Can you identify this radio short story?
March 9, 2012 9:59 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone identify a short story I heard on the radio involving a college professor?

I heard (several years ago) a story on the radio about, if I remember correctly, a community college professor in a relationship with a student? (Or the relationship may have been in one or the other's head only.) I remember one of them had to drive a long ways to get to class (in winter?). The story was, I think fiction, but it could have been memoir. I don't think the story was on This American Life. It could have been on Selected Shorts. I seem to remember them meeting at a diner as well as in class. Sorry this is really vague, but maybe it'll jog someone's memory.
posted by Jahaza to Media & Arts (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I meant to add that it was set in the West: Montana, the Dakotas, Wyoming, Idaho, somewhere in one of those states.
posted by Jahaza at 10:10 PM on March 9, 2012

Best answer: A number of months ago, the New Yorker fiction podcast ran a Roberto Bolaño story that's almost definitely not what you're remembering but is only a couple of degrees off of most of your specifications. (There was a relationship of a sort, but between a visiting lecturer and the woman who runs the community-college program; set in Western-type country, but in Durango, Mexico, rather than the States; there was a diner and a lot of driving involved.) It was a very evocative piece and read in a very Bolañan monotone by Daniel Alarcón. Might be worth looking up.
posted by sesquipedalia at 10:40 PM on March 9, 2012

Response by poster: That's a nice story sesquipedalia.

I found the one I was looking for. Maile Meloy's “Travis, B.”. The Selected Shorts version can be purchased on this recording.

The NY Times offers a synopsis:
Beth, a recent law school graduate who appears in the first story, “Travis, B.,” is teaching an adult-­education class on public-school law in Glendive, a small town on the eastern side of Montana. The problem is that she lives and works a nine-and-a-half-hour drive west, in Missoula. “I’ve never done anything so stupid in my life,” she tells Chet, a ranch worker in the class, about having accepted the teaching position, which she did out of anxiety over her student loans. Twice a week, Beth leaves her Missoula law firm at midday, makes the drive, teaches the class that evening, then turns around and spends the night driving home.

“There are deer on the road, and there’s black ice outside of Three Forks along the river,” she explains to Chet, who has quickly developed a crush on her. “If I make it past there, I get to take a shower and go to work at eight. . . . Then learn more school law tomorrow night, then leave work the next day before lunch and drive back here with my eyes twitching.” The bizarreness of Beth’s situation is matched by its plausibility; a kind of banal, daily desperation animates many of Meloy’s characters, including Chet, who first shows up in Beth’s classroom not as a real student, but as a lonely person who on a random night happens to stumble into the school because it’s one of the few buildings in town with its lights on.
posted by Jahaza at 11:07 PM on March 9, 2012

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