Quasi-War and Quasi-Love
It was an easy lunch and an easy interview for Elaine. Professor Stuart Glemp was a little on the frumpy side, but nice. She was sure that he was no expert on ladies' hair coloring, and he probably hadn't noticed that she was six pounds overweight. Best of all, it was obvious that he was used to women who were much less glamorous than she. Enjoying her new-found freedom from the various restraints she ordinarily thought that she had to impose on herself, Elaine set out to pump the professor.
Political scientists from the Ivy League weren't ordinarily worth interviewing, but Glemp happened to be a friend and informal advisor of John Foster Dulles. Elaine had tracked him down through a friend of a friend, and had bagged him for lunch. Judging by the sounds that he made, he was just now discovering how good asparagras soup can be. In the resulting happy condition, he smiled as Elaine purred at him,
"Foreign policy isn't my area, but a little background information helps so much with the people I interview."
"Well, you know, my approach is a little quirky. I view most initiatives in foreign policy as the partly hysterical reactions of politicians who think they won't be re-elected unless they distract the voters from insoluble domestic problems."
Glemp smiled as if he were joking. Elaine, in a similar vein, replied,
"I understand that wars make people forget all about unemployment."
"Not only that, they cure it. You feed the cannon fodder to the cannons, and then put any remaining idlers into munitions plants."
"Along with Rosie the Riveter and her sisters."
"That, too. The second world war was the best time in their lives for most Americans."
"I think that many English Victorians were actually rather pleased that men they regarded as scum were killed in goodly numbers in places like the Crimea."
"I dare say. It wasn't usually Cousin James who got killed, it was the cook's neer-do-well brother who kept pestering her for money."
Elaine maintained the same tone as she touched Glemp lightly on his arm and said,
"Foster Dulles' massive retaliation might go a bit beyond that."
"Massive retaliation falls in the area of religion."
Professor Glemp was a man who loved to explain, and he had gestures to match. An elbow caught Elaine's water glass neatly and tipped it over. As the water cascaded into her lap, chunks of ice flowing with it, Elaine smiled sweetly. After this, she was sure that Glemp would tell her exactly what she wanted to know about the secretary of state.
The waiters went into overdrive, and, apart from the fact that Elaine was wet through and somewhat cold, things were back to normal quite quickly. With verve and style, she helped Glemp through his rather awkward apologies, and then returned to the subject of religion. Glemp, back in gear, explained,
"In any society, the middle-aged and near-elderly have the money and power. But they know it's gradually slipping away. The young are having fun and are just beginning to move up the ladder."
"Often with a certain arrogance."
"Quite right. They move the older people, even their own parents, to absolute fury. The older people have traditionally used religion, the old-fashioned kind, as a kind of club with which to batter the young and spoil their fun. They're made to feel guilt for all kinds of things, and, in the good old days, they were made to fear eternal damnation. A preacher like Jonathan Edwards was capable of depressing otherwise cheerful young people by the churchful."
"What does that have to do with massive retaliation?"
"Religion doesn't work any more because nobody much believes in God, much less in hellfire and damnation. But cranky and powerful old people can scare the bejeebers out of happy and successful young people by setting the world up for assured mutual destruction. You can think of Foster as a latter-day Jonathan Edwards with a much more effective psychological weapon."
This sort of reasoning struck Elaine as bizarre, but her companion looked perfectly sane. And, of course, he was a Princeton professor. Someone would surely have noticed if he had gone off the rails. But she did make so bold as to say,
"There must be less dangerous ways to keep the young from feeling their oats too much."
"Oh yes. But the threat of massive retaliation has other uses. Some people think that it keeps the Russkis from doing things we don't like."
"I thought that it was what kept them from conquering places like West Germany and France."
"Perhaps. Of course, it's a highly ambiguous policy, much more so than most people realize."
"How is that?"
Professor Glemp smiled. With the same gesture that he had used previously, he would have again knocked over Elaine's water glass if she hadn't moved it quickly. He said,
"The official version is that I'll nuke you if you cross a certain line, the one I take to mark out my security zone. I can also save money because I don't have to defend the line at every point. The policy may well be effective. That's the bright side."
"Is the dark side when I cross the line and thumb my nose at you?"
