• Dr. Smetana has published neither books nor articles. His lone publication is a short monograph, yet to be translated, in the arcane German-language quarterly Erotischen Futurismus Vierteljährlich (Erotic Futurism Quarterly).

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  • Dr. Smetana teaches no courses. In his entire tenure, he has taught exactly one: a Fall 2002 introductory survey titled “Eromathematics: Machines in Love.” The department file lists twelve students and a teaching assistant named June Cunningham. Cunningham won a prestigious post-doctoral fellowship at a research university in the Midwest before disappearing in 2005.

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  • Dr. Smetana has neither advised nor read a graduate thesis in any official capacity, according to department records, since that of June Cunningham. His copy of her thesis bears a single marginal comment: “Eromathematics. Lovely breakfasts. Time machine?”

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  • Dr. Smetana neither enters nor leaves his office between the hours of 7:00 AM and 12:00 PM (9:00 AM and 10:00 PM on weekends). These are the official hours of Harkness Hall, home of the department. According to Bill Herman, Head Custodian of Harkness Hall, no one is allowed to live in Harkness Hall.

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  • From the roof of Wylie Hall one can see, through the dirty window of Dr. Smetana’s fifth-floor office in Harkness Hall, a single wooden chair and several spiny metallic mobiles hung from the ceiling by string or yarn. The wooden chair is of the type employed by elementary schools in the 1950s. The mobiles are of unknown type.

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  • From a crack in the door to the graduate workroom, across the hall from Dr. Smetana’s office, one can watch an undergraduate named Anu Mehta slide a small plate under Dr. Smetana’s door. The plate contains three poached eggs. Later, the plate slides back with the egg whites still intact but devoid of yolk.

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  • When asked if he has ever seen Dr. Smetana, Anu Mehta responds in the negative. He adds that the task of poaching and serving the eggs, which he does as part of his work-study employ at the department, is distasteful to him.

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  • According to Herm Jackson, award-winning salesman at Showtime Ford and the only student from “Machines in Love” locatable through conventional channels, Dr. Smetana is a small man, bald on top but with long silver hair over his ears and neck. “Nose like a beak,” Jackson adds. “So thin you got nervous just looking at him. Turtlenecks and loose-fitting jackets.” When asked about the content of “Machines in Love,” Herm Jackson fails to respond then looks at his phone. “I’ve gotta take this,” he says.

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  • The department file contains one single page from the syllabus of “Machines in Love.” Page six (of nineteen) lists Sugar Boys: a Memoir of the Second Machine War by Carlostwelve Jimenez as the only required text. No record exists of said book in the Library of Congress, nor of its author. The rest of page six consists of words and phrases positioned haphazardly. These words include “eromathematics,” “prurient,” and “semiconductor” (twice), as well as possible nonsense words such as “bilf” and “murkmork.”

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  • The department secretary, who hasn’t seen Dr. Smetana in two years, contacts him via campus mail and will do so, somewhat hesitantly, on request. When asked why she doesn’t call him on the department-issue phone in his office, she explains that he speaks in a monotonous, barely intelligible murmur. “I think he has his lips on the receiver,” she adds.

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  • Dr. Smetana meets students only Fridays at sunrise. When meeting, he sits with his back to the sun-struck window while the student, sitting on a dilapidated chair in the corner, squints to make out the doctor’s tiny silhouette, crowned by a twinkling constellation of delicate mobiles.

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  • Dr. Smetana speaks in a low monotone, frowning almost constantly. “Bilf,” he says, as if in greeting. “Murkmork?”

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  • Dr. Smetana will agree to be one’s thesis advisor as long as one’s thesis employs the concept of eromathematics in at least two prominent but unrelated chapters. He asks that chapters-in-progress be slid under his door, along with three poached eggs. Meetings are infrequent but lengthy.

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  • Dr. Smetana describes eromathematics as, among other things, a unifying discipline involving research, rigorous calculation, and erotic love. “It is a mathematics,” he adds.

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  • Dr. Smetana speaks wistfully of June Cunningham. “Human touch,” he whispers, “warm and un-mechanized.”

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  • When reminded of Herm Jackson, Dr. Smetana walks into his closet and returns with a slim document: “Final Paper” by Herm Jackson. The document is yellow and crisp. In it, Dr. Smetana has circled a passage where Jackson compares the American Civil War to an imagined war between military robots and household appliances. Beside the passage, Dr. Smetana has written, in tiny square-shaped letters, “Check dates.”

