Bill Todd -- A Man of Three Names
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 Chapter 6

Samantha in Action

Samantha Valerius was getting ready for a date with Calvin Kastner. She had been on a good many dates since her first one, at age fourteen. Her first boyfriend, Doyle Talliaferro, was actually a distant cousin. But it was now a bit of a blur. Practically everyone had been some sort of cousin, and all male cousins acted boyfriendy at times, even ones in their eighties. Except when female cousins, who were always making scenes, would intervene. Anyhow, she and Doyle had been going to ice-cream parlors, and to the movies, for several months when Doyle's mother planned a rather elaborate Fourth of July party for young people.

It was a couple of years before the bust-up of the Valerius marriage, and Samantha's mother, a party woman with a deep sexy laugh, made much of the occasion. She was, after all, anxious that her younger daughter acquire her own ability to fascinate men, at least to the extent that Samantha's looks might allow that possibility.

Samantha was arrayed in a pink candy-striped dress, her first pair of nylon stockings, lowish-heeled pink pumps, a little pink purse, and a little pink hat. There had also been an extensive make-up job, with the result that she looked rather more Caucasian than usual. Her mother, on finishing, stood back and said, rather doubtfully,

"I think you actually do look rather sweet. At least sweeter'n anything that little sour-puss Doyle has any right to expect."

Her mother pronounced the name 'Doyle' as 'Dowle', not masking the contempt that she felt for anyone who was the least bit intellectual.

At the party, the several mothers present all told Samantha that she looked absolutely delicious, making sucking noises as they spoke. Samantha smiled and made sucking noises herself. At the same time, she wondered what the women would do if she summarily yanked up their skirts and pulled down their panties. While Samantha had occasionally done that to other girls, even ones a year or two older than herself, she remembered clearly that she hadn't done it to Mrs. Talliaferro.

The dinner blurred in her memory, probably because Doyle-Dowle talked a lot. He was, indeed, an intellectual sixteen-year old who liked Samantha because she could understand what he said to her. At least when she felt like it. But he mostly lacked her physical and athletic dimension. Samantha's mother had tried to persuade her not to beat him at tennis, golf, and swimming. While Samantha couldn't quite manage to lose to Doyle, she at least refrained from engaging him in one her other favorite sports, boxing.

After dinner, the time came for the patriotic detonation of great mounds of variously colored, but mostly red, tubes and balls. Samantha loved fireworks and explosives of all kinds. Doyle, unfortunately, wasn't really a fireworks person. He nevertheless picked up a small red firecracker, probably for the look of the thing, without lighting it. Soon thereafter, Samantha noticed that he was discussing poetry with another girl, Dorothy Simpson. Samantha had never liked Dorothy. She also thought that, while knowing how to flatter Doyle-Dowle, Dorothy hadn't the least understanding of anything beyond the doggerel that occasionally appeared in the local newspaper.

As Doyle stood, stating his views at considerable and unnecessary length, he still carried the firecracker in his hand, the fuse sticking out at the back. Samantha's memory of coming up quietly behind him and lighting the fuse was as sharp and clear as if the event had taken place that very day.

The result, a few seconds later, had been startling and quite satisfying. It was only a small firecracker, not nearly large enough to blow Doyle-Dowle's fingers off, but he had hopped all over the place in an extremely comical way which was made even funnier by his hysterical cursing.

It took a minute or two for Samantha to collar Doyle and convince him that he wasn't mortally wounded. In the meantime, Dorothy, to Samantha's satisfaction, collapsed weeping in the best tradition of the deep south.

The aftermath wasn't quite so good. Few thought the episode as funny as did Samantha. Doyle, in particular, had the greatest difficulty in finding any humor at all in it. Even when Samantha imitated his quite extraordinary sequence of hopping and cursing, he continued to look at her strangely. She couldn't remember whether he had actually terminated their budding romance at that point. But she did remember being caught alone by Mrs. Talliaferro later that evening. She had said,

"You'll grow up to be a fascinating woman, Samantha, but I don't think that, at the present time, you're a good girl friend for Doyle."

That had been boyfriend number one. Calvin looked as if he might be number twelve, or thereabouts.

Continuing to dress, Samantha was pretty sure that Calvin would like coming to the sorority house to pick her up. As she said to Debbie,

"He's quite confident, and he'd probably define nirvana in terms of being surrounded by the kind of femininity we have here. Once he gets inside, he probably won't want to leave."

