©01 The Media Desk
Back to the Desk
They were starting to talk about the science stuff, and Dale felt the mood change.
Canney started whining about his definition of the minimal photon and Blumn withdrew into his notebook and his long complicated formula, Ralph hovered near the cookies and rambled on about something. Crowley made an impromptu speech about gravitons. They were on their way.
Varscroft sat behind his desk and glared at his computer, he needed his right hand. Up to now he hadn't realized just exactly how dependent he was on it, he hadn't a clue as to how to work the computer with his left. The lettered man of science sat and stared at the screen saver helplessly.
Blumn decided he wanted the blackboard.
All of the blackboard.
The chalkboard was real slate, five feet from top to bottom, and the length of one wall of the room. He erased the whole thing, then polished it to a shining deep black gloss.
Then Mr. Blumn set to work with a brand new piece of chalk.
Dale watched as he, thinking out loud and arguing with himself, tried to reconcile some of what they had been discussing into a working mathematical formula. He referred back to his notebook and wrote stuff on the board, then erased some of it and started the whole process again.
Canney got vocal about the placement of couple of the things on the board, Crowley wanted Blumn to explain every other string of symbols. Ralph had a running commentary about it going. Dale was back in his role as moderator.
It was pushing toward noon when Harrison strolled in, but he brought lunch, so he was accepted at face value. The hand made wooden box smelled like fried chicken. Which was a good thing, that's what it contained, enough chicken and fixings for a small army.
Harrison told them about how the meal had been fixed by three more or less naked women and a half-breed Mexican man with two fingers who played the harmonica.
The blackboard was almost full of funny letters and odd squiggles and complicated numbers with arrows and smiley faces and abbreviations in Latin and a rather intricate drawing of a fishing boat. Blumn seemed satisfied and took a chicken break.
The class took turns getting whatever Dr Varscroft needed. At home he felt he had things down to a science in just one day, but now, here, he could barely feed himself. After he ate he said he had pills to take and was going to lay down in his office for a little bit.
The others started arguing about who would be in charge in his absence.
Dale declined immediately. Canney thought it was his birthright. Harrison snorted and demanded Varscroft bring in a monkey from the biology department.
"You need somebody that conveys authority. Me!" Blumn said.
Crowley scowled when Varscroft looked his way.
Ralph could care less. He was having deep thoughts. Pondering, as it were, the pony keg of beer on ice in the trunk of his car.
"I'm only going to be gone an hour, or maybe two. So what's the big deal?" The professor said. Which only stirred them up more.
"OK. Mr. Cook. You're it. Thanks for lunch Harrison, tell your naked women it was delicious. I've got pills to take. See ya in a few." He got up and moved his shoulder slightly trying to ease the throbbing in his plaster arm.
Dale handed him a grape soda and a handful of cookies in a bag and he shuffled out of the room.
In his office he took his pain pills, washing them down with the sweet fizzy drink, then he tried to remember if he was supposed to take his anti-inflammatory or his anti-biotic now. Then he noticed there were instructions on the bottles.
There was a movie that night in the main room of the dorm.
Jack hadn't been in there before. It was set up completely different from every other 'day room' he had ever seen.
There was a large old projector and a real screen built into the ceiling. The piano in the room wasn't one of those antique uprights that had been built out of tune and only played on Christmas Eve, this instrument was halfway new and had sheet music six inches deep on top showing it was in daily use.
Jack and Mary found seats behind the kids and waited.
In a minute John welcomed everybody to family movie night and waved for the lights and the projector without further ado.
They showed an old musical classic in the original wide screen format, complete with slightly scratchy soundtrack. But it was a treat.
Most of the dorm was there, complete with kids. They ate homemade fudge and drink a non-alcoholic punch, and had a good time.
And in the middle of the movie, when the projector overheated and shut off, they had a sing-along with one of the women playing the piano.
Jack had forgotten how to have fun without violence, booze, and loud music and everybody keeping their clothes on.
This was fun, family style.
The movie only had one gunshot in it and that was to start a race, no car chases, no plane crashes, and no zombies from the murky swamp. The only nudity in it was a white horse without a saddle blanket. But he liked it anyway.
Varscroft laid down on the old couch in his office and thought about the equation Blumn had been working on on the board. He was trying to decide how best to translate it into something the computer could read when he fell into a deep sleep. He dreamed of a pretty girl with bright blond hair that spoke in symbols and numbers. He couldn't quite make out what she wanted, but he knew it was something important.
Back in the classroom Ralph had taken his new authority and used it to commandeer the container of coleslaw.
The discussion raged as they tried to bring their theories into line with the figures and vise-versa. There were some points about the theory that were so far into metaphysical fantasy they were beyond mathematical explanation, but they were at least imaginable with the theoretical base they were operating from.
For example, they had wondered about the anti-particles generated inside the star, and the affect they would have on the formation of a photon from base matter particles during the fusion process, many of which were strictly theoretical to begin with, and they knew there were particles and types of energy that hadn't even been theorized in action inside the star, and they were trying to allow for even unknown variables of differing intensity and various reactions with different elements inside a wide window of relative time.
If you followed that one, you made need professional help.
Varscroft came back at about four in the afternoon, he had slept like the dead for several hours. He had a mug of steaming coffee with him and had washed his face trying to get the cobwebs to go away, but his arm wasn't pounding to its own beat and he felt recharged enough to rejoin the class.
The class had accomplished a lot, including smuggling up Ralph's keg of beer.
Varscroft had one glass of the beer, then he tried entering the revised formula that took up. the entire top of the board the full length of the room with notes and sub-formulas under the main equation.
"It would help if I knew what all this was." Varscroft said.
After the movie they went upstairs to bed.
Jack was asleep by the time Mary came in from the shower, it was just as well, she thought, she was determined to wait until after the wedding to get romantic with him.
'ONE MORE DAY!' the thought flashed into her head.
The practice was tomorrow, Jack's jacket hadn't showed up yet, Mary's parents hadn't called back to say when they would be coming in, there was a dozen details that hadn't been nailed down, she found herself sitting in the old threadbare easy chair that had come with the room and thinking.
