Bill Todd -- Jones: A Novel of the Early Cold War
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 Chapter 14

Dean Loomis

Jones was feted at a party given by the Melancholy Boys that evening, and he had rather too much to drink. Unused to alcohol, and whatever else went into the Melancholy Maximum Martini Mix, he found himself placing the occasional hand, more or less randomly, on Miss Sarah Swift. She pretended to be shocked, but seemed always to be within reach. Later, he experienced some irregularities of the tummy which became increasingly severe. Ultimately, he stuck his head out the third storey window and threw up. It was quite painless, without retching, just simple expulsion. There were some cries and squawks from the sidewalk below, but Leo said not to pay any attention. Taking his advice, Jones returned to the party just in time to catch a humorous imitation of himself by Miss Swift.

The next day, there were forms to be filled out in the college office, and an improptu lunch invitation from the dean. The latter was full of congratulations on the orals, which had been reported to him as "entirely satisfactory and quite impressive." Jones didn't argue, and mentioned the journal which he would be editing. That caused Dean Loomis to drop a spoonful of soup in his lap, but he seemed hardly to care. While summoning a pretty waitress to mop him up with one hand, he gave Jones to understand that he had never known a scholarly journal to pop out of thin air without a prior request for funding. Jones mentioned Reggie Blakey, and the dean knew all about him.

"It's so good that you've made that connection. Mr. Blakey- Fenton has been extremely generous with the college. To be frank, I think it's been more his wife's idea than his own. But, in the end, it all comes down to the man who writes the check, doesn't it?"

"This was also her idea, but he took me to lunch and seemed quite enthusiastic. He has all kinds of plans and ideas, and he told me that I was part of the wave of the future."

"You are. Of course, Mr. Blakey-Fenton is quite a modest man, seemingly pleased with almost everything. Still, rich men often have surprisingly detailed plans for the future. They're patient, and nudge things one way, and then another. But, when the critical moment arrives, you don't want to be in their way."

"He's the first rich man I've known."

"I run across a good many in my line of work. I haven't actually known one who allowed himself to be maneuvered into doing anything he didn't already want to do."

"Well, he seems to want to do this. He and his wife have arranged for printers and everything. We'll soon be making our first announcement and call for papers."

"You realize, of course, that journal editors get a reduced teaching load?"

"No, I didn't. That won't delight the rest of the department."

"At this point, some of them will be so angry and jealous that a little more won't make any material difference."

That evening, Jones went down to the Union Terminal to catch the night train for Washington. He was an hour early as usual, and he usually took this opportunity to go to the concession stand in the middle of the rotunda to buy and read a racy paperback.

The covers were usually a little misleading. The one that caught his eye showed a partly dressed blonde poking her head around a half-opened door to speak provocatively to a large red-headed young man. It was easy to think that they would wind up in the bed behind her, but Jones knew by this time that the rules for this literary form precluded that result.

Mrs. Blakey-Fenton would have hooted at Jones for even thinking about reading such a trashy book, and Professor Wilson Adams might have smiled indulgently. It was just possible, on the other hand, to imagine Dean Loomis making such a purchase, at least if he thought he was unobserved.

Jones knew that he wasn't being observed by any member of the Cincinnati power elite, and the passing Pullman porters and members of the cleaning staff were unlikely to denounce him for bad taste. But it was the sort of book in which one read fifty pages without satisfaction, and then began skipping. The scene on the cover might never be realized at all, and, if it were, the chapter might end, more or less, in a string of dots. Jones saved his fifty cents. He then found that, even though his train hadn't been called, he could sneak around a barrier and make his way down to trackside.

At the bottom of the steps, the train lay empty and inert, the coaches looking black in the dim light. The smell was quite different from the usual public-place aroma he had just left upstairs. Even though the locomotive had not yet been coupled on, there was soft coal smoke drifting everywhere, a little acrid and full of particles waiting to lodge themselves in one's eyes. The track smell, a mixture of the dusty pungency of gravel ballast with that of creosoted wooden ties, was overlaid by the results of dumpings from passenger-car toilets. Lastly, there was oil and grease all over the wheels, springs, and couplers of the cars. It was very different from the smell of the sea, even mixed with PT boat exhaust.

As he walked down the platform, his presence seemed to be unquestioned by the few trainmen looking concerned and calling to one another. Something seemed to be wrong. Whatever it was, the railway was obviously a serious business, rather like the U. S. Navy. The men he saw would go to great lengths to run their trains on time, and, in the case of a threatened train wreck, they would probably risk their lives without second thoughts. Again like the navy. Casey Jones and John Paul Jones occupied similar places in American thinking. Edward St. Paul Jones thought that there was something profoundly wrong with both.