"Then, if you're going to attract him away, it can't be a blue jeans date for you."

"Well, I knew that much, Debbie. Does it have to be high heels?"

"Oh yes, definitely. Alison and Maggie are going to be down there at about the same time, and you can imagine how they'll look. You'll also need a bra that doesn't have safety pins."

"Well, he's not going to see that."

"He sounds like the X-ray eyes type. He'd see it even under a fur coat."

Samantha hunted in her drawer and replied,

"The one I have on is the only clean one. Shall I go to the dirty laundry bag, or is it better to have pins?"

Debbie, by way of reply, went to the corridor and called out,

"We need something white and lacy in size 36B."

When she returned with the desired article, Samantha half hid behind the closet door to change. On emerging, she said,

"I've never had anything that wasn't white cotton."

"Well, you can be a femme fatale tonight. Of course, if you insist on going to the roller-skating rink in Skokie and knocking him over the boards into the lap of people having drinks, a little lace underneath isn't going to make much difference."

Debbie was referring to a recent double-date on which they had gone to a newly opened combined roller-skating rink and restaurant which was all the rage. The date hadn't turned out very well. Samantha laughed and protested,

"I would've been more romantic if I hadn't been with that accountant who laughed like a dromedary when he made jokes that weren't funny."

"Well, yes, he did have a problem."

"He was also pompous. It did him a world of good to have to apologize to those people with the spilled drinks."

"I doubt that it had any long-term beneficial effect. Anyhow, this one, I take it, is not like a dromedary."

"Well no. He's a fox, but also a lizard who likes to lie in the sun and preen."

"How can he be both at once?"

"But he is. I don't believe in either the law of contradiction or the law of the excluded middle. That's why I ran into trouble in the logic course."

Samantha was almost ready. Debbie helped with the choice of dress and shoes. She then went through the pile of jewelry that Samantha kept heaped haphazardly in a drawer. She reported,

"Here's a good necklace for that dress, and this is a great earring, but I can't find the matching one."

"Isn't it bourgeois to have matching earrings?"

"By God, Samantha, you are weird."

"Well, I bet you can find another earring that goes well with it."

Debbie eventually did find the matching one, and she fastened it authoritatively to Samantha's ear.

Calvin arrived exactly on time. After greeting Samantha enthusiastically, and being introduced to a couple of young ladies who could have been models, he accepted the proferred coffee and settled down quite comfortably.

As the college boys arrived to pick up their dates, it seemed to Samantha that they were less interesting than sharp fox-faced Calvin, now sprawling lizard-like on a sofa while he soaked up the sun from the smiles of young ladies who had been meticulously selected by a highly choosy, and very pricey, sorority.

Once outside, Samantha said,

"I didn't think you'd be willing to forego all that feminine attention so soon."

"They are very attractive, but it might be bad for us to delay eating."

For dinner, Samantha was given a choice between Zlata's Belgravia, the Bratislava, a restaurant that served Ethiopian food, and one that specialized in the food of the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. She knew that she was supposed to be impressed by such an exotic choice, but she replied casually,

"The last one would probably be the most interesting, but I wouldn't mind a good hearty Slovak meal at the Bratislava."

The food was indeed hearty, though perhaps a little too authentic in its representation of a cuisine which had many potatoes, many sausages, and not a great deal else. Samantha ate with great enthusiasm, and Calvin, somewhat disappointed, asked,

"Do you like it, or are you just hungry?"

"Both. Of course, almost any cooking is better than that of the deep south."

"Really? People usually like their home cooking."

"Any romance I might have had with catfish died with an experience I had when I was about ten."

Calvin, a hunk of the Slovak version of kielbasa balanced on his fork, replied,

"I have the feeling that I'm better off not knowing about it, but tell me anyway."

"A friend and I decided to wade across a pond that had just been drained. There was deep mud at the bottom, and we were up to our knees when I felt something tickling my foot. I reached down and pulled up a big catfish that'd been stranded. It was gasping, probably half dead, and sort of a blob of mud. It was really disgusting."

"I'm sure it was. Fortunately, I've never been much tempted by catfish."

"Do you eat in restaurants all the time, or do you cook or what?"

"I eat a lot in restaurants, and I also eat a lot of peanut butter sandwiches. Until a few months ago, I had a girl friend who cooked quite a lot."

"Did she get tired of you, or vice versa?"