It had all been going so well, but now she was afraid the Bishop would forget to show up, the choir would all have colds, the heat wouldn't work in the Cathedral, she wondered about Bonker passing out while she walked down the aisle.
Mary sat and stewed about everything that could go wrong. Finally her stomach got upset, and she worried about that.
She tried to decide what she would do if anything went wrong, she decided that the only thing she could do was get to the cathedral three hours before the service and do everything from check the candles to call everybody connected with the service herself to make sure they would be there. Then Mary worried about the fact that she was the only bride in the country that felt like this before her wedding, "I bet the Princesses didn't feel like this."
As a little girl Mary sat in front of the TV entranced by the weddings of various royals and celebrities. She based her entire concept of a 'REAL' wedding on those services. She memorized photos of the Kennedy's weddings, she bought magazines all through high school if there was an article about a famous wedding in it. But none of the articles ever talked about what the bride does two days before the event, besides discussing silver patterns or having cocktails with the ushers.
She remembered a calendar from an old bridal book, it came to her clearly, now, sitting in the dark dorm room, her intended sleeping quietly a few feet away. Ninety days before; order invitations, shop for trousseau, consult with caterer. She decided that they would be able to get away with their wedding in spite of the calendar's objections.
The entire class was explaining the formula to Varscroft, they had tried to take into account things that made sense only to those in the room, they knew they would never be able to explain it to anybody else.
Within the general theory of relativity, there is a very small idea that directly affected the work. Light is a particle, sure, they had been working on that basis all along, but it behaves like a wave. Its speed is always 186,272 miles per second, relative to everything else in the universe, including all those little particles that make up light, some of which may travel faster than light, tachyons and the like.
Varscroft knew all this, he nodded, "So?"
She fell asleep in the chair. Her mind still going through the old brides calendar, but now she dreamed she had months to go, and she had to go pick out chandeliers for the church, and they had to buy a carpet for the building that matched her hair, and she was needed at the florist to decide which red rose was red enough.
Mary realized this was a dream when she had to form a band for the reception and ended up playing keyboards singing Doobie Brother songs with a bunch of union musicians.
-Long Insightful Pause.-
"So." Ralph said with great ease and a long drink of his beer, "Light creates its own medium as it travels, this is what determines the infinity of the light. It is a wave, it needs a medium, but as a particle it can create its own medium if there is none."
Something 'dinged' in Varscroft's head. "You're talking about the old idea of a cosmic ether. Einstein said that doesn't exist, and that light doesn't need it. Besides all those experiments to detect it proved it wasn't there."
"NOOO. . ." Canney whispered. "Einstein said that even if it is there, it may be undetectable, given its very nature and its function, it may have no properties of its own. No mass, no innate energy, no nothing, because it isn't there. Its created on an 'as needed basis', but since light is everywhere, all the time, its everywhere, all the time."
It was Blumn's turn. "But if light is a true wave, all our work is for naught anyway, but if light is a particle in waveform, we got it pinned. Given the curvature of space, a wave would want to go straight, but a particle would respond to the curve, even slightly. Thus you see a star behind a black hole in stereo. We think that's our baby. The particles lose some of their inwards in response to the curvature of space. Implying a limit to their infinity."
Varscroft was taking this in and chewing on it.
Harrison started up, "So as our little particle, part a stream of particles, a stream of light photons, a light wave if you will, zooms across the final frontier, the front one looses some of its energy, leaves a trail of bread crumbs, for those following, they ride the trail, the ether, with less loss of their own, maybe even picking up an odd bit here and there. When the front photon has lost enough of itself, it ceases to be viable and dies, creating a thicker bit of ether I guess, the waves keeps coming, and so on, until it hits you in the eye, then the wave breaks down."
Varscroft looked at them, "I think you're all drunk."
Dale began his portion, "There is no ether through all of space, just like he said earlier, one way streets of ether, where the light is, and which way its going, all crisscrossing, sometimes colliding, but like Mr. Blumn said, the waves would have to be exactly in sync, two peaks hitting, to cancel each other out, otherwise they'd just pass and never know it. Leaving their little trails that go away as their energy is lost."
Varscroft's brow was wrinkled. "You guys have switched from light to an apology of the cosmic ether?"
"No, but there are two ways to dictate the infinity of light. Dale's is one, the pollutants inside the photon itself. The other is through the non-relative universe of the photon rubbing up against our relative reality, creating its path, wearing itself out as it goes." Crowley said. "I need more beer."
Jack woke up to his last day of bachelor hood with a feeling of impending doom. He knew it wasn't the wedding. It was homework. An essay of unknown length, in French, on something he couldn't remember. He decided his best bet was to miss the class, then turn it in next week using the wedding as an excuse. He was barely passing French anyway.
Jack looked at Mary sleeping in the chair, she looked uncomfortable as hell. He gently woke her up. She grimaced at a kink in her neck. Then a cramp in her hip made her cry out.
Jack helped her up. Her back was stiff, and her neck still hurt. Against her weak protests Jack guided her down the hall to the far bathroom. He put her in a shower and helped her undress, then he turned the water on as hot as she could stand it, and started massaging her back and neck under the steaming spray.
It felt so good Mary forgot remind him about how she wanted to wait until after the wedding.
They continued the discussion for a long time.
Varscroft finally called it a day, and promised they would pick up there on Friday. His arm was aching again, and the haze from the pain pills made it difficult for him to concentrate on this stuff for more than a few minutes without zoning into the interstellar ether they were talking about.
Dale and Harrison walked back to the Roz house. "Do you think he bought it?" Dale heard Harrison ask as they walked into the evening.
Dale looked around, the physicist was talking to him. "I don't know, it sounds to me like we're real far out this time."
"We are. The idea of an ether in deep space was dismissed years ago, it was, hell I don't remember when, before the turn of the century, the Michelson/Morley experiment pretty much put it to bed. But I like the idea that Einstein wasn't saying that it ain't there, we just can't prove it either way."
