Darwin and the Tunnel of Love

by Stephen Morris
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Anxiously awaited, this is the capstone of Stephen Morris's Beyondered epic four part trilogy. Morris, a mathematician by training, is famous among his peers for his proof of the theorem that "Two plus One is Four (for sufficiently large values of One.)" At least twenty years in the writing, we assume that this volume will answer all the unanswered questions of the first three books.

Darwin and the Tunnel of Love is part four of "Stories and Tunes," Stephen Morris's "four-part" trilogy of life in the rural North.

Darwin and the Tunnel of Love

by Stephen Morris

The Plan was created on April 6, 1970. Darwin Hunter wrote it on a yellow legal pad by with a blue Bic pen, in the basement of Mascoma Library at Dartmouth College. At the top of the page, flush to the left margin, he wrote, "The Plan."

Earlier that day Darwin had attended a course entitled "The Theory of Life Skills -- 302," a course required of all Dartmouth graduates back in the days when the college curriculum was equal parts tradition, alcohol, and testosterone. It was taught by Professor Jack Schnitt, whose hallmark was the phrase "and if you don't know that, then you don't know Jack Schnitt!"

Schnitt was a popular teacher on campus. He cut a striking, yet diminutive, figure -- a black man, with a huge Afro, dressed in acolorful dashiki, and sporting a trademark silk ascot. To complete his noteworthy identity he was a Jewish bi-sexual midget. He wore his array of genealogical, generational, and genetic merit badges like a decorated war hero.

"Listen up, gentle friends," said Schnitt from the stage of his lecture hall. He had coined the "gentle friends" phrase in deference to the female tide that was swamping the campus. Although Dartmouth was not yet coeducational, there were more and more women in his classroom everyday, and you didn't need to be weatherperson to know which way the wind blowed.

"College campuses across America are in disarray. We're fighting an immoral war in Vietnam. The Black Panthers have us reaching for our guns. The dope is good, and who knows if the Beatles will get back together. You're here, generally wasting your parents' ill-gained money, but you'd rather be somewhere else, so let's cut to the chase and get this over with. We have two more scheduled classes, then reading period, then exams. Then it's "Sayonara, Senorita," and if you don't know that, then you don't know Jack Schnitt."

Schnitt took a dramatic pause, waiting for laughs. When a smattering came, he paced back and forth, stroking his chin, a man in deep contemplation. Finally, he returned to the podium and stepped up onto the crate that allowed him to reach the microphone.

"I am a man in deep contemplation. In essence I am an employee of your parents. They pay the tuition that pays my salary. So I ask myself, as their fiduciary, what can I do to justify their faith in this institution and me? They send you away as snot-nosed, know-nothing teenagers, and we send you back as snot-nosed, know-it-all young Dartmouth grads. The truth is, you know nothing, but it's useless telling you that, so I'm going to settle for teaching you one useful thing. I want to leave you, like me, full of Schnitt.

"Here are seven little words. Learn them and apply them to your life, and we'll all be winners. Twenty years from today you'll be ensconced in the comforts of Shaker Heights, Winnetka, Wellesley, or Scarsdale. You won't remember your courses, your classrooms, or half your classmates. But you won't forget me, and if you don't know that, you really don't know Jack Schnitt.

"So let's make a deal. Let's bottom-line this sucker. Ready? First, I will pause for dramatic effect."

Jack Schnitt froze at the podium for the next thirty seconds. When he was convinced that the students' attention was collectively riveted upon him he said: "Learn these seven words long enough to scribble them on a piece of paper on your final exam, and you will pass this course. You'll get a ‘Gentle friend's C,' not great, but not so bad for seven little words.

"For the more ambitious amongst you, hand in a paper -- nothing elaborate, one page is fine--that shows that you understand the meaning of these seven words. If you demonstrate more than grade-grubbing greed, you'll get a ‘B.' Of course, if you set off my ‘Bull Schnitt' sensor, I might flunk you!"

The professor laughed and looked to be contemplating another, "And if you don't know that….," but thought better of it.

"Seven words for a three college credits. Not bad! Here are the words: ‘Plan…. Your…. Work…. and …. Work…… Your….. Plan. Actually, it's only four words, but three of them are used twice. One page of drivel gets you a respectable ‘B.'

"Now, this is when I expect one of you candy-assed, pimple-faced jerkoffs to stand up and say, "Hey Teach, what's it going to take for me to get right to the top? What hoop are you going to make me jump through for the big ‘A?'"

Schnitt cocked an eyebrow that could be seen from the cheap seats. "Hm? What's it going to take? C'mon. You know the answer. What's it going to take?" He taunted them as if it were a showdown at the Dairy Queen.

