“Come in, then,” Rivers said. “Mask on, of course.”

“I’m vaccinated,” Hillian replied.

“Mask on,” Rivers repeated, hooking his own over both ears. “Can’t be too careful with the new variants, and also with liars.”

“I’m no liar, Dr. Rivers,” Hillian huffed.

“And I’m a philosophy professor, which means I know about the inherent paradox of claiming one is not a liar,” Rivers said. “Either come in or don’t, you’re letting bugs in.”

With a sigh, Hillian put on a rumpled disposable mask and entered. The house was a mess, books and clothes heaped on every surface, and several cats slinked through the mess, wafting the unmistakable odor of kitty litter with them.

“So what does the provost’s office want with me,” Rivers said.

“Sort of a wellness check,” Hillian said. “You haven’t been answering your emails.”

“I’ve been reading them,” Rivers said. “Most don’t need or deserve replies.”

“You haven’t been answering your phone.”

“That’s what email is for,” said Rivers. He pulled his bathrobe tighter around him as if annoyed.

“You haven’t been in the office for a month.”

“Got a home office right in back, works great,” Rivers said.

“You know that the president said that everyone had to go back to work, right?” said Hillian, cocking his head.

“I am working,” Rivers huffed. “Reading emails, advising students, and supervising independent studies. I’ve also been working on three papers and a book.”

“From where I’m standing, it looks like you’re living a bachelor lifestyle and using elaborate excuses to avoid doing any work,” Hillian said. “That’s also partly why I’m here.”

“To give me an ultimatum? Don’t bother,” Rivers said. “I know my rights as a tenured professor after fifteen years.”

“Are you saying that you’re going to keep doing nothing until we have to take formal, and expensive, and unpleasant, legal action?” Hillian said.

“I’m saying that I am a philosophy professor, and nothing that you can do to me can compare with what the last year has convinced me is coming. I’m going to keep on as I have been, since it’s the last relaxation any of us are going to get.”

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