Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 157
Publication Date: 1921
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The Efficiency Expert is one of a small number of Burroughs' novels set in contemporary America as opposed to a fantasy universe, It follows the adventures of Jimmy Torrance as he attempts to make a career for himself in 1921 Chicago. The book is remarkable for the criminal livelihoods of the hero's friends. It was also admitted to be a fictionalization of Burroughs' own difficulties in finding a job prior to becoming a best-selling writer.
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The gymnasium was packed as Jimmy Torrance stepped into the ring for the final event of the evening that was to decide the boxing championship of the university. Drawing to a close were the nearly four years of his college career—profitable years, Jimmy considered them, and certainly successful up to this point. In the beginning of his senior year he had captained the varsity eleven, and in the coming spring he would again sally forth upon the diamond as the star initial sacker of collegedom.
His football triumphs were in the past, his continued baseball successes a foregone conclusion—if he won to-night his cup of happiness, and an unassailably dominant position among his fellows, would be assured, leaving nothing more, in so far as Jimmy reasoned, to be desired from four years attendance at one of America’s oldest and most famous universities. The youth who would dispute the right to championship honors with Jimmy was a dark horse to the extent that he was a freshman, and, therefore, practically unknown. He had worked hard, however, and given a good account of himself in his preparations for the battle, and there were rumors, as there always are about every campus, of marvelous exploits prior to his college days. It was even darkly hinted that he was a professional pugilist. As a matter of fact, he was the best exponent of the manly art of self-defense that Jimmy Torrance had ever faced, and in addition thereto he outweighed the senior and outreached him.
The boxing contest, as the faculty members of the athletic committee preferred to call it, was, from the tap of the gong, as pretty a two-fisted scrap as ever any aggregation of low-browed fight fans witnessed. The details of this gory contest, while interesting, have no particular bearing upon the development of this tale. What interests us is the outcome, which occurred in the middle of a very bloody fourth round, in which Jimmy Torrance scored a clean knock-out.
It was a battered but happy Jimmy who sat in his room the following Monday afternoon, striving to concentrate his mind upon a college text-book which should, by all the laws of fiction, have been ‘well thumbed,’ but in reality, possessed unruffled freshness which belied its real age.
“I wish,” mused Jimmy, “that I could have got to the bird who invented mathematics before he inflicted all this unnecessary anguish upon an already unhappy world. In about three rounds I could have saved thousands from the sorrow which I feel every time I open this blooming book.”
He was still deeply engrossed in the futile attempt of accomplishing in an hour that for which the college curriculum set aside several months when there came sounds of approaching footsteps rapidly ascending the stairway. His door was unceremoniously thrown open, and there appeared one of those strange apparitions which is the envy and despair of the small-town youth—a naturally good-looking young fellow, the sartorial arts of whose tailor had elevated his waist-line to his arm-pits, dragged down his shoulders, and caved in his front until he had the appearance of being badly dished from chin to knees. His trousers appeared to have been made for a man with legs six inches longer than his, while his hat was evidently several sizes too large, since it would have entirely extinguished his face had it not been supported by his ears.
“Hello, Kid!” cried Jimmy. “What’s new?”
“Whiskers wants you,” replied the other. “Faculty meeting. They just got through with me.”
“Hell!” muttered Jimmy feelingly. “I don’t know what Whiskers wants with me, but he never wants to see anybody about anything pleasant.”
“I am here,” agreed the other, “to announce to the universe that you are right, Jimmy. He didn’t have anything pleasant to say to me. In fact, he insinuated that dear old alma mater might be able to wiggle along without me if I didn’t abjure my criminal life. Made some nasty comparison between my academic achievements and foxtrotting. I wonder, Jimmy, how they get that way?”
“That’s why they are profs,” explained Jimmy. “There are two kinds of people in this world—human beings and profs. When does he want me?”
Jimmy arose and put on his hat and coat. “Good-by, Kid,” he said. “Pray for me, and leave me one cigarette to smoke when I get back,” and, grinning, he left the room.
James Torrance, Jr., was not greatly abashed as he faced the dour tribunal of the faculty. The younger members, among whom were several he knew to be mighty good fellows at heart, sat at the lower end of the long table, and with owlish gravity attempted to emulate the appearance and manners of their seniors. At the head of the table sat Whiskers, as the dignified and venerable president of the university was popularly named. It was generally believed and solemnly sworn to throughout the large corps of undergraduates that within the knowledge of any living man Whiskers had never been known to smile, and to-day he was running true to form.
“Mr. Torrance,” he said, sighing, “it has been my painful duty on more than one occasion to call your attention to the uniformly low average of your academic standing. At the earnest solicitation of the faculty members of the athletic committee, I have been influenced, against my better judgment, to temporize with an utterly insufferable condition.