His name was Sidney, but everybody called him Sid Viscous on account of his weight. On those rare occasions when we saw him walking the halls, he roiled and bobbed like the high seas in a storm. It’s anyone’s guess how he made it in and out of the building, since he always seemed to be there before everyone else, few ever saw him leave, and the car in his spot was a compact.

The best description of his place in the department would be “sage.” He never taught, but ran the independent study program like a personal fiefdom and knew the university’s bureaucracy in and out. If you needed to squeeze out one more credit hour, tiptoe around a rule or two, deal with a troublemaker off the books, or something like that, Sid Viscous was your man.

He demanded a price, of course. Sometimes it was as easy as owing him a favor; the vast network of favors owed him probably went a long way toward explaining why his workload was so light. Other times the price was more dear; Sid was a collector of everything from 80’s hair metal on vinyl to anime figures only available as pachinko prizes. More than one ABD supplicant had come to hm only to be sent away looking for a trinket like a first edition copy of a Franco-Belgian comic book in exchange for Sid’s largesse.