©01 The Media Desk
Back to the Desk
Dale's idea still wasn't ready, Varscroft was trying to get Crowley to explain some of his symbols so the Professor could put them in the computer, it didn't have a happy face key, or a spiral squiggle. Crowley went through what those meant and why he used those symbols.
"You lame brained smelly pig. There is no way a strange quark could exist in a photon that was viable. With any other particles on board it would be too massive and not be able to maintain energy cohesion and stay non-relative." Canney shouted to Ralph from across the room.
Cindy gingerly sipped at her coffee. "Anyway, we went to see what was going on, you know, screaming at 'Oh dark thirty' in the Catholic dorm isn't something you hear all the time. So we went down the hall, you know how narrow those old halls are, and we hear the screams some more, so Maggie knocks on the door, we hear muffled talking and a bunch of banging. The girl opens the door, she didn't look right, but she said everything was all right. I didn't believe it, so I asked if we could come in and look around. The girl didn't say anything, so Maggie walked in..." Cindy took a breath.
Maggie stiffened and closed her eyes to the memories. They came anyway.
"This guy was in her closet, he slams the door behind Maggie and starts beating up her and the girl, I couldn't get the door open, but I could hear the fight inside, I got another girl to call the police while I tried to get the girl to open the door, which she finally did. So I charge in, and the guy backhands me, I fall back out in the hall, and Maggie cold cocked him with the girl's laptop computer."
"I broke the laptop." Maggie said softly.
Mary was shocked at the whole thing.
Jack told the rest of the story. "The guy was wanted on about four rapes, these two are heroes, he was considered a dangerous criminal."
Maggie's face showed how dangerous he was. She said nothing but stirred her milkshake. Cindy smiled weakly, "She said they had met at a party, and she really liked him, she even tried to explain why he was beating her."'
Maggie looked up, "What's scary is nobody else on the floor had even acted like something was wrong until he started beating me up." She looked like more than her face was hurt, "This isn't New York or LA, what's wrong these people, you hear screaming you at least take a look." She held her jaw. Tears ran down her cheeks.
Mary took Jack's hand, suddenly she didn't feel like going to her afternoon class.
"Maybe this isn't the time, but when you feel up to it, I want to turn in my key, and see if you have a bottle of something that needs drank."
"Let's go Cin." Maggie said through her puffy lips.
Dale was having trouble keeping his idea straight, but he was going to give it a shot.
"Dr. Canney, would it be possible to arrange by order of, ahhh, prob, probability, the particles and stuff that, that could all, I mean, all the particles that could, exist, you know, in the light, and still have the, the ahh, what you said, viable. Yeah."
Whatever had come out of Dale's mouth, when sorted out, seemed to be a real question.
Canney stared at the board, formulating Dale's idea into science-speak.
Crowley scratched off a couple of the symbols.
Blumn was already scribbling on his paper.
Ralph wiped mayonnaise on his sleeve, "Yeah, boy that's good, if we eliminate all the nonviable combinations from jump, then we arrange the rest into the order of likelihood of existence past the photosphere, we may have something."
They continued working quietly for some time.
Jack played waiter, the girls sat around Cindy's small kitchen table and ate what he could fix from her freezer in a microwave, they drank and talked, then Jack went into the living room and watched TV, he could just hear them talking over the wine.
They were all worried that this incident could lead to the campus becoming paranoid again, with a security guard around every corner, police dogs roaming after dark, and metal detectors at all campus functions.
Jack had seen in the paper there had been a shooting at some off campus apartments over the weekend, but nobody had been seriously injured and there were no leads, now this, an attempted rape in a dorm.
The girls seemed to be parked for the duration, Jack ordered Pizza.
Jimbo wasn't going to any classes, but Carl insisted he needed to get out of the apartment for awhile.
He sat though his electrical engineering class, then almost fell asleep in German II, but he did find an argument about gang violence in Urban Sociology interesting. The professor thought the escalating violence within the gang would deter new members from joining.
Jimbo and a couple of others thought the opposite, "I'm tougher than you, so me and my boys are going to join up and then we'll take over." He told the professor.
For a brief second the prof thought the tough young man meant he was going to take over the class.
The other guy thought the 'it won't happen to me' mindset had a lot to do with it.
It was evident they were not going to change the prof's mind, so the period ended without anything much being accomplished either way.
Jimbo checked his and Carl's mail, picked up a paper, and headed back to the apartment, he was too strung out to go to his afternoon class, he hated art, and their class was always being taught by one graduate associate or another who didn't want to be there anyway. There was only one chick that he even wanted to talk to, but he never knew when she was going to be there. They seemed to have a different instructor every week or so, there was no continuity, and Jimbo couldn't do art to begin with, though his collage of shotgun shells and rabbit skins with leaves and stuff on the mid-term did get an 'A'.
Back at Carl's place Jimbo smelled something good cooking before he even got to the door.
"What the hell are you doing up cooking when you're supposed to be resting?" Jimbo said storming in.
Carl turned around and smiled at him. "I wanted to fix you dinner."
Jimbo's rather false bravado evaporated.
"OK Carl, as long as you didn't overdo it."
They had been at it for some time, the wine had run out and Jack took the last beer so they set to with soda pop and hard liquor concoctions that tasted better as they went. And things like store brand root beer and gin that wouldn't taste good no matter what.
Suddenly Maggie had it in her head they had to go up and check Mary's room with the official inspection form before Cindy could accept the key. They staggered out and found her room on the second try.
The room was clean enough, Mary had been an excellent housekeeper, Maggie seemed upset she couldn't find anything wrong.
Cindy found a nail hole where a plaque had been hanging.
Maggie was delighted. "We won't write you up for that, I'll let it slide, you should get your room deposit back without any hassles."
She had made her speech she was happy.
They wandered back to Cindy's room, two big pizza's were steaming on her desk. The afternoon was gone. Jack was watching a tape of a soccer game on the campus TV channel.
The girls took a pizza and went back to the kitchen to "Talk about important stuff before her wedding."
