Professor Wilson Adams pushed vigorously against his desk to send his chair rolling across the linoleum floor to the open door of his inner office. Since he was a tall muscular older man, his considerable momentum would have constituted a problem for anyone who might have been coming the other way. In the event, he fetched up harmlessly in the doorway. Seeing no one in the outer office, he remained there, tilting back comfortably in his squeaky desk chair. The over-burdened chair squeaked, perhaps for the ten thousanth time, but he would point out to anyone who asked that it squeaked only when he tilted, not when he rotated or rolled. Besides, he wasn't the sort of man who oiled things.
From his reclined perspective, Adams looked out over the philosophy department which he headed with obvious pleasure. He seemed to find it good. He found most things good. Moreover, his benevolent smile often persuaded even the most congenital fault-finders to hold their tongues and smile weakly in return. No one else thought the philosophy department particularly good, but they didn't tell the head. A few people occasionally wondered whether Professor Adams actually over-rated the department, or just knew that it didn't really matter whether it was good or not.
The latter interpretation was consistent with the fact that he often gave up his assumptions cheerfully without any apparent cognitive discombobulation. For weeks, he had greeted genially a young man who sat at a desk in the outer office in a dirty hooded sweatshirt eating his lunch. Under the impression that the man was part of a ditch-digging crew toiling in front of the library, he said to someone,
"Isn't it nice that that young man eats his lunch here? He must find our department hospitable."
When informed that the man was a graduate student in philosophy, Adams was mildly surprised, but pleased anew that the department was attracting men of the earth.
On the same principle, he was happy when they got a student from the mines of West Virginia or the canyons of Wyoming. In such a case, he was wont to remark,
"Just think how far that young fellow has come!"
Mr. Jones hadn't come from a mine or a canyon, but Professor Adams, knowing of his PT boat career, seemed to place him in a similar category. Realizing that he was being credited with the sinking of a major part of the Japanese fleet, Jones had objected,
"We only once launched torpedoes at a major warship, and that was in the Surigao Strait."
"There was a tremendous explosion, and we found out later that the Japanese battleship Yamashiro blew up."
"So you sank it."
"Probably not. We'd been following the Japanese fleet up the strait, and we launched at the same time that our destroyers attacked. It was most likely one or more of the destroyer torpedoes that got her."
Adams, having a way of ignoring caveats, replied,
"Sounds like cause and effect to me. That constant conjunction David Hume was always talking about."
Since Adams habitually twisted philosophical positions to his liking, a mild objection from Jones brought only,
"That's as may be. I'm sure you sank the ship."
From then on, Jones was the slayer of the Yamashiro.
Later that day, Adams, wandering out of his inner office, addressed the loitering Jones,
"I've just had this letter in the campus mail. Fellow wants to find out how fast the mail moves, and he says I'm to send the letter right back. Fancy that!"
On seeing the letter, Jones replied,
"It might be a mistake to put it right into the mail without properly considering the matter."
"That's right. We musn't go off half-cocked. I'll keep it for a week and then send it back. By the way, I hear you've had another paper accepted."
"It's only a little piece."
"You're too modest, Mr. Jones. Next you'll be saying that the Yamashiro is still afloat."
Just then, Miss Sarah Swift, the part-time student secretary, blew in. Miss Swift, blonde and exciting, had on violet sunglasses with octagonal lenses. She also had a fake southern accent and an equally fake air of brisk efficiency. A week previously, she had discovered that the university kept a large storeroom of used furniture available to any department that wanted it. She then had delivered a bright pink couch which sat right by the entrance to the department. Professor Adams, horrified in a gentle way, had had it removed. Miss Swift now addressed him,
"Oh Professor Adams, I've just now found another couch over at the storeroom that you'll love."
"Is it at all like that pink davenport?"
"No. It's a very conservative, even regal, maroon. The people who drift up and down the hall will all want to come in and sit on it. Incidentally, that's a very nice tie you're wearing."
Jones knew that Sarah was carrying on affairs with two different graduate students, Sam and Milton, in a vacant storeroom up in the attic. She limited herself to one tryst a week, and the lucky man was determined by the color of Professor Adams' tie. If it had red in it, it was Sam's turn, otherwise Milton's. Since she liked Milton a little better than Sam, she complimented Adams fulsomely on his tie when it wasn't red, seeking to condition him. Jones had once been called in to decide a borderline case.
Adams, refusing to be diverted by these compliments, asked more questions about the couch. When he finally agreed to have it, Sarah, apparently not quite daring to hug him, gave a little squeal. She then gestured to the space for the couch, currently occupied by a couple of wooden armchairs, and said,
"You two can sit on it and discuss military and naval affairs."
"What makes you think we'd do that?"
"I heard you talking about sinking ships when I was just outside. Besides, you're a PT boat captain and Professor Adams was an infantry captain in the first war."
Adams, sounding alarmed, asked,
"How'd you know that?"
"Your wife told me. She also tells me to make sure you wear your coat home. Otherwise your coats all collect here in the office. She says she can't think how you ever managed not to leave your guns all over the place when you were a soldier. Jones is different. He probably wears a gun when he takes a shower."
With that, Miss Swift flicked her sunglasses up on top of her head and did a brief imitation of a person taking a shower while shooting at intruders. Jones commented,
"You might have to make a few adjustments if you were to join the military, Sarah."
"No chance of that. They'd make me take off my pretty clothes and put me into olive drab."
"An odd thing is that men of all services and nations come to look much the same after a few months in the trenches. When we had truces for burying the dead, you could hardly tell who was in which army. If we'd had women, they probably would also have looked the same."
"I'd rather be in a nice clean PT boat than in a trench."
"They didn't stay clean very long."
"Clean or dirty, I can't understand how you all stood it for so long. I can imagine getting caught up in the bang-bang stuff for a few days, but not for months and years."
"The men change along with the color of their uniforms. Otherwise they couldn't keep it up."
"People like me are supposed to change back to what we were before."
"I bet you haven't really, Jones. If any Japanese people came around here, you'd strangle them or something."
With that, Sarah whizzed out through the door, her little rear end showing to advantage in her closely fitted dress. Adams remarked,
"I wonder why Miss Swift is so elaborately dressed today."
"I think she operates mostly on impulse and at random."
"Yes, that must be it."