Jack’s Prediction

“Have you read Metamorphoses? The one by Apuleius?”

It was a strange question. Or rather, it was strange that it was posed by Jack, the stereotypical dumb jock. Jack was the embodiment of a cliché: Tall, blonde, blue eyes, a thick, muscular build. Captain of the junior varsity football team. As if to complete the picture, he dated a cheerleader.

“No, of course not. We’re only in second year Latin. We don’t even really get into Caesar until next year, let alone stuff like Apuleius.”

Timothy, who never went by just “Tim,” was the quintessential bookworm, in many ways the opposite of Jack. Lanky and of medium height, bespectacled and disinclined to sports or any sort of athleticism, he spent his time in the library, where he read everything he could: Fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, history and science without the “fiction,” books on computing, books about languages. But everything was in English; as much as he loved Latin, he just wasn’t proficient enough yet to take on classical literature in the original language.

“Oh, I thought that wouldn’t have stopped you from jumping ahead on your own. You really ought to. It’s been a minute since I read it, but it starts out with some witches peeing on some dude, later some old lady tells the story of Cupid and Psyche, and in the end the whole thing turns out to be a missionary tract for Apuleius’s crazy mystery religion.”

“But how do you know all this?”

“I’ll tell you a secret. I started Latin early at home. It’s a guilty pleasure. Just don’t tell anyone. It could hurt my reputation.”

“I would never have guessed.” Timothy told the truth. “What else have you read? What do you like most?”

“Look, the best stuff is from the middle ages. There’s this play called ‘Lydia’ but Lydia is kind of a whore and the whole thing is full of innuendo and double-meanings. I don’t know why people call it the dark ages. They were just like us, except without iPhones. There’s this story about some students who stay at this guy’s house and through some trickery please his wife during the night.”

“Wow.” Timothy was dumbfounded and more than a little embarrassed that the football player seemed to have read much more Latin literature than he had.

“Look,” said Jack, “You’re going to be a classics professor someday. It’s obvious. You’re the best in every class except P.E., but you can’t hide the fact that Latin sparks a different kind of joy in you than the other subjects. When we get into Greek next year, it’ll probably blow your mind. It’s your destiny. And we both know that I’m going to play football, but that doesn’t last forever. After my career in sports, I’m going to become a medievalist. Maybe we’ll even end up teaching in the same university. You’ll teach Caesar and Cicero to your students, maybe Terentius and Plautus for a little fun, and then I’ll blow them away with the middle ages, where they’ll find stuff that’d make Catullus blush.” Jack let out a hearty laugh.

Jack had breathed life into Timothy’s dormant competitive spirit. Even if he would never be a sports champion, he had to excel in something. He couldn’t allow the star athlete of his class to leave him in the dust in the classics. He would hit the books and get caught up in Latin and maybe even get a head start in Greek. Meanwhile, his concept of the dumb jock took a serious hit. His newfound respect for Jack may not have eliminated the stereotype, but from then on he knew that he couldn’t count on it to always hold.

He also hoped that Jack’s prediction would come true.

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