Why I Didn’t Get My Ph.D. – Free Fiction

I wanted to; I meant to, and I had every intention. I was committed to a plan to get there. First, get my bachelor’s degree, then my master’s, and cap it all off with a doctorate. Yep, that was the plan.


I was tired of working at Costco even though the people were cool and the benefits were good—not to mention that I had the best wardrobe of Kirkland Signature clothes around. But I was restless and needed a change. I’d worked my way up to a plum job. If you’ve ever been to Costco, you’ve seen the people who stand inside the door and wave you in as you flash your member card. That was my job. In fact, if you ever went to the Costco in Nashua, NH, I was probably the guy who waved you in.


The idea to get a Ph.D. came to me when I helped a woman about my Mom’s age load a fifty-inch plasma screen TV into her Porsche Cayenne. On the vehicle’s rear window were decals from several well-known colleges. Something about the plasma TV and the Porsche and those decals (and factor in that the woman was a babe, too) clicked, and I thought: that’s the kind of change I need.


I applied to the state university and was accepted, but it was already August, too late to get into the dorms. They put me on a waiting list. But I’d saved enough from my paychecks to rent a small ground floor apartment in a brownstone just off campus.


I was older than most of my classmates by a half dozen years, so life was pretty quiet in the beginning. But soon I began to make friends. Sometimes they’d come over to my place to get away from the noise in the dorms and to study. And after a while, people would drop by just to hang out, listen to music, and get high. 108 Willow Street, Apt. B, became party central. A buddy who was working as an apprentice to become an electrician made me a pink neon sign reading Club 108, which I put in the window and would turn on when I was in the mood to carpe noctem. Not that anyone waited for the sign to be on. Night or day, there was always someone ready to party down. There’d be a knock on my window or door and somebody’d ask: “Wanna get loaded?”


As I think back, the person asking was often me. And of course, the answer was always “yes.” Soon we’d be rolling a number and the music would go on. Somebody would bring wine or a six-pack and we’d get busy.


I only lasted one semester, so I never did get my bachelor’s, or my master’s, never mind my Ph.D. I attend the local community college now on weekends and I’ve been working at Home Depot for the past four and a half years. It’s a good gig with nice people and decent benefits. I wear the orange vest and when someone asks a question, I know enough to give them the answer most of the time.


* *

It’s Saturday night and I’m riding through the college town where I started my academic career. On a whim, I decide to cruise past the old brownstone apartment building where all the action went down. As I pass by, in a ground floor window I glimpse a flash of pink neon: Club 108.


Wow. Still there. I slow down to get a better look. I’m tempted to stop, knock on the door and introduce myself. Wouldn’t it be cool to explain how the sign got there? Then again, what would be the point? I’m almost five years beyond flunking out. If I’d stuck around I’d have my bachelor’s degree by now. But then I think, what’s the point of anything? To fill my time with interesting experiences and roll with the vicissitudes and compulsions of life, right? I figure I’m working toward a Ph.D in that for sure.


So what the hell. I park and go to the door and knock. Hip hop music is making the window panes vibrate. I remember how, when I lived here, people would just show up. There was one woman who came by one night and ended up staying a week, spending most of it in nothing but her panties and one of my Kirkland Signature shirts. She played the same Crowded House and Psychedelic Furs CDs over and over. But I didn’t mind.


The music is so loud now I have to bang on the door. Finally, somebody turns it down and the door opens. A young woman in yoga pants and a university sweatshirt stands there, wearing an expression that is equal parts curiosity, surprise, wonder, and welcome. “Hello, stranger,” she says.


Before I can step through, a guy with a backpack full of books walks out, winks at me, and says, “I was just leaving.”


David Daniel has published a dozen novels and 200 short stories. Among his books are ReunionWhite Rabbit, and The Marble Kite.
Recent short fiction can be found in the anthology Insanity Tales II ;  in Sleet;  and in Zombie Logic Review .



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1 Comment

  1. Tim Trask

    I’m sure this story speaks for a lot of people.


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