. The library smelled like furniture polish and window cleaner. The interior walls were covered with beautiful hardwoods from floor to ceiling and capped with ornate solid oak crown molding. The wide board floors looked original. The windows were large like you would see in an old school room. They threw a great deal of light on a big wooden desk, the only thing in the room that looked new. Bookshelves with glass doors kept the dust off centuries of accumulated wisdom. The chairs were leather of course, and dark red. There was not, never had been, and would never be, a phone in the room. Dr. Goodman closed the doors and pointed to a chair on the left side of the desk. David sat down like a kid in the Principal’s office.

The old gentleman nodded his respect and began. “Let’s get right to the point. Are you happy”?

I’m not unhappy yet.”

Would you rather be somewhere else less conservative? It can’t be comfortable for you here. Do you know that they call you Red, Red Armstrong”?

I’m not red. I’m a moderate. But compared to these dinosaurs I probably sound like a red. To them, if you’re against throwing all the social security money in the stock market you’re considered red. I mean lets just give everybody a lottery ticket at sixty five, no sixty seven, and send them to the casino.” Score one, he thought.

Dr. Armstrong smiled. “Rumors of our fascism are greatly exaggerated I assure you.”

This is the home of the Chicago School. If you want to win the Nobel Prize this is where you want to be. Why wouldn’t I want to be here. My father is on the faculty and I get free tuition to boot. I’m dating your daughter. All I have to do is go along to get along and I get my ticket punched right”?

Sounds like a plan.” He was too sarcastic.

Don’t you understand. Every day I walk past the portrait of the late great Milton Friedman, Nobel laureate and champion of the old Adam Smith laissez-faire school of I got mine you get yours capitalism. I suppose we’ve learned nothing since then.”

Young man. With all due respect. Milton Friedman was a friend of mine and you are no Milton Friedman.”

I take that as a compliment sir. Your rock star of economics was no rock to me. He went wherever the wind blew. He was a Keynesian supporter of the New Deal during FDR. He liked the work. Then, after the war, he becomes a critic and writes a tune for big money that would eventually be the theme song for the neocons.”

That’s a stretch.” He got visibly angry. “He did not go where the wind blew. He was very unpopular for a long time.”

Not with big money.” David thought for a second. “He said that if quote, free market capitalism, unquote, were quote, introduced, unquote, into totalitarian regimes, then those regimes would fall and everything there would look like the U.S. Now I ask you sir, does that sound familiar”?

He was a very complex man. He was a humanitarian.”

He advocated privatization and deregulation. And Reagan, the starter president for the neocons, ate it up. Uncle Miltie didn’t approve of the wide ownership of capital. Now what does that mean? I’ve never heard of anything worse. The higher the concentration of wealth at the top the better? He would be happy now. The top ten percent have half the damn wealth.”

I don’t have to listen to this.” He looked hurt.

Yes you do. And what about his relationship with Pinochet? And the communist Chinese? I just read that his last e-mail said that the greatest threat to the world economy, like there’s one economy for everyone, is Islamofascism. Sweet Jesus. Now I respectfully ask you sir, does that sound familiar”?

Dr. Goodman wanted to appeal to a simple respect for authority. “I do not have to listen to this.”

No sir you don’t. You have your security here. And if you were to sound like me you’d lose it.”

And I’d deserve it.” He smacked his open hand on the desk.

There was no more avoiding the Nazi angle. “More than one person in your position used that logic in Germany in the thirties. I’ll bet you’ve lectured more than once about how those people got swept away by the fear.” He stood up waving his hands but got embarrassed and sat right back down.

This is not Germany in the thirties. This is a democracy.”

Yes, and I want to keep it that way.” Good shot, he thought.

The comment brought a momentary silence that neither one of them could break. David wasn’t sorry he said it but he understood how it hurt. He thought about it for a while and then tried to simplify the problem. “Look. We can’t be far apart. It all boils down to what George Soros calls economic fundamentalism.”

I know I know.” He started tapping his foot.

The misconception that markets left unregulated will seek an equilibrium. It’s a myth. Unregulated markets end up with wide cycles of boom and bust. History proves it. The Chicago school is based on a myth. Surely you agree.”

His anger made him want to change the subject and get on with the pitch. “So tell me about your socialist manifesto. Win me over to the proletariat and together we will liberate the masses.” He smiled.

Believe it or not, it’s not a socialist manifesto. It’s an economic system, but it’s a mixed economy with lots of room for capitalism and getting rich by hook or crook.”

Do tell.”

Yes sir. There is actually more room in my little Utopian economy to make unearned income than in our present American system.”

Oh my.” He laughed. “I fear you come to bury Caesar.”

