I was on vacation with the wife and kids. A week away from the office, not checking my messages, spending all day by the pool. Real nice time. Last day of the trip and I’m craving a Starbucks. I leave the hotel to look for one, but before I know it, I’m lost and standing in front of this gigantic building carved out of a rock. Some kind of ancient temple. It’s probably got a Starbucks. I step inside.

There’s an old guy standing there dressed like a medieval knight. I figure he must be the barista. I ask him for a Kiwi Starfruit Lemonade, and he just stares at me. Okay fine. So I ask him what he does have to drink, and he leads me to a room filled with cups and a big bowl of water. He points to the cups and says, “You must choose wisely.” I spot a bunch of skeletons in the corner, and I ask him what happened to those guys, and he says, “They chose poorly.” I’m starting to regret not just getting a Jamba Juice back at the hotel.

The cups all look really old and gross. But then I spot a metal water bottle. It’s blue and white and says SUNY BUFFALO on the side. I reach for it, and I can see the old guy starts to try to stop me, but he holds off. A single tear rolls down his cheek.

I grab the bottle, fill it up, and take a drink. The old guy looks me right in the eyes and says, “You chose very poorly.” I take another sip.

I blink, and suddenly I’m standing in front of a room of college kids. Most of them are sleeping on their backpacks. I’m talking about some guy named Alain Robbe-Grillet and telling everybody that their essays were due three weeks ago. I look at the blackboard and it says COMP LIT 101. I feel more afraid than I ever have in my life.

I hear the old guy’s voice in my head. He says that I have to work as an adjunct professor for the rest of eternity or until I get a tenure-track job, whichever comes first. I try to scream, but the only thing that comes out is a forty-five-minute lecture about something called “le Nouveau Roman.”

It’s not all bad. I like Buffalo wings, and the Bills are pretty good this season. Sure, I’m grading five hundred papers a week and living in a 1990 Honda Civic, but at least I get to hold my office hours in the campus Starbucks. I can’t afford anything off the menu, but one of the baristas gives me a nice cup of ice water if I agree to stop asking customers if they’ve seen a medieval knight wandering around town. I know it’s a long shot, but I figure if I’m going to break this curse I have a much better chance of tracking down a 1,200-year-old French knight in downtown Buffalo than I do of actually landing a tenure-track job.