Bill Todd -- Jones:A Novel of the Early Cold War_2.0
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 Chapter 11

A Retirement

Jones got back to Cincinnati on Monday morning and made his way leisurely through the Union Terminal, the only man of his particular profession ever to have done so. That was largely because Heike and himself were the only members of that profession. They weren't spies or saboteurs exactly, but their intentions, if known, would certainly get them fired from JOAD. Indeed, people who were judged to be violating national security legislation, as they certainly would be if caught, would end in jail.

Jones passed a circular newstand kiosk in the middle of the vast domed rotunda and bought a paper. An article on the front page said that the Cincinnati Reds were changing their name to the 'Cincinnati Redlegs' so that they wouldn't be thought to be communists. Jones wasn't quite sure whether to be amused or saddened, but the commotion of people and taxis in the station forecourt distracted him.

Having stopped at his apartment, Jones arrived at the philosophy department just before noon to find confusion and, in some cases, consternation. Professor Wilson Adams had just announced his retirement, effective only a month away at the new year. Miss Sarah Swift was beyond consternation, if not confusion, and had accelerated into hysteria. She hardly took issue when Jones asked her for an envelope, a well-known ploy which caused her to reach for a high shelf and lift her skirts.

Handing him the envelope absently, she continued to call on heaven to preserve them. Indeed, she seemed to think that Professor Adams alone kept at bay all the evil influences which were hovering at the gates.

"You just wait and see how nasty and petty these people will get! They're too ashamed to behave badly in front of him, but they'll be snarling at each other in minutes after he's gone."

"I certainly owe him a lot myself. I don't know exactly what'll happen now."

"You don't have to worry, Jones. He's looking out for you in a big way."

"How can he do that if he's gone?"

"People forget that the head has practically dictatorial power in this university. Professor Adams has run the department as a democracy, as far as the faculty is concerned. Everything that matters is put to a vote. But he doesn't have to do that. He can issue a series of edicts as he retires."

Jones asked,

"Do you know what edicts he has in mind?"

Sarah smiled broadly as she twisted her head to arrange her hair.

"I can't remember ever having anything you've wanted before, Jones. You do ask me for envelopes, but you don't seem to be about to send me a love letter in the one I've just given you."

"Well, no. I was going to use it to write to my mother."

"Very good of you. Since your whole future seems to rest on these things that passed my desk an hour ago, it's too bad that you won't be able to tell her the news."

"When do you think Professor Adams will be back?"

"Oh, he went off for one of those interminable lunches with his buddies. They last for hours. But you could rush up to their table at the Faculty Club, interrupt their conversation, and ask him what's to become of you."

"I bet you have the carbons of anything you typed right in your desk."

"They're locked up in his office. Meanwhile, I have to change my dress."

Sarah went into the large supply closet, leaving the door considerably ajar, and called out,

"Too bad the bulb's burnt out in here. If I shut the door, it'd be like a medieval dungeon."

Sarah used a southern accent to elongate words whose sound she liked, and 'dungeon' seemed to be one of her favorites. Jones suggested that he might be able to find Sam or Milton to share her dungeon, adding,

"That'll give it a more lived-in feel, and you won't mind having the door shut."

"In that case, I'd have to have a chaperon."

It was known that Sarah sometimes invited a girl friend to chaperon her first sexual encounter with a new man. But it was also said that the chaperonage, instead of inhibiting action, added all sorts of additional possibilities. She had been in almost full view during this time, but, as she unfastened herself, she made a token, but not very effective, move to her right. She seemed to be executing one of the world's oldest strategies, but she was, undeniably, a very pretty girl.

Sarah had her dress over her head just as Wilson Adams came briskly through the outer door. However, with the closet on his left and Jones on his right, his gaze was fixed on Jones. There was only a slight noise behind him as Sarah moved out of sight.

"I was just wanting to see you, Jones. I'm retiring at the New Year, and I've scheduled your final orals just before Christmas vacation. You can get your thesis done by then, can't you?"