As we all know the big problem with a socialist economy is capital flight. As soon as we start feeding everybody by soaking the rich, you know, the folks with the big money press a button and wire it off to some third world paradise with lots of slavery and no taxes. Any system with a real safety net needs to leave enough low hanging fruit out there for the rich to play with so they keep the cash at home.”

Interesting. And how do you do that”?

The idea is so simple it blew me away when it came to me. I was in a hurry to get to my class and I got distracted by a story about the president actually coming out for the privatization of social security. I mean he really stepped on the third rail. I got so angry. Any high school student knows enough history to know that’s a bad idea. What’s he thinking about. Then I remembered one of my undergraduate sociology classes. Social stratification. It was mostly about capitalism and socialism. We talked about the advantages and disadvantages of both systems. The big insight at the end was that socialism worked better at providing necessities but it stifled incentive. Like they used to say in the Soviet Union, you know, ‘We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.’ Capitalism works better to motivate people to take risks and innovate. Nobody’s going to take any risks for little or no potential gain.”

That’s on the mark.”

Right. But on the other hand, capitalism is terrible at a lot of other things that are pretty important. Profit and health care don’t work well together. Get sick with no money and Doc says you’re gonna die.”

I agree on health care No question about it.” He meant it.

Pensions should be more than a 401k. There’s no security in that. Not one day in your whole life do you ever feel really secure. You work every day worrying about the market. What if it falls? What if some ass hole somewhere else in the world gets caught cooking the books and people panic”?

I’m with you there.”

Food, clothing, shelter, health care, defense, education, roads, parks. All the necessities of life are done better with a central, planned, government regulated economy, not an open market free for all. History proves that beyond the shadow of a doubt.”

What you are describing is a mixed economy, like we have now, nothing new.”

All economies are mixed economies. A mix of capitalism and socialism. What happens is we go in cycles. Big up and down swings. When times are good the capitalists push the socialists back and when times are hard the socialists push the capitalists back. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. The trick is to match them up with what they do well. When the mix is rich with capitalism it’s hard to get necessities to the poor. When the mix is rich with socialism, well, incentive dries up and capital runs for the third world and cheap wages. The mix that we get depends on a political tug of war. I propose a mix, but a rational mix, with a firewall between necessities and luxuries. We guarantee necessities with a centrally planned government regulated economic sector and leave the luxuries completely unregulated. If you want to make a killing on diamonds go ahead. You can be a monopoly and price gouge and sell crap with no problem. Nobody dies because they got ripped off on diamonds. But if we catch you playing it fast and loose with food, oh my God. We are going to make you wish you were never born.” He felt proud but embarrassed.

A rational mix. Very original. First problem. Who decides what’s a luxury and what’s a necessity”? He smiled and held up both hands.

The people.” David slapped his leg.

Right back where we started. The people elect a left winger or a right winger and they go to congress and decide a necessity is whatever K Street says is a necessity.”

Wrong. People vote electronically on individual line items in the federal budget. We have the technology. Is a cell phone a necessity? Is tuition to a public university a necessity? What about a private university”?

Now watch it.” He smiled.

Does the middle class taxpayer need to subsidize the private schools that his children can’t afford to go to? I think not. Let the voters decide. Let them decide on every line item.”

Question number two. What happens if everybody votes everything a necessity”? He smiled, feeling confident of victory.

David was talking to himself now. “Well, here’s one the GOP won’t like. All those years of listening to the republicans bashing the democrats as tax and spend. And then they get power and trash the deficit not once but twice. They can always find the money for war but never for health care. Under this system we have a mandated balanced budget. We vote on all the line items and if we write more checks than we can cash without borrowing, well, we vote again. And again, and again, until we weed out enough marginal stuff to keep in the things the people decide they need the most. Remember, these are only the things we decide to protect from the capitalists. If cell phones lose you can still buy one and pay market price.”

Oh my God son.”

Think about it. People would feel the opportunity cost of a war. Imagine knowing what the war was costing you personally, in dollars, in a day, and what you would have to give up to have it.”

Oh my God the gridlock.” He smiled and put his hand on his forehead.

I don’t think so. The pressure would be on to find a compromise. Just like when the congress locks up. Because we can’t just print more money. Which is of course inflationary. Besides, the big secret is that there’s plenty of money in the pot for necessities and the fat cats just like making a buck on grandma’s power bill. There’s plenty of room for big money to get even bigger on all kinds of crap we don’t need. But stay away from the basics of survival or we’ll put you in a prison that would make the neocons join Amnesty International.”

Question number three. I think you just invented a two tiered system. Americans will never go for that. They still think they have a shot at getting rich and they won’t give it up for security.”

Let them get rich by selling crap we don’t need, but stay the hell away from necessities. Even hockey has rules.”

Not many.” He laughed. “I can see you’ve given this a great deal of thought. Have you realized that if you publish this, and by some miracle it catches on, that you would be making a lot of people happy and a lot of other people, very, very angry.”

