Satire | Campus Scout | A Campus Scout Carol

By Campus Scout

Campus Scout reclines lazily in his armchair secretly perched atop Foellinger Hall. Brushing the freshly fallen snow off the armrest, he gazes down upon the empty quad, sighing. Once again, he has been left behind on campus over break to stew over his feelings for four weeks. 

Scout grimaces and stands, ducking down toward the hidden staircase on the side of the dome. As he starts to descend, he turns to see that a squirrel has stolen his place on the armchair. Usually, he tolerated the uncannily domesticated critters, but not today.

He lunges at the startled squirrel. He loses his balance and topples over the side of Foellinger, landing in a bush below. 

Dazed, he pokes his head out from the bush like a prairie dog. 

Scout…”

The voice is spectral — from somewhere beyond. Scout looks around to see a very transparent Nick Offerman standing in the middle of the Foellinger courtyard. 

Scout clears his throat.

Nick Offerman, notable University of Illinois alumni and star of the beloved NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” what are you doing here?” 

“I’ve come to warn you, Scout. You will be visited by three ghosts this mid-to-late morning. And you must be ready to change.” 

Scout starts to inquire further, but the ghost of Nick Offerman disappears, leaving behind only the vague aroma of pine needles and firewood. 

Scout wonders to himself why in the world he would have to change — it’s the mad world around him that’s the problem. 2022 has not only brought war and suffering onto countless individuals, but also has sported a midterm election filled with endless antics and put the U.K. through not one, not two, but three different prime ministers. Scout sighs as he reminisces about the good old days of the Truss Era

Somehow, the sight of the empty quad has confirmed Scout’s suspicion — that no amount of unceasingly clever satire could ever change the fact that the world is completely bonkers. Scout realizes the journal in his front pocket, the one he writes every first draft upon, is useless. 

He stumbles out of the bush, withdraws the journal, and throws it in an arc above the Foellinger courtyard.

It is caught by a transparent hand upon a majestic stallion.

Scout cannot believe his eyes.

The Galloping Ghost?”

University of Illinois football legend Harold “Red” Grange tosses the journal back and straightens his jersey. 

“That’s the Ghost of University Past to you. Come on, we don’t have much time.”

The world swirls around Scout, and he’s reminded of the similar dizzying feeling he encountered earlier in 2022 when he went to fill up his gas tank for the first time and saw the prices. 

The world straightens, and Scout finds himself in the same place as before. 

“What happened?”

Grange’s horse whinnies. He pats it, saying,

“It’s not like the quad has changed that much since two years ago.”

Scout can think of one thing that changed, noticing the absence of the patch of grass that had withered and disintegrated after being trodden on by Sister Cindy two exasperating years in a row.  

“Why are you showing me this, Red? It’s just as empty as before.”

“Exactly. But this isn’t just during break. This is 2020. No one was walking these paths back then.”

“And?”

“And you should count yourself lucky.”

Red vanishes. Scout shrugs off the encounter and once again throws the journal. 

The journal sails in another arc, but is snatched in midair. Scout watches in disbelief as a transparent black and white-speckled squirrel drops the journal right at his feet.  

Scout exclaims,

“Pinto Bean! I missed you!”

The ghost of Pinto Bean makes a squeak and everything swirls again. 

Once again, they stand in the exact same spot. Scout notices the patch of dead grass by the Union.

“So we’re back to the present, eh?” 

Pinto Bean merely squeaks again and runs off, scattering a pile of blank white papers that had been left lying around.  

There is a shouting above, and Scout backs up to see himself lunging angrily at a helpless squirrel on the Foellinger roof.

“Not my proudest moment,” he mumbles to himself.

“Certainly not.”

Scout jolts. Nick Offerman has returned, this time nibbling on a magnificent piece of smoked ham. 

“Are you the future guy too?”

“Did you really think they’d go all out on just some satire columnist? Ghost rates aren’t cheap these days.”

Scout shrugs. He waits for a swirl. It doesn’t come. 

“They didn’t even throw in another swirl?”

“No need. This is how the campus will look over break next year and likely the next. The only thing that will change is you.” 

Scout notices a squirrel with a pure white coat scurry between beloved TV icon Nick Offerman’s legs and vanish into a bush. He feels a surge of hope. 

The majestically bearded phantom hovers his transparent hands on Scout’s shoulders. 

“Look. This year hasn’t been good to many. It’s been great to a few, but we don’t like to talk about them. But long as you keep people informed, good things may happen. Now, I can’t speak for how people stay informed, but-” 

The ghost of three-time Emmy-nominated actor Nick Offerman checks his watch. 

“And … now’s when they stop paying me. Farewell.” 

Scout is left alone again. He gazes over the empty quad with new eyes. No matter what would happen in the future, he would still be at the University, keeping people ironically informed and spreading satirical cheer throughout the year. He smiles and skips off, ready for what will undoubtedly be a turbulent and hopefully rewarding new year. 

 

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