I just realized that all of the current mastery candidates are expecting to graduate either this year or next. If no new candidates arrive next February, they’ll be a break in the candidate group, a gap across which two groups of people will have nothing in common. If no one shows up the year after that, there won’t be a candidate group for a year.
Obviously, it’s possible to speculate about anything—we could all die tomorrow or four hundred novices could all turn up at the same time—but I mean, it actually seems plausible that there might be no candidate group for a year or so, because the group is so small, just three or four new ones a year, usually. Numbers that small are very variable, so there could be a year with none at all by pure chance.
So, I asked, and Sharon said there’s always somebody, in a tone that suggests she thinks there always will be somebody.
“How do you know these things?” I asked.
“Can’t tell you,” she told me, with a smile. “Professional secret.”
“I thought Allen was the one with professional secrets.”
“He’s the one who eventually tells students his secrets.” Again, she had that twinkling little smile.
And you know, I hadn’t thought of it, but I don’t think she has any students. Of course, she’s one of the so-called non-teaching staff, but that only means she doesn’t teach classes and they don’t draw attention to the fact that she is one of the masters. The non-teaching staff don’t take on students as often, but they do it. But Sharon doesn’t, or at least I’ve never heard of her doing so. I mean, she teaches the office staff how to do their jobs, but she doesn’t teach her particular kind of magic, which is to act as door-keeper and campus know-it-all.
Come to think of it, not only have I not heard of her having a student, I’ve heard hardly anything about her at all. She mostly lives on campus, but nobody knows where she goes when she leaves. No one knows anything about her family, or even what her interests are other than working here. And I say this even though I talk with her, simply because I like her company, at least every week or two.
She’s friendly with everybody, she always keeps a bowl of the most amazing hand-made candy on her desk (something else I tend to take for granted), and she’s almost always at work (I mean she rarely takes weekends or vacations, not that she’s there 24/7), always there at her desk, available to us. And--
“You seem to know everything, but no one knows anything about you,” I said.
“I listen more than I talk.”
“Me, too,” I said, and laughed.
I had something else to do, so I went on my way, grabbing a handful of sugared violets as I went.
It only occurred to me later that she probably did tell me her secret—she listens more than she talks, so of course people tell her things, and she remembers what she hears. That’s what I do, and I know a lot about what goes on, even if I don’t know as much as Sharon.
So, maybe she does have students?