My Salieri Complex

And yes, I was still welcome at Professor Handley’s dinner table, but so was Griffin, although he did not take advantage of this privilege frequently.  On those rare occasions when he joined us, Elizabeth would become noticeably distracted.  She would study Griffin’s face, as deliberately and as blatantly as her upbringing allowed, while he remained oblivious to her presence.  He spoke very little and ate even less.  Between courses he scribbled in his notebook with which he never parted.  His colorless lips kept moving, whispering formulas.  His garnet eyes would squint and widen, as if from flashes of light.  In those moments he resembled a monk immersed in perpetual prayer.  And Elizabeth would sigh and smile sadly.  Apparently, the white-haired genius struck a chord that I never had.  Not that it mattered to me.  One more defeat made no difference.

Handley, delighted to now have two adopted sons, nurtured his own designs.  One Friday afternoon, towards the end of the seminar, he suggested before the whole group that Griffin and I should collaborate on a study.

Science professors cannot boast about being the most tactful men in the world.  This is no earth-shattering revelation.  Handley was no exception to the rule.

“Every semester my students grip each other by the throats for a chance to partner with Samuel Kemp,” he said, beaming at his own ingenuity.  “This time I decided to try a different approach.  I will remove both Kemp and Griffin from the battle and assign them to each other.  It would be presumptuous on my behalf to speak for the entire University College, but personally I am very anxious to see what miracles these two brilliant young men can concoct together.”

For a few seconds everyone in the hall ceased breathing and looked at Griffin, for he, apparently, had the final say.

“Is this a mandate?” he inquired, tapping his lips with the tip of his pencil.

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