"It would be, except that the opposition isn't likely to do that. The dark side consists in the fact that I can't tell you exactly where the line is. If I do, you simply take everything that lies outside it. In the present world context, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan would simply disappear. That's okay, but the trouble is this: If I should happen to want to nuke you, I can always justify it by saying that you crossed the line. I might even egg you on to taking a step forward without telling you that the step will take you over the line."
"Mr. Dulles wouldn't do that with the Russians, would he?"
"Probably not. But, by the time that he's thoroughly obscured the line, others could claim that the Soviets have crossed it."
In the next week, Tom Williams became aware of rumors that he was doing some sort of secret work. The rumors probably began with Mac Hollins' secretary, and they took a peculiar turn. Everyone was doing secret work, but the secrets were always shared, at least within projects. This seemed to be something special. The more Tom played things down, the bigger the rumors loomed. Goldstein was almost apoplectic with curiosity, but Tom did calm him a little by saying,
"If you knew what it's all about, you'd think it utterly trivial."
On the other hand, there was nothing like having rumors circulating about one to increase one's prestige and importance. Even Ted stopped talking about Tom's 'shitty' programs and became helpful.
It was July by this time, and Tom's little programs, which were really just learning exercises, were all running. It was time to undertake something more ambitious, particularly since he was aiming at being Mac Hollins' main consultant in Complab. He asked Goldstein how he could learn the most in the least amount of time. Goldstein immediately replied,
"Simulate something. It hardly matters what."
"I've got my little simulation of naval warfare in 1880."
Goldstein asked a few questions about it, and concluded,
"You should try something more challenging. The main thing is to get your model to predict the results that actually take place in the real world. When your predictions are false, change something in your model."
Tom asked Bruce Hammond the same thing, and he replied,
"I know you're interested in the question of what it would take to make one side or the other strike first, and you could try something in that area. But make it real simple, even simplistic. Then, if you can get anything to run at all, you can gradually make it more sophisticated."
They both knew that anything Tom produced along these lines wouldn't constitute any advance over common sense reasoning, but it would certainly be good practice. It was also obvious that Bruce had a lower opinion of Tom's programming ability than did Goldstein, very likely because Bruce had seen more of his work.
The first thing was obviously to quantify a trigger point. That meant measuring the pain that various Blue moves were causing Red, or vice versa, and then hypothesizing a particular strike threshold. The pain, of course, could be of various different sorts. Some things scared the opposition, others got some of his soldiers killed, and others forced him to spend money. In his first major decision, Tom decided that it all came down to money.
It was scary when Khruschev threatened to sign a peace treaty with the east Germans, and thus choke off Berlin, but it also (for that very reason) necessitated new defence measures. They could be measured in dollars. Similarly, neither Blue nor Red cared much if some of its client states' soldiers (or even a few of its own soldiers) got killed in a brush-fire war somewhere. What mattered was having to mount a military operation to counter the threat, and that could again be measured in dollars.
It also occurred to Tom that Blue could do some entirely non-military things to Red that would cost the latter money. He had been told, by both his Russian friends, that the Russians wore horrible shoes that were ugly, uncomfortable, and wore out quickly. If the Voice of America started broadcasting consumer information, with a detailed comparison of Russian shoes to the best western ones, it might be possible to generate quite a lot of popular discontent.
Then, if it were arranged to get even a fairly modest number of western shoes on to the Russian black market, so that people could see the real thing, the demand could be stimulated further. Even Gosplan would have to take notice. If the Red leadership was then forced to improve the shoes of the average Russian, the expenditure would be enormous. Tom didn't suppose that such things alone could drive Red to the trigger point, but he didn't see why they shouldn't contribute.
The key idea of the little simulation, Tom decided, was that either side would nuke when it couldn't afford to counter the moves and threats of the enemy in any other way. After all, both Eisenhower and Khruschev had said at various times that the competition was as much economic as military. Who was he, Tom, to disagree? The only kicker in his model would be that the loser, instead of going quietly into the night of second-class status, would let loose the whole works.
The initial programming was fairly easy. The player had a choice of what to do with regard to the enemy. In the case of Blue, he could establish a new bomber base in Turkey, move an amphibious force to Japan to threaten eastern Siberia, open an anti-communist propaganda offensive in the middle east, arrange for the assassination of leftist politicians in the third world, or get on the Russians about their shoes.
