MY FRIENDS CAN READ IT FOR FREE. (Excerpt #10 from THE HARVEST OF REASON). “Hello? Hi, this is Maddie Hawkins. Can I speak to Jimmy?” “Uh…he’s out right now, can I take a message?” The voice on the other end sounded sleepy. Maddie looked at her watch. No wonder, it was still eight in the morning. READ MORE

(if you’re here for the first time look at the excerpts 1-9 in earlier posts)

Chapter 3

 Then he came to a garden wall, and with untold pain

he scaled it, for it proved very high…


The Seven Valleys

“Hello? Hi, this is Maddie Hawkins. Can I speak to Jimmy?”

“Uh…he’s out right now, can I take a message?” The voice on the other end sounded sleepy. Maddie looked at her watch. No wonder, it was still eight in the morning. She remembered being an undergrad herself; if you didn’t have an early class you slept in as late as you could.

“Could you tell him his tutor called? I’ve got to re-schedule our session. I got too much going on this week. Tell him to call me, okay?”

“Sure thing.” The phone clicked. Maddie had a twinge of guilt. Maybe she shouldn’t cancel out. Jimmy needed help as bad as she did.

“Who was that?” Lisa asked from behind her.

“Oh, there you are. I didn’t know you’d snuck up behind me. It was…it was some kid. Actually, it’s the roommate of the kid I tutor.”

“Tutor? When did this happen?”

“When you weren’t looking.” Maddie smiled. “Way back in the beginning of the semester I asked at the Minorities Office and they gave me two students.”

“Really? What exactly do you tutor?”

“Organic Chemistry. Calculus.”

“Both kids?”

“No. Dawn’s a pre-med sophomore. I see her once a week for Organic. And Jimmy, I help him with Calculus. He wants to be an engineer. He’s the one I was calling. Feel really cruddy canceling out on him.”

“Maddie, I don’t know where you find the time to do this, with the schedule we’ve got.”

“Yeah. I don’t either. But it’s real important. Jimmy could lose his basketball scholarship if he doesn’t keep up his average. And that’s his ticket, you know.”

“Wait. Is he the really tall one? I’ve seen him around the halls. He’s cute!!”

“Yep. He’s full of attitude, too. But underneath he’s real sweet.”

“Cool.” Lisa turned to go. “Maddie, study group tonight. Don’t forget.”

“Okay,” she had already drifted back to Jimmy.

Jimmy Tyson had landed a Wisconsin athletic scholarship after a career as a popular high school basketball star. His grades had been good enough to get him into the engineering program but since he’d arrived he’d had trouble keeping up. He was scared, Maddie could tell. He wasn’t about to admit it, though. It had taken a lot of effort on Maddie’s part to break through all his cockiness. He told her about the grueling practice schedule, with so many away games on weekends. How it was putting a serious dent in his academics. All the coach wanted was the points he scored. All his professors cared about were the grades. He didn’t know what he was doing here. He was sure he wasn’t going to make it.

Maddie felt her first job was to assure him that he could make it. Although he was obviously bright, his fear was having such a paralyzing effect he was freezing up during his exams. She had worked with him throughout the semester, meeting every week to coach him.

But for now, she had to focus on her own problems; she’d have to resume her meetings with him the week after midterms were over.

Maddie met Lisa again in the hallway that evening, hurrying down to room 312 for the study group meeting. They passed one closed office door after another, their dark wood archways somber with decades of old history.

“Did you study?” Lisa asked.

“Barely. Between the harvest and the greenhouse and the lab work, I’ve been running myself ragged.” She faked being out of breath. “I can barely keep up with the reading assignments. How are you doing?”

“Me? Well, I haven’t kept up with the reading. I’m at least a hundred pages behind in Plant Genetics and the last two chapters of Quantitative Genetics I haven’t even looked at,” Lisa stated.

Maddie looked at her, wondering how come she was so unflappable. She would have been pulling her hair out if she had been a hundred pages behind.

“Yes, but Lisa, at least you get the stuff. You have a feel for that quantitative theory. That stuff is so hard for me. I tell you, I read the chapters and it’s all a blur to me. I can’t believe we have a midterm in four days. I feel like I don’t know anything.”

“Eh! Don’t worry your pooorr head so much missy, you’ll give yerself a brain fever,” Lisa mimicked. “We’ll pound it into that thick head of yours.” She reached up to tap the much taller Maddie on the head.

Maddie swatted her arm away. “God, Lisa, you’re so laid back. I wish I were more like you,” Maddie sighed, wishing she weren’t the kind of person to sleep and wake with her stress, always forming knots in her stomach.

They reached room 312 and found that in addition to the regulars, a few more faces were present. Apparently, the word had gotten out about their study group and the desperates were congregating.

For the next several hours Maddie fluctuated between feelings of relief and exasperation. At times some person was able to shed light on a problem; at others, the general confusion and ignorance were enough to make her despair. Around ten-thirty her concentration was vaguely disturbed by the sight of John Pitts getting a drink from the water fountain in front of the doorway. She thought wistfully of his lack of need for study groups.


 John had noticed Maddie standing at the blackboard in the corner classroom when he was coming down the hallway. His curiosity was peaked; she seemed to be explaining something to someone in the room. When he neared the open doorway he saw a bunch of other people in the room, engaged in a heated debate. He lowered his head over the water fountain and perked up his ears. What impressed him was that some of the voices were those of foreign students he had always regarded as very quiet and reserved. It surprised him that an Indonesian female could be argumentative, that those quiet African students were raising their voices. He wondered why he had never seen this side of them before. Was there something about Maddie that brought them out? And was there something in his behavior that precluded that kind of familiarity?

He was so curious about the proceedings he almost turned on his heels and went back to the room. But then what would he do? They’d all probably look at him like he was crashing a party. He had to admit to himself, he had never really made personal friends among the foreign students. He just worked with them, assumed they had their own circle and left it at that. Maybe his own expectations, or lack thereof, had something to do with what side of them he saw.




I’m really interested in your comments.

DISCUSSION QUESTION   What effect is Maddie’s world view having on John’s?

About rheaharmsen

Rhea Harmsen is a scientist, novelist and author of Language of the Spirit, a volume of selected poems. She has also released three novels, The Harvest of Reason, Intermarry, and God Created Women. Harmsen was born in a family with a black father and a white mother at a time when interracial marriage was still illegal in some states. Her parents gave her a vision of world citizenship that informs her writing and her lifestyle and has caused her to reject traditional views of race and gender. Harmsen's article "Science in the Hands of Women: Present Barriers, Future Promise" appeared in World Order in 1998 and provides the foundation for the story line for her novel The Harvest of Reason. She co-published the Monroeville Race Unity Forum Bulletin and authored many poems on racial topics, crystallizing the "conversation on race" in the novel Intermarry. Her work with domestic violence survivors in Puerto Rico inspired the novel God Created Women. Harmsen holds a doctorate in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She currently resides in Puerto Rico. Upcomming projects are described in her web page at
This entry was posted in agriculture, chastity, college students, equality, female professors, genetic engineering, genetics, global discussion, graduate school, interracial marriage, John Pitts, Maddie Hawkins, national discussion, plant breeding, race on campus, Uncategorized, University of Wisconsin-Madison, women in science and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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