"Isn't that the same thing? If it isn't there, and if we can't prove it doesn't that come out to the same thing?"
"No no no." Harrison stopped walking. "Let's see. Is there a Hong Kong?"
"I know what you're getting at. No I haven't been there, but I still know its there. This ain't the same, you can't bottle the ether and sell it, you can't do a test to detect something like Canney says is undetectable by its very nature." Dale didn't realize they were being started at by passersby. After the late supper in the house Dale sat brooding through the popcorn break. Peggy wasn't there, somebody said several of the girls had went shopping. Dale was still thinking about the undetectable ether when he fell asleep.
Mary's cramps and kinks had been worked out under the hot water and the pressure of Jack's hands. She started working on his shoulders, and they went from there.
Jack had forgotten to hang his robe over the sign that told outsiders, about who and what was in the shower.
Mrs. Caldell knew Jack's voice and peeked in. She liked what she saw, but she was also discreet, she hung her towel over the sign outside their stall and used the vacant one next door quietly.
It may have been possible they wouldn't have noticed if Mrs. Caldell had lead the Marching Prairie Dogs through their shower as long as the trombone section didn't step on their feet.
Afterwards Mary was leaning against him letting the water run down her back. "We didn't wait until after the wedding." She said.
"This didn't count. It was medicinal, to help get rid of your backache." Jack smiled up into the water.
Mrs. Caldell heard them talking from next door. She smiled broadly, young love.
"It'll be our secret" he said.
"...Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day...." Mrs. Caldell sang from the next stall.
Mary about died, Jack held her tightly.
"Hello, Kim." Jack called out. Mary looked at him sharply, "She sings a lot." He whispered to her. Mary made an unreadable face.
"Hello lovebirds. Last day of freedom, then you'll be old married people like the rest of us." She called back clearly, she still had the memory of what she had seen (and she had seen a lot) clearly in her mind. She made a point of trying to get her husband in the shower sometime soon with her. "You two wouldn't be doing the naughty before you're married now would you?"
Mary blushed, "Now who do you think we are? Jack was helping my back."
"Sure Mary." Mrs. Caldell called back, she was laughing.
Jack thought it was a good time to exit stage left, They did.
Dale was still thinking about the problem at breakfast Friday morning. He ate his stack of very rich pancakes without much comment. Peggy showed off her new outfit, the tightly fitted bodice and frilly skirt accented what figure the skinny-ish girl had, it looked good on her and everybody else said so.
Keith kicked Dale's chair when she looked at him for comment.
Dale was startled back to real time and space. The heady world of finely tuned science shocked into reality's own by a swift kick in the theory.
"Well." Peggy said expectantly.
"You look really good, that's a pretty outfit." Dale shot into the fog, he was right on the mark. Peggy smiled and sat down to eat what had become her breakfast, light toast and tea.
Miss Amberjoyce's class was a rowdy donut and coffee reception for everybody and their dog. Mary and Jack were congratulated several times by people that they didn't know and probably wouldn't see again for as long as they lived. Miss Amberjoyce was using them as an excuse to get away from people she didn't want to talk to, she would see Mary or Jack and introduce the person she didn't want to offend by announcing the wedding the next day, then the old teacher would scoot away while the 'c' word was being pronounced. Mary didn't mind, she thought maybe they would get a card or maybe even a gift from some of these people, university administration seemed to be a big chunk of the crowd.
The lady had nothing against the administration, as long as they stayed in their offices and left her alone. But this was the department heads idea, and she had to live with it.
Some of the administration had nothing against teachers as long as they stayed in their classrooms and didn't get stupid, like professor Sabre who had embarrassed the entire State University System and who's classes were still up in the air as far as a decision on the students standing was concerned. But this reception was the Academic Dean's idea, and they had to live with it,
The class hour passed, and the people left.
Jack kissed Mary in the hallway and left like he was going to his French Class, but Jack had another idea.
He knew he couldn't take her car, she might miss it if she went down their after class, so he waited on the campus bus, something he knew was like playing Russian Roulette with a mirror. Either way, you lose.
Finally the bus came.
Peggy asked Dale to ride with her in the van to campus today.
The banishing of the class problem had left his brain empty had trouble focusing on the real world. He missed the deep discussion, and the back and forth of deep argument, far into the unknown, heavily theoretical, and quite possibly all bologna.
Harrison was at the table, he was functioning now, he had had his coffee and a big super sticky roll.
The butler handed him a magazine opened to an interior page. Harrison's brain first rejected the information it was receiving from his eyes, then as his blood/caffeine ratio became more favorable, he realized what he was looking at.
"DALE!" He blurted. Dale looked over at the man. Peggy wondered if this meant she wouldn't be riding with Dale by himself today. "We're in the... The whatever this is, Us! The ahhh, Greek math class," He had a walnut in his teeth.
Dale took the magazine and looked at it.
"Somebody wrote us up!" Harrison said after he got the nut.
"We're in 'High Energy Theory and Research' Newsletter." Dale read, "Wow."
Jack had thought the bus he caught was going to the mall, that's what the message on the front was. But he ended up in front of a Farm Supply store. He asked the driver about this.
"It don't open until ten, so I come here until the ten o'clock run. They're open. I'll be back."
Since Jack wasn't sure what he'd come looking for, he decided to go in and look around. Later Jack was glad he did. He wanted to get Mary something to wear with her dress tomorrow and he wanted to get it today, and... it had to be cheap. The Farm supply store had a small jewelry department, just enough that a pig farmer could buy his wife a birthday present while he waited on his fifty gallon drum of hydraulic fluid. Jack saw a perfect pair of white and gold earrings in the case.
"Those are mother of pearl and cultured pearl and fourteen caret gold plate." The lady behind the counter said. The price tag was a little more than Jack could afford.
"They'd be perfect for her to wear tomorrow." Jack muttered.
"Hey, aren't you that Foster boy that plays for the college?" A man asked. Jack turned around, the man was huge, his girth was enormous, he looked like a coveralled Sumo wrestler. "You guys really got moxy to come back to play after that drug business. You're getting married soon aren't you? That's a good boy, find a girl and settle down." The man kept talking.