Lunch was hot sandwiches the Prof ordered over his computer from Al's across the road. They were delivered still hot with grease just dripping from most of them.
Dale had ordered a hot sub even though he had never had one before. It came with a side of coleslaw, a VERY! dill pickle, and a bag of chips. It was more sandwich than he had ever seen in a bag with his name on it before in his life.
"Boy," Ralph said looking it over in a professional appraisal, "If you can't put that away we'll have to run you out of the science department." He unwrapped his twin pastrami creations with extra cheese and onions. "This is a work of art, I should call my wonderful girlfriend to sketch them before I eat them.........NAAAH." He chowed down.
Varscroft went over what they had more or less decided while everybody ate.
The older lady came in, there was a bag for her too. She took up her position at the back of the room while Varscroft was talking and listened intently, Blumn gave her his notes and she looked them over quickly.
Peggy stopped by when her class let out and helped Dale with his sandwich over Ralph's objection.
"Well, since it's for the cause of true love and cheap sex, it's all right." He finally said.
Peggy took a bite of the VERY! dill pickle and made a face that sent several of the class into laughing spasms.
Varscroft made a statement that fired up an old argument about what constituted a true light photon, did it have to be in the visible spectrum to be considered a viable photon.
Blumn was of the ironclad opinion that even if it was a burst of static in the FM band from a star, it was still an electromagnetic radiation, and everything it put out was in their line of inquiry.
"Mulefeathers you old goat! Light is what we're after," Canney said spitting sauerkraut all over his desk, "Right Dale?"
For the record, Dale did not die on the spot. But he did shrug.
Jack fell asleep in the chair, the girls were planning wedding details, the other two wanted to see her dress. Mary suddenly realized something had been missing in her plans.
"I want you two to be my bridesmaids. Can you come?"
They squealed their approval.
And they suddenly needed bridesmaid's dresses.
Mary had another brainstorm, "There were a lot of bags downstairs at that house, maybe she has matching gowns you could wear."
"Mary, she doesn't know us, why would she let us wear a hundred year dress?" Cindy asked, the wedding talk had sobered them up somewhat.
"She didn't know me either, but she acted like she loved weddings."
They were going hot and heavy before Dale could say anything in answer Canney's question. Harrison thought they should limit their inquiry into the insides of viable photons of visible light only. The others wanted to look at everything else later, and pursue only visible light now for simplicity. Ralph finally agreed after an hour of arguing.
They ran down possible combination of interior particles, Dale's pollutants, which could affect the infinity of the photon. The list started getting long. Dale was working on a second idea, but it kept vanishing when one of the others said something.
Peggy came back from her afternoon classes and sat through a bit more of the heady discussion in which Dale played referee again. Canney had decided the only way to get his idea through to Harrison was to try to physically pound it into Crowley's head.
Crowley could outrun the wide-bodied Canney all day, but Dale lassoed the irate genius and wanted him to try to rephrase the idea into something that he could understand.
He tried. "Space itself is a rather quantumly non-local place, with infinite ranges of energy running around, fantastic distances, time measured in the half life of a galaxy, once clear of the corona and without running into an odd piece of space dust, what would change the relative stability of a photon once it was viable and escaped the corona? In spite of Dale's idea about it wanting to break down. I don't see what could change the equation once in place." He said in one breath.
Dale had it. His idea had come back. "Dr. Canney, the pollutants inside the envelope are reacting with each other constantly. Every time they, ahhh, they say bounce off each other, their, what he said, spin may get a little cockeyed, maybe even throw one of them out of the particle, I mean out of the photon, what would that do to the rest of it?"
Peggy was amazed again.
The fat man screwed his face up and stared off into space.
Peggy was wondering what level these people, and now apparently Dale as well, played on, he wasn't eloquent about it like some of the others, but he got his point across, at least this time. Canney wanted strong drink, Ralph said he'd buy and invited Peggy to go along with him.
They talked some more about it, then left Jack asleep in her chair and walked to the Rozbilski house to see Miss Alice.
It was a long walk, and even on the chilly November evening they were breathless and tired and stone sober when they got there.
Miss Alice welcomed them after they were scowled at by the butler. The lady was so sorry about Maggie's face, and shocked when she heard the story about how it happened.
Then she was just delighted to show them the dresses, and they had to see them all, and try on most of them. Maggie was a little too stout for the old styles, but Miss Alice was undaunted, she told them all to come back sometime Wednesday, she would have something ready for her.
She took Maggie's measurements and ordered Cindy and Mary to put the dresses on. Maggie helped Cindy with the garment that had a dry cleaners tag on it from the forties, but it looked much older, the silk was so smooth Maggie fell in love with it, the lace was something from a dream. The small room was almost big enough for them to get the job done.
They came out, Mary was already in her wedding gown, slowly twirling in front of a mirror on one end of the room.
They heard a gasp from the steps, but by the time they looked all they saw were feet going up. Mary loved Cindy's dress, the word 'princess' was worn out in just a few minutes.
The old dresses were ornate by all standards, the wedding dress just a bit too long for Mary, but not to notice, Miss Alice thought her cousin could tuck it up here and take a bit out there.
Cindy's dress fit like it was made for her. In a minute they heard the steps coming down the stairs, Rob had his camera gear.
"Miss Alice, you have to let me take their pictures. Please. I need ~ this, I'll give them copies." The young man seemed to have tears in his eyes.
Varscroft felt they had had enough, he did not feel like an all-niter, but before it was over they would probably put in a few.
Ralph had returned long ago with an assortment of airplane bottles of everything under the sun, Colleen with sketchpads, and Peggy toting bags of chips and ice.
Then they sat to purely theoretical grounds of deciding if a 'strange quark' would react differently in photon as it formed without anything else around than it would if there were some other particle in there with it. Then they tackled a 'Z' particle, a particle of the stuff left when a quark has spent itself and stopped acting like a quark, and nobody knew if a 'Z' particle even existed.
Dale asked another of his now famous, or infamous, questions.
