Two Dorms Part 38

©01 The Media Desk

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****** DALE
      Ellen was trying to convince yet another freshman guy she really was a photographic arts major and needed him to pose for her to study lighting angles for digital photographs for her senior project.
      But it wasn't going so good. He asked a couple of impertinent questions like "Shouldn't you have a camera for this?" and "Who's your professor?"
      Ellen couldn't answer either question. She didn't own a real camera, just a small instant for 'special pictures', but she didn't even have it with her now. And she had never taken a photography class in her life.
      The freshman was a little uneasy about her requests.
      Ellen was getting the feeling she was loosing her touch. A couple of years ago she would have had him eating out of her hand by now. But she had met her match in Dale, and now this one. She didn't even know his real name.
      "Come'on just help me out, and if I like it, I'll get them to pay you for your time as a model." Ellen coaxed.
      The young man nodded finally. "What do I do?"
      "Take off your clothes and stand on that stool." She said to him.
      "NAKED?" He said loudly. "No way."
      "Why?" She said calmly. "Clothes get in the way of the true light angles and creates unnatural shadows and things." Ellen had no idea what she was talking about.
      "Well..." He slowly reached for his shirt buttons. "I guess. I did agree to be your model. Well. OK. But no pictures this time."
      "OK. Here, let me help you undress." She smiled her victory smile. As she undressed him, she started undressing herself. 'I haven't lost my touch.' she said to herself.

****** MARY
      Maggie's late check in the old Catholic dorm was uneventful. Bonker enjoyed rattling doors and peeking into the bathrooms while Maggie checked everything out.
      "I've never been in this dorm before." He said to Maggie "So what'ya think?"
      He was looking over Maggie's room. "This place is a dump." "Yeah, but its home." She was just getting used to the small rooms, the narrow halls, noisy heat, and the plumbing in the shower that sang while you showered.
      Bonker looked out her window. "Hey, I think I can see the house from here."
      She walked to the window. "Where?" Bonk kissed her neck. "Right there." He said and kissed her again.
      Maggie smiled broadly.

****** DALE
      It was almost supper-time.
      Several chess games had been played, much music listened too. And Harrison had found a bottle of REAL Russian Vodka in the storeroom and was passing out shots. Dale had tried to run through his partially formed idea about the Ether. But he wasn't quite sure what he was trying to say.
      "You know like on a lake. You can make a ripple that will go across the lake from the very edge of the water. But you can't from the sand."
      "Say what?" Mr. Blumn asked.
      "Where does space begin and the star end?"
      "At the corona. Or maybe at the event horizon. For our purposes at the photosphere. But some might say the heliosphere, which means we're living inside the sun, which makes no sense." Mr. Blumn answered.
      "This whole argument makes no sense." Harrison spouted off.
      "Wherever. That's where the viable photon is formed at that boundary, where it becomes the ripple in the Ether. Below it, on the shore, its dead, it can't make its ripple and go across the pond. It's still part of the star." Dale said.
      Blumn thought about it. "I think you have something there."
      Peggy was thrilled for Dale, she was sitting next to them listening to the discussion. When Blumn agreed, she thought Dale had really arrived.

****** MARY
      Kim was rebelling.
      Ramsey was jealous. He was possessive. He was nosy. And she resented it.
      She felt she was more his wife than she had ever been with Sal.
      Sal didn't want her to smoke, but he didn't hound her about it. Sal didn't like her socializing with people he didn't know, but he didn't run twenty questions on her, then cross-examine her later about it.
      Kim couldn't stand it.
      Ramsey didn't want her wearing see-through shirts to house parties. He didn't let her shower with him, or anybody else.
      She finally gave him an ultimatum. Either back off, or she'd move out.
      "Where would you go?" Ramsey said. "You don't have any money, you can't move into a dorm until your paperwork is straight from the married dorm. Where would you go?"
      Kim almost smiled. Not only hadn't she had good sex with Sal for about the last six months, she hadn't had a good fight with him either. "I'm sure I can find room someplace."
      "You'd put out just for a place to stay?" He wasn't looking at her. His feelings were all screwed up. He knew she wasn't his for keeps, and maybe that was what made him wart to keep her all the more.
      The accusation hurt. But she didn't snap angrily at him. She took a deep breath. "If I had to. Yes I would." She turned to face the bed. "It worked with you. And you are not going to stop me."
      Ramsey was out of words.
      "Do you want me to move out now?" She felt a flush run through her, "Or do you want to make up first?"

****** DALE
      Marlene and the butler sat deep in talk for a long time in the downstairs library. She got the impression from him that he really didn't know she wasn't interested in men.
      He seemed enthralled by her, and was genuinely interested in what she thought of the houses art collection and her impression of the art at the university itself.
      The butler hadn't had a female interest in some time. It was too complicated. But now... The tight-lipped butler seemed to be taken with this artist.
      Marlene found the man fascinating. "So what do the residents call you?"
      He sat and thought about it for a long moment.
      "I really do not know." He almost smiled, "Some of them say 'sir', a couple of them call me 'Mister Georges' but mostly they do not address me first."
      She thought he was so formal he'd crack if she touched him. "What should I call you?" She asked him.
      He didn't have an answer for her.
      Neeman Georges was sitting at attention, a very slight smile on his face.
      She was dressed in what she considered a 'period piece'. Almost a flapper costume.
      What she was aiming for was nostalgia, what she ended up with was an outfit that looked a bit silly.
      The butler thought she looked unusual.
      They talked in a corner of the music room for some time.
      Marlene almost forgot she couldn't stand men.