The talk around the table was animated, the Rozbilski Mansion had been mentioned as the scene of the 'great breakfast table debate', and there was even a reproduction of Colleen's 'Last Supper-ish' drawing in full color in the magazine, with a photo of Varscroft and a still from the TV show. The article went into some depth about their methodology and the idea they were pursing about the infinity versus the limited infinity of light. The end of the article promised an update in a future issue. Then there was a small biography of the 'research fellows' as it called them. It went on about Crowley and his NASA connection, even Dale, whom it called an 'undergraduate research assistant'.
Finally it told who had submitted the article, Mrs. Agnes St. Nicholas.
"Who's Agnes St. Nicholas?" Dale asked.
Light dawned on Harrison. "That's her name!" He croaked. "The old bird that sits in on the class sometimes, That's Mrs. St. Nicholas."
"Saint Nicholas? Santa Claus?" Peggy asked smiling.
"No, she goes by her maiden name on campus, Towbid or something, she's been in the physics department as a secretary and stuff for years. Damn. I guess we'll have to finish this up." Harrison was ready to go. But he was going to finish his coffee and roll first.
The lady behind the counter was listening to the huge man talking to Jack.
"Yeah, I'm getting married, tomorrow, that's why I'm in here."
The farm worker wasn't listening, he was talking about how he had been a basketball season ticket holder for ten years and had only missed three games, and he listed the games he had missed, and the final scores.
The lady ignored the man and asked Jack if he wanted the earrings for his bride. Jack nodded. The lady smiled at him.
"How much do you have?" She asked him.
The fat man told Jack to put away his money, "I'll buy them for the girl of best guard I've ever seen on the court, boy you could turn pro, I know my B-Ball by God...." He didn't stop talking and signed the ticket over Jack's protest. Then the fat man had Jack autograph a paper that was lying on the counter, he even had Jack sign the man's hat in black marker, he almost never let anybody else get a word in, but he was so cheerful it didn't matter.
The lady gave Jack a small necklace that she told him to keep until they were on their honeymoon to give to Mary.
Jack stared at the woman, "I forgot to make reservations for our honeymoon."
The fat man stopped talking, the lady looked at Jack with a grin. "Go up to the office and use the phone in there, call someplace and tell them you need honeymoon reservations. Go on Jack. I'll call the manager and tell him your coming."
"I'll show you where it's at." The farmer said. His beefy hand reached and took Jack by the arm.
Jack found unexpected strength in his grip, this man wasn't just very heavy, he worked for a living, Jack was a foot taller, but the man towed him like a child to the office. The assistant manager was waiting on him.
"You're not even married yet and you're already in trouble Foster." The manager knew his name as well. Jack noticed a Fighting Prairie Dogs poster on the wall. He swallowed hard.
Dale and Harrison walked into the classroom together. Dale had the magazine with him, but it didn't matter, there was one on every desk. And a woman with a camera took their picture as they walked in. Dale was going to say something, but stopped when he saw Blumn in the corner motioning to them. They walked over to the older man.
"Crowley warned me about this last night. We're going to have company today. It seems we're celebrities, the school paper is here." He nodded towards the woman with the camera. "The city paper will be here, as well as some big shot from Chicago."
"Wow." Harrison and Dale said together.
"I've got you the number of the Inn in Burlington. It's a little bit of a drive, but it is nice, and cheap. I think they will have a room on short notice, if not, I've got a couple others." The manager showed him the number in the phone file. "Besides if your new wife kills you for screwing up her honeymoon, we can write off the rest of the season."
The manager and the farmer talked basketball while Jack made the call.
They had a room with a river view, but no honeymoon suites, but they could do a few special things that would make it nice, no extra charge.
Jack took it. They understood he didn't have a credit card, yes he was the basketball Jack Foster, and no he wasn't sure they'd be able to beat Iowa State
"Thanks sir." Jack said to the phone as it went dead in his hand and he hung it up. He looked at the other men.
"Well Foster, what's your girl's name, she's snared a big prize, you ain't as tall as that Leon boy, Damn he's a big'un." The manager said. He never heard Jack's response, the P.A. was calling for him.
Varscroft came into the room, he had some very distinguished looking man with him, deeply lined face, gray hair, deep dark eyes, "This is Dr. Clovendale. He's from the science foundation interested, and they're interested in our work."
The camera clicked a few times, Varscroft scowled at it, but he went on, "As you know was in 'High Energy' yesterday. It stirred up more interest than our appearance on TV. Our idea seems to have caught the attention of the scientific community at large, even if they don't agree with us." He lowered his eyebrows at Clovendale. "They are interested."
"What does he mean they don't agree with us." Ralph said from the door looking at Blumn. He looked like he had spent the night in the drunk tank again, but Colleen was behind him, so that wasn't where he had been.
Colleen had been surprised that her drawing had ended up in the magazine, but she had been given credit, and she was promised a check, so she was happy. She had been curious about what Crowley had told Ralph on the phone, so she had made arrangements and came with him to see for herself what it was about. She had her sketchpad with her, just in case.
The distinguished man looked Ralph up and down and frowned very disapprovingly.
'Colleen has to draw this face', Ralph thought, she was. "You look like your billing Mister Cook." He accented the 'mister", "This unsound theory would have to be partly your doing."
Ralph wanted to spit on the man, or worse. Instantly disliking him.
"I think we have just been insulted. Coming from the man who said there was only two kinds of quarks, that's a compliment instead." Canney said from beside Colleen, he was watching her sketch the scowling face of the newcomer.
Jack was left alone in the store office.
He was really alone, Mary was miles away, even the big farmer was gone, he sat there alone, he watched the security monitor for a few minutes, then got up and walked out, clutching his small bag.
He thanked the manager as he walked toward the door. Nobody else said anything to him.
He waited for the bus, but it never showed up, he started walking toward the campus.
It was eleven when he got back to the dorm. Jack was a little winded from walking into the cold wind. He wanted to take a hot shower and meet Mary for lunch, he forgot about Mrs. Caldell and her watch on the bathroom.