It was like the navy. You said, "Aye aye, sir", and then figured out how to do, or fake, whatever was required. Adams nodded, and then swept Jones after him into his office. As they sat down, Jones realized that there was going to be a hell of a row with the rest of the department.

Since no one really understood what he was doing, and someone in the department had to be the chairman of his thesis committee, it had been agreed that Adams would be the chairman. The assumption was that, once the thesis was done, Adams would send it to the various authorities in the field for review and comment. But Adams, as both head of the department and chairman of the committee, could do what he wanted. Not only that, another member of the committee was Arthur Leach, the head of the math department and one of Adams' oldest friends. Leach hardly knew more of Jones' topic than did the philosophers, but he would approve the thesis.

The remaining member of the committee was young Professor Ennis. He, and the other "pure" philosophers, would know that there wasn't time to bring in outside consultants, and they would certainly feel that the matter was being railroaded, if not steam-rollered, through. Jones could only say,

"It's a good thing I've been working hard on it lately. It won't be polished, but I've proven all the most important theorems."

"That's it. We'll have Miss Swift type it up. You may have to stand over her while she does it, but I want to get this all signed and sealed before I leave."

Jones repeated his assurance, and Adams said,

"The other thing is that you're to see the dean, Sim Loomis, as soon as possible."

"Is that in connection with the thesis?"

"No. He wants to offer you a job. Associate Professor of Philosophy with tenure. I shouldn't wonder if you'll have this office."

Adams gestured with both hands to the walls of the room, and Jones supposed that his own eyes must be bugging out. Associate professors had usually been out in the field five or ten years. Ennis was only an assistant professor without tenure. Some people never did get tenure, and had to leave. Before he could say anything, Adams continued,

"Go downstairs and see if you can catch Sim now. I just had lunch with him, and I bet he's about to take a nap in his office."

There was something undeniably folksy about a university in which the Dean of Arts and Sciences took naps on his office couch after stuffing himself at the Faculty Club. Another aspect of the folksiness was the fact that a retiring department head could bestow on a favorite student what amounted to a sinecure for life.

Jones knew what Loomis looked like, but had never actually talked with him. The dean, still upright, caught sight of him in his outer office and boomed out,

"There you are, Jones! Come in, come in! Don't spose you'd like a cigar?"

Jones declined politely and Loomis took one himself as he settled his short rotund form in his rotating and reclining chair. When Jones took the other, rolling, chair that was pushed over, Loomis said,

"I dare say that this must surprise you a little, Mr. Jones."

"More than a little, Dean Loomis."

"I guess the first thing to say is that Wilson and I have a perfect right to appoint you to this position."

"Yes. I guess you know it won't be universally welcomed."

"Of course. That's why it's an associate professorship with tenure. The others won't be able to make life difficult for you the minute Wilson's gone."

"I'm sure I'll be able to manage."

"Yes. I dare say you will."

Putting down his cigar, Loomis leaned back and continued,

"You know, it might seem as if Wilson likes everyone. His kind of courtesy has that effect. And it's quite true that he does tolerate almost everyone. But I've known him forever. He's much more discerning, and even critical, than most people realize. And, once he's made what he considers to be an important decision, he'll go to any lengths to see it through. Besides, you've already had papers published."

Jones made a deprecatory gesture, and Loomis said,

"It would be normal to appoint a man like you as an assistant professor. If Wilson weren't retiring, that's what we'd do. In the special circumstances, we added something."

"A great deal."

"I understand you sank a Jap battleship with your PT boat."

Jones explained the circumstances, knowing that he was only being credited with modesty. Loomis' joviality then gave way to a hard look.

"My son was wounded in the army, and my son-in-law badly wounded. He may never fully recover. Anyhow, I've concluded that the only thing is for this country to be so damned strong that no one even thinks about attacking us."

"Yes. I guess most of us think that. Along those lines, I have a civilian summer job with the navy that I hope to be able to continue."

"By all means! Wilson said you've found a way to apply your discoveries in logic to defense work."