****** MARY
      Jack and Mary ate breakfast in the student union.
      They tried to pretend everything was normal. But some of the people there kept bothering them.
      Tuesdays was usually a slow day on campus. Most major seminars and labs were later in the day. Only underclassmen classes and a few advanced ones were held in the morning. So the dining hall wasn't crowded. They managed to eat breakfast without a great deal of hassle.
      Mrs. Amberjoyce's class was running today however. She had been a firm believer in Five Days A Week Classes for her entire life. Mary and Jack walked to the class hand in hand.
      The lady was already there. She was simply answering more questions and talking history with a packed room.
      "Miss Amberjoyce, I've always wondered what a plebiscite really was. Did everybody in the country really get to vote?" A student Mary didn't know asked
      The old lady smiled. "In a few cases. Yes. Everybody did, in some cases even those down to teenage years. In other cases, you had to be a landowner, or have registered to vote, or prove citizenship. There were a few cases in Europe in years past when a plebiscite was held and they didn't tell anybody." She smiled. "The fate of the country was decided before the voting began."

****** MARY
      Miss Amberjoyce stood up. "I want somebody to try to stump me."
      The room was silent.
      "Comeon somebody has to have a bit or trivia to ask."
      Mary almost fainted when Jack raised his hand.
      "Who was the first professional basketball champions?" He asked when she nodded toward him.
      "A trick question right off the bat. I love it."
      Jack looked around. He shrugged.
      "The National Basketball Association wasn't formed until 1949 when the Basketball Association of America merged with the N.B.L. But the first recognized national champion was the Philly Warriors at the end of the 1946-47 season."
      Jack nodded, it sounded good to him. The class cheered. She pointed to the next questioner.
      "How far back in history do you go?" A young man asked.
      "I'm just a hair over seventy." The class laughed. "But I'm pretty familiar with things back a little further than that." Miss Amberjoyce said.
      "Has there always been a Switzerland?" The same man asked.
      "The Alps have pretty much always been there." She said to some laughs.
      "But the country itself... No. Although the area had been inhabited by more or less loosely organized tribal and family clans far back into pre-history. It was conquered and settled around fifty BC or so by Romans and ruled by them then. After that it was pretty much under the domination of one empire or other until the fourteenth century when the locals, calling themselves the Swiss League, tried to make a separate peace with the Hapsburgs in 1318. Several Cantons joined the league over the next several years, and in 1358 the Hapsburg Empire, after a couple of bad military defeats, gave up. The Swiss declared independence in 1499. And established a Confederation the next year. But the Switzerland we know came into being in 1815, I think it was, with the Federal pact and twenty two states or Cantons."
      The class was silent.
      She seemed pleased with herself. "Now ask me a tough one."

****** DALE
      Later Ralph was led up to the guestroom and put to bed. He was exhausted, and had had another 'heart healthy meal, which was almost painful for him.
      Martha had gone out of her way to prepare a low cholesterol, low salt, low fat meal for everybody, just so Ralph wouldn't feel bad.
      The food was excellent. Fish, vegetables, fruit, pasta, and so on, with no butter in sight and nothing salted or fried anywhere.
      Ralph ate for awhile before somebody told him this was 'health food'
      "You're kidding." He muttered around a mouthful.
      "Very healthy." Sandy told him smiling.
      "It tastes good. Its like real food." He looked over at Miss Alice.
      "Martha is an excellent cook. Your dinner is very good for you."
      Ralph stared at his plate like it was a traitor. Finally he resigned himself to death by health food and finished eating.
      "All right." He sighed.

****** MARY
      Cindy had actually had a good time, for a Tuesday night. With Steve.
      The theater in the Union was almost empty. The movie wasn't bad. Steve was good company. And she got to forget about the plumbing nightmare in her dorm. It seemed almost natural for her to walk back to her dorm for a nightcap with him.
      They sat in her room and listened to the campus radio station.
      The theme of the night was a retrospective of great slow dances by otherwise hard rock groups.
      They sat through the first two new numbers without really looking at each other.
      When the DJ introduced 'BETH' by KISS, Steve asked her to dance.
      She accepted.
      Another song began, they didn't even notice.
      The music was so romantically sad it was almost sappy.
      Well. OK, it was sappy.
      They talked a lot. Finally Steve left of his own free will.
      He knew he had something going here, and for once, he didn't want to foul it up by moving too quickly.
      Sometimes an old dog can learn a new trick.
      If he's beaten over the head enough.
      And Steve had been hit pretty hard lately.
      Cindy was kind of sorry to see him go.
      She had been reasonably sure he was a complete and total heel. But now she wasn't so sure. But she'd wait and see.

****** DALE
      After supper Dale shocked Peggy by announcing to the room that he really felt at home here, and that everybody here seemed like family to him now.
      Peggy thought he had barely noticed there was other people living here.
      Besides her and Harrison.
      The conversation died a little as Ralph was lead out of the room evidently falling asleep over his plate of 'healthy' rice pudding, with pineapple chunks.
      Later they were on the back porch and Colleen made an appearance to announce that Ralph had been tucked in and was resting comfortably.
      Popcorn was made in a few minutes. And they watched part of a show about the decline of the Inter-coastal Waterway.
      Dale was his old self. He asked what the waterway was, where it went, who used it, and so on.
      Usually right after the show told the answer to his question.
      They made fun of the show, and played seal with popcorn, and giggled when one of the girls dumped her bowl.
      Most of the Greek math class left. Harrison passed out in the recliner,
      Dale was still laughing as he walked upstairs with Peggy and they went to their own rooms. Colleen smiled at them as they walked out of the TV room
      They just said goodnight in the hall and that was that.

****** MARY
      Ramsey was thinking about moving out of the House now.
      His compromise with Kim was galling him to the point he wondered just how far he'd go to keep her.
      True, she was the best lay he'd ever had. But there were limits to how much he could put up with in the name of great sex.
      There was a limit.
      The latest incident was a fine example.
      She wanted another bed in his room so if she didn't feel like sleeping with him she could move, without going all the way downstairs.
      Ramsey gave in.
      And she was appreciative. Very Appreciative.

****** DALE
      Wednesday morning found the Greek Math class back at it in spite of the impending holiday. They were hard at work discarding or burying anything they deemed too far out in the Great Dismal Swamp of Theory to be seriously considered.
      A fine example of this was something Ralph had brought up earlier...
      "A hyperlight particle in decay would enter the visible light spectrum for awhile, so why shouldn't we be discussing them too."
      "Ralph. Cool your engines." Harrison told him. "Theoretical physics, fine. Quantum Mechanics, sure, maybe even before breakfast. But hyper-theory, no way. I'm not a meta-physicist. I'm not even sure one of them wants part of this debate."
      Ralph sat down and huffed for awhile.
      Then they discarded virtual particles, and 'potential' photons.
      The list was getting shorter and more workable as they went.
      Dale enjoyed crossing off some of them, 'anti-light' went next, and with it a whole laundry list of other particles.
      Canney's pet particle was next. "Incomplete photons are photon wanna-bes. They just lack the 'umph' from the fusion reaction to make it out of the corona of the star."
      "So they are not photons, and I'd bet you dog food to donuts they never will." Crowley said pointing and waving at the board for Dale to cross it off.
      Dale smiled at Canney and reached up with the chalk.
      "At one time every natural photon in the universe was incomplete."
      "Shut up blimpo. Every photon in the universe had to become complete at some point or we'd all be sitting here in the dark talking about it, so incomplete ones don't count, they don't vote, and they can't defend themselves."
      Ralph said now he was making wiping motions in the air toward the board for Dale to make the move.
      Canney wasn't done. He appealed to Varscroft. "Incompletes have all but formed but lack an extra bit of energy or a quark or something to give them the energy to escape."
      "You're short a few quarks yourself." He waved at Dale who drew a line through the word.
      Canney flopped into his chair and went into full pout mode.

****** MARY
      Jack's practice was canceled for that night.
      The team met in the squad room for a few minutes, then somebody had walked down the hall to fetch the coaches.
      There was a note on the coaches' door. The note left said the coaches had been called for a meeting with the conference at the last minute, practice was canceled.
      The team shrugged and walked out.
      Jack went searching for Mary. He stopped by their room, then he looked in the TV lounge, finally he ended up at the Union.
      He couldn't believe how lost he felt without her. And he was worried about her now. Maybe she had fallen down some stairs and broken her whatchamadlit. Or maybe she had been kidnapped by Swedish terrorists, or maybe she had deserted him to go to Houston to be an expensive call girl.
      It never occurred to him to check in the library.
      Most nights when Jack was tied up she went to the library to avoid being alone.
      Mary had become used to having somebody around, and she found the room too quiet when he was gone.
      The library on campus was many things to many people. But the one thing it wasn't, was quiet.
      Oh it was quiet relative to the usual riot in the study rooms in the dorms and the frats, and it was quiet when the decibel level there was compared to the ruckus of the Union, but quiet like the old stereotype of the librarian in the horn rimmed glasses shushing you to be quiet because you're in a library... not even close.
      Computers beeped, the lights hummed, the elevators dinged and bumbed, and there was the constant murmur of whispered conversation. An actual typewriter banged and chattered somewhere. It wasn't a quiet quiet.
      Mary relaxed and read a magazine.

****** DALE
      Tonight was to be Ralph's last night being watched over in the Roz house.
      Martha was trying to get him to promise to eat right, drink less, exercise a little, and take care of himself.
      He half-promised he'd be better about it.
      Colleen was grinning with some deep dark secret.
      Ralph tried to tickle it out of her when they were alone, but she would not tell.
      Supper was another feast of the healthily kind.
      Lo fat everything. Spaghetti sauce without salt, garlic bread without butter, and salad without fat in the dressing.
      It was excellent of course. But even Martha had to admit, off the record, it wasn't easy getting the taste to her standard without the fats and salt the traditional recipes called for.
      Dessert was an explosion of look-alike heart stopping foods. Cheesecake with only a speck of fat, ice-cream with hardly any fat or sugar.
      They were good anyway.

****** MARY
      Cindy was nervous. She had heard about the University Senate.
      She had the vague impression they sort of oversaw things like building a new baseball stadium, approved tenure of professors, and begged the state legislators for funding for more grants-in-aid for athletes. But what did they want with her?
      She had been settling in Wednesday night for a final bout of homework and game shows before next week's holiday break when her phone rang.
      "Miss White?" A very masculine voice asked when she said 'hello.'
      "This is Doctor Gabriel, of the University Senate. We would like you to come to our roundtable tonight and answer a few questions."
      "This is related to your plumbing problems in your dorm. I assure you miss, you are in no trouble."
      For some reason Cindy didn't believe him.
      The Senate Committee on the physical plant of the university was meeting in a room in the Union to discuss the rebuilding of Westin, and a few other matters. Somebody had suggested they call the building super of Cannon and get a front line perspective on its plumbing trouble.
      Cindy knew it wasn't a joke, she remembered seeing something in the paper about the committee being on campus this week.
      She sighed and put on a respectable dress. Then she walked to the Union.
      The men around the table stood when she entered the room.
      Cindy swallowed hard. Every one of them was over fifty, the lone woman looked like a First Lady, and the Dean of the College was there as well.

****** DALE
      Varscroft sat in his apartment and wondered if he was going insane. He was sure his arm was getting shorter. He wiggled his fingers in their plaster superstructure and tried not to think about it.
      He reread his notes on the formula from the Greek math class, but he ended up staring at his fingers again.
      Varscroft picked up the phone and dialed.
      His wife wasn't in her office, he dialed Blumn's, no answer, then he got Canney's machine. Crowley's line was busy. Finally, in frustration he drove to campus, he ended up in the union, watching the TV in the lounge and arguing with a couple of students he knew about Chicago politics.
      This happened on a fairly regular basis now. His wife was in Memphis at the State University there in a professor swap, and Varscroft was like a caged animal without her.
      He had also convinced her that his arm was fine, "Just a cracked bone." He had told her. Otherwise she'd have flown home to baby-sit him.
      Mrs. Varscroft knew better. But she didn't tell him that.

****** MARY
      Miss Amberjoyce was still daring the class to stump her.
      She was now putting her money where their mouths were.
      If they stumped her by Friday, she'd buy a pizza lunch for the class that did it when they got back from Thanksgiving break.
      Now it was getting interesting. But it seemed her knowledge of history knew no bounds.
      "Where did the Church Creeds come from?" Was the first question Wednesday morning.
      The lady looked toward the questioner. "The Apostles' or Nicene?"
      "Both." The student answered.
      "Of course." She cleared her throat. There was a pause.
      The class could almost hear her mind working. Then the requested information came to the surface. "Neither is taken directly from Scripture, and the Apostles almost certainly did not write the Creed named for them."
      She smiled at the class, "But, both are very old, and have remained more or less unchanged since very early in Christian history."
      "Where did they come from?" The student repeated.
      The class thought for a moment maybe they had their pizza.
      "You must know that some of the core of the Apostles Creed is from Matthew, and the other Gospels, and we have record of it being used in a shorter form in the Church of Rome in about the fourth century. Irenaeus knew of it during his lifetime in the second century. Its present form was generally in use thoughout the Catholic world as early as the sixth century. But it wasn't until the Late Middle Ages that it was formalized by the Roman Church." She nodded to the class.
      Their pizza hopes evaporated.
      "However the Nicene Creed has a more complicated history. Including the spelling of the name of the Creed. This Creed was known to be in use around the third century in Jerusalem, but wasn't adopted until the councils of 325, and 381. The churches in what is now Germany disagreed with the wording of it, and there was a great deal of dissent about the humanity of Christ and His relationship with the other two attributes of what was considered a single Godhead. This continued until well into the seventh century, and even today it resurfaces."
      The class looked at her. Silence reigned. She went on for a little while.
      "I have always wondered how humans, us, with a straight face argue about the very nature of GOD." She said finally wrapping up her speech on Church history.
      There was time left in the hour, but nobody could think of something that might stump the formidable Miss Amberjoyce.

****** DALE
      Peggy was on her phone. She was talking to her extended family again.
      They were all upset that she was having trouble accepting them for them.
      Peggy was almost crying. She was having trouble keeping who was who straight. Her real mom and step mom sounded a lot alike on their speakerphone anyway. Finally she gave up and just lay in bed sobbing and listening.

****** MARY
      Maggie was bouncing. Her mood, her hair, every inch of her was was wired into high voltage. She was pretty sure she was falling for Bonker.
      Maggie was in her classes, but her mind was elsewhere. She ate lunch, but couldn't have told you if she was drinking cola, coffee, or a milkshake.
      She met Bonker outside his last class. There was a few catcalls and jokes but most of the people in the hall in the engineering building were polite.
      Maggie let Bonk buy her a cold drink in the snack bar in the building, and they talked about Bonker's plan to act as a scorer at a J-V wrestling match that weekend. Maggie thought it was a great, he was showing an interest in life at large again.

      Oh, yes, pardon me for a moment and I'll introduce you to one of the more unusual features of our campus.
      The snack bar in the engineering building is something worth taking a look at. It aspired to be a lunch counter. It had a hot dog roller, and a couple of industrial strength microwaves, and a small pizza oven. Across the hall was a small seating area of three small booths and two tables. But it never really was taken seriously as a lunch option by the staff and students of the building.
      But every time the administration made noise about closing it, the various engineering departments rose up as one body and threatened everything from protests and lawsuits to bodily harm if it was closed.
      Every time the administration backed down.
      And in a week or two, the snack bar was all but forgotten again.
      The staff did use it for cold drinks, a handy place to get a candy bar or even an occasional slice of pizza, but that was about it. And the students would hit it between classes for this and that.
      The building was opened for classes in August of 1964. The snack bar was open the first day. And had been open every day that the building was open ever since. And it lost money almost every day it was open.
      Traditions are hard to change.

****** DALE
      Kremin was at the end of his rope.
      His father's trust fund had tried to make a new deposit for him, and it was denied because his account was frozen.
      It would be another couple of days before a new account was set up for him and the money available. He was down to eighteen dollars and change.
      His girlfriend was sympathetic. The guys on the floor still stopped by, and some of them brought beer with them, another guy had bought him a pizza or two, but Kremin didn't feel right accepting charity, and he didn't want to resort to begging like some others did.
      Kremin knew some of the guys were friendly with him just because he seemed to be a man of deep pockets and unlimited generosity. And he was. But a lot of the guys liked him because he was a nice guy all the same.
      Late that night Kremin was wringing his hands and stewing. His cash on hand was down to sixteen dollars and forty-eight cents, he was MISSING two dollars and twenty cents, and didn't know where it had gone!

****** DALE
      For Thursday's session the Greek Math class was moved to the theater in the student Union.
      Varscroft had had an idea that might spark something that had been lacking in their recent discussions, real imagination with solid theoretical grounding.
      Now that they had their short list of particles and types of photons, he wanted them to have a fresh dose of fire to bring the investigation full circle.
      He had made arrangements for them to watch a movie. With popcorn and drinks, and he had it wrote off as research.
      After all, they were going to watch, "The Black Hole" from Disney.
      Dale had never seen it. He was thrilled.
      Canney had seen it, and argued the science was dated and shaky at best.
      Blumn asked if he had to stay awake for it.
      Ralph showed up and demanded popcorn before he would even consider watching it.
      Crowley considered this cruel and unusual punishment.
      Harrison wandered in last and landed in a seat. He started stomping his feet chanting, "We want the show!" Over and over again.
      Varscroft silenced them and explained why they were there.
      In a minute a few other students showed up and asked if they could sit in on the movie.
      "Sure. We're going to have a discussion about the investigation of Black Holes and other cosmic phenomena other than the way the good doctor does in the movie. We cannot do what he did, so how can we apply the other options to our own line of inquiry."
      The students nodded. They understood that as soon as the picture was over they should split before the going got dull.
      In a few minutes Varscroft got the zombie alien in the projection booth to start the film.

****** MARY
      The University Senate was very polite and respectful. They called her 'Miss White' and seemed slightly amused by her nervousness.
      "Please don't be so uptight miss." One of the younger members said to her. "We have heard nothing but glowing reports of you and the Cannon Building under your supervision. We just want to know about the plumbing problem you are currently having."
      Cindy smiled at the word 'uptight' she hadn't heard that in ages.
      After all, the youngest member of the board was easily on the high side of sixty.
      "Well sir, the plumbing is broken, and I don't think they can fix it."
      "Hasn't maintenance been there?" The lady asked.
      "Yes ma'am. They dug up the floor to get to the wrong pipe, they sat a wall on fire with a cutting torch, and they blow breakers at least twice a day. And still we don't have any toilets in half the building."
      "I see. And this has been a week?"

****** DALE
      Peggy hated writing letters. Period.
      Email, thank you cards, notes, or postcards, but right now she seemed to be able to think clearer on paper than on the phone.
      She hand wrote a page and re-read it. Then threw it away. Then she typed a few lines. And hit delete.
      The situation with her parents was going nowhere... And next weekend was parents weekend when they would all be here.
      Classes were out all week. She had no idea what to do. She wasn't sure she wanted to go home, and she didn't think she wanted to stay here.
      She started another blank page on her screen.
      She smelled popcorn, but didn't feel like going downstairs for it.

****** MARY
      The class hour had been over for some time and the next class was coming in, but Miss Amberjoyce wasn't showing any signs of stopping her monologue on the railroads.
      She told them how, in the building of the steel beltways of the country, fraud, deception, and corporate treachery were not only commonplace, but encouraged. She was currently well into a spiel about the government control over the railroads during WWI. January first 1918 found the US government in control of every railroad in the country for the express purpose of moving troops and supplies to the eastern ports to be sent to the battlefields of Europe.
      "The companies and their Bosses were incapable of moving anything but glasses of Scotch and money from one pocket to another." She said. "The Railroad War Board was worse than useless. Troops stood in warehouses in Cleveland waiting for rail cars. Cars sat on sidings in Pennsylvania, apparently forgotten. And it was getting worse. Coal ran out in the East and piled up at the mines. At one point, a load of coal traveled nearly two hundred miles, to cover a straight line distance of thirteen miles."
      The class laughed. She raised her hand to continue.
      Now the classroom was standing room only. Only a few had left.
      The teacher continued. "Oh, it was more than funny. The secretary of the treasury, one William McAdoo, a very capable man by all accounts, was named railroad director. Five hundred thirty companies, nearly three million rail cars of all descriptions, and all the things that went with them, were now under his control."
      There were a few whistles. The majority of the students had never even heard of all this before.
      She continued. "But there was one major problem. The railroads had not been any help. Their records were a muddle. Now the country was at war, but the railroads acted liked spoiled children. They did not know, for instance, if engine 1211 was in good shape or had been junked. Are the tracks in Port Penn passable or in need of repair? They didn't know. McAdoo sent his own army out to literally take a look at every car and mile of track, every crossing and station, and every coal shovel and water tower in the country."
      All of this to answer a question about what was wrong with Amtrak, and when did passenger service itself start having problems.

****** DALE
      "The movie was full of crap." Canney screached as the credits rolled.
      Dale had enjoyed it. He had forgotten it was part of class.
      "So are you!" Blumn half shouted.
      "A black hole isn't a passage to anywhere. It is what it says it is. A hole into which you throw matter and never see it again. That probe ship would have vanished into nothingness, and so would the rest of them."
      "Which makes me think of something to do with you."
      Dale laughed at Blumn. "I liked it."
      Ralph stood up. "I stayed awake for that? Is that it? I mean. What were we supposed to see. The chick never got naked, the gunfight was lousy, but I liked the bit about the human/robots, nice touch."
      Varscroft shook his head. "I wanted you to see that maybe there is another side to every argument. Reinhardt and his ship were dedicated to proving an idea everybody else had dismissed as nonsense."
      "And everybody was right. The doctor was full of it." Canney said.
      "You will not even acknowledge the possibility that he was right?" Varscroft looked at Canney.
      The fat man shook his head.
      "Gravity does strange things to space doesn't it?" Dale said.
      Ralph nodded. "The kid's right. Gravity does peculiar things to everything. Light bends when you get enough of it, so does space, it can crush atoms, so, you know, who's to say."
      The few other students in the theater were enjoying the show put on by the class almost as much as the movie, most of them stayed put.
      "I'm to say. The event horizon of the black hole is where reality stops. The singularity is nothingness."
      "But what's just one hair this side of the event horizon."
      Canney seemed thrown for a second.
      Crowley spoke up. "Just gravity. Crushing overwhelming gravity, like the guy in the movie said. Nothing exists there but gravity, not even space."
      "If you could come in and glance off of that nothingness without going in..." Blumn muttered holding his chin.
      Varscroft smiled. This was what he had been after. He wanted them to admit to themselves, that there are some things that are just unknowable.

****** MAGGIE

      There is something the reader needs to know now, but the characters in our drama do not.
      It seems something has happened to one of them. Actually to two of them.
      Maggie is pregnant, and doesn't know, or even suspect it.
      It seems the other day they got going and Maggie forgot something she had been meaning to do since the fire. Get her birth control refilled. And they had gotten carried away and forgot to use a 'thing'.
      It happens.

****** MARY
      Mary sat next to Jack and listened to Miss Amberjoyce's story about how the railroads tried to loose World War One for us. Then when they were taken over by President Wilson, they cried and whimpered, but were sent packing anyway.
      Then after the war, they tried to bilk millions from the government for damages.
      "On the whole they tried to wring a billion dollars out of the taxpayers. Who for two years had paid to improve the sorry condition of the lines to move troops and goods for the war. But in 1920, the railroads complained their property had been damaged."
      She paused, "I don't remember every dollar amount, but the big lines New York Central, The Penn, the Santa Fe, all claimed damages, and most ended up having to pay the government for improvements made. A few did get some money from Uncle Sam, but it was a small fraction of what they had demanded."
      She smiled broadly. "You are probably wondering what all this has to do with passenger service?"
      The class nodded
      "Well, now you know a bit about the character of the major railroads. And They had been claiming passenger service looses money for years. In fact in the forties it was claimed, 'A hog can cross the country without changing trains, but you can't.' And it was true, and for the most part still is."
      The class laughed.
      "Passenger service is expensive to run, true. But it isn't the albatross around the company's neck they claim it is. Some trains MADE money, but on paper the bosses proved it lost money on every trip. And by the sixties, passenger service on trains was becoming scarce, and less than comfortable."
      "Finally. As the companies had proven without a doubt they were neither capable of nor interested in, passenger trains. The government stepped in. Amtrak was born."
      "Why?" Somebody asked.
      "It is generally felt in the corridors of power that an ability to move large numbers of troops and supplies by rail is in our national interest. So the infrastructure needs to be maintained. By 1970 it was in pretty bad shape. May of 1971 saw the first Amtrak run. A combine between the remaining passenger companies and the government. It has been an interesting mess ever since."
      Jack had been holding Mary's hand listening to the teacher. They laughed together. Mary smiled at him. Jack found he was actually enjoying being in class.
      Miss Amberjoyce talked more about passenger rail service. She tossed about figures like Amtrak only serviced half the routes of the old system, and carried less than 10% of all inter-city travel by all methods. Jack was learning stuff and didn't even realize it.

****** DALE
      Dale was sitting back in his seat in the theater munching on popcorn.
      They were watching the movie a second time. This time they were supposed to be looking for any overtly wrong science versus what just wasn't possible right now.
      Dale wasn't that concerned with open violations of quantum physics, he was enjoying the movie.
      Canney scowled at the screen. Just thinking about what might be possible some day versus what was impossible no matter the date was giving him hot flashes. Faster than light speeds were implied in the movie, but never really openly discussed. Canney would not even dare to venture that 'hyperdrive' or something might be possible. He was mulling over the gravity defying force field and half watching the movie.
      Ralph was asleep, or nearly so. Thinking about what was possible if you had infinite power, as seemed to be the case with the movie's spaceship 'Cygnus', he had fallen into a near-trance.
      Crowly loved the spaceship. It was huge, it was beautiful, and the best part was, it was possible. Constructed in orbit from a space station. It could never be launched from a gravity well such as a planet, but in n-gravity. Yes.
      Blumn wondered about the reprogramming of the crew. And thought about reprogramming Ralph. Partial lobotomy, replace inconvenient bodily parts with cybernetic devices, 'Hmmm'.
      The others sat and watched the movie. Varscroft liked Maximillion, the huge powerful servant of the ship's master. Functional and obedient. Overcome the shaky bit about gravity negation and it was not only possible, it's granddaddy worked for major factories all over the world today.

****** MARY
      Cindy walked toward her dorm with most of the senate committee behind her.
      They wanted to see for themselves that what was going on in her dorm was as bad as they had been led to believe.
      Cindy had muttered something like, "Come see for yourself."
      They took her up on it. Except for one very elderly man who would wait in the lounge and take the other's word for it.
      Cindy showed them open holes in the laundry room floor, they talked to a girl who had gone clear to the McQuin towers to wash her clothes and brought them back here to dry. They watched just a trickle of water come out of the sinks in the building. Finally they seemed satisfied.
      The group walked back to the Union.
      Cindy was surprised when they all went to the lounge to meet the old man.
      She did not decline the glass of wine they offered her.
      "Miss White." The younger man said. "Your dorm is a mess."

****** MARY
      It was well into the afternoon when Miss Amberjoyce finally let herself wind down.
      She had covered railroad history, then went into canals and river traffic for another question. Then she talked awhile about how airports came to be where they were.
      The final question she answered today was from a freshman who wanted to know how this University became what it was today.
      Miss Amberjoyce talked with conviction about the old religious school and hospital before the turn of the century. The Cathedral and old Catholic dorm, and the original hospital that used to stand where the engineering building is now.
      "Within that one block was everything this university was. Since then it has moved south and east with growth. The first building on this side of London street is Learman Hall. It was built for non-religious studies in, I believe, 1899. The original library was next, and Abe here was begun in 1910."
      "Does the Church still control the campus?" Someone asked.
      "No." She said flatly. "Although the Bishop is still official chaplain and chair of the religion department, the church officially turned control of the school over to the state in 1941, The church maintains some control over St. Luke's & University Hospital, but that is only a formality. They will even perform the occasional non-medically necessary abortion at the hospital. Which would have been unheard of even just a few years ago."
      She didn't allow any more questions. "We need to take a break for today. I will see you all tomorrow."

****** DALE
      Colleen was mad at her art class. She was teaching some undergrads the fine points of sketch art. But they were almost all drawing like they were giving a bridge a new coat of graffiti.
      She went through fine strokes with the pencil, then fill in shading, but two of the students insisted on heavy bold line and shading like they were finger painting.
      Colleen was near her breaking point. No matter what she said or did these guys seemed unable to comprehend anything besides drawings that could be from third graders.
      Jimbo was in the class. And a basketball player named Blackthrawn. And a couple of footballers, and assorted other 'jocks' that needed the art credit to make their Distribution Requirements.
      They also enjoyed watching as Colleen's pretty face got all red and sweaty with rage.
      Even Jimbo.
      Finally the class hour ended. She sagged behind her desk. Jimbo walked by and laid his paper on top of the pile. She glanced at it, then stared in shock.
      She turned but he was gone.
      Colleen was looking at a very well done and rather touching portrait of a man she had seen around campus.
      On the back it said 'CARL by jimbo.'

****** MARY
      Maggie and Bonker had lunch in the union. Maggie didn't have much of an appetite, but Bonker tried to make up for it.
      After they ate they walked downstairs to the game room. Maggie was pretty good at one of the video games, Bonker on the other hand wasn't very good at any of them.
      They played for some time. Finally Bonker admitted he had a meeting in the gym about scoring wrestling matches and had to go. He kissed her goodbye in the hall. She promised to meet him later at the house.
      Maggie was lighthearted as she walked back to the Catholic dorm. The bulletin board was full of holiday related messages for her, and it took her a couple of hours to sort through them.
      Bonker sat through the meeting, It was dull.
      The coach knew it was dull. Some guy with a terrible beard from the Sanctioning body knew it dull. But it had to be done. Bonker asked the most interesting question of the whole thing.
      "What do you do if the two guys go for the whole match and nobody scores a point on takedown or anything?"
      The sanctioning man thought about it for a second. "You hope that never happens." There were a few laughs, then he explained the rules for a draw, even a draw with no score.
      The meeting broke up and Bonker dashed back to the house. He met Maggie on the sidewalk outside. They kissed a warm hello and went in together.
      Later they walked back to the Catholic dorm for her rounds.
      Maggie was feeling slightly flushed, but didn't think anything of it.

****** DALE
      It took Kremin backtracking every step he had made all day Wednesday to figure out he had bought a snack and drink in the Union, almost without thinking about it. He had done it so often, almost every day, that it was routine.
      He sat and worried about spending another dime before he got his account straight.
      Later that evening Jimbo stopped by, "In the mood for a little company?" The big guy asked.
      "Sure." Kremin said without emotion.
      Jimbo pushed open the door and walked in. Carl was behind him carrying a huge box that Kremin knew contained an Italiano stromboli.
      Jimbo had a twelve of beer and a carton of wine coolers.
      Kremin smiled, this had obviously been well planned. 'Good friends are hard to find.' He thought to himself,

****** MARY
      Back in the married dorm Mary was sorting the last of their wedding gifts and putting them away. Jack sat in the chair and watched a tape of a track meet.
      Mary began jotting notes on a pad for thank you notes.
      Mary had always believed it was the brides solemn duty to write thank you notes to everybody. A personal message in a nice card. Hand addressed.
      There were over one hundred thirty gifts, cards, checks, and flower arrangements. A few more gifts came from institutions or organizations, which she wasn't sure about the protocol to thank them properly. How do you express gratitude to the College of Civil Engineering for a bouquet of flowers and a two year subscription to "Architecture Monthly"?
      Mary was concentrating on individual's first.
      In three hours she had completed nine thank you cards.
      Jack had long since been bored with the coverage. After several years in major college sports, seeing friends of his on TV had ceased to be unusual and unique.
      It was a few minutes before Mary realized Jack was watching her write.
      "Well." She said to him.
      "You're beautiful when you're concentrating." He said back.
      Mary smiled at him. "So what are we doing for Thanksgiving?"
      "I've got a game the next day."

****** DALE
      Dale walked back to the Roz house. He wasn't sure what else he was supposed to do.
      Varscroft had made a pretty speech about them refocusing their theory about light photons. Limiting them strictly to the actual formation of the photon.
      Dale thought they had been doing good, he knew if they tried to explain every bit of light in the universe they'd be getting in over their heads, but he wanted to try anyway.
      Dale was mulling over the mysteries of the secret life of light, and walked halfway downtown.
      He figured out he had missed the house when he stopped to wait for a light to change to cross the street, and remembered there were no traffic lights between the Union and the Roz house.
      Dale turned around and started back to campus.
      This time he made it to the house. In time for the early supper.
      "Did you enjoy your walk sir?" The butler asked him with just a trace of a grin.

****** MARY
      Cindy was riding herd over several of the girls who were being transferred here and there to lighten the load on the dorms' remaining plumbing.
      The senate had called in an industrial plumbing contractor from Springfield. They were due to be there in the morning.
      Cindy was amazed that in spite of relocating the entire population of Westin into odd rooms and the old dorm. The senate had found room for another hundred or so girls. They doubled up some single rooms and refunded the difference to the girls that had volunteered to have a roommate when they had rented the double room to be alone at the beginning of the year.
      Other rooms were triple bunked, in some buildings corner and end rooms were large enough for three, and in a couple cases four girls in the same room.
      The assistant dean of students over housing was pulling her hair out.
      She worried about reimbursements, and housing allowances, and keeping track of key deposits. And she charged every one of them the fee for moving mid term.
      This was the same administrator wanted to charge the girls that had lost their keys in the fire for replacements and tried to keep their room damage deposits.
      Within two hours of receiving the phone call from the senate she was fired for obstruction of emergency procedures; second offense. The secretary for the senate got tired of endlessly answering complaints from Cindy and students about why the girls had to PAY to be moved when it wasn't their idea.

****** DALE
      Marlene was done with her first article and well into her second. The media center had faxed the piece to New York for her, then she had dinner with the Butler in the staff/alumni dining room in the union to get him away from the house for awhile.
      Neeman Georges remained tight-lipped through the meal. But he enjoyed her company immensely.
      Marlene was animated, she talked of all the wonderful art she had seen. And some of the not so wonderful art that was also part of the overall artistic realm of the university.
      "There is a display in one of the music buildings, I forget which one, of broken instruments. Arranged by section like an orchestra. But they are all broken in some way or another. Bent flutes, cracked cellos, broken drums. All on a wall." She chuckled.
      The butler had a small smile on his face. "Do tell." He said.
      "I love it. Most galleries only show the best of the best. Here I have seen brilliant works by promising artists and sculptors, and some..." She didn't finish the sentence.
      "Intresting works by enthusiastic individuals somewhat lacking in talent and vision." The butler offered.
      Marlene smiled broadly to him.

****** MARY
      Mary and Jack had a real long talk about fitting family and holidays into Jack's sports schedule. Mary wanted desperately to be with her dad on Thanksgiving, but she also wanted to watch Jack play
      The game was at home, against a touring group of Professional all stars, so nobody would really scream if Jack missed it. At first Mary thought they were playing in a holiday tournament someplace.
      "Nope. After the drug business, we lost our invitations to everything. This bunch had an open date, so..." He shrugged.
      Mary nodded, but she didn't frown.
      Jack changed the TV channel, he had grown sick of game shows, and talk shows, and the news. The only things he watched anymore were either new sit-coms, and them only when the episode wasn't a repeat, or sports.
      Mary wanted something else to do. She looked on the schedule for dorm family activities. "Hey! Guess what?"
      Jack looked at her.
      "There's something going on downstairs... We should go."
      "What?" He asked.
      "The kids are putting on their Thanksgiving pageant."
      Jack's face sagged. Jack sagged. His digestive processes stopped.
      "Jack?" Mary looked at him. "I wanna go."
      Jack was trying to decide whether he'd rather die or just have a root canal. "I'd rather die while having a root canal."
      "Milo Quickbrine is in Dentistry School, he's right downstairs."
      Jack thought it over, carefully. "I'll change my shirt and go with you."

****** DALE
      Peggy was all dressed up and smelled good when she came down for the late supper. She was a little disappointed Dale had eaten earlier, but she talked him into attending the more formal late meal anyway.
      Peggy had talked a great deal to Miss Alice earlier that day, she was surprised that the older lady knew some of her troubles with her, shall we say, unusual family arrangement.
      "I knew something had been troubling you for a couple of days. So I called your step-mother." Miss Alice took a deep breath, "Your mothers explained to me what was going on."
      "What is going on?"
      Miss Alice raised her eyebrows. "I think dear, you now have twice the loving family you did before, more than anyone else in the house."
      Peggy had to think about that for awhile. Then she told Miss Alice she wanted to make an announcement at supper that night.
      Between the main course and dessert, Peggy stood up and cleared her throat.
      Even Harrison stopped chewing and looked up. Peggy smiled sweetly at everyone around the table.

Cont in Two Dorms Part 39


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