It was, of course, anyone's guess what it would cost Red to counter any of these measures. Tom's model involved some wild guessing, and also made extensive use of random numbers. It was hoped that these latter could be used in such a way as to reflect the quite genuine uncertainties in the situation. That having been done, it had to be estimated what Red was already spending to counter the existing Blue dispositions. Then, finally, the threshold had to be fixed. The Blue player wouldn't know what it was until the VVS attacked.
Two days later, Tom showed Bruce what he had. The latter replied,
"I hope you have trouble sleeping in the early morning hours."
"I've talked to Sam, and that's when we can afford to let you loose on the machine with your program. We'll give you three nights a week, from one to five. Sam says you should take off during the day to make up for the sleep you miss at night."
Since Mama T would have been bothered by nocturnal comings and goings, Tom borrowed a sleeping bag from Bruce and laid it out on his office floor. On the first night, he tried to go to sleep at eight, but kept going over the program in his mind until he dropped off around ten thirty. Hardly any time seemed to have passed before the guard pounded on the door and shouted,
"You asked to be called at quarter to one, Mr. Williams."
Tom thanked him, and, a minute later, his old wind-up alarm clock went off. He was taking no chances on oversleeping.
DRI never went entirely to sleep. Apart from the cleaning staff, there were always the guards at the front desk, and another making the rounds. Most of the computer maintenance also took place at night, and there were generally three men buried in various parts of the machine. Tom had been warned that he might get some funny results when his program tried to use a register that was being tested, but he thought he could live with that.
When he came around the corner of the computer, Tom was surprised to see Sid. She greeted him cheerfully and said,
"They're paying me double to do this. My husband isn't thrilled, but I'll learn something, too. I bet you'll let me do more experimenting than the others do."
"Okay, let's see if we can get something to happen."
In the event, almost nothing happened. Tom soon realized that he had made many elementary mistakes that even he should have progressed beyond. It would have been humiliating if Ted had been the operator, but Sid simply corrected them, often without even saying anything.
Once they were finally running, Sid had no interest whatever in putting a new air base in Turkey, remarking,
"That's the sort of place where the dependents of the airmen get diarrhea and have to explain it all to an air force doctor who thinks it's funny."
She thought somewhat better of assassinating Mexican or Brazilian leftists, but was irrevocably attracted to a campaign against Russian shoes. She said,
"That's really a good idea, Tom. It'd cost us almost nothing, and I bet it's never really occurred to a lot of those folks that you can walk down a street without being in danger of having the soles of your shoes drop off."
The trouble was that Tom hadn't developed any plausible sequence of events linking the Voice of America commentary with a mass demand for better footgear. Sid said,
"We're here dealing with something like advertising. What happens if you advertise a product you can't supply?"
"Either people forget about it, or they want it all the more."
"It might be a good idea to spread the rumor that the Russian government has already promised much better shoes, ones very like American ones. That would keep hopes up, and also put pressure on their government."
"That's diabolical! The Soviet government is always vaguely promising things like that. Even without our help, they've already half fallen into the trap of encouraging consumer expectations which they have no intention of trying to satisfy."
The rest of the time on the machine, Tom filled out his program with more detail while Sid got bits of it to run. At the end, she said,
"Tom, have you ever been involved in an all-night Monopoly game, the kind where nobody wins and nobody quits?"
"I always quit before that point."
"Well, my brothers wouldn't let me. I feel the same way now. Not drunk exactly, but as if I'd just engaged in a night of debauchery."
Sid smiled at Tom, and he put his hand on her shoulder. She was dressed, not in her usual skirt and heels, but in slacks and an old shirt. As he saw her to her car with light just showing in the sky above Chevy Chase, he had a feeling of comraderie. That was unusual for him. It reminded him of the feelings he had had in prep school when serving out after- school detentions with other boys who had also gotten into trouble. When he mentioned this to Sid, she replied,
"We're being goodies, not baddies, for doing this. But I think working in the middle of the night always carries the feeling of being an outcast. Go back and catch up on your sleep."
Tom went back to sleep on the office floor until there was activity around eight, and then went home to get cleaned up and take another nap. Returning to DRI in the afternoon, he reported to Bruce that they had made some progress. Bruce nodded, as if it were only normal to make progress.