He dug out some fresh underwear and put the earrings in the drawer under his socks. Jack walked down the hall, musing about basketball fans. They were certainly a varied lot, but they were loyal, the farmer had talked about the drug bust like it was just a minor setback, he only mentioned it, and was excited about the season.
Jack thought about what had happened in the shower just a few hours ago, he relished in the memory.
Then he got out and dressed for lunch with Mary. He looked at his watch, just over twenty four hours.
He walked back to the room, it needed something, but he wasn't sure what.
Then he went to the student union. His mailbox was full of filler.
He met Mary upstairs, outside the big dining hall. She wanted to go to the mall and see what the story was on his tux, then they had to stop by that mansion before practice, and they...
Jack stopped her in mid-plan with a kiss.
Then they headed for the mall.
The class was finally all there. The gray-haired man from Chicago wanted to be briefed on what they had done since the article was written, he laughed out loud several times as they went through the theoretical basis for what they were proposing. The newspaper showed up and the man told them they were wasting their time, this theory was full of holes and other faults that were too numerous to mention.
"Mention a few." Canney challenged him.
The man stuck his nose in the air.
"You're expertise is in planetary gravitational reactions isn't it?" Canney remembered. The others looked stunned. "You don't know a lepton from a ham sandwich, you denied the existence of expansion bubbles and super formations of galaxy clusters. Where do you get off telling us we're full of shit?" The overweight physicist was taking slow heavy strides toward the man.
"The evidence of the clusters and groups of galaxies does not necessarily support the theory of your bubbles of expansion. If you read the papers you'd know that." He said in a deep voice. He was not used to having his authority and expertise questioned, by anybody.
"I wrote one of the papers that stated that. Remember?" Canney growled.
The formal wear shop had good news and bad news. They had Jack a suit that would fit him. But. It was gray, with black leg piping.
Mary was ready to explode, but Jack tried it on, and he looked just fine in it.
It was a fairly dark gray, and fit him very well.
Mary started to cool off. The manager said they could have it for the discount rental price since there was a screw up, and it was the store's fault. She bit her lip. It was either this or... "OK." She finally said. Anger sighed, he hated dealing with brides, and mothers-in-law, and grandmothers. Well, he hated weddings. Period.
"So you did. Good work, but your wrong on this one." Clovendale said trying to appease the large angry man standing in front of him.
"No. The manifestations of expansion was wrong, you edited the paper to support your position on the orbit of planets in a multiple star system. And I have never forgiven you for that."
"Look Canney, you got your PhD. Your years at Oak Ridge were well spent, nobody had questioned those theories, so what's the problem?"
Ralph was amazed. "You edited a paper to support your own theory? That's . . .that's. . ." He was searching for a word.
"Dirty." Dale said.
"The paper was read and accepted by the committee, nobody had any problems with it then or now. Although it has been slightly revised. It stands as presented."
"It would have stood without your changes and not needed any revision." Canneey wasn't giving up.
"Look guys, we're here to discuss new ground, not rehash old dirt no matter who did what." Varscroft was trying to make peace.
They all looked at each other.
Colleen was sketching away in the corner, she had Canney pointing a finger at the taller older man, fire in both sets of eyes. She loved the emotions, and she was able to bring them to life.
The combatants separated, Canney sat at a lab station Clovendale stood by a window.
Varscroft started to summarize where they were again, back to where they had been interrupted.
Peggy came in, she snuck over to Colleen almost unnoticed by the class, she looked at the drawing.
"Wow," Peggy whispered, then chuckled at Dale's favorite word. "That's great, what did I miss?"
"This man from Chicago almost got beaten up by Dr. Canney over some paper on something, I didn't understand what it was about, but they got very heated."
"It looks like it." Peggy marveled at the intensity in the faces.
Mary was out in the mall when Jack came out with the bag containing his tux. It even came with a top hat that made the over six foot ball player look like a young Lincoln, or pretty stupid, depending on who you talked to.
Mary wanted to go look at a home interior decorating shop. Jack decided the best thing he could do was go with her and stand around holding two bags and a box with the hat in it.
She looked at everything in the store, Jack ended up sitting on the side of a planter thinking if this was where he was going to spend the rest of his life. Mary hadn't bought anything, yet, but she wanted to stop at the big clothing store and get a new slip to wear under the older slip that came with the wedding dress.
She found the one she wanted, and the ladies at the service desk talked about her wedding dress for at least another hour. Or so it seemed to Jack sitting on a pile of catalogs watching a beer sign across the mall blink at him.
"We're late. We should have been at that house ten minutes ago." Mary said as they walked to the car.
"I've been ready to go." Jack said.
It was the wrong thing, a major wrong thing, to say.
She glared at him and didn't say a word all the way back to the married dorm. She got out of the car and walked over to the big house. Jack wondered why she was mad at him, she's the one that looked around half the mall when she knew they had to be back by three.
He shrugged and walked into the dorm with his tux. He planned to go over to the house and roust out Bonker and Steve to be at the practice by five.
But as fate would have it he ran into Mrs. Caldell was in the hall when Jack went to answer the call of nature.
She seemed upset.
Jack realized that maybe this was serious, he hoped it didn't involve him.
"Jack..... Sal's gone...." She blubbered. Jack's heart almost stopped.
Dale moved to the background as the discussion with Dr. Clovendale turned to pure mathematics. Dale noticed the man was right at home with the numbers and symbols that made up the formula, he seemed to be able to keep it all straight in his head, and talked about specific parts of the long complicated equation without looking at it.
Varscroft had settled back into his seat and alternated between looking at his swollen fingers and listening to the others try to make the gray-headed head of the think-tank see this mess their way.
He had been thinking about it since he woke up in the hospital with his arm tied to the ceiling. They had been pretty far out in left field, he realized, and they were on very shaky ground as far as the physics of what they were talking about, but they seemed to be on a little better footing now.
"Maybe." He said aloud.
They broke for lunch.
Dale asked her if Peggy if she wanted to join them, she smiled brightly and accepted.
