Emily Roller

Contest Winner - 1st Place

Emily Jean Roller graduated from Yale in 2007. She is completing an MA in Writing at Johns Hopkins. Her first novella, Hookers, Flankers and Locks will be coming out this winter from Bare Knuckles Press.


I think we can both agree that you have some room for improvement.

Nadu P. Ono did not agree. Dr. Alfred Paterson did not notice, though. He looked over his glasses at Nadu’s forehead, handed over the paper and pretended to read a memo. He pretended so long that he forgot he was pretending and actually did read the memo. When he looked up, Nadu was still there.

Is there a problem, Dr. Paterson wanted to know.

Where? asked Nadu.

Where? asked Dr. Paterson.

Nadu waited for an answer that wasn’t a question. He stared patiently at the nameplate on Dr. Paterson’s desk. Alfred Paterson, PhD. Communications.

Young man, said Dr. Paterson. Do you have a question?

Nadu had only questions; it was answers he lacked.

Is there a problem? Dr. Paterson asked.

I don’t know, said Nadu.

Well, do you have a question? Why are you still here?

Where? asked Nadu again.

In this room. Why are you still in this room, young man? This is my office. Can’t you see that I’ve got other things to do now?

This is your room?

Of course it is. See the diploma? Dr. Paterson pointed to a framed diploma on the wall beside his desk. Whose name is on that diploma?

University of Phoenix.

Under that.

Alfred Patterson.

That’s me. This is obviously my room.

Where is my room, then?

Dr. Paterson looked over his glasses at Nadu’s forehead. He frowned. Your room, young man? Why would I know where your room is?

You said I had some room.

I said this is my room. I said nothing about your room.

For improvement. I want to know where.

Oh, said Dr. Paterson, understanding. I didn’t mean you have a room for improvement.

I have no room for improvement?

I didn’t mean that! Of course you do.

Nadu sat back in his chair and looked at the way Dr. Paterson’s hair almost covered his head—like a threadbare baby blanket.

Here, Dr. Paterson pointed to the paper. You have room for improvement in your paper. I just mean you can make it better. You have a little room for improvement—that’s all.

Nadu sat back in the chair and thought about it all.

Well, said Dr. Paterson. Anything else?

Nadu thought very carefully.

I think, he said, we can both agree that you have more room for improvement.