The air conditioner in the corner of the counsellor's office made airy conditioning noises as the thin young man with the red hiking bag stepped in. He squinted at the ugly ocean-themed clock on the wall and sort of died into a lazy sitting position on the comfortable but oddly bubble-patterned chair in front of the desk. The counsellor himself pointlessly adjusted his chair and leered at the spread of paperwork on the desk before him.
"You're the first in your class to fill out a college application." He moved one of the papers over with a stretched finger, as if it were on a touch-screen.
"Yeah, I need your sign-off on it before the school will send it off for me. Or hers." The student flicked his head to indicate the other counsellor's office. She handled last names L through Z. Supposedly only students with last names A through K complain about the school counsellor.
"I wish you'd have talked to me about this." The middle-aged man in the sweater vest said into the paperwork.
"Did I do something wrong?" The kid said flatly, knowing the question was rhetorical.
"No but this declared major," he tapped the field with the back of his hand. "Are you sure about that?"
The student slowly corrected the posture in his chair, the invisible, serpentine anger coiling up his spine. He knew this was coming. "Is there some problem with it? Are you counselling against it?"
"No, you have exceptional interest in the sciences." It was true. He had more AP science credits than any other student in the state system, and he consistently did fantastic in those classes, too. "It's just that..."
The thin young man blinked and said nothing. The counsellor finally looked up from his desk and they sat staring at each other. "But science isn't--"
"--Like science fiction, yes." The room took on an energy that had been bottled up before, their rapid conversation like fireworks.
"I knew you were going to say that. I can't believe it." They teenager doubled over like a tree in his seat, his long, wiry black hair almost touching the ground.
The counsellor fanned his hands over his desk and leaned back. "It's that you have to consider your background!"
"My background, great." The young man said to his shins. "My dad's a writer!"
"He's been the primary writer for three different television series and several movies! All science fiction! So he's a science fiction writer." He nodded, smug.
The young man knew what was coming next. He lived in this list. "Aaaaaand."
"Your mother, the actress, I don't need to point out to what her career is mostly made of. Your little brother paints enough ruined futuristic cities and creatures that he could be doing book covers right now!"
"I'm aware!" the young man leaned back into his chair, his eyes closed.
"Also, your sister won two writing competitions for our school." He held up a piece sign in the air. "Two." he said. Apparently it was actually a sign meaning "two".
The counsellor's eyes inexplicably widened in shock.
"So? Okay, my family is a science fiction family." He declared loudly. "That doesn't mean that I don't know the difference between science and science fiction!"
"Certainly you at least like science fiction." the graying man said pleadingly.
They young man started to say something, thought for a moment, and resolve fell over his face. "I love science fiction." he expounded. The old man leaned back into his chair and held up his hand in defence as the young man rose from his seat. "Of course I love it! It flows through my blood like haemoglobin! I love podcasts, books, television, classic and new, hard and soft -- all of it!"
"But then why, man, why?"
"Because I want to do science more!" The air rang with silence for a moment and he say back down.
The counsellor composed himself and arranged the papers in front of him. He took a breath and looked down at his desk again. "I'll send it right along. There's also a state scholarship I can put you in for, too. I'll send you the packet in a week or so."
"Thank you sir." The young picked up his bag and stood from the chair and left the counsellor and the whole messy scene behind him.