He escorted her across campus to the grad student section of the Union, they were eating in the Research Fellows dining room again.
Harrison had looked for Valerie all day, but she hadn't come by, he wondered if he had taken their relationship too far last night. She seemed OK this morning, he had breakfast and had met her on the way to campus, she seemed fine, and said something about meeting him for lunch, maybe he was worried about nothing.
Dale was happy, Peggy was sitting next to him, she was cheerful and did look very nice in her new outfit. The food was excellent, they had turkey, potatoes, a baked fish, baked vegetable casserole, salad, and Dale hadn't been able to get anything else on his plate.
No, you missed that, there was a baked fish on the buffet. One fish. A whole grouper. The thing was huge, sitting on a warmer tray, snout to tail.
Peggy was sitting across from Colleen, the two women had taken the fish and salad.
Ralph came to the table with two plates, he had gotten hungry from all the brain work, and he wanted to get his moneys worth of this good food.
Some of the diners already in the room seemed to know Clovendale and he ended up sitting at another table of professors and grad students.
They talked about what everybody was going to do over the weekend, but Colleen and Peggy had plotted against Ralph and Dale.
The men were taking the women to the wedding Saturday afternoon, then to the play after supper that night.
Ralph looked up with a fork full of turkey and gravy halfway to his mouth, "Wedding? What wedding?"
"Silly." Peggy said, "The house has an open invitation to the big wedding between the second runner up homecoming princess, Mary Henderson, and a star basketball player."
"Jack Foster." Blumn added. "Starting guard."
She smiled a thank you to him.
Colleen picked up the story, "Its going to be a big deal, Miss Alice has been busy all week planning it, she's changed the flower order three times, and found a soloist someplace, and everything else, she's been floating around talking this up for days, I wouldn't miss it."
Ralph made a face and chewed.
"Wow." Somebody said.
"This afternoon Peggy and I are going to buy new dresses for the wedding and the play, I hope you two will look respectable." Colleen said smiling like a searchlight at them. "And after the play I expect to be taken out for drinks and dancing." She deadpanned to Ralph.
"Yeah, sure." Ralph said, he attacked his chunk of fish, he would need extra energy for all this. "So much for the Bengal's game Saturday night." He muttered.
"We can have our own drinks and dancing in my room after the play Dale." Peggy whispered to him.
Dale's eyes got wide, all of the sudden his plate seemed to grow larger.
But something tickled in the back of his brain, "...wow."
Jack could only stand there and repeat what she had said.
"He's gone into seclusion at the La Sallet Monastery on the other side of the state for three months. He told me this morning, he said he'd be back, but I don't know what to do.... He's talked about this before. Says it'd help him understand the religious mind." She stared into the mirror next to the water fountain, looking for answers.
"Why couldn't he take you with him?" Jack had no idea what seclusion at a monastery meant.
"Jack. It's a monastery, no girls, you know. He got a letter from them saying they had openings, and he didn't wait a week. He's all ways been fascinated by monks and nuns. I guess he wants to be one." She looked at him, "From the way he treats me, he's halfway there already."
Jack didn't know what else to do, so he pulled her to him and hugged her. She started to really cry. "Maybe, maybe he'll come back different." Jack thought about the man, he had tried so hard when Jack first met him when they played basketball out back. But Jack could tell he was putting on.
Then the statement he made that morning at breakfast, about her being a people person and he wasn't. "He might decide he likes people after all."
She looked up at him. "You really think so?" Her face brightened.
"Sure, what do monks do, meditate and pray all day,? Sal likes people a little, he's bound to miss this place, and I know he really loves you."
She leaned away from him. "I know. Do you mind staying with me a little, I don't want to be alone and everybody else is out. Please."
"I've got to go over to the house and get my best man sobered up for the wedding rehearsal."
"Can I come???" She was bubbling again. Jack couldn't refuse.
They finished eating and sat around a little sipping cold drinks or coffee and chatting about different things. Varscroft stood up, "I've got medication to take to upset my stomach and make me light headed. I'll meet everybody back in the classroom in about twenty minutes or so. OK?"
Everybody nodded as the man eased out of the room.
"It's amazing how he can suppress that much pain and still function." Dr Canney said from the far end of the table. "I wonder what they did to keep the break set, I heard it was pretty bad, the ends of the bones had shattered instead of just..."
"Can you talk about something else please?" Crowley said with a lttle bit of threat in his voice.
Canney glared at him, but he sipped his coffee and said nothing else.
"Let' 5 go downstairs and see who's there." Colleen said. Peggy looked at her, she had just eaten a big meal, and her lipstick was still perfect.
Dale and Peggy held hand while they waited on the elevator, Ralph was picking his teeth, feeling very satisfied with himself. Colleen stared up at the numbers on the top of the door.
They were downstairs watching Ralph check his mailbox before anybody spoke. "You live off campus, why do you get mail here?" Dale asked.
"This is free, and I haven't gotten around to changing my address to the apartment on my drivers license." Ralph said sorting through the handful of mail. "I also don't get down here very often."
Colleen relieved him of something, of course it was a girlie magazine, "I see you subscribe to all the educational material you can."
"I like the jokes, besides I got it at half price." He didn't try to take the magazine away from her.
She was looking through it. "The camera angles on this layout are lousy, and look at that lighting, she could look a lot sexier if the background was a little softer."
"I enjoy it." Ralph told her. "But you are better looking than any girl I've ever seen in it."
She enjoyed the compliment and smiled at him, a very melting smile. Ralph felt that maybe he wouldn't make it to the afternoon session of the Greek Math class.
Jack and Mrs. Caldell had to walk to the Independent house, he wanted to leave Mary the car in case she had to go get Maggie or Cindy. Kim was a little better, but her talk kept turning back to her husband, and why would he pick the week before Thanksgiving to go weird and check into a monastery for three months.
"Maybe he doesn't like the holidays." Jack offered.
"He doesn't. Last year he complained endlessly about the commercialization of everything from Chanukah and Christmas and Quanza.: Kim said.
"Quanza? What on God's green Earth is that?"