"Dr. Harrison, I know it doesn't take real long, not even like a half of a tenth of a second, but it does take time, which of those on the board can do stuff in that short of time?"
Harrison made an awful face and dug through the box of airplane bottles looking for something.
Blumn tapped his book. "That's a good point. The time it takes the fusion reaction to generate a photon is infinitesimal, but time it is. Some of these reactions between particles may well take longer than that, which means they cannot occur simultaneously. Therefor, they cannot contribute to our pollution of the forming photon."
Colleen was in heaven, this was better than the breakfast table, here they were in their own element, their natural habitat. She caught Blumn's face peering into a small bottle of Tequila, looking at the worm, with the blackboard full of scientific type letters and numbers that meant nothing to her behind him. The moment only lasted a minute, but she remembered it to fine detail, she thought the final sketch was one of her best works.
Miss Alice would let Rob take portrait pictures of Mary, she didn't want a picture of Cindy with a bruise on her face, and a bandage on her nose.
Cindy rushed getting out of the dress to watch.
Mary posed with a bouquet of flowers fetched from upstairs.
She could not believe how this beautiful dress made her feel. One of the other girls from the house came in with some makeup, Mary stood at attention while a complete stranger applied just a hint of makeup to her face. She looked in the mirror while Rob clicked away. She almost didn't recognize herself, she was, she had to admit, beautiful.
Cindy came out, and couldn't believe her eyes.
They all stood around, "Rob," Miss Alice said, "We should take these upstairs, in a better room."
Peggy alternated attention between watching Colleen draw, and listening to the debate.
The older woman seemed amused by it all, but she had rounded up all the Scotch bottles from Ralph's box and retreated to her corner to continue reading and writing cryptic notes and listening on occasion to the raging storm of the discussion around her.
Dale was at the blackboard, drawing ovals and putting some of the symbols in them, not that he had any idea what the majority of the symbols stood for.
He asked a question as he noticed that not all his ovals were the same size.
"Are all photons, you know, the same size, do they all have, ahhh, the same amount of stuff in them, light errrr, energy, something. I guess."
Harrison stopped mixing some sort of suicide cocktail from a bunch of little bottles. "I don't know. I've always thought so. But, I don't know."
Ralph was stirring something in a plastic cup that looked oily. "It's possible that a photon reaches escape potential when enough light 'stuff' has been created within certain limits of direction and frequency, but there may be a random factor of the surrounding generative environment of the fusion reaction and other reactions that could affect it."
Ralph looked at Dale's drawings.
Colleen quickly sketched a rough line rendition of the three of them, then she started on the faces, Ralph was starting to look a little more like his old self, he hadn't shaved in a couple of days, he was wearing a shirt with the faded emblem of some football team, his belly hung out a little from under the badly shrunken shirt.
Harrison would have laughed out loud at Colleen's drawing of him, his tie was askew, his face slightly red from the work of deep thinking and strong elixir, his remaining hair tussled from his nervous habit of running his hand through it.
Dale on the other hand looked like Dale, just like Dale, except for the eyes, the eyes seemed to come from one of the others, maybe Crowley, the slightly mad, or Varscroft himself the serious scientist.
Peggy wished she had her talent.
Then Varscroft called time out. They would pick up here tomorrow.
He invited Colleen and Peggy back at their leisure. "It's nice to have somebody in here that talks some sense."
Peggy wasn't sure, but the wasn't sure she had said more than five words to him all day.
They settled on the music room, with its baby grand and rich decor.
Mary had to be helped up the stairs, then she walked slowly into the music room with Maggie letting the train out behind her.
Rob was going through film like it was free.
The girl with the makeup played the piano as she walked in, Mary felt the weight of the train behind her, the dress rustled around her. The rest of the house turned out to see this. Mary caught a glimpse of the girl from homecoming with a sketchpad. She tried to look around at the admiring faces, but the veil wouldn't let her move much.
Then she had to stand and smile for the pictures Rob took with a big camera on a tripod.
Maggie and Cindy got to sip tea and laugh at her, she had to respond to commands and move just so, they got to heckle and point out how the dress made her look like she had cleavage.
Finally he was done.
"Thanks a lot Mary, you're a natural, beautiful." He was saying, she almost heard him.
Miss Alice announced that bridesmaids' portraits would be taken Wednesday. "Now everybody give the young lady some privacy please." They all left except Maggie and Cindy and Miss Alice. "Dear, we should go over to the cathedral and plan this out. Which of these young ladies will be your maid of honor?"
Maggie made it easy, she nominated Cindy. Mary agreed and they all hugged again. Miss Alice was just as happy as they were.
"I love you in that dress dear, but we should get it back in its bag." Miss Alice stated sadly.
They headed back downstairs, but not before Martha came out and inspected her, then the cook announced they could have some double chocolate brownies when they were done changing.
Harrison, Dale and Peggy got to see the bride to be in her royal gown.
Peggy remembered her name was Mary from the queen's float, and she was supposed to marry some basketball player, but she didn't know why she was here in a wedding gown.
"I think I see Miss Alice's fingerprints all over this." Harrison said.
He couldn't take much of looking at Mary in the gown, but he smelled baking chocolate, so he stuck around.
Peggy was in a trance staring at Mary, she thought the girl in the white gown was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen, she looked so happy, she was glowing in the camera lights.
Then Miss Alice ordered them out, and Martha announced an informal reception for the bride to be and her brides maids, who also happened to be campus heroes. She ordered the house people went to wash up and put on a good face.
In a few minutes there was much introducing, and congratulating, and 'you were so lovely'ing, then finally a huge pile of RICH fresh warm chocolate brownies and some mocha coffee to wash them down.
Finally the guests of honor had to leave, and the party broke up. Everybody had overdosed on chocolate, so the popcorn fix was cancelled.
They found a note from Jack taped to the door of Cindy's apartment. Mary had picked up her car at the married dorm and showed Maggie and Cindy their new room, then drove around to Cannon dorm.