Uh huh.” They laughed.

Dr. Goodman scratched his head. “Lets see who would not be asking you to dinner. How about the insurance companies and the HMOs”?

Bring ’em on.” He was still laughing.

And let’s see. I’ll bet you’d be real popular with big oil.”

Oh we need to nationalize that yesterday.” He slapped his leg.

And who would love you besides the huddled masses. Let’s see. Suppose a company was selling cars. How about luxury cars that have GPS, vibrating heated seats, gold inlaid door panels, silver knobs on the console, refrigerated glove compartment, seven TVs, a jet engine that runs on regular gas, goes zero to sixty in three seconds and has four wheel drive.”

OK. You can sell that.”

Well, suppose they are charging five times what it costs them to make one.”

Does it have an air bag”?

Oh yes.”

Then more power to ’em.” They both laughed so loud it could be heard in the other room. David grabbed his stomach. “Nobody ever starved because the glove compartment fridge went out.”

The sliding doors parted with a rolling squeak and the ladies intruded without knocking. Dori was tired of holding her ear to the door. “Is everything all right in here”? Both men grinned through restrained smiles and David assured her that everything was fine. She didn’t know if she should be pleased or not. Anything is possible with these two, she thought. “OK,” she said, looking at David, and slid the doors shut.

Dr. Goodman picked up where he left off. “What about cars in general. Would they be luxuries or necessities”?

David felt confident. “I can only speak for myself, for my vote. The people would decide. I would say the first, I don’t know, fifteen thousand for a car would be a necessity. But anything after that would be a luxury. The same with homes. A two hundred and fifty thousand dollar home is not a necessity, but a modest home with one bathroom would be.”

You sir have never had a daughter,” he laughed. “Two baths are not a luxury.”

David laughed. “That’s your vote. But if you had to give up something even more important to get that, well, it might not be worth it to you.”

People would be forced to deal with the opportunity cost of everything.”

That’s right. Necessities anyway. And it would be so much more efficient. And way more rational.”

I see your father here. No more single issue candidates. You don’t have to elect a candidate just because he’s against the public funding of abortion. You can just vote on the individual issue, the line item in the budget. It reminds me of The United Way. You can check off where you want your money to go.”

Good point! No more wedge issues. I hadn’t thought of that.” He slapped his leg.

I like that. I sure do.”

Thank you sir. So you think it would fly”?

Of course not.” He laughed.

David felt like he was falling. “Why not”?

Because my friend, as soon as it gets out there the spin doctors will make it sound like the commies are coming to take away our very way of life. They’ll bend it, and twist it, and take it out of context, and run it every fifteen minutes on CNN. The media is private. They know that most people consider the news a necessity and would most likely put in the public sector. Right”?

Right.” He forced a smile.

That alone is enough to motivate a lot of creative people with a lot of money to complicate your life a great deal. Don’t you think? Dirt diggers. If you’ve ever done the least little thing wrong, they’ll find it. And if you haven’t, they’ll pay someone to say you did.”

He looked whipped. “I suppose you’re right.”

Don’t give up that easy son. So America’s not ready for rational thinking and opportunity cost. So what. Hell. You sold me. This is great fun. I can see the tricky issue ads now. Hey there Bubba. Did you hear about the red who wants the government to regulate the TV”? They laughed.

I resemble that remark sir.”

Indeed.”

To tell the truth, I was thinking more about third world countries anyway. I can see it catching on where poverty is severe and multinational corporations are not real popular.”

I agree. But if you try and publish a paper like that the school will not be happy with you or me. Why don’t you hold off until you get tenure. Just publish a nice paper about the economics of privatizing the Illinois lottery or something. They’ll love it. You’ll get tenure and my daughter will be paying for her wardrobe with your money instead of mine. And you’ll find out about the second bathroom. You can put me in the grandpa business. I can spoil the crap out of your kids, and then give them back. Hell of a plan.”

The second bathroom is that important huh”?

Not if you don’t mind peeing behind the garage on a cold winter morning. Is the paper finished”? He smiled.

Uh huh. I’ll bring you a copy when I get back to campus. But I’m not big on writing about the lottery.”

I know son. Please give it some thought. You have a fine future in the department. Be careful. Please go slow.”

David looked at the beautiful woodwork around the bookcases. “I’ll think about what you said sir. I appreciate what you and the faculty have done for me. I really hope it’ll work out.” They stood up, shook hands and opened the doors. Dori was glad to see them emerge from the inner sanctum. Pleasantries were exchanged all around while everybody secretly wanted it to be over. David couldn’t wait to escape. Dori’s mother gave her a Tupperware container filled with leftovers and cookies. The dog followed them to the back gate. Dori tried to decipher David’s grin as they climbed in the truck, but he kept everything to himself until they were near the expressway.