If you attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale during the early '70s, you saw riots, street parties, and demonstrations. You dodged the endless construction projects as you walked to class, and encountered demonstrators, hippies, and streakers. And throughout all of this excitement, you got an education...and an affordable, quality education at that.
Saluki Marooned covers the end of spring quarter 1971 at SIU, and includes Radio and TV, psychology, and science classes, a canoe outing on the lake, a street party on the Strip, a riot, a stay in the Carbondale jail, and an appearance in city court.
There are numerous scenes at more than a dozen campus locations, including WSIU Radio, Lentz, Bailey, and Lawson Halls, Schneider Tower, the Student Center, the Paul and Virginia fountain, the Campus Boat Docks, and the picnic shelter near the lake.
710 Bookstore, Pagliai's Pizza, and Dairy Queen are visited. So are places that don't exist anymore, such as 1910 American Tap, Jim's, the Club, the Golden Gauntlet...and--at the end of the line--Carbondale City Court.
Among the characters is morbidly nervous 58-year-old Peter Federson from Chicago, who flunked out of college his sophomore year, and is thrust back into 1971. Catherine Mancini of Murphysboro is the girl he should have married, and Tammy Allen is the girl he did marry but shouldn't have. Harry Smykus--a former gangbanger from East St. Louis--is Peter's roommate. 78-year-old Herb Crowley from Marion--an engineering major--lives at Schneider Tower after he returns to college following a fifty-year lapse. Ronald Stackhouse, the student station manager of WSIU, is the picture of normality...until he gets home. Rounding out the primary characters is Marta, a hippie who is not as much of a space case as Peter first thought.
Supporting characters are Mr. Burns, a hard-nosed radio and TV professor and manager of WSIU; Mr. Fader, a sadistic algebra instructor; and Earl, a psychology instructor, who is starting to suspect that Peter Federson's mind is not running on all cylinders.
In the excerpt that follows, Peter has just gone canoeing on the lake with the girl he should have married, Catherine Mancini. It didn't go so well. He just wants to take a relaxing walk, but is in for a surprise:
I walked to my favorite part of the campus, the section of the woods between the Engineering Building and TP. It looked like one of those perfect wallpapers I used to download for my computer in the 21st century.
Considering that the big time warp and that day’s canoe incident had taken place in these screen-saver woods, I should have been on guard for unusual developments, but I wasn't. I was about fifty yards from the bridge that crossed the little rivulet that ran into the lake behind Bailey Hall when I spotted Tammy in her halter top and short shorts. Boy, she was built!
“Surprise!” she yelled.
I walked up to her without saying a word, amid a quick surge of desire.
“Well, Pete, aren’t you happy to see me?”
Tammy’s eyes were wide open, but she had a bitter expression on her face, and I could see the synapses popping behind them in preparation for a temperamental outburst.
“Tammy, why did you come down here now?”
“You hung up on me!”
Tammy had a habit of staring at me with her black eyes opened seemingly wider than it was possible to open them. When I was young the expression looked cute and sexy, but when she got older and heavier, it resembled a startled smiley face. I kept that image in my mind.
“Tammy, as I mentioned on the phone, things are pretty confusing for me now, and I don’t have time for—”
“Me, right? You don’t have time for me! But you do have the time for that girl?”
As you can see in this excerpt, Tammy constantly pops up at the most inopportune moments in Saluki Marooned.