He hadn’t seen anything like it in twenty years of teaching. Oh, he’d seen some ugly compositions, that was for sure. Kids who couldn’t decide between printing or cursive. Girls who put little bubbles over all the lower-case “j”s and “i”s. Boys whose penmanship hadn’t changed since the pre-K. Students who illustrated their arguments with little penguins in the margins of the page. He’d once taught a girl who refused to write with anything but an eagle-feather quill, whose assignments appeared on his desk defiled with great purple ink pox and the attribution, “Hannah Finnegan, fifth year, Hufflepuff House” at the top. Ed blamed computers for all of this.
But this, this was a new one. Ed scrunched up his face and tipped his head backwards, peering through the bottom half of his bi-focals, but his deteriorating vision could not be blamed: the essay was written in absolute gibberish. Exquisite, looping, calligraphic gibberish; gibberish with a rhythm and a pattern and repeating characters; but gibberish nonetheless. Never, in twenty years, even from foreign exchange students, had Ed seen anything so utterly ridiculous. A waste of his time. And the student’s, since no one but Éowyn P. would ever be able to make jot or tittle of her work.
“F!” Éowyn protested when Ed slapped the essay onto her desk. “But, Mr. Leary, you asked for an essay on the development of language.”
“Yes, an essay, Miss P. I didn’t need you to develop your own language.”
“But I didn’t. I wrote about the development of the Elvish language, in Elvish.”
Ed snatched up the paper, pushing his glasses down his face so they dangled where his beard would have been, had he not gradually torn it out over the course of twenty years of scribbles, bubbles, penguins, and quills. And, apparently, Elvish. Indeed, the girl’s insane loops and umlauts bore a striking familiarity. His eyes juddered between the student and the submission. What else did he expect from a girl whose parents had named her after a Tolkien character? And how could he fairly award an F for the effort and, presumably, research she had put into the eight-page discourse?
“You didn’t specify it had to be the English language,” Éowyn pointed out.
Ed cast the offending essay back onto her desk, his complexion purpling at the temples. She did have a point. “See me after class,” he growled.