When Calvin hesitated, Samantha asked,

"You don't mind personal questions, do you? I think they're more fun."

Calvin smiled somewhat crookedly and replied,

"She wanted to get married and have children. I just wanted to go on the way we were. She managed very quickly to get pregnant by someone else, and she then married him."

"Sounds risky. What if he'd refused to marry her?"

"It was risky. But she's an attractive woman who'd been married before. And, of course, it worked. He seems to be a pretty decent guy, and they'll probably be happy."

"Would you still like her back?"

"It was good for about two years, and I miss that. But I'm mostly over her now. How about you?"

"I left boy friends back in Mississippi, but I always had several at once, and so things never got too intense with any one. I've gone out on dates up here, but it's usually been with boys who know my sorority sisters. I like the sisters, but I don't often like the boys they hang around with."

"Are you really going to sign up with our matching service?"

"Certainly. Did you bring the forms with you?"

"No, but I did tell Sandy you might be along."

"I thought you were going to use me to test her."

"I was, but I decided not to. It probably would've come out eventually that I knew you, and she'd feel betrayed."

"Are you interested in her yourself?"

"I probably would be, but, if we had some sort of affair and it ended, one of us would probably have to leave. It's quite a good thing for me, and we need her as well."

"So you're already pretty well convinced that she does a good job."

"Yeah. She's bright and hard-working, and, if she makes mistakes, she'll learn from them."

They then talked of psychology and philosophy for some time. When the waiter eventually appeared with a tray-full of rather doubtful-looking Slovak delicacies for dessert, Samantha asked if they had ice cream. To her delight, they did. Both she and Calvin had it. When they finished, she asked,

"Would you like to go roller-skating? There's a rink over in Skokie."

"Sure. Can you do it in that dress?"

"I think the skirt's just wide enough."

"I haven't roller-skated for a long time. When we were teen- agers, we went to those places to pick fights with other boys."

"Did you take the skates off before you fought?"

"There usually wasn't time. I once had a fight with a kid who was a good amateur boxer, but he was very shaky on skates. He'd just go backward when he tried to punch. I could pop him whenever I wanted, and he was a picture of total frustration."

"Did he get you later when he got off his skates?"

"Whenever you win a fight, it's important to clear out immediately. I knew about that."

"Well, this is a pretty high-toned rink, and the skates have rubber wheels to cut down the noise and make conversation easier. But you can never tell what might happen."

The rink was, indeed, high-toned and expensive. Calvin had never imagined that there would be such a thing. Built around the large circular skating area, there was a cafe with candles and table-cloths, a bar with brightly-colored bottles, and a restaurant. While there was the constant drone of the skates, only partly covered up by the recorded Strauss waltzes, it was far removed in tone from the grungy little arenas that Calvin had frequented. It seemed him that they might well have gotten a better dinner there than at the Bratislava, but, when he said as much to Samantha, she replied,

"But the Bratislava has a much better atmosphere. Instead of being funny old eastern Europeans, the people here are strictly suburban. Every thought they have concerns the bringing up of children. The Slovaks probably kick their children in the rear when they're being tiresome."

"You seem to prefer the Slovak outlook."

Samantha gave her sweet smile and replied,

"If I ever do have children, I'm not going to take any shit from them."

"Do you say things like that in front of your mother?"

"Oh yes. They distress her deeply."

As on his previous meeting with Samantha, Calvin felt within himself a noticeably warm glow. He then caught a look in her eye and asked,

"You aren't going to try to knock me over the boards, are you?"

"Only if you get that dreamy look in your eyes and don't keep a sharp lookout behind you."

"Have you come here with other guys and done that?"

"Only once. But he wasn't nearly as big and athletic as you are."

Samantha, at almost six feet, loomed up over most of the people in the rink as she wove her way quickly and gracefully through the throng. Her long green skirt, which came down almost to her ankles, trailed and twisted around her when she did quick turns, and even spins. Calvin found that it all came back to him quickly, and he had no difficulty following her, catching her arm at times. He had never had a girl so tall, or, taking all things into account, so impressive in her appearance. He had been out with high school prom queens, which Samantha could never have been, but, in their twenties, they were just ordinary pretty girls.

When he came alongside her in an attempt to do a sort of quasi-dance on skates, Samantha made as if to kick his leg from under him, saying,

"I don't want to look like something out of an Arthur Murray dance studio. Look at that family over there."