After work, Tom went out with the Goldsteins. He was happy to satisfy Goldstein's curiosity about his new simulation, explaining,
"I'm ultimately supposed to take account of such things as Red's expectations about Blue, I'm not up to that yet."
Goldstein was amused and asked questions. When Tom answered, he replied,
"You've already gone off in a different direction. We've never used money as the ultimate criterion, nor do we assume that either side will strike when, and only when, it runs out of money."
"Goldstein may not look it, but he has the outlook of a general, not that of an economist."
Before he could object, she added,
"He's at heart the kind of general who believes that guerilla warfare isn't quite fair. He believes in raw power on a massive scale. I'm the one who believes that money determines everything in the end."
After a spirited discussion of Goldstein's basic orentation, in which he was allowed a grudging part, they got on to Tom's suggested campaign concerning Russian shoes. Goldstein replied,
"What you're suggesting is a process of advertising to drive up the black-market price of a commodity in a command economy. How are you going to predict what'll happen once you've done it?"
"He's got to simulate the command economy first, and then capture the dynamics, if any, between the official price and the black-market price."
Tom replied quickly,
"I bet you can't ignore the black market indefinitely, even in the Soviet Union."
"That's an area of disagreement between Goldstein and myself. I think the whole thing will crash in twenty or thirty years. He thinks guns can hold it together indefinitely."
Just before this vista could be explored, Goldstein gulped down his beer and got up, saying,
"I've got to get home to receive a call from the insurance agent. You can take Tom home, can't you, Ellie?"
She agreed, and they continued to talk economics. The idea that prices constitute information about relative demand wasn't new to Tom, but he had never thought about it much. At one point, he remarked,
"Most people in America would probably be in favor of having a fixed price for everything. Everyone hates inflation."
"What people often don't realize is that having fixed prices presupposes a pretty strong and intrusive dictatorship to fix them and keep black markets at least under some semblence of control."
Tom then told Ellie about Boris and his stint with Gosplan, concluding,
"He speaks as if organizing an economy is something that takes terrific intelligence, but is just barely possible."
"It's only possible at the level of Gosplan because people at the lower levels fake and fudge the figures to make them come out right. That's why it'll all collapse some day."
Tom was inclined to agree with Goldstein. He could only think of the thousands of MIGs, the thousands of tanks, the nukes, and then, in the end, the masses of Red Army infantrymen. No country that strong would collapse just because of the way prices were arrived at. However, he didn't want to argue with her. When Ellie ordered a second glass of white wine, he switched from coke to a red wine. She said,
"Goldstein gets more and more frustrated working with Jacky."
"They had quite a fuss last week, but nothing seems to have come of it."
"There was a meeting of all the principals and General Edwards, and everyone promised to be cooperative. So it goes on as before."
"It's too bad he can't get someone other than Jacky."
"He wanted you, but he says you've been spirited away by Hollins."
"I guess I have. I'm not really qualified for that yet anyway."
"Goldstein originally wanted that girl, what's her name. But Sam Harris seems to know he's having an affair with her. Anyhow, he refused to assign her to him."
Tom was practically struck dumb. He was shocked by something or other at least every third day, but this was new and different. Ellie spoke in a perfectly casual way, but even he knew that there must be powerful emotion. The woman would have to be Janet Howard. Thinking quickly back to the lunch at NIH, he couldn't remember anything particular between Goldstein and Janet, but Tom did remember that Sid had been particularly amused at his inclusion in the party. She must have known about the affair, and she had probably been used as a chaperon when required. What then amused her must have been the idea that he, too, could be a chaperon. Tom finally said,
"She seems so clean-cut and all-American. And so conventional."
"She is clean-cut, and she may be all-American, but she evidently isn't so very conventional. At least, unless you count keeping the affair secret from her husband as being conventional.
Tom wasn't sure whether it was appropriate to ask Ellie whether she minded, but he did anyway. She replied,
"I'm not really thrilled about it. I don't let Goldstein bring her home, so I guess they must do it in cars and motels. But it's part of being advanced, and I suppose that, in general, I'm more or less advanced."
The next question, whether she did it too, he knew to be out of bounds. He instead said,
"I've never had the chance to be advanced."
"Have you had girl friends?"
"In college, I went out with Radcliffe girls. But we out- numbered them about seven to one. I considered a date a month pretty good, and I never got very far with anyone."
