Professor Joseph Costa liked his students; he liked them better when the semester was over and they’d gone home. He was working in his office, a long narrow room with a high ceiling and one large window looking across a green lawn toward the university library. The term’s grades had been submitted, and the department was quiet, leaving him a few uninterrupted hours to work on the edits his coauthor had recommended for their article on fiscal policy during Grover Cleveland’s second term. Costa was already known as the foremost scholar of tax policy under President Chester Arthur. His senior colleagues in the department had suggested that broadening his expertise would improve his tenure prospects.

There was a gentle rap on the door, which was ajar. “Come in,” Costa said absently, facing the window and still typing. He was tall and gangly, with an unruly head of black hair. He wore reading glasses with black frames so big and bulky that they might have been perceived as ironic or an offbeat fashion statement anywhere outside the university. He wore jeans, a luxury of the job, and a corduroy jacket that was now draped over the back of his chair.

“I know it’s not office hours, but do you have a minute?”

People on couch
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