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One to a Customer
Chapter 1 - Sideways Stories from Simple University

Students working in the photography lab.
It was photography teacher Ted Rayes' birthday, and all of his students at Simple University in Filthadelphia had chipped in to purchase gifts - amazing, considering that the average student spends several hundred dollars per week on developing supplies, and barely has enough left to purchase one package of Ramen with a 95% discount coupon. Instead of waiting for class at 12:40 p.m. to begin to celebrate, everyone gathered inside his third-floor office at the William Henry Cosby Communications Complex beforehand.

"Thank you, J.R.," a disgruntled Rayes said to a graduate student as he opened a package of white matte board. "You shouldn't have. You REALLY, REALLY shouldn't have."

The next present, a cheap point-and-shoot camera, was selected by the duo of Rudy and Vanessa. The gift box was stuffed with unused dry mounting tissue to insure proper shipping and handling.

"I really don't know what to say," a still-miffed Rayes growled. "I'm rendered speechless here."

"Then I guess you don't want to see my gift," said Cory Feeney. Rayes decided to take the gift anyway, which was included inside a small manila envelope. "Oh great," moaned the photography legend. "A lifetime membership to the World Wildlife Fund. I HATE WILDLIFE!!!"

At that very moment, lab aides Perry Samuel and Ming Li Guan hurried into Dr. Rayes' office, pushing a cart containing several bins of suspicious-looking liquids.

"Happy Birthday, Dr. Rayes," said Ming Li. "On behalf of the photo lab staff, we'd like to give you these bins of tainted stop water!" Added Perry, "And as a special bonus, we've thrown in these used test strips absolutely free!"

Before Rayes could say anything else, another graduate student walked into the office, giving the veteran professor an opportunity to calm down. "Good morning, Treasured."

"Happy Birthday," Treasured said as she opened a bag containing two pounds of bananas and 35 plastic forks, intended for hurling at the ceiling of the photography lab. "The people at the fruit salad truck wanted me to give you this to celebrate."

Rayes said nothing, instead letting his evil-eye glare speak for itself.

Treasured continued, "Of course, I didn't forget about you either." She opened a different bag containing a case of color film, and put it on Dr. Rayes' desk.

"GET OUT!!!!!!!!," Rayes cried, evacuating the room completely in less than two seconds flat. The scream was so loud that it shook the foundation of the entire building, even the newly constructed Moe Third Media Center. WTRI-FM was temporarily knocked off the airwaves. In fact, it was so loud that it caused the normally idle advisers to actually do productive work, albeit only for a few seconds.

Despite all of this, class began at 12:40 p.m. in Room 302 as planned, without a hitch. Ming Li unofficially opened class by pushing the department overhead projector into the classroom, followed by Dr. Rayes, who immediately asked Charm, Vanessa and Ally to pull down the Venetian blinds. After collecting photos from the entire class, Rayes proceeded to use the next 90 minutes to criticize them.

"Not enough of a range in tonality ... too much wildlife ... not in focus ... too dark ... too light ... should be cropped more ..."

Then, of course, there was plenty of complaining about the overhead projector itself.

"This projector doesn't do this picture justice ... you can't see it real well on the projector, but there's lots of detail in here ... this picture looks much better up close than on the projector."

When he was finished commenting on all of the submissions, Rayes made an announcement that caught everyone off guard.

"As you know, we have a field trip this Friday. You will be heading to Iraq."

The students gasped not only in horror, but also in shock and awe. "What's wrong?," Rayes asked. "Didn't Ms. Green, the class secretary - and second coming of Pulitzer prize-winning photographer Terrence Wilson - mention this to you?"

(to be continued)