Just as he reached the first baggage car, the great engine drifted out of the darkness toward him. Beyond the tender, he could see the rods rising and falling inexorably in their majestic circular motion. There was almost no sound from engine and tender until the engineer opened the cylinder cocks. Then, the released steam at three hundred pounds per square inch produced a horrid deafening scream that made Jones smile. He stepped back a little as brakes were lightly applied to the four sets of driving wheels, checking the way of the brute of the engine. It then crashed gently into the train, coupling in the process.

The big engine would hit a smooth ninety at times, and make it seem easy. The passengers, in the comfort of their Pullman cars, would never know how much raw power and violence was happening up front, just barely under the control of the engineer and his fireman.

It was, of course, the love of engines such as this which made the men what they were and inspired their loyalty. A big engine was like a great ship. Jones was almost tempted to join the railway. It did seem that a university philosophy department hardly counted at all when such things were being weighed. But, of course, one couldn't be too romantic. That led to irrational and unnecessarily risky behavior, the Casey Jones and John Paul Jones sort of thing.

Sometimes, Jones would lie sleepless and fascinated in his bunk, watching the dark landscape as the engine bellowed for the grade crossings, two long, a short, and an extra long. This time, he actually slept for some hours until he had to raise the bed to use the toilet. He was seated on it when the train whistled its way through a fair-sized town with a brightly lit station. Only his head would really have been visible from the platform, and that momentarily at best. But it did occur to him that such a man as he might enter in his diary, if he kept one, such a line as,

"Pissed and shat my way through Huntington, West Virginia."

After that, he slept all the way to northern Virginia, where the Pullman porters sang out their almost unintelligible warnings. The assumption seemed to be that a gentleman would need a little time to prepare himself for his nation's capitol.

For Jones, Washington was partly JOAD, but, even more, Heike. She was there, right on the platform, coming toward him. With her green coat open he could see a bright red blouse and a greenish skirt patterned after a Scottish kilt. On her head, she had a paper hat with slogans supporting the re-election of President Truman, which had occurred more than a month previously. Jones hugged her, picked her up, and spun her around. The hat was knocked askew, and one shoe dropped off. Setting herself to rights, Heike said,

"Your new Ph. D. has given you added confidence with Phudless people like me. As if you needed any."

"You'll soon be getting a real Phud. Mine's a bit bogus."

"Don't breathe a word about bogusness at JOAD. I've told them all that you've finished in a blaze of glory. The pretty secretaries will swarm all over Dr. Jones with congratulations."

"But not hugs and kisses?"

"I'll be there, steely-eyed, to prevent that."

"How goes JOAD since we last talked?"

"The computer comes ever nearer. An ERA machine with a name in binary, 1101."

"So that's model thirteen. I wonder if the first dozen were all failures."

"It's alleged that some worked reasonably well. One did catch fire. Admiral Benson is going to have janitors standing by with fire buckets when we start up."

"What's the instruction set like?"

"Close to the one we've been using. I've already programmed the input devices and adapted our programs. They should run the first day."

"I bet they won't."

"Probably not."

"Anyway, Heike, we want JOAD to think that it takes major heroism to get a program to run."

"We'll stay up at the machine all one night. Then, when people arrive in the morning, we'll Eureka all over the place and flash output cards."

They next proceeded to the car Heike had recently bought and learned to drive. This was a major step for her, and she was very proud. She looked even younger than she was as they bounced briskly out of the parking lot. Jones remained tactfully silent as they did some things not ordinarily done on the roads. After things had settled down a little, he asked,

"Have you had any more thoughts about editing a journal?"

"It's unheard of for someone my age. Editors of mathematical journals are usually at least fifty, rumpled with pipes out of the sides of their mouths. But I don't see why I can't. It'll certainly enhance my employability."

"I've already been offered a reduced teaching load."

"Goody. I'll certainly be insisting on one myself. Anyhow, this whole thing sounds like a fairy story. Are you sure it's really true?"

It was actually rather hard to explain the Blakey-Fentons and Reggie's emergence as a publisher. When Jones finished, Heike said only,

"Rich men can indulge any impulse. But such projects often tend to die when they get bored with them."

"This one's wife won't let that happen."

"So she's quite determined."

"Yes. More than that, even."

"Is she beautiful?"

"I wouldn't have said so. But she's attractive and has a way of taking control of her surroundings."

"I wish I could take control of my surroundings."

"But you're not a power person, Heike. Power people don't dress in loud clashing colors and wear funny hats."

"Oh, this is just a release from the way I have to dress at JOAD. Anyhow, I've just had a setback."