Jack's note said he had woke up and found them gone, so he was going over to the independent house and see Bonker, then back to their room in the married dorm. Mary said goodbye to her friends, Maggie was going to stick around Cindy's then walk back across campus again. Maggie didn't feel like spending all night in the old Catholic dorm, but she knew she had to. Mary hadn't been gone five minutes when Maggie said goodbye and started back.
Jack was still sitting with Bonker when she got there. He was looking better. Just being out of the hospital had made a big difference. Well, Bonker still looked like hell, but he seemed to feel better. He was very pale, and he seemed to tire easily, but he had some of his spirit back, and somebody had slipped him a foam cup of beer before the night nurse had come in.
Bonker was so happy to see Mary he almost got out of bed. "Jack wants me up and around to stand up with him Saturday. Me an Steve. I've got a good suit, I think Steve is going to borrow one from his cousin, you know those frat guys always have suits for fancy parties and such." Bonk had to lay back down, he was winded.
They left Bonker when Doug, '76 came in and said Bonk's nurse was there.
"I thought you had to get back to work." Jack asked Doug, '76.
"Oh, I took another week, I wanted to stay for your wedding."
Dale sat in his room and listened to the radio. He felt the warm glow from the chocolate and the coffee, but his mind was still on the problem from the Greek math class. He kept getting the feeling they were overlooking something that was important, but he no idea what it was.
Peggy looked out her window at the great rose window of the Cathedral.
She had been raised in several churches, first Nazarene, then Baptist, and lately none at all. Her stepfather hated church, and her real father was still Nazarene, but he wasn't what you would consider a regular attendee.
She found the huge window comforting, like an anchor, reminding her of stability and comfort. Even though she didn't understand the symbolism of the crown and the rose, with a larger cross than the rest. Every night she looked at it she saw more figures and symbols in it. She recognized the icon of St Luke from the hospital in the tall window to one side of the round main window from the hospital, but she had no idea what the other one was.
Peggy felt that seeing Mary the bride-to-be in that wonderful gown getting ready for her wedding was a sign to Peggy to find out what her own path was.
Monday night passed slowly, the house didn't want to go to sleep.
They went back to the married dorm and parked back behind the building next to the basketball court. Mary wasn't used to being so close to her building. She liked it.
The dorm didn't have a real parking lot, just a dirt area with a thin covering of rock. When the building was full it was probably only for the head residents and the other dorm assistants, but now, not even at half capacity, and an informal limit of one car per couple in the lot made plenty of room for everybody and some to spare.
Back in their room they sorted some more of their stuff.
There was very little overlap. Mary had a TV, Jack had a stereo instead, and so on. But they seemed to have a lot of stuff that really didn't belong anywhere, like three hot pots and an oil lamp. Jack had used his hot pot once, Mary still had one in the box. They decided to keep her older one and give the other two to the girls in the Catholic dorm, somebody would want them, and they didn't need two clock radios and an alarm clock, and so on.
Jack got an empty box and they made fun about what they hadn't used since they had been in school.
Mary noticed it was almost midnight, they gave up and went to bed. After an all too brief snuggling session they fell asleep smiling.
The Greek math class was moved to the library for the day.
So said the note Dale got at breakfast. It went on to give directions to the graphics lab, and told him to be there at nine. They decided that it was too nice of a fall day to take the van, after they ate, he walked Peggy to her first class. They held hands part of the way and admired the few colorful leaves that remained stubbornly on the trees.
Dale left Peggy at her class. He had forgotten his note with the directions to the graphics lab somewhere in the huge library addition. Fla knew it was up, he had been downstairs, and he had been in the main stacks a couple of times, he didn't remember much from his freshman tour of the place.
It was a sprawling complex, the layout had made sense to the architect, he had wanted the main area bounded by offices and study areas, and separate areas for research, preservation, and the visual and audio use areas away from the 'real' library. Which was fine.
Then came expansion as the college grew into a university, then came technology, computerized card catalogs, mircofilm, video tapes, an almost complete library on audio tapes, and all the rest. Now they had complaints that even this mighty complex, now called a 'learning resource center', was too small. They wanted foreign language sections separate, they already had a Spanish section, and some Japanese, but they wanted a new wing, with references and tapes, and the classics and... and, everything.
Dale found the graphics area after getting instructions and getting lost, then getting more instructions. Dale was there even before Varscroft.
The professor came in the side entrance near the gym, and got turned around at the elevator bank.
The professor found the lab and started setting up, it was long after nine when the rest of the class started wandering in.
Crowley was first, he had found the note on the door of the regular classroom then took his time getting to the library.
When Harrison showed up, he claimed he had to mail a letter before class, even though he had gotten the note at breakfast just like Dale, he was still late for class.
Then Blumn wandered in, he had stopped to look at an art display, downstairs.
Canney finally stormed in.
"They tried to confiscate my box of donuts. So I had to get creative." He said. He came back into the building a few minutes later with a box marked 'graphic supplies' Inside the box was a thermos of coffee and two boxes of donuts. "I went out and came back in the supply entrance with my box." He patted the box. "Nobody even looked twice."
They all helped themselves to the supply box.
"Wait a minute. We got donuts, something is missing." Dr. Varscroft observed. Everybody looked around. "Where's Ralph?"
Ralph was busy in Colleen's art office.
They had been busy most of the night in fact, had went briefly to his apartment, which she pronounced a fine example of low rent Spartan decadence. Ralph was embarrassed by the pinups, but she seemed amused. She didn't even mind knocking a stack of newspapers (mostly unread) onto the floor so she could sit on the threadbare couch. Ralph floundered around for a few minutes trying to change into a 'clean' shirt to wear to class.
He came out of the bedroom rubbing his face with a wash rag that was mostly strings, he still couldn't find a shirt.
Ralph stopped dead in his tracks, she was drawing his kitchen table.
Well, she was drawing the pile of stuff that fought for the available flat surface that had been a kitchen table.
He stood and watched her draw for a minute, she was working on a table level view of the collection. The skyline built from magazines laying bent off the side of the table, up to liquor bottles and a box sitting (leaning, that is) on edge leaning marked 'fragile- scientific instrument', then back down to bread bags and a lone soup can.
