The day after Reuben stumbled into my office, I was scheduled to give his class a particularly hard test; naturally, I assumed he’d come by to weasel out of it.

I called my hardest tests “Grannykillers” because I noticed there seemed to be a severe uptick in students’ grandmothers dying whenever I gave one. Sometimes as many as three or four grandmothers would die in a single week; I’d often suppose aloud that they must have been on the same bus. From my colleagues I knew that some students went through five or more grandmothers a semester. To my irritation, no one ever claimed that their grandfather had died—Karen’s kids wouldn’t even get that much use out of me.

It only took me a moment to see that Thursday’s Grannykiller was the least of Reuben’s problems.