A lone, disembodied voice floated to the stage, "The plan." "WHAT?" screamed Schnitt. A few seconds passed. "Don't chicken out on me now, someone out there's got it."

"The plan. Give you the plan."

"THAT'S IT, ‘GIMME THE PLAN!' Stand up out there. Who said that?"

Darwin Hunter, six feet tall, a hundred and fifty pounds, with reddish brown hair that hadn't been cut since Christmas vacation, combed since Washington's Birthday, or washed since Spring Break, rose unsteadily to his feet.

"What's your name, son?"

"Darwin Hunter."

"Darren Huntoon," said Schnitt. "He's going to give me the plan, aren't you Darren?"

Darwin nodded, but remained silently embarrassed.

"Say it!"

"I'm going to give me the plan. I mean ‘you.' I'm going to give you the plan."

"Say it again!"

Darwin squirmed, praying for a miracle that would save him from the scrutiny of his peers. He heard a muffled whisper of "Speak the truth, Brother" and another of "Hallelujah!"

"I'm going to give you the plan!" Darwin tried to show some enthusiasm. Please, he said to himself, don't say "I can't hear you."

"I…CAN'T…HEAR…YOU!" boomed Schnitt, who, besides having healthy lungs was amplified by a microphone. Now it was Darwin's time to pause. If I say it again, he reflected, he's just going to say "Louder!" I'm naked and exposed, with only a few weeks left until I'm outta this joint.

Darwin took the deep breath of a man who has nothing to lose. He turned his back to Schnitt and clapped his hands twice, just enough to establish a rhythm. He made direct eye contact with a student three rows back and chanted:

"WE'RE GOING TO GIVE YOU THE PLAN!" Another pair of claps.

"WE'RE GOING TO GIVE YOU THE PLAN!" Another pair of claps.

It only took two repetitions for the student to start clapping and join him. Darwin turned to his left, made eye contact with a new recruit:

"WE'RE GOING TO GIVE YOU THE PLAN!" Then to his right:

"WE'RE GOING TO GIVE YOU THE PLAN!"

Within thirty seconds the ampitheater was rocking, the species unified by a chant. Fueled by spring fever and impending graduation, the student body became a student body, standing on its own two feet, clapping, and chanting. After several minutes of bedlam Schnitt finally calmed the crowd by tapping on the microphone. Just as order had been restored, and Schnitt took a deep breath to resume control, an intoxicated Darwin sprang to his feet:

"PLAN YOUR WORK," he called, punctuating with a fist thrown skyward.

"WORK YOUR PLAN," the crowd refrained. He repeated at least five times too often before returning the class to a smoldering Schnitt.


What is a "Four-Part Trilogy?"

Next up from The Public Press: the first three books, revised and improved, in Stephen Morris's Vermont epic, the four part trilogy.

books in the Four-part Trilogy

Life has a way of interfering with art. Beyond Yonder, The King of Vermont, and Darwin and the Tunnel of Love were always intended by the author to be a single work, telling the epic story of the daily lives and times of the inhabitants of the tiny hamlet of Upper Granville, Vermont.

But life intervenes. It happens! Day jobs take priority. Parents grow old. Little publishers sell to big publishers. Editors move on to different jobs. Opportunities knock. Kids leave home. It happens! It happens! And it happens!

As a result, the epic novel came out in fits and spurts. First, Beyond Yonder. That's when the publisher got sold. Then, King of Vermont, that's when the editor quit. Meanwhile, a real life equivalent to Upper Granville began appearing on the pages of the Vermont Sunday Magazine. Now, the region had a name, Beyonder, to describe that part of Vermont that is next to nothing, but not far away from anywhere. Tales and More Tails is a collection of Beyonder's "Stories and Tunes."

The Public Press is pleased to present Beyonder in its original glory – ficticious and non-ficticious. This is the Director's cut, digitally remastered, and in full Dolby sound. This is Beyonder at the peak of foliage, at the depth of Mud Season despair, in the procreational frenzy of the vernal kaboom, and in the enveloping eternity of an August night watching the meteors shower in a part of the world where you can actually still see them.

The four books in Stephen Morris
In Beyonder, 4 books make 1 trilogy
Stephen Morris
interview with publisher and author Stephen Morris
cover: Beyond Yonder by Stephen Morris
Beyond Yonder
by Stephen Morris
cover: King of Vermont by Stephen Morris
King of Vermont
by Stephen Morris
cover: Tales and More Tails by Stephen Morris
Tales & More Tales
by Stephen Morris
cover: Tunnel of Love by Stephen Morris
Tunnel of Love
by Stephen Morris

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