"Eligible men don't out-number eligible women in Washington, or in most other places. You'll have to learn to fend off designing women before long, at least the ones you don't like."
"That's hard to imagine! Women have always been very reserved and cool around me."
"Well, we have to be to some extent. We're considered sluts if we aren't."
"Sid isn't like that. But I don't think she has affairs, and nobody thinks she's a slut."
"Sid's southern. She's the product of a tradition which has calculated, with great precision, the degree to which a nice woman can be, as they say, 'forward'."
"I guess that's good, isn't it? It's nice that a woman can be friendly and outgoing without being misinterpreted."
"Sure. Except that only a certain sort of man knows how to interpret it. I think you'd find that Sid can, by degrees, be quite forceful if a man presses her too much."
"Yes. There'd be sarcastic remarks at first, and then barbed ones. And then, refusal in no uncertain terms. I gather that Pete Helton was uncouth with her, and that she embarrassed him publicly."
"Poor Pete. The other morning, I woke Goldstein early and told him that Sam Harris had called to say that, since Jacky wasn't working out too well, Goldstein was being given Pete instead. Goldstein was still sleepy, but he actually screamed. Even afterwards, he didn't think it was as funny as I did."
"I didn't realize that you did things like that. You seemed pretty serious."
"I get inspirations. I had to take something over to the French embassy the other day. I was all done up as usual, and, as I was coming out, an extremely elegant and pompous- looking woman was coming in. She didn't even want to speak to the doorman and asked me where the consulate was. I guess she took me for some sort of minor French diplomat. I brought out my best French accent and said, "Fuck you, madame." She didn't reply, but I heard heavy breathing as I went down the steps."
"My God! You must be capable of anything."
"Well, some things."
Ellie smiled, and Tom became uneasy. She and Goldstein had both turned out to have dimensions beyond anything he had guessed, and he did wonder briefly if she were entirely sane. She said,
"I hope I haven't alarmed you. I won't kick over the table or insult the other customers."
"When I was a kid, I did things like that. I used to pick fights with other boys just by walking up to them and hitting them in the nose."
"But you wouldn't do that now, would you?"
"No, it must be ten years since I did that."
"You should find a substitute. You don't want to get hauled up for assault, but I bet you still have the same aggressive instincts."
"Well, I play sports pretty hard. I guess that does it."
"I doubt that it really does. But, anyway, it's a beautiful evening. Let's go to a park."
"Won't Goldstein expect you home?"
"No. He was really expecting a call from Janet, not an insurance agent. Her husband is out of town. Actually, I don't even want to go home for fear that he'll break the rule and have her come there. If you could lend me some shorts and a T-shirt, I can go barefoot in the park."
"Sure. They won't fit, but we'll make do."
As Ellie drove toward his place she asked,
"What sort of landlady do you have?"
"She's an old Italian lady, the widow of a tailor. She's called 'Mama T,' and she keeps pretty close track of me."
"We'd better not let her see me. I'll park around the corner, and you can change and bring some things for me. I'll change in the car."
Tom had fortunately washed his soccer shorts, and, as they had an adjustable draw string, he brought them out for Ellie. He also brought her a shirt that said 'Property of San Quentin Federal Penitentiary' on the front and 'Don't shoot, I give up' on the back. He himself wore a shirt, popularized by a very fast football running back, which said 'Hello' on the front and 'Goodbye' on the back. Ellie looked at her shirt and said,
"I bet the women in San Quentin are powerful characters."
Adjusting to driving the new car, Tom pulled out cautiously on to Wisconsin Avenue and turned south, suggesting,
"Let's go down to the Mall."
Ellie replied from the back seat,
"Sure. It'll be cool and pretty now."
She then paused a minute and said,
"I have to wear these expensive silk dresses for work, but thy're very delicate and have a million little catches and hooks. Do you think I can be seen from other cars?"
"Probably not when we're moving, but there's a red light coming up. Maybe you'd better wait."
"Okay. It's not hot tonight, and I guess I can't justify driving around in my underwear."
"Do women do that?"
"My cousin from New York did. She decided that the heat was ridiculous, and stripped to her pants and bra."
"Didn't people look?"
"Some did, and I noticed a couple of truck drivers leering, but no one did anything."