"I learned very early to draw anything, every time I get a chance, no matter what it is, no matter what I'm doing, if I see something that looks interesting, I draw it." She drew as she talked, first drawing an outline, then filling in detail and shading as she went.
Ralph watched things he didn't know were on his table come into sharp exact detail, just in pencil, on a piece of typing paper. "This is great because it is so obviously a real slice of life. And the collection of objects is wonderful, sharp angles and rounded shapes, and, whatever that used to be, a grapefruit?"
Ralph let her draw awhile without disturbing her, then she was just shading the boxes and stuff, he started distracting her. She didn't stop him.
Jack was the first up, he managed to shower without interruption, then he woke Mary up softly, she got ready quickly and they went down to breakfast.
They had a noon meeting with father Frakes, they were supposed to meet at the Cathedral with the vicar to arrange things, then Jack was supposed to go out to the mall to get the tux Miss Alice had ordered from Mary's estimate of his measurements... Then... well she couldn't remember what was next, but it was important she was sure.
Miss Amberjoyce's class was a joy to be in, the discussion today was about the trends she saw in teaching.
"...more computers in the classroom, letting students call up simultaneous information on similar items through history. Like seeing Napoleons defeat at Waterloo right next to Lee's gamble at Gettysburg, and the Nazi failure at El Alamain. Then they could compare similarities of the orders of battle and see what went wrong." Miss Amberjoyce spoke gleefully about the chance to do something like that herself in the freshman class soon.
Ralph made it to class around lunchtime.
The class stood around the monitors running the simulation Varscroft had been programming, and waited for his excuse without saying a word to him.
"I'm late, all right? I was delayed! All right?!? Now, what's this cartoon you're playing with?"
They didn't explain it to him, they just let him watch and pick it up as it went. He found a couple of forgotten donuts and got a cup of nearly cold coffee and munched happily away watching the numbers and symbols on the screens change.
His mind was on the soft warm body he had spent the morning with in his bed that was propped up on milk crates.
Colleen had laughed out loud when she saw his bedroom, but she was enchanted to learn that Ralph's roommate also shared this room.
"Where does his stuff end and yours begin?" She asked.
"Who knows? He does laundry and dumps what ain't his on my bed. I buy food and just fill the fridge up with whatever. The rest of it, well, we do whatever is needed, as its needed." He looked at the overflowing sink and the sagging table. "It's needed. I might spend Saturday doing the kitchen again."
"How do you split the rent for this... Interesting place?"
Ralph rubbed her silky arms slowly, "Who'd pay rent for this dump? This is my Uncle's building. He has to pay some big bribes to keep it from being condemned. I do odd maintenance for free rent. he tries to get by on starving student types, and some welfare, but this place is going down the tubes." He kissed her slowly down her chest. "The university wants the land." He stopped talking, he had more important things going on.
Ralph replayed all this while the debate fired up because Canney didn't agree with the computer on some fine point of detail involving the closure of the photon on its way away from the reaction that produced it before additional quantum particles could get on board. Ralph could care less.
The elderly lady was so thrilled with the discussion that she was going to hold all of her classes in the computer demo room upstairs in 'Ol Abe the next day.
They would get on a network and play, the word she used, with whatever history information was available.
She was surprisingly very up-to-date on all the latest teaching methods including live web video and interactive virtual reality that let you be General Roosevelt on the beach at Normandy and try different plans to move your army inland.
She just had always assumed the traditional lecture-based format was the best, now she was no longer sure.
The class was full of questions now, about tests, the new fangled 'learning experience' as the lady put it in her answer.
She was sure there was a place in learning for checking what students had actually absorbed, and she had always been a great fan of essay questions and fill in the blank types, but she was also open to the anxiety the tests created in students that were not completely at home in the subject.
She looked straight at Jack when she said that.
She was also very well versed in the field of modern 'as it happened' history.
Miss Amberjoyce confided was a great fan of the political processes of the last thirty years of TV coverage of the presidential races, including Nixon's trial by fire in the debate with Kennedy. The 'Fear and Loathing' 1972 campaign. The 1980's mudbaths, and the technical wonder commercials and the 'instant' commercial tuned to an almost hourly changing electorate in major cities of the '90's.
Mary had a more relevant question, to herself anyway,
"Not to really change the subject, but how has weddings changed in the US over the years?"
Miss Amberjoyce was happy with the question, and talked right on the end of the class.
"Early on there were mostly ceremonies that were rooted in the religious ceremonies of the old country wherever the immigrants were from. And there has always been civil weddings. Then a revolution of sort took place, and a mix entered the scene almost unperceptibility. The religious ceremonies were stabilized within groups, all weddings had always had similarities, no matter what creed it was held under. The joining was crucial to the groups survival, and the public announcement of this joining was the reason for a ceremony more or less open to the community."
She told them about Queen Victoria's white gown that started that tradition, and her nine bridesmaids that has been the Aristocracy's standard ever since.
"So in the great melting pot, as it were, some encroachment of the civil merged into the other styles and the wedding service inside the churches became more homogenized, more similar; under the peculiar accessories of the individual religions, the services were surprisingly all more or less similar after a few generations." She had almost lapsed into her lecture mode, but she was smiling more now, and her voice wasn't monotone at all and she got to show off her knowledge of the many cultures that had made her country what it was.
The simulation continued with out any interference from anybody. They all made notes of questions to ask after they took their afternoon break and met back here.
Dale ran to the snack bar, with Harrison right behind him, soon the others were there too. They ate greasy things and bagged chips and pretzels. It was too soon they had to go back.
Jack and Mary met the Bishop in his office beside the Cathedral in the small religious studies building, though most of the undergrad classes were held in regular classrooms on campus.
The office was the oldest one on the campus Jack had ever been in. It was heavy with real wood, and smelled a little musty. The heating pipes banged occasionally, and the solid wood floor looked to be three inches thick with wax.
