His ignominy sleep with thee in the grave,
But not remember’d in thy epitaph!
–– Shakespeare

By Michael Keith

Professor Emanuel Doople had taught at Marligold College his entire career — 47 years, to be exact. He was well liked and respected and did his best to meet his students’ needs, despite his diminishing energy and declining enthusiasm for the classroom. On the morning of his final exam for his two sections of macroeconomics, he felt light-headed and slightly nauseous. He attributed it to the two glasses of Merlot he had had during dinner with a job candidate and the chair of his department the previous evening. His consumption of alcohol had always been modest and after his wife died he simply stopped drinking altogether. There was no particular reason for this other than the fact that the occasions for tipping a glass had become rare in his spouse’s absence.

In recent weeks, Doople had experienced a steadily deepening sense of fatigue, prompting him to call his doctor. An appointment was set for later in the day, but he would not make it. A few minutes into his class he found it hard to catch his breath, so he went to the open window for more air. As he stood with his back to the class gulping for oxygen, he let out a resounding fart, prompting snickers and giggles from his students. When he turned around his body let out a series of equally raucous emissions transforming the class’s subdued amusement into wild hysterics.

“I’m sor . . . sorry, ” he stuttered, moving a couple of steps.

The elderly professor then fell forward nearly hitting a student and tumbled to the floor dead. Although he had departed the world of the living, his cadaver continued its voluble existence. Students leapt to their feet and circled their expired instructor, but no one made an attempt to revive him. On the other hand, nearly all dialed their cellphones for help. The air in the classroom had become putrid from Doople’s unrelenting discharges, causing its shocked occupants to make their way to the corridor to await the arrival of the authorities. In minutes campus police were on the troubled scene and were quickly joined by paramedics.

“Oh man,” mumbled the first rescuer to enter the classroom. “What a stench.”

“He’s still releasing,” observed his cohort.

“No kidding. Like Mt. Vesuvius.”

Even as Doople’s corpse was placed on a litter and removed from the classroom, his body continued to emit toxic fumes, causing moans and chuckles from the crowd that lined the hall to the building’s exit. Soon news of Doople’s untimely death reached every corner of the campus, but instead of solemn observations about the longtime professor’s passing, jokes were made about his malodorous departure.

On the day of his funeral the college’s president, Mary Courtney, delivered the eulogy. Hundreds attended the service on the main quad and except for an occasional isolated outbreak of laughter the event was dignified. That is until Dr. Courtney said, “Students will miss Professor Doople’s unique way of capturing their attention.” Her words inspired a member of the audience to shout, “BY FARTING!”

Hilarity immediately swept through the assembled mourners like a tsunami, and despite Courtney’s attempts to restore calm the uproar continued unabated. Soon Courtney herself was bent over with laughter as the local newspaper photographer snapped pictures of the bizarre scene. The next day the town’s broadsheet carried pictures of the pandemonium, along with the headline: “Doople Funeral a Gas.”

Gradually the professor’s name became a popular synonym on campus for passing air — to “Dooplecate” was to fart twice or more times. A decade after Doople’s demise, a statue was dedicated to his memory on the Marligold campus. At its unveiling, the president of the class of 1971 — who had been in the classroom in which Doople perished — urged the small gathering to refrain from laughing. However, his speech appeared to be designed to undermine his request. With a mischievous smile, he spoke.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are here to pay homage to one of Marligold’s finest educators. As you know his legacy far exceeds his words, and this statue honoring Professor Doople will inspire generations of students to think of other prominent figures — such as Thomas Crapper and Nguyen Dung.”

In 1994, the bronze effigy was removed to a warehouse to make way for a new chemistry lab. The building was not named in honor of the memorial it replaced. While recollections of Professor Doople faded, his ignominious moniker lingered like the scent of a meticulously aged Limburger.

Category: Fiction, Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing