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 Chapter 11

Family Problems

     The airmail letter was long and somewhat disjointed with overstrikes. But the message was clear enough.

     Vicki had told the housemother of the dormitory that she would be staying with Professor and Mrs. Litvinov. Anything less would have set off alarm bells and searches for a missing person. However, her father had showed up at the dormitory and made a scene, demanding to know where Vicki was. The housemother, at some risk to herself, had refused to tell him. When he finally left, she put through a call to Vicki.

     Vicki talked with Yuri and his wife, with Ken, and with her boss at the computer lab. All agreed that it was best for her to go immediately to England, and stay until things settled down. Swede had already gotten her a ticket, and she had her passport. She would arrive in three days, which worked out to the next day.

     Having reserved a room for Vicki at 12 Pusey Street, Vic set out early next morning for the long roundabout journey to Heathrow. The TWA Constellation bringing Vicki in was only twenty minutes late, and Vic was there when she staggered out of the customs area. He knew that she would be tired, but she virtually fell into his arms in an exhausted state.

     Once she was seated in the best of the airport restaurants, Vicki came to life. She said, “Vic, I’m sorry to arrive in such a multi-dimensional mess. I will try to be companionable as soon as I can.”

She spoke in a humorous way, and Vic laughed, replying, “You already explained some parts of the mess in the letter.”

“Another part is that I picked up an infection from one of my roommates, the sluttish one.”

It turned out that there were various vaginal infections which men, themselves immune, could transfer from one woman to another. One roommate had overheard the slut on the phone with her boy friend, and had caught on. The means of transmission among the women was the bathtub, which all four of them used. Vicki explained, “It creates an unpleasant burning sensation, and can’t be ignored. We three non-sluts overcame our shame and went together to the health service. We got pills, and were advised that it would take time to eliminate the infection. It was bad on the plane, and I’m about to run out of the pills.”

“It happens that I’ve just met a good lady doctor. We’ll have that taken care of.”

“Wow! I certainly need to see her.”

“I’ve gotten so that I can get most English pay phones to work, and I’ve got her card. Hang on a minute.”

Vic was back quickly and announced, “It’s all set for whenever we get there this afternoon. Toni said that her office partner, a young woman, specializes in this kind of thing. We can go straight there.”

“We don’t get me settled first?”

“It’s much easier to get to London than Oxford from here. There’ll then be plenty of time to get to Swede’s rooming house.”

The waiter then appeared, a solicitous gentleman with a worried face. They all agreed that roast beef with all the trimmings would be the best thing. As he swirled off, Vicki said, “Okay. Food first, health next, and, then shelter. I guess you have to be organized to live the way you have.”

“There’s room for a certain amount of error, but the errors have to be seen to.”

“My biggest error, rather like yours, was being born in the wrong family.”

“So I gather. Should I beat up your father if he finds his way here.”

“He won’t. But it’s a comforting thought.”

Vic paused, thinking that Vicki wanted to tell him about her father. She did. “If I can be somewhat objective, he’s smart, quite handsome, and, as they say, charismatic. He’s used to getting his way with people.”


“I’ve never understood why he married my mother. She’s hopelessly ordinary, and could never have been much different.”

“Did he get her pregnant?”


“Is that a secret?”

“Not as far as I’m concerned. But it’s bizarre that I’ve never asked myself the obvious question. I don’t even know the date of their marriage, and, so far as I can recall, they never celebrated anniversaries.”

“Does that really matter?”

“Probably not. I don’t believe that he would’ve been satisfied very long even if she’d been a raving beauty.”

“A lot of men seem to always want someone new.”

“Sure. But they usually show some restraint. I do wonder if he’s just a psychopath.”

“No inhibitions of a certain sort?”

“He’s deterred by obvious dangers. He wouldn’t try to rape a woman in public, or anything like that.”

“In private?”

“I don’t know. He may have known that he could get anything he wanted without violence.”

“Maybe without much risk until now.”

“Apparently. I do think that he’s as rational as most people, but there’s something missing. Some people call it the moral sense, but I’m skeptical of that.”

“I was recently reading a history of Haiti, and there’s a religion of the poor people which is partly Christian and partly African. It has a half-human god who has three testicles. He routinely jumps on anyone passing by, man, woman, or child. He’s not considered to be evil, just an aberration.”

Vicki began laughing, “I’ve seen more of my father than I might wish, but I haven’t counted testicles.”

“Could he be looked on in that light?”

“Unfortunately, not really. He’s sly, scheming, and calculating. Not just natural. That’s where the evil comes in.”

“I wonder if he’ll be put away for a while.”

“I may be able to follow the case in one of the skuzzier New York papers without making contact.”

“There you have an advantage on me. I’m not likely to be able to find out what happened to my father in the papers.”

“Do you really think he was tortured to death by the Mafia?”

“Given what I know, that’s the most likely possibility.”

“By God, Vic, we are a pair, at least in respect of father problems.”

“Which won’t intrude in the future.”

“Except in our memories.”

     The first course was a barley soup, which was consumed eagerly. Having sopped up the last bit with bread, Vicki said,

“There are some things that aren’t messy. My friends did a great job of getting me off, and my boss, Cal, got on the phone and lined up a job for me. So I’ll be self-supporting!”

“Great! What’s the job?”

“This is the funny part. It’s the Lyons Catering Company, the huge company that owns and operates most of the tea shops in England.”     


Vicki smiled and said,

“The firm was founded, a hundred years ago, by Isadore and Montague Gluckstein, Barnet Solomons, and Joseph Lyons.”

“Three good Jewish folks and one shagits. They may have taken him on to use his name. But computers?”

“They’re the first big business firm here that wants to automate its operations, and it’s inspired by the Cambridge EDSAC.”

“I’ve heard of it.”

“The first computer that stores its program within itself. That’s very nice because it allows the machine to operate on, and modify, the program that it’s actually running. That’s been my specialty, even though I haven’t had access to a computer that could execute it.”

“So you’re the girl of the hour.”

“Sort of. I probably wouldn’t be needed at Cambridge, but I may be by Lyons.”

“Where are they located?”

“On Hammersmith Road, in London.”

“Will you want to take a place in London?”

“If you’ll come down to visit often.”

“Certainly. I find London fascinating.”

The Yorkshire pudding came next. Neither Vic nor Vicki had ever had it, but, having finished, were tempted to order more. Vicki said,

“We’d better restrain ourselves. By the look of things, there’s lots more to come.”

The roast beef then arrived. They slowed down a bit, and Vicki remarked,

“I’ve been wondering if sexual intercourse is simply a mistake. It was put in to propagate the species, but why not just let other people do that?”

“There’s the pleasure factor.”

“Sure. But I’m reliably informed that there are lots of alternative ways of producing it.”

“Yes. Why not, indeed?”

 “So, then, Vic, where do we go from here?”

“I’m already convinced that I can get along fine as long as I don’t do anything crazy, or even very radical. So, where sex is concerned, I’d be inclined to take small steps, nothing irreversible, and nothing likely to upset anyone’s balance. Either my own or someone else’s.”

“A great many people probably think in those terms. But they get swept away. And, then, it’s too late.”

“We won’t get swept away if we only put our big toes in the water.”  

 Vicki nodded just as the chocolate profiteroles arrived for dessert.  

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