Kim thought about it as they waited to cross Navel right in front of the house. "It's an African American thing about heritage and love. I thnk its based on some tribal harvest celebration." They ran across the street. "He went into depth on every holiday and festival on Earth for a research paper last year. I picked up a little of it retyping it for him."
She got quiet as they neared the house. "This isn't a frat is it? I had a bad experience in a frat one time."
"No, it's the independent house. We have a nice selection of wine." He tried to put her at ease.
"I don't like wine much. How about a screwdriver?" She grinned.
"We can do that." Ramsey said from the top of the front stairs. "HI Jack! Your best mans, no ahhh, yeah, GROOMSMEN are getting ready for the rehearsal. Who's this, your younger sister?" Ramsey was smooth.
Ralph did make it back to the Greek math class, with Dale, and Peggy, and Colleen.
And Valerie was there waiting for them. She asked if Harrison was coming back. "I think so. He was talking to Canney and Clovendale when we left the dining room, they'll be back for sure." Dale said.
Ralph was smacking his lips. He would need much strong drink before it was over, but he wasn't sure how that would go over with the big shot there. He stopped worrying when Blumn came in with a big white plastic bag.
They took the bag to the back of the room and opened it. It was full of plastic bottles of Long Island iced tea and a bag of crushed ice.
The label said 'extra strong blend'. "That's what I need." Ralph said. He took one, it was cold.
Blumn dumped them in a sink and poured the bag of ice over them. "I need a couple of them. I think we're making headway with the great father." Blumn saw things cut and dry. Even when he had trouble explaining them that way.
Dale took one and sat in his seat. The sweetness of the drink made him wince more than anything else.
Peggy had never had one before, Ralph tried to explain what it tasted like, but couldn't. "They take some getting used to." Peggy sipped it, she kinda liked it.
The rest of the class filtered back in.
Mary watched the breathless Miss Alice almost ran from phone to her notebook, to the kitchen to the phone. She was tying up a few loose ends, and trying to decide if Mary would be better off spending the night there instead of going back to the dorm. "You shouldn't see your man before the wedding."
"I'd have to go get a few things."
"We'll stop on the way to the rehearsal, come dear let's take the dresses out to the car. Then we'll see Martha about the dinner for tonight."
Mary followed Miss Alice downstairs where the three dresses hung -in a row in their bags. With shoes below them, and a packet of pictures taped to the hanger. Rob had broken all records getting the portraits developed. He was very good, and a very enthusiastic photographer. He viewed his art as a servant to people, a way of capturing a moment, either as a real event, like the football game, or as an ideal, like the girls in the fine dresses carefully posed.
Martha had everything in the works, and told Mary to take Miss Alice and go away. Mary laughed, the butler looked at her and smiled a broad toothy smile at her. "Miss Henderson, I have a guest suite at your disposal for tonight if you wish it."
Mary wondered if she would ever be able to make a decision about her own wedding on her own. She nodded to the butler and was led out by Miss Alice, Martha shooing them from behind.
"She's a nice girl." Martha said. "I'm so happy for her." But the butler was gone. Martha shook her head.
The afternoon session consisted mainly of Clovendale asking very complicated mathematical and scientific questions. Then the class would one by one try to explain their theory and its formula, and it got very murky from time to time.
"What are you all drinking?" Clovendale asked finally.
Glances were exchanged around the room.
"I know, something your not supposed to be. I'll take one."
Valerie was closet to the sink, she fished one out of the ice water and carried it up to the teacher's desk where the man was sitting. He read the label, "I've never had this brand before, I hope its not super sweet..." He tried it, "Not bad."
Dale wondered what the man would have considered too sweet.
Varscroft walked into the room like a zombie. He fell into a chair and his head wobbled. "I'f forry I'm laetet." He looked like a runaway merry-go-round had just hit him. A couple of them took him back to his office and laid him out on the couch. His plaster arm sticking up like a lightening rob. He fell asleep almost immediately.
The class didn't slow down. The murk started to clear. Clovendale had always liked the idea of the ether occupying the endless reaches of space. This brought the idea back into the realm of at least the possible, if not the likely.
It was pretty late when they wrapped it up. Clovendale promised he would tell the rest of the board they were definitely onto something and he would anxiously await the next article for publication then the formal presentation of their final paper when completed.
Clovendale thanked them and walked out, he went to Varscroft's office, the injured prof was still sleeping. Clovendale checked the circulation in the man's fingers and put the cover back on him, then left quietly, the gray hair fading from view as he walked toward his car.
Dale was the lookout. "He's in his car."
"WE DID IT!!!!!" Ralph screamed.
The celebration began in earnest.
Ramsey had taken charge of Mrs. Caldell, he made her a screwdriver that had just a bare touch of liquor in it to sound her out. Then he gave her a tour of the house while Jack talked to Bonker and Steve.
She was intrigued by the basement of the house. There were rooms down there that were sparsely furnished, but each one had a bed in it. "These rooms are used only on special occasions For entertaining special visitors?" Kim asked the young man.
He was uneasy.
"Well, yeah, but ol' Doug is staying in one while he's here." Ramsey looked at her with a smile. "Some visitors are too special to be 'entertained' down here." He led her back upstairs.
Mrs. St. Nicholas produced a magnum of Champaign from her large book-bag, Dale hadn't seen her come in, but she was there enjoying the attention.
But she seemed a little distant from the celebration, she had never felt entirely comfortable in here with these people. For one thing she thought the class was too small, but given the prerequisites it was understandable, just how many high-energy physics post-graduate students with an interest in mathematical expression of ideas best left to meta-physicists in the philosophy department.
She had never understood what the official name of this class had to do with anything anyway. 'The Physical Principals of the Trigonomic calculations and algebraic theorem of Pthagoras and Archmedes...oh please.' she thought.
It was time for the groomsmen to head for the cathedral to find out where they were supposed to stand during the service. Doug, '76 invited himself along.
They were just getting ready to walk out with Bonker, still travelling long distances in his wheelchair, he would stand for the service, but his nurse would be right there, and his chair would be off to one side ready, when Ramsey and Mrs. Caldell came back downstairs. Jack stared at her, she was cheerful, but he didn't think she had been up to anything.