They slowed down to observe two parents and their teen-aged children moving along the periphery of the rink. They were all four somewhat squat and pudgy, and the man, still in his business suit, looked vaguely unpleasant as he gestured for his family to form a single line astern of him. The wife, an earnest look on her face, complied without question. The son and daughter were less enthusiastic, and he made some reproving remark over his shoulder, his large dark horn- rimmed glasses giving character to his shapeless face. Samantha said,

"Look at him. He's a born crab. I bet his wife goes around trying to make up for him."

As Calvin agreed, Samantha skated away from him, passing the little family group as she accelerated. Calvin had an awful feeling of what might come next, and had some idea of catching her and hanging on to her arm. However, even though she was constrained somewhat by her dress, he found that he could do no more than stay even with her. After one fast circuit of the rink, Samantha moved away from the boards about fifteen feet, as if to go into a tight spiral. Calvin attempted to go outside, between her and the family which was still proceeding along the boards. The man looked as if he were grudgingly satisfied, not only by the formation his family was keeping, but with the world in general.

Before Calvin could quite reach his blocking position, Samantha swept across in front of him in a long green flash, impacting the man at an angle of something like thirty degrees with noticeably good hip and elbow action.

The man screamed as he crossed the boards in the course of rotating through some hundred and fifty degrees. Calvin, ready to pretend that he had never seen Samantha, but also ready to testify as to the accidental nature of the collision, stopped immediately. The wife, making peculiar noises, had collapsed against the boards a little distance away.

Calvin reached across the boards to the man, who was conscious and sitting upright. His glasses were gone, and he was saying,

"I had the green light. He came from the left and ran a red light. It was my right of way ..."

Calvin cut him off, asking,

"Did you get his license number?"

"No. Can't you see I've been knocked clean out of my car? Where is it?"

"Right over there. Looks totalled to me."

Calvin departed as the wife recovered from her state of shock and began to generate shouts and lamentations. From the other direction, Samantha swept up, evidently to survey her accomplishment. The man was now gurgling incoherently, but his daughter pointed her finger at Samantha and screeched,

"She did it on purpose."

The boy, about fourteen, then joined in. It looked to Calvin as if an ugly scene might be shaping up. Partly as a distraction and partly in order to restrain Samantha, he grabbed her and shouted,

"I think her arm's broken."

Several bystanders rolled over solicitously, but the boy and girl, showing surprising loyalty to their slug of a father, approached with seemingly hostile intentions. The girl tried to slap Samantha on the face, and that was a mistake. A quick left shot out which popped the girl in the nose and dropped her on her well-padded rear. The boy tried to intervene, but Samantha yanked her arm away from Calvin, and, dropping her shoulder, caught him on the chin with a short right uppercut. Calvin immediately appreciated that an uppercut, with its largely vertical motion, was well suited to skates. The result was impressive, the boy partially lifting as his skates went shooting out in front.

At this point, the hypothesis that Samantha had a broken arm was rapidly losing plausibility. Moreover, security and management personnel were converging from all directions. Calvin had thought of suggesting to Samantha that she go for a clean sweep of the family by decking the mother, but he instead urged on her a speedy exit.

One of the security men made a futile grab for Calvin, but they were already moving at speed, and he made for the swinging front door, knocking it open and skating through it at the same time. There was fortunately no one on the other side, and Samantha followed him through with no difficulty. They then made for the MG in the parking lot and hopped in.

Calvin kept his lights off so as not to illuminate his license plates, but found it hard to drive in roller skates. They consequently made an uncontrolled entrance on to the main road, forcing a car going their way to sideswipe one coming the opposite way. Calvin increased speed, and then made a turn on to a side street, saying,

"This isn't hit-and-run. We didn't actually make contact with another car."

As he stopped and struggled out of the skates, Samantha said, more slowly than ever,

"I don't suppose it would be a good idea to go back for our shoes."

Calvin found himself trying to speak the same way as he replied,

"Probably not. I'll return the skates by mail, just so we can't be accused of theft."

"There's no need to put a return address on the package, is there?"

"No, I don't think that'll be necessary. I'll just put in a little typewritten note saying that we left rather hurriedly, and only afterwards noticed that we still had the skates on."

Once they got started again, Calvin drove quite carefully with his lights on, but kept to the less travelled streets. He said,

"Anything we can do now is likely to be an anti-climax, but it might be nice to go somewhere for a quiet drink."