Mary didn't look at the office, she was dazed by the fact that they were talking to the man that would in just a few days pronounce them Husband and Wife.
The bishop read them what he would say and asked their approval or suggestions for changes. They held hands and said it was fine. He asked if they had any questions about the married life. They said they didn't think so.
He asked Jack if he thought the basketball team had a snowball's chance in Mexico of winning the conference after the forfeits that were dropped on them.
"If we start strong and play right if we get a few breaks and..." Jack felt like he couldn't lie to a priest. "I think we are in some deep doo-doo."
The bishop nodded. "Mary, I want you to be honest with me, are you going into this marriage a virgin?" He looked into her face strongly. She took a deep breath but didn't say anything.
"I see." He said. And that was that.
Being the chaplain of a major university he had seen all sorts of variations on the theme of relationships. This was the one style he never tired of, a real wedding of two people that were obviously very much in love.
"That is all right my daughter, God made physical love to complement the spiritual love and the love emotionally of man for wife. We as humans sometimes get things a little out of order, but I believe He understands in the end if the people involved do the right thing."
He escorted them out of the office and into a side hall.
Mary had been dreading walking into the Cathedral again.
This was where Carol had had her service after her suicide. But now there was no coffin, no mourners, and no deep voice singing the old camp song far in the back.
Mary steeled herself as they walked toward the front.
Jack stopped the Bishop when he got to the kneeling part. "I've never knelt, I don't know how."
The bishop was pretty insistent that they at least knelt during the opening prayer and the announcement that their marriage to take place before God and so on.
Jack agreed. Mary was wondering how she would kneel in that dress.
Back in the library they all got a good look at one of the computer people who didn't have a bra on bending over Varscroft's keyboard trying to get him to push the right buttons at the right time.
The woman was about the same age as the professor, but she was nice enough looking to keep them busy for a few minutes.
Finally he had the machine doing what he wanted it to, namely enter the randomization factor Canney had been screeching about earlier. Now each time it ran the same scenario the local radiation and other factors would be a little different, allowing for Canney's ideas about Dale's pollution to be acted upon before the photon escaped.
As the woman left the room there was a release of breath from the scientists, and Dale.
Ralph bounced in. "Did you see that, damn, she was stacked."
The others let him babble, it seemed Ralph was back to Ralph, they had missed his erratic and slightly bent input.
But Ralph was the master of the sudden flash of insight, the leap of logic that left others in the dust. But these things did not happen on command, or with any regularity, or even on any sort of regular basis.
Mr. Ralph Cook was well known for being a fine walking testament to everything wrong with modern man, but he also had something that was rare, a true spark of genius.
They ran more simulations of the interaction of the particles inside the forming light photon.
They noticed that according to their models, most photons were non-viable. But there was something wrong, a lot of light escaped disaster and reached far into space and time, what had they missed?
"How many photons per second does one square kilometer of your average garden variety star create?" Then the questioner answered himself in false voice that vaguely sounded familiar, 'Billions and Billions and Billions of Billions?" Ralph went back to his own voice. "If that's the case, even if only half, or even less, survive, wouldn't that still be sufficient to make your starlight starbright and so on?"
They were thinking about it. Ralph went on, "Perhaps every photon that fails is reabsorbed into the fireball of the star to reemerge later, or even recombine with other failed photons in the stellar soup until it escapes. Adding to the mix, to the background radiation, keeping the temperature up, being weighed in as free quantum particles in the mass of the star."
Dale was awed, he had never even had a nightmare in which Ralph put out so many coherent sentences at one time.
The vicar was waiting on them nearby. He had some photos of the front of the sanctuary as done up for several weddings. But Mary knew they would not be able to afford a big show, no matter how they tried, now.
The nave of the cathedral was huge. Jack's dad had tried to convey the size of the place, but they couldn't grasp it, Mary hadn't paid that much attention when she was in here before, but now, looking around the chevet rose high above, heavily decorated, with the massive round window and its side windows glowing from the sunlight outside.
Mary stood and looked, the place was old, sacred, and felt it.
They watched the numbers and confused computer language flow across the screens for a long time. It was late, Dale was asleep on the low couch in the graphics room, the others were either reading or ignoring Canney and Varscroft on the computer.
Finally the Professor stood up and stretched.
"OK, that'll do it." He looked around. Ralph kicked Dale's feet off the end of the couch, he came to. "I want each and every one of you to take tomorrow off. Do not even think about this class, or for that matter, anything else. We are going to hit it hard on Thursday and Friday. I want you all to be fresh and ready for it then."
Dale didn't understand. "Should I go to my regular classes?"
Dr. Varscroft seemed surprised by the question. He looked at all of them, Ralph was smiling broadly with some secret plan.
"Mr. Hinerick, you will not go to any classes, you will not read your textbook, you will not watch educational TV. You will sleep late, eat junk food, and goof off all day...
"That's all he does anyway." Blumn shouted.
"Good, then he'll be good at it. I'll see you all in our regular room on Thursday. Now go away."
The vicar showed them several places where flowers could be placed for effective use of the space, he clued Mary in on the best way to kneel in a wedding dress, a modified curtsey without getting on both knees, so she could get up without them calling the paramedics.
They firmed up a few details and the chaplain told them that the choir from the church itself would be singing at the service. Mary was overjoyed, her perfect wedding was beginning to look more realistic after all.
They walked back to the chaplains office and said goodbye. Mary wasn't sure what to do next. "Lunch?" Jack suggested, she agreed. Nothing on campus sounded good so they went and got her car and headed into town.
Maggie was stewing over her face. She didn't want to be in the wedding looking like the loser in a middleweight title fight.
She was sure her nose looked like a melon, and her right eye had every color of the rainbow in and around it.
One of her assistant dorm supervisors had talked a girl from the campus theatrical group into trying some stage make up to cover the eye, but her lips and nose were beyond help it seemed.
"Lot's of ice." Was the only advice she got from anybody that seemed to work.
It was late Tuesday afternoon when she felt like her lip wasn't an inch thick.
