Chapter 1 The Decision

Two unfortunate occurrences led to the unraveling of Renaldo Cane’s academic career at the University of Iowa. First, the other faculty members in his department decided he did not belong because Ren’s research and politics did not mesh with their projects and views. He was just too far out there for them to be comfortable with him in their department. Second, and more important, was his divorce from Joyce, who was the professorial super star of the English department at the University and vastly popular, and who had the ear of the chancellor and the other top administrators. Their divorce after five years of marriage dampened Ren’s chance at future advancement, either in academics or in general stature across the campus. These were two serious impediments, but after seven years of committing energy and time to the University, Ren needed one final push to propel him to finally leave.

The final blow occurred when Ren was on a research trip to Peru with some co-workers to collect botanicals, which were the starting materials for his research. They were in a far off valley in the Cordillera Vilcabamba mountain region of the Andes Mountains. When the team had collected enough Justicia gendaperussa, a plant with many medicinal uses, they gathered their gear and started back to Lima by climbing up the side of the valley they had come down. Ren was bringing up the rear of the group. He made his way slowly and carefully up a rock field. As he was looking down watching where he placed his feet, he heard several shouts. He looked up and saw a large boulder skipping down the rock field and heading straight for him. Every time it touched the ground it slightly changed directions. The boulder was coming right towards him but with a back and forth motion. There wasn’t time to move totally out of its path. There was only one chance. When it touched the ground right before him and he saw it veer one way, he needed to dive in the opposite direction. Ren waited and waited, his heart beating wildly became a slow motion clock. After what seemed like an eternity, it was finally there. The boulder headed left; Ren dived to the right, and he felt it skin his shirt sleeve. He was alive by inches. He looked up the slope. Everyone else was frozen looking down at him. Ren pushed himself to his knees brushed himself off, and yelled, “So you think I should stay behind with the Justicia!”

There were some nervous laughs. The group was overjoyed that he survived. Ren didn’t know who had accidentally loosened the boulder, but it didn’t matter. He was alive. A thought suddenly permeated through his brain. He could be gone in a matter of moments. Every day and minute mattered. It was time to move on. He couldn’t live in Iowa one more month and take the daily cold shoulders he experienced from everyone, from other faculty to boring administrators. He needed a change and decided to take the job offer that Longfellow College had made to him. He decided to move from the Iowa to New Jersey – about an hour or two (depending upon traffic) from Brooklyn, where he had grown up. After months of torment from his colleagues and his former spouse, moments after the boulder had come close to crushing him, it took Ren about ten seconds to make his final decision to move.

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