Botany 101 and the fake I.D.

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His scratchy sweater his mom had given him smelled sour like wool, all the more from the cigarette smoke where he and his friends gathered at the dormitory and talked about women, about ultimate reality, about where to get beer.  The air was ripe with possibilities, yet forces were in place to deny them any of the desirables.  The girls were locked up.  Dormitory rules.  Stern blue-haired dean of women.  Drinking age was 21.

No shortage of women — women their age, more than willing to socialize with them, even slip out the back door to love them up.  Carl licked his lips.  He loved how they smelled.  College was nothing but good.  Frustrating, but good, because hope was always alive.  Hell, he knew how to get a fake ID card.

Of course he had a mid-term exam in Botany 101 Monday.  He and a couple other guys would have to pull an all-nighter Sunday if they were to do well.  Hmmm.  Let’s see:  Kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species.  He ticked them off.  Plants, vascular plants, and so on right down to gymnosperms, pines, ponderosa.  He had gotten this from a different all-nighter in the dry winter air with its throat-scratching freezing temperatures.  A friend and he had sat up in the basement laundry of South Hall.

Missoula was a party town for college kids.  Had a reputation.  Come to think of it, Carl wasn’t sure about the order and family of the P. Pine.  He’d have to look that up before the exam Monday.  His shoes were not adequate for the cold weather.  Feet would freeze before he and his friends could make it downtown across the bridge to Eddy’s Club.  They’d shoot pool, maybe run into some older women who had been emancipated from the tyranny of dorm life.  Maybe he could get some pussy.  He was still a virgin.

In just one week everything would change.  The Japanese would bomb Pearl Harbor and the United States would declare war and just about every healthy young man would be drafted into the army or navy.

Meanwhile, Carl ticked off the kinds of fungi:  basidiospore . . . . In seven days he would have taken the mid-terms, but neither he nor any of the other guys would care about any of that any more.

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