"Most places require shoes, and, if we skated in, it might not be so quiet."

"We could go visit my colleague, Sandy. I bet she'd give us drinks. She might even have some shoes that would fit you."

Samantha seemed quite pleased at the idea, and they set out immediately for the apartment Sandy had taken on Howard Street, the north boundary of the city.

Sandy's apartment building was too modest to have a doorman, or even a buzzer system, and Calvin shouted up to what he guessed might be her window. She stuck her head out of a different window and looked pleased to see them. As she came down to let them in, they skated to the door.

Calvin had had it vaguely in mind to make up a story that wouldn't be quite as shocking to Sandy's small-town sensibilities as the real one. However, Samantha immediately took to Sandy and spilled it all as they went slowly up the stairs with their skates. Sandy did look a little disconcerted at first, but then started laughing, particularly when Calvin gave a vivid, and only slightly exaggerated, picture of the family whose presence had set Samantha off.

Sandy did the conventional thing about apologizing for the messy state of her appartment, but Calvin pointed to the playing cards on the table and said,

"You need only apologize for the fact that you were sitting here playing solitaire on Saturday night."

Sandy did actually blush a little, and replied,

"I just haven't been meeting people in Chicago. I guess I could try a little harder."

Samantha replied,

"Calvin's told me all about your matching service. Couldn't you just pick out the best man for yourself?"

Before Sandy could reply, Samantha tripped over the turned-up corner of the rug and crashed on to the floor with no damage done. Sandy set out to find some shoes for her, and, since Samantha had quite small feet for her height, she was able to get into some black high heels. Samantha thanked her for the loan and explained,

"Everyone gets scrutinized pretty closely at the sorority house when they come back from a date, and the skates would've been quite hard to explain. These shoes are enough like mine so that no one'll notice."

Sandy asked,

"Will you be able to explain it when Calvin skates up to the door to say good night? Perhaps he could wave from the car."

"That would be thought insufficiently attentive. But there's always room for gentlemanly eccentricity. It could even be made out to be romantic to be swooped around by someone on skates."

It soon came out that Samantha was the one who was intending to sign up for the matching service. Sandy dissuaded her,

"Apart from whatever conflicts of interest I might have as regards my colleague here, we haven't any men on our list who'd be anywhere near your speed."

"I did want to meet all of you, including your boss. He sounds fun."

"Well, he is. Certainly entertaining and good company. But he's a bit of an old ruffian. I think he's got some deep, and prabably guilty, secret, but I can't make out what it might be."

Calvin replied,

"I've already told Samantha about his fake Ph. D."

Sandy said,

"I'm sure it's something much worse than that. But, anyway, he's nice to me."

Calvin said to Samantha,

"He doesn't seem that evil to me, but we'll introduce you and see what you think. In fact, you can be a stooge for the Solomon Asch type experiment."

"I might start laughing if I had to say that the yard-stick is fifty eight feet long."

"Well, that's not what we're doing. We first recruit people for an experiment on sensitivity to low-voltage electrical currents. The idea is to correlate the results with various of their personality traits. Of course, they have to partially undress for the electrodes to be placed on their skin."

Sandy explained,

"There'll be a group of onlookers of mixed sex, only some of whom will be wearing white coats."

"So the real experiment is to see whether the subjects will take off their clothes?"

"Yes. The stooges will go first, as in the Asch experiment, and they'll be in their underwear. Calvin wants you to be one of the stooges. He'll be watching in a white coat with a clip-board."

Samantha replied,

"But you don't know how prissy I am, Calvin. I'd be the one who wouldn't take off my dress even if all the other women stripped naked."

Sandy said,

"That's the way I am, too. But you could have a white coat and clipboard, and help us run the experiment."

"You know, I might even be able to write a paper on it and get credit for my independent study with Professor Campbell in social psychology."

Calvin asked,

"Is that the famous Donald T. Campbell?"

"Is he famous?"

"Oh yes. But he won't have heard of the Berwyn Psychological Associates."

"That won't matter. He's a doll. He'll think it's funny."

Sandy had also heard of Campbell, and wondered how funny he might think it. She said, mostly to Calvin,

"We'd better go the extra mile to make it as legitimate as we can if he's going to read about it."

"Right. But we should anyway. That'll just give us a little extra motivation."

Bill Todd -- A Man of Three Names
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