Maggie had made her rounds of her classes today, refilling her ice pack when she could, not talking to anybody and trying to not breath through her nose. She got a lot of stares from the others.
The whole story hadn't been in the paper, and Cindy hadn't told Mary all of it because she would have worried.
Maggie had trouble thinking about it now, days after it had happened and knowing the guy was locked up on several outstanding warrants.
Dale and Harrison walked in on the tail end of the popcorn session. Peggy had run the machine again and did all right. Colleen was there, but she seemed distracted.
Harrison told Valerie about the class's day off tomorrow, and she had an idea of something they could do.
Dale just ate popcorn and sat, he was trying to decide what to do the next day.
The group broke up, Dale decided to stay up with the TV and see what came on after ten at night.
Peggy had real classes the next day so she went to bed.
Dale was alone in the back room. He turned the TV to the campus public station and tried to figure out what the show was about.
He watched a time jumping Englishman that smiled too much duel with some overgrown salt shakers with one eye on a stick.
Dale had no idea what the show was even called, but he loved it. This Englishman had a phone booth that was bigger inside than outside, and could travel through space and time.
"Talk about the Uncertainty Principle! He doesn't know where or even when he is."
Later he was really into some Italian movie about a Roman with an awful haircut and two women who were not his wife and some soldiers.
Dale tried to follow the sub-titles, but they flashed too fast to read. There was a sword fight, a chariot chase, and a love scene between the Roman and one of the women in the fog. Then it was over. And it was midnight.
Dale was playing with the TV when Yyavonne came in, she wanted to watch something called 'Free Will Theater' on the public access channel.
Dale said OK and she turned the channel. He wasn't sure what to expect.
Maggie was sipping a very cold ginger ale in her room.
The events of what she had come to call simply, 'that night' went through her mind, and she couldn't stop them.
She and Cindy had beat on the girls door, then the girl opened the door. Cindy didn't believe whatever the girl had said, and Maggie went into the room.
The rest happened very fast, but it seemed like it took hours.
The man slammed the door behind her and locked it, then he hit her, hard.
Maggie was an experienced fighter, in a sense, from years with her brothers, but she was no match for this man.
He ripped her shirt nearly off her, and knocked the other girl clear across the room.
Maggie shook her head clear and tried to kick him, but he was on top of her in a second, slapping her hard and clawing at her clothes.
Maggie heard Cindy beating on the door and screaming for somebody to call the police.
The other girl was crouched in the corner, gazing at Maggie with blank eyes.
Maggie kicked and fought with everything she had, but he was too strong, and single minded in his purpose.
She felt her pants being pulled off her hips, she realized her shirt and bra were already gone. She shouted the girl's name and slammed her forehead into the man's face, making herself dizzy.
Maggie knew she was left with one chance, she shouted the name again.
Yyavonne reappeared with two big bowls of frozen yogurt.
Dale took one and looked at it strangely.
She explained that every Tuesday night the cable company showed the 'Free Will Theater' as its public service. It was a collection of short skits, poetry readings, pantomimes, and other silliness, committed to video tape by all sorts of people, and submitted to a mysterious office at the cable company for review, to be showed or scraped as an employee of the company saw fit.
The sorter was weird in his own right, and just took the very best or worst for the program. It lasted two hours.
There was several totally stupid short one act plays, dirty shadow pictures on curtains, some really lousy singing and dancing, and a series of dumb pet stunts.
Yyavonne thought it was some sort of slice of life study, and made sure she watched it every week, she had even been on it a time or two.
Dale had never seen anything like this 'show'. There was no coherency or even any rational applied to the series of shorts.
There wasn't even a narration, or warning in some cases as to what was coming.
Just a flash on the screen of the title, producer, actor, or sometimes, nothing. There was no commercials, very little dialogue, and it seemed no reason at all for the whole thing.
At times Yyavonne would tell Dale something about what they were seeing, or she would point out that the naked poet covered in slime was a student at the university, or some such detail Dale tried to grasp.
Maggie was still a little groggy from butting heads with her attacker, she felt his hot hand inside her pants, she hit him in his ribs as hard as she could and kicked her legs against whatever was there.
She saw the girl step from the corner, she was moving toward the door where Cindy was pounding and calling.
Maggie felt the man shift his weight and try to hit the girl again. He missed, the girl jumped at the door and turned the lock.
The man slammed her back against the wall, she thudded into it and went limp.
Cindy charged in as soon as the lock was opened, but the man hit her in a couple of times and she went backwards out the door.
As he turned back Maggie she hit him in the head with the only thing she could find in her hurry, the girl's lap top computer.
The man caught the machine full in the face, swung with all of Maggie's strength.
The machine shattered. But the man went down.
Maggie was a wreck. But they had to give statements to the police, and campus security, the cops took pictures of her face, and drove her to go to the hospital.
It was early Sunday morning before Cindy put her to bed.
Maggie was exhausted, but she wanted to tell Cindy what happened in the room before she came in. She had related it without emotion to the police not even showing a tear.
But now, to her friend, it all came to the surface.
She cried when she told of his hands on her.
Cindy held her until she fell asleep sobbing.
Then Cindy took the long walk back to her own empty room. Cindy didn't shower, or even take off her bloodied clothes. She just collapsed on her bed and didn't wake up until it was dark out again.
Dale wandered up to his room at almost three A.M. After the strange show went off after two, Yyavvone talked at length about several of the performances.
Dale only remembered a few of them, and he understood perhaps less than that. He mechanically took a shower and fell asleep in his robe.
Dale woke up before lunch. The first thing he did was panic, he didn't remember he had the day off.
He was hungry, and he was sure he was in trouble. But as he got dressed reality came into focus and he figured out that he had today off. Dale went downstairs to see if there was anything to eat. There wasn't, but Martha gave him a piece of pie and a sandwich anyway.
Dale ate on the back porch watching TV. The house was pretty much deserted.
As he watched the butler and Miss Alice go about their duties. Dale felt like he was in the way.
He decided to walk around the campus and see what some of the other buildings were about.