It seemed that both Adams and Loomis thought that protecting the country was much more important than anything that might, or might not, happen in the philosophy department. They would support anyone who might contribute to national defense. Jones explained the connection between logic and programming, and the significance of the latter for defense. He added,

"I don't think most philosophers would approve of my spending my summers doing this."

"Yet another reason to give you tenure! I'll also see to it that you get leaves whenever needed."

"That would be very helpful. A lot of the things I do for the navy would have application to my research here."

"So it goes both ways. Very good. Of course, a lot of people upstairs won't like this because they're either parlor pinks or crypto-communists."

Jones didn't tell the dean that Sarah Swift claimed to be a communuist, or that Mrs. Blakey-Fenton's friends in the English and philosophy departments leaned heavily to socialism and unilateral disarmament. He did say,

"I think a lot of people, particularly women, feel that way. It's their dislike of militarism and war."

That again hit the right note. It seemed that Mrs. Loomis and the Loomis daughter felt that way themselves, thus increasing the dean's frustration. As he said,

"They just don't realize that there are always people waiting to take advantage of weakness and unpreparedness."

When Jones got back to the Philosophy Department, Sarah was there alone. She hadn't followed through on her threat to change her dress, but she was painting her fingernails. Amid the smell of ether, she looked up and said,

"You don't deserve it, Jones."

"How many people know about this?"

"Besides us, just Professor Adams and Dean Loomis. And probably his secretaries."

"You haven't even told Sam and Milton?"

"They haven't been in. And I'm not the sort of girl who calls people up with gossip."

"Well, it is a windfall, of course."

"That's putting it less than mildly. You're set for life unless they get you for moral turp."

"Which means mostly keeping clear of women who have anything to do with the university."

"Which you'll be able to do, since there are plenty outside it. I'll be outside in six months, and, in the meantime, I'll drive you wild with desire."

"I'm engaged to a young lady in Washington."

"You are not!"

Jones laughed and asked how she knew.

"Because you're too self-centered to be engaged to anyone."

"Gee, Sarah, the dean seems to think I'm a fine fellow. I come up here and get only flak."

"Only mild flak so far. Wait until the others find out."

"I'm being promoted over Ennis, aren't I?"

"Yes indeedy. And don't you dare think it's okay because you have publications and he doesn't."

"Isn't that what counts around here?"

"Unfortunately, yes. Your little bits of symbolic gobbledegook get published and Roger's highly literate and beautifully written essays get rejected."

"Maybe they're too long. Editors don't like that."

"And then there's Mark Haskell, another assistant professor. He does have one paper in print."

"Yeah, I've taken his courses."

"Aren't you in Ennis' class now?"

"Only auditing, thank heavens."

"I wonder if it has occurred to Professor Adams and Dean Loomis that, as a tenured associate professor, you'll be on the review board when Ennis and Haskell come up for tenure."

Jones, surprised, said nothing. Sarah paused to blow her nails dry, and then whispered,

"Do you want to know what I think?"

"It sounds as if I'm going to find out."

Ignoring him, she continued,

"I think Adams hates these guys. Otherwise, he wouldn't do this to them."

"He doesn't seem to hate anyone."

"You've had a technical education, and you don't read good books. That's why you're so naive about people."

"Okay. Why would he hate them?"

"I guess 'hate' is too strong. But I think it's this. In one way, the other members of the department are modelled on Adams. They do ethics, aesthetics, and literary philosophy. They're humanists who could as easily be in English as philosophy."

"Well, he must have hired them. That's natural enough."

"Sure. But his assumption must have been that anyone like that would be a gentleman."

"They seem like gentlemen to me."

"On the surface, but his concept goes much deeper than that."

Before Sarah could elaborate, Sam appeared in the office. Sam was very young and somewhat breathless, evidently anxious to romp with Sarah in the attic. Jones smiled and slid out the door, but Sarah followed him a couple of steps and asked,

"Have you worked out who's going to be the next head of the department?"

"No. Do you know?"


"So it's already been decided?"

"No. It won't be for some time, but I know how they'll decide."

With that, she turned to Sam and embraced him dramatically.

Bill Todd -- Jones:A Novel of the Early Cold War_2.0
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