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  • Dr. Smetana predicts that Harkness Hall will be destroyed by a molten projectile during mechanized warfare, as will much of the surrounding area. When asked if he refers to the Second Machine War of Carlostwelve Jimenez, he replies, “No, the first.” He predicts that this machine war will also be known as the Great Machine War and will be distinguishable from the Second in that it does not involve human simulacra.

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  • Police ask questions about Dr. Smetana. Statements one gives are compared to those given by Anu Mehta, Herm Jackson, and the department secretary, whose name is Bev Horner.

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  • Dr. Smetana puts on a false beard before leaving his office at midnight on weekdays (ten on weekends) for the seventh-floor bathroom. Of the so-called “Emergency Beard” he says, “Developed by Iberian pederasts in the seventeenth century, its function is twofold: to disguise the known violator from local authorities, and to disguise the love-object as a bearded midget. Will it ever surprise me, what we humans do in the name of love?”

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  • In the closet of Dr. Smetana’s office one can find, in addition to stacks of paper and metal cubes of various sizes, several industrial-sized mayonnaise jars full of viscous yellow liquid.

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  • Dr. Smetana predicts that America will be vanquished and the world united in a single peaceful kingdom known as the General Assembly. He warns, however, that this peace will be built on the mass grave of millions of accountants; that, in the future, war’s primary source of terror will be, in addition to robots and animate appliances, proper billing; and that countries will cleanse themselves of this terror through institutionalized accountant pogroms.

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  • Dr. Smetana claims to have developed an alternative to war. The alternative involves eromathematics.

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  • Dr. Smetana is shrinking.

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  • Dr. Smetana predicts that Jesus will return to Earth, or at least a man claiming to be Jesus and calling himself Jesus Number Two. This man will gain many followers, according to Dr. Smetana, then change his name to Mohammed Number Two, which confuses everyone, and then to Jimmy Carter Number Two. Later, he will be found in a hotel room sodomizing a simulacrum of himself.

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  • Dr. Smetana bemoans his once rakish good looks and blames time-travel for stealing them. He takes solace in his belief that diminution will someday be regarded as a mark of wisdom. He adds, “Our benevolent leader, Carlostwelve Jimenez, is the size of a rhesus monkey.”

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  • Dr. Smetana warns that he might be a simulacrum of Dr. Smetana.

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  • Police have arrested Dr. Smetana for the 2005 kidnapping of June Cunningham.

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  • Dr. Smetana serves as his own counsel during the trial, calling no witnesses and speaking inaudibly when called to the stand himself. The district attorney objects that Dr. Smetana puts his lips on the microphone. The judge overrules it.

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  • Dr. Smetana agrees to stay on as my thesis advisor from jail.

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  • Dr. Smetana claims that the viscous yellow liquid in mayonnaise jars, which is egg yolk, will fuel his time machine. The problem, he says, is he let June Cunningham use his time machine and doesn’t know when or if she will return.

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  • Dr. Smetana causes incidents in jail.

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  • The jailer, whose right index finger was liquefied during one such incident, recounts in a confusing monologue that Dr. Smetana disappeared then reappeared. “Colored lights,” he adds. “Hisses, screams, the tearing of metal.”

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  • The mayonnaise jars in Dr. Smetana’s office are missing.

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  • The woman who took in June Cunningham’s cat, Sugar Boy, reports that the cat has disappeared along with two skirts and eleven eggs. The woman thought she wore a smaller dress-size than June Cunningham.

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  • Dr. Smetana makes the following closing statement at his trial: “With the conclusion of my trial, a new epoch has begun. Eromathematics has been proven, and proven impregnable. The wars have been erased. We march towards a future of erotic love. A new epoch has begun.” Urged to clarify, he repeats this statement.

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  • Meetings with Dr. Smetana, who repeats the closing statement and several other love-related statements in non sequitur fashion, are unsatisfactory. My chapter on eromathematics remains impenetrable.

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  • Dr. Smetana might be a simulacrum of Dr. Smetana.

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  • Bev Horner says if so, good riddance. Dr. Smetana stole parts from office machines.

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  • Herm Jackson says the simulacrum is only the beginning. He writes letters to Ford Motor Company urging them to equip cars and trucks with what he calls “sweet spots,” which, when shot from a distance by trained snipers, will cause the sentient vehicles to explode.

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  • We wonder, will love really save us?


Bradley Bazzle has an MFA from Indiana University and is working on a PhD in English at the University of Georgia. His stories appear in The Iowa Review, New England Review, Opium, Cold Mountain Review, Splash of Red, and Beloit Fiction Journal. He used to make comedy videos with Trophy Dad.


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