Mr. Marsh looked up when he heard someone knock on his open door. It looked like the next student had arrived for career counseling. “Come in,” he said. He checked his schedule. “John?”
“That’s right,” the teenager said. He sat at the edge of his chair with a big smile. Good, that probably meant he had some idea of what he wanted to do after school.
“So,” Mr. Marsh said. “Have you given any thought what you’d like to do after next year?” He opened the folder at the top of the pile. “Your grades are good enough to get you into a nice university.”
“No, I think I want to go find the unicorns and live there with them. Like that lady did with the gorillas,” John said. He looked entirely sincere.
Mr. Marsh waited for the moment when his expression would change and he’d shout ‘just kidding.’ It didn’t happen and the silence was beginning to feel awkward. “Um, John,” Mr. Marsh said. “Unicorns aren’t real.”
“That’s what they want you to think. Just like the dinosaurs.” John smiled.
Mr. Marsh tapped on his planner with his pen. “Dinosaurs were real. They just all died out,” he said.
“You believe that comet theory?” John raised an eyebrow. “That’s ridiculous. A single comet took out all the dinosaurs?”
“Well, it blocked out the sun and changed the climate, and…”
“And didn’t kill the plants? Or the sharks?” John chuckled.
Mr. Marsh frowned. “Well, it killed some of the plants. And sharks are sharks. In any case, they’re all gone and unicorns don’t exist.”
John shrugged. “Believe what you will.”
“Even if you believe in unicorns, you don’t know where they are. How can living with them be a valid career plan?”
“Finding them will be part of my career, of course,” John said.
“And how do you plan on financing your expeditions?” Mr. Marsh asked. He clicked the end of his pen and prepared to take notes. If John was serious about this, he’d do his best to advise him. Even if he was fairly certain there was a hidden camera somewhere.
“Sponsorships, of course,” John said.
Mr. Marsh sighed. “How do you plan on attracting sponsors?”
“It shouldn’t be too hard. Everyone likes unicorns. Of course, the sponsors will have to realize that the unicorns may not agree with me sharing any of my findings. They are probably hiding for a good reason.” John pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket.
Mr. Marsh leaned forward as John held the paper up. It looked like a list of names written in different handwritings. “What’s that?”
“My classmates petitioned me to accept sponsors. It’s why I’m considering it even though I don’t think I’ll ever be able to share my research findings.” John folded the list up and put it back in his pocket.
“Then what was your original plan?” Mr. Marsh asked.
“Leprechaun gold.” John smiled. “It will probably be my main source of income. However, I do understand the need people have to be a part of major scientific endeavors. So, I will accept all offers of funding, as long as there are no strings attached.”
Mr. Marsh dropped his pen and leaned back. He ran a hand through his hair and took a deep breath. “John, you do know that there aren’t really any leprechauns, right?”
John rolled his eyes. “That’s what they want you to think.”
“Right. Right. Like the dinosaurs.” Mr. Marsh took another deep breath.
John smiled. “Exactly.”
“And how do you plan on obtaining this gold?” Mr. Marsh asked. He picked up his pen.
“Oh the usual way. Follow a rainbow, trick a leprechaun. You know.” John shrugged.
Mr. Marsh nodded and took notes. “All right. Well, I see a lot of time hiking and camping in your future. And a lot of time spent outdoors in the rain. What do you think you need to do to prepare for that?”
John pulled out another piece of paper from a different pocket. He smoothed it out. “Well, I’ve written a supply list. Tell me what you think.”
Mr. Marsh held out a hand and John handed him the paper. He looked over the list. “And where do you plan on finding rope made out of elf hair?” he asked.
John shrugged. “Oh, you know. Usual place. Go to a fairy circle, trick an elf.”
Mr. Marsh sighed.