It was when they reached Georgetown that Ellie, in Tom's shorts and shirt, climbed over into the front seat. She said,
"We can park anywhere on the Mall and go to the Lincoln Memorial. I can hardly wait for the feel of grass on my bare feet."
"I played soccer the first time with bare feet. It was great, except when someone stepped on me with cleats."
"Goldstein and I never play sports, or anything like that. We're city intellectuals."
"We can buy a balloon at a stand and play soccer with it."
"That sounds ridiculous. Almost like chasing butterflies with a net."
"I'd like to do that, too. The neat thing would be that, at any distance, people wouldn't be able to see the butterflies. It would look as if you were running around swooping at thin air."
"You are different from Goldstein. He can occasionally make a scene, but he never ever wants anyone to laugh at him."
"You must be different, too. People may laugh at you in that outfit."
They parked right by a balloon stand, and, while Ellie walked out on to the grass, Tom got a balloon and tied his keys to the string. That weighed it down just enough to keep it from rising, and he ran toward Ellie kicking it. She looked absolutely baffled, her severe black hair and glasses in absurd contrast to her clown's outfit. She then kicked the balloon tentatively. It went a little distance, and she dove after it, kicking it again. She then gave a shriek of pure delight, one that caused people to stare, and ran after the balloon, kicking it across the mall. Tom ran with her, stole the balloon, and then let her get it back. When she was finally tired, she said,
"I was trying to seduce you, and now you've seduced me."
"I didn't know you were trying to seduce me."
"I took forever getting dressed in the back seat. I thought you'd at least twist the mirror so you could see."
"I did see your bare shoulders, but nothing below. I thought it wouldn't be gentlemanly to do anything overt."
"Oh Tom. There are times to be gentlemanly and times not to be. Anyhow, you're showing me how much fun it can be just to get out and move freely."
"I know I'm backward about women and sex, but I'm at home with just about any sport or outdoor activity."
"Yes, it shows. Let's run down toward the Lincoln."
It was a long way down the Mall, and Ellie, unused as she was to running, ran only in spurts. They walked and talked the rest of the time. Tom asked her if she went to diplomatic parties,
"Only a few. I like to because they have wonderful food, but I'm often not invited. I'm not considered a diplomat, only a technical person who gives information, but not advice, to the diplomats. On the other hand, ours is a fairly small embassy, and the lines aren't sharply drawn. I'm invited to all our parties, and I could wangle invitations to many others if it weren't for Goldstein."
"Doesn't he like the food?"
"Not as much as I do. But the main reason is that I can't depend on him not to insult someone. In diplomatic circles that's tremendously important. A first secretary in the German embassy was sent home because his wife, at a party, remarked that she felt herself to be in a foreign country here."
"That's incredible! She was in a foreign country. Was she supposed to pretend to be American?"
"In the context, it evidently had the implication that she didn't feel welcome here, perhaps because she was German. That's all it takes to create an incident. You can imagine how long Goldstein could go without getting me fired. So I go alone when I go. You might like to come with me. I can see that you're curious."
"The diplomatic life in general intrigues me, and, of course, I'd like to go out with you. Do you still want to seduce me?"
"Not so much. I really just wanted to have someone to make up for Goldstein having Janet. But, now that I'm getting to know you better, it'd be more serious and more personal. It might not be such a good idea."
"I bet Goldstein wants you to have an affair with me. It'd make it easier for him to go on with Janet, and he figures I'm safe."
Oddly, that seemed not to have occurred to Ellie. She said,
"I'm really not sure how he'd react. In some ways, I hardly know him at all. I wonder if he buys presents for Janet."
"I understand that it's traditional for men to buy their mistresses expensive lingerie."
"Maybe he buys her black panties, and then she giggles and says, 'Oh you shouldn't have, Goldstein.'"
As they approached the Lincoln Memorial, Ellie moved closer to Tom and took his arm. She said,
"You like that, don't you?"
"You probably need to form friendships of an intimate sort with women before you move on to the next thing."
"Can I move on to the next thing with the same woman?"
"It can happen."
"I don't think it ever will with Sid, but ...."
Ellie pulled him abruptly up the steps to a position facing the statue of Lincoln and said,
"He excites me. I know he wasn't really Honest Abe, and often wasn't enlightened, or even very civilized, but he had something that no other president has even approached. How do you feel?"