"Nothing serious, I hope."

"Not really, except for me. You know the way I am about sex?"

"Very shy, but that's okay."

"Not really. I've been having talks with my closest female friends, the secretaries at work."

"Well, they're about your age. I guess they're the only ones who are."

"I'm the odd woman out. They do claim to be virgins, but they're relaxed about sex and enjoy it. They go almost all the way and don't worry about it."

"I bet some of them do go all the way. Anyhow, they're entirely different from you. They probably got laid the nights of their senior proms. You haven't been to senior proms."

"Or junior ones, for that matter. But they advised me to make up for lost time."

"That was irresponsible of them. Did you?"

"Oh, they insisted on precautions. And they even picked out the man, a guy named Rob who was once a technician at JOAD."

"What happened?"

"We started out with a triple date. It was, I guess, a little high-schoolish, but I was hardly in a critical mood. Everyone wound up necking in the car, one couple in front, and the other four of us squeezed in the back seat. It was funny and giggly, and I participated a little. I hardly knew who the hands touching me belonged to, but it felt quite good."


"Then I went out to dinner with Rob alone. He's not terribly interesting, but nice. He kissed me good night on my doorstep. That felt a little weird, but it was over quickly."

Jones said nothing, and Heike performed a difficult left turn against traffic. She then continued,

"The third date was just a week ago. We went to a crowded movie house. The movie was stupid, but, I thought, here's my chance to find out what it's all about. Rob touched me in ways I'd never been touched before. My friends, the secretaries, wouldn't have considered it extreme, but I felt almost as if I were on fire. I must have surprised Rob."

"So your education continues."

"No. After the movie, I talked to him in a really dumb way. He could come to my place, but I had to stay a virgin and all. I must have sounded like someone with an IQ of seventy. Anyhow, he agreed."

"Sometimes, those agreements don't hold up."

"But he's nice and honest. The girls picked him out for me, and they were right. He had no intention of exploiting me."


"Not okay. When we got inside my door, he touched me, not even as much as he had in the movie. I completely flipped out. I screamed and cried and got hysterical. He tried to calm me, and finally just fled. I don't blame him."

"Were you all right then?"

"I gradually calmed down, but felt really ashamed. I'm sure he told the girls. They've given me strange looks this week."

"Number one, don't take advice from the girls. They're ignorant and insular."

"Also normal."

"In a poor kind of way."

"I hate the idea of going to a psychiatrist, but I can't go on having sudden fits of hysteria."

"You won't."

"By never letting a man touch me? Will it get to the point where I can't even shake hands with a man?"

"Of course not. Actually, it surprises me that you got as far as you did."

"You thought that I was even weirder than I am?"

"I thought you were more inhibited than you seem to be."

"I was fine in the movie."

"In a crowd of people. Even in the car, there were the other couples."

"I really was just as safe in my apartment. Rob's very far from being a rapist, and I knew it."

"Maybe you were afraid you'd lose control yourself."

"Yes, that may be. But the other girls aren't afraid of losing control."

"They probably do sometimes. They just aren't reflective enough to be aware of the possibility in advance and worry about it."

"I guess the upshot is that I shouldn't get alone with a man in suggestive circumstances."

"Does that include me?"

"I'm afraid so. It's stupid to make you stay in a hotel when you could stay with me, but my confidence is at a low ebb. On the other hand, I did like it when you greeted me so effusively."

"The crowd again. And a place where affection is expected. We could keep going to the station and the airport, even when I'm not travelling."

"If the girls knew that, they'd think I was completely around the bend."

"I've known much stranger things than that."

"I think my own hysteria, once it started, scared me more than the possibility of sex. There's insanity in my family."

"Set off by reactions to sex? I've never heard of that."

"Well, there are plenty of hopelessly insane women in institutions. Who knows how they got there?"

"No one who knows you thinks you're in the least insane."

"More likely, I'm the kind of intellectual woman who can hardly deal with things in the real world. I've known ones like that."

"I don't think those people would be capable of doing the things we're planning to do."

"Our kind of espionage, you mean?"


"Well, spying may be sort of sexy. Mata Hari was executed in nothing but her high heels."

"The French did that?"

"She was wearing a fur coat which she dropped at the last moment."

"It's a wonder the firing squad could shoot straight. Is that what you're planning if things go badly?"

"It'd be quite a thrill. And one wouldn't have to worry about going insane."

"Somehow, Heike, I just can't imagine your editing PROOF AND PREDICTION from a padded cell."

"If I did, the notoriety would be good for circulation.

Bill Todd -- Jones: A Novel of the Early Cold War
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