For some reason, he felt responsible for her.
"OK, everybody's here, let's go." Jack said. They helped Bonker down the front stairs and into his wheelchair, then they walked towards the cathedral.
In the evening light it seemed even bigger, the floodlights setting the front of the building aglow. The facade with its niches and statues, the small stained glass windows, and the collumnes with their ornate capitals all gleamed in the bright light. Without a word they stopped across the street and stared at the building.
Bonker's nurse had been bringing up the rear, she spoke and broke the reverie, "I'd forgotten how grand it is at night."
Jack took a deep breath and decided he had to go in. They crossed the wide street and walked into the huge old church.
The front door opened directly into the sanctuary, there was no vestibule, reception area, narthax or anything. The front doors opened onto the main aisle with pews only about six feet from the towering back wall. An architectural oddity reconciling the original plans with the reality of the available land, The main aisle sloped downward slightly to the Apse, something Jack hadn't noticed the last time they were here.
Ramsey wasn't impressed. "I hate church. God's a racket, all they want is your money."
Kim Kaldell was a little more respectful in spite of her circumstance. "Hush, your just bitter about something. We'll talk about it later, now just be quiet and watch, you may end up in here some day."
Ramsey plopped into a pew near the back and prepared to be bored.
They even had a radio with some dance music on and Colleen was dancing with about half the room at one time.
Peggy got Dale dancing, and even Mrs. St. Nicholas stepped a bit with Mr. Crowley.
They were celebrating a milestone, not the end of the trip, everybody there, with the only possible exception of Dale, knew they had a long way to go. The formula was far from complete, right now it only suggested a possible series of combinations to predict the behavior of the photon, it did not even suggest a limit, or even a way to estimate it, among other problems.
Varscroft had awakened to the pounding on his door.
Valerie walked in and gave him the news. She helped him to his feet and he walked down the stairs to the classroom. He heard the music and laughter from way down the hall. "We're lucky the building is almost empty this time of the night, or there'd be hell to pay." He stopped just inside the door. They went on for a minute without noticing him, Harrison walked up to them and asked Valerie to dance, then he gave the Professor a small glass of Champaign.
"No more with that drug store you're on." Harrison said. Varscroft nodded.
The professor sat at his desk and watched the festivities.
Even Canney seemed to be having a good time. The professor smiled, they would begin the final push to reconcile the equation on Monday.
He stared at the information on the blackboard and on his computer, this was to get interesting. His plastered fingers wiggled a little bit, "Maybe we'll get there after all." He said aloud to the fingers.
Jack and the others heard Mary shouting at somebody from down the side hall.
She stormed into the sanctuary and stopped in front of Jack, he recoiled, he had never seen her so angry.
"YOU TOLD THEM YOU WANTED THE DAMNED ARMY TO BRING IN THE FLAG!!!!" She said in a loud voice, no, not a loud voice, lets see, she tried to scream the granite flowers out of the hands of the statue of the Virgin forty feet away.
She almost did it. Her voice reverberated in the pipes of the organ for a good minute.
Jack was waiting for his ears to quit ringing.
The bishop walked in, his face told the story, Mary had found out from him and let fly with a round of her napalm temper at the man of the cloth first.
Jack took a deep breath, "They asked, and I thought it would be nice."
"This is my wedding not a draft board, I don't..."
"It's my wedding too." Jack said softly. He didn't really mean anything by it. But he said it anyway.
Mary took a deep breath, it didn't help.
Ramsey leaned over to Kim, "You're right, this is good." He whispered.
"You didn't check with me first? I wanted this wedding perfect!"
"You don't want a military color guard like the prince had... fine."
Mary thought about that. It was his wedding as well, and a color gaurd...
Varscroft told them all to go away when the drink started to run low. It was late, they had had a big day, and his arm was hurting badly again.
They cleaned up their mess, which was unusual, and everybody left.
Jack saw her mind at work. He hadn't realized she was that explosive.
Truthfully, neither did she. She hadn't thought about it, but as the bishop was going over the order for the marriage he mentioned the presentation of the colors by the ROTC.
Miss Alice just nodded, she thought it was a fine idea, so did the priest, but Mary exploded.
She ranted for a minute then stormed out of the office, looking for Jack.
Mary gave Jack a slight smile, she was cooler now, "You're right, it's your wedding too, just please, no more surprises."
Miss Alice was standing nearby, "Ok, dear, maybe we should have mentioned it to you, but it is a fine idea, it kind of sets a mood."
Bonker looked at the matron. "You mean this church doesn't set a mood enough. Jesus this place is something."
The bishop looked at Bonker. "Yes young man, Jesus the Loving God is the very idea of this place."
Bonker retreated behind Steve. "Hello sir, I mean...."
"Hello Father Frakes." Steve said, he had met the man a couple of times before.
The priest nodded to them. "Shall we do a dry run?" He asked Mary and Jack. Mary followed Miss Alice who herded Cindy and Maggie from the pew they had been sitting in back to the rear side entrance to the sanctuary. The bishop led Jack, Bonker, and Steve off to the area off to the side in the front. Jack noticed the ROTC officers were standing there.
"She'd would make a good DI" The captain said while they were waiting on something to happen in the back.
"Mary or Miss Alice?" the vicar asked from behind them.
"Both I guess." The captain said. "Here we go."
Jack saw the cadets in the back, they were doing a full presentation, flags and rifles.
As they walked up the aisle, Ramsey remembered to stand when the flag went by. The color guard was fairly well polished. Jack glanced at the captain who was smiling a very wide tight smile, the proud general watching his troops perform.
The cadets placed the flags, the American to the left, and the state to the right, with the Christian flag behind and just off to one side of the alter.
They snapped to attention first to their own flag, then the other two bearers turned to the American and came to attention again, then without a word, they retreated with great dignity.
As soon as they were back down the aisle everybody applauded. It had been a good show.
Cont in Two Dorms Part 32
To The INDEX PAGE
Back to the Desk