"How do I feel about Abraham Lincoln? I don't think any president or statesman has ever really come alive for me. I'm trying to understand Khruschev now, but he hardly seems much like Abe."
"I wouldn't be misled by the totally opposite appearance. In both cases, you have men of power who still have to walk tightropes, and who do it with great skill."
"And then, in the end, Lincoln chose, not war, but a policy that precipitated an attack by the other side."
"Would Khruschev do that, Tom?"
"I don't know."
"Well, like Lincoln, he's certainly a very smart man. I think he also has humane instincts. I doubt that he'd start a war left to himself."
"The trouble is, there's always a war party pressing a leader to do dangerous things. It'd be easy for him to compromise by closing the ring a little harder on Berlin."
"Are you afraid?"
"At times, certainly. But it's important to control fear and other feelings."
"How can you control fear?"
"It's quite easy in mountain climbing. You look at a cliff face in one way and it's scary. But you look at it in another way and it becomes interesting, in fact a fun thing to scale. I think you can always talk yourself out of some feelings and into others. It's just harder to do when nuclear war seems imminent and you can't find a release through action."
"I've been afraid for years. I suppose I have, to some extent, gotten used to that constant dread underneath, and I'm sometimes only aware of it when I think what it would be like to live in a world where there were no big threats."
"I don't imagine that very often."
They then read the Gettysburg address engraved on the wall. Ellie said,
"I bet giving that last full measure meant getting shot in the stomach and bleeding to death inside. Anyway, those people had courage."
"Great courage at times. At other times they ran away. Like the rest of us, I suppose."
"Except, now, there's nowhere to run."
"Australia and New Zealand are pretty much out of danger. They're civilized places where government of the people for the people by the people could survive."
"Why don't we go there, Tom? The danger's great, isn't it?"
"We could probably get good jobs there and live comfortably. We could save ourselves at little or no cost. Why don't we do it?"
"I don't know."
They then went behind the statue. Ellie backed up against Tom and said,
"You can put your hands under my shirt, that is, your shirt."
It was the first time that Tom had ever touched a woman in any meaningful way. His first impression was that Ellie was only a child. Indeed, her waist and lower rib cage were so small that he could almost encircle her with his hands. When he began to explore upwards, rather tentatively, she said,
"That woman over there is staring at us."
Tom disengaged slowly, not really caring that the woman was obviously hostile, and they returned to their former conversation. He asked,
"Is Goldstein afraid?"
"He doesn't seem to be. In a funny way, he cares more about his status than his life. If he predicted a war with great precision, and its occurrence vindicated him, he might die happy.
As far as Tom could see, Ellie didn't realize that Goldstein was counting on a Blue first strike to save all of them. He thought that knowledge might upset her, and said instead,
"I gather that military officers are often somewhat like that. They're so interested in what's happening in a war, and so bound up in their reputations, that they forget to be afraid."
"I'm just worried that all the people who make decisions are forgetting to be afraid."
"I think quite a few people at DRI are like that. Perhaps even some of the diplomats I play soccer with. If ambition is strong enough, it can overcome fear."
"Tom, you're beginning to be so interested in the way that people react under stress that you might be too busy watching them to be afraid yourself."
"Yeah, that may be happening. I guess that's a different kind of solution to the problem."
It was dark by this time, and they walked back to the car, sometimes touching and sometimes talking. Ellie said,
"I hope Goldstein doesn't decide to go off with that woman. I know he isn't nice, but I can't imagine being satisfied with someone else if he did leave me."
"There's certainly no one else at DRI who generates as much excitement. It attracts me too."
"I've heard it argued that nothing is so exciting as being executed, preferably by guillotine. The idea there is that the head must know it's been cut off."
"So the moral is that we shouldn't pursue excitement at all costs?"
"I suppose so. Speaking of excitement, you can watch me get dressed this time."
Ellie again sat in the back seat to change clothes. Tom was no longer inhibited about looking, even at the risk of running into things, but she was mostly hidden behind the seat. When they got to his street, she said,
"Are you going to kiss me?"
Tom did so, and she said,
"Let's try that again."
They kissed again, this time with better results. Tom walked home thinking that he was a vastly more experienced man than he had been that morning.