Dale set off, he was going to start at the media center down the street from the Roz, and work his way around.
They ate lunch at a small diner on the townsquare. Jack had been here once before, Mary always brought her parents here because her dad would always remarked about how he remembered it from when he worked in town years ago.
After his stroke, memories of childhood seemed sharper than the current events. Mary enjoyed listening to his recollections of those days, but it made her mom sad.
Now he hadn't been to the campus since last spring.
They headed to the mall to check on his tux. And Mary got her first letdown.
Though Jack was only six-foot four, when he stood up straight, the formal shop couldn't find a jacket in four states to fit him.
Valerie had made arrangements to meet Harrison after her second class, she was going to skip the rest of the day.
She wanted to take him someplace she had discovered by accident.
Valerie had a daypass to a 'Sun Club' as it said on the pass. She had been there several times with a couple of special friends.
The 'club' was more of a half-forgotten commune set in a farmhouse and outbuildings a few miles from town. The centerpiece of the grounds was a good-sized pond and a small river with a homey campground between them.
The farm grew a little of this and that for local specialty shops, the year-round residents made crafts and sold folk art to dealers that then sold them as real collectors pieces. A working poet lived there in the summer, she wrote verse for everything from greeting cards to commercials for dog food.
Valerie had gotten involved through a friend of a friend. She felt at home with these people, they weren't really nudists, mostly. Clothing was optional, and in late November almost a necessity, but they were uninhibited as any group of artists and idealists could be outside of California or Greenwich Village.
The shop had the rest of Jack's tux ready, but the closest they could get on the jacket was sleeves almost four inches too short.
The manager apologized profusely, and told them the sign that said, 'We'll fit anybody in 48 hours!' meant only normal sized men.
Mary started to rant and rave about how Jack wasn't Paul Bunyan, and there had to be a jacket someplace, she didn't want him in shirt sleeves when she would be wearing something that looked like it belonged in the royal courts of Europe.
Mary calmed down a little when the manager agreed to get on the satellite and try to find one someplace.
The only one he could find was in Texas, and it might not get to them in time. Mary's shoulders sagged, Jack wondered if anybody on the team had a decent suit jacket that he could wear, the manager tried to get the store in Texas to send it out by overnight air express right then, but the clerk on the other end said he had to have a manager's approval to do that.
"I am a manager, send it out now!" The man said into the phone with a little hardness in his voice. "And this coat had better be here in time or I'll make sure there is Hell for somebody to pay!"
The manager hung up, disgusted. "Do you want fries with that?" He muttered to himself.
Mary was sitting with her head in her hands. "It'll be ok sweetheart." Jack said to her smoothing her hair. "I'll marry you even if I have to do it in my basketball jersey."
Mary smiled. "I know."
They wandered the mall, looking at nothing. Then went back to campus to eat supper in the Union.
There was several ads in Mary's mailbox. It seemed everybody from the plastic container people to real estate agents had heard she was getting married and wanted her money.
They thought it was funny, and spent most of supper laughing over the ads.
Dale had trouble finding the front door of the media center.
Which was understandable, it didn't have one.
The building had started out as a small white block structure with a low powered AM station inside. Then the newspaper had built onto one side, then another expansion for some reason, then the building was doubled in size and a second story appeared over the old white building, and so on.
With the introspection of true journalists being objective, ... whatever that means, the building focused inward, on a small courtyard that used to be a small flower garden behind the old radio building.
The front door looked like a delivery entrance and simply said 'MEDIA CENTER' over it.
There was few outward windows, no atrium, nothing much fancy or showy, but walking around in it, Dale saw the buzz of activity that cranked out a daily paper, a weekly paper, all campus public information sheets, sports programs, some books and pamphlets, a TV station with its own programming and news, and the two radio stations, as well as the center for the campus closed circuit network, and the campus's public web site.
Dale was amazed, he had never seen so much concentrated activity
Harrison didn't know what to expect, Valerie had been very vague where they were going. She simply said it would take his mind off the math class. Which really wouldn't have taken much to begin with. They drove out in a car that could exist only on a campus. It stayed with the campus, last year's senior selling the thing for next to nothing to an underclassman, and so on. It had been driven around campus or to the store once in awhile, and out of town only occasionally. The insurance was never changed except for the name on the policy, and it was licensed with the address as the general delivery window of the campus post office as its residence. For a well-worn twenty-year-old car, it wasn't in that bad of shape.
OK, it was a piece of junk.
Valerie knew the entrance to the place snuck up on you when you didn't expect it.
There was no sign, not even a real gate, just a pipe with a chain through it and a faded sign that said 'private property'.
The house and the rest of it was a good ways back down a deeply rutted road that wound through a clump of now bare trees, then past the campground that showed some signs of life.
Valerie bounced the car to a stop next to a collection of older much abused vehicles. Harrison got out and looked around.
"I expect that charming couple from 'American Gothic' to greet us."
Valerie walked to the house, she had been here enough to know the routine.
First you checked in and found out what needed to be done, then you leant a hand, in whatever way you saw fit.
For example, if the barn needed painting, you could paint, fetch stuff, cook, or play guitar for those that did.
As long as you were in some way contributing to the effort, it was ok.
Harrison followed her into the house, he got a shock.
What could only be described as the oldest hippie in the state was sitting lotus style, nude, in front of the fireplace, hand reloading shotgun shells. His long beard and hair, complete with beads, incongruous with the spread of shells and cans of powder around him. The small hand built table in front of him had what seemed to be a home made press bolted to it.
"Welcome seekers." The man said serenely. "I know you have been here before. Peace and welcome to you. And to you my new friend." He said to Harrison.
Valerie nodded to the man and walked back through the house, the sights only changed content, not style.
The house was busy with the chores of life, things done in farm families since they were invented, but here the flavor was unique. Many of the people were nude, or nearly so, of all ages and body types, baking, sewing, sharpening saws and knives, or just balancing a bankbook.
Valerie talked to one of the women and she told Harrison to follow her. They headed for one of the outbuildings.
Cont in Two Dorms Part 30
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