Bill Todd -- Tim and Sharon
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 Chapter 41


     By the time that the first rain of the season fell In November, Meredith seemed to have lost interest in bear-woman, and, so far as Tim knew, had not retrieved her from the storage area. However, Diana suddenly produced a role for the enhanced mannequin.

     Howie’s screenplay was replacing the one written by Ted as the basis for the first part of the film. It featured a couple who were edging toward sex, but kept encountering difficulties. One would be ready, but the other would find reasons to delay. And, then, vice versa. Finally, when things were about to get going in a parked car at night, a policeman would suddenly shine his light on them.

     The woman, blaming her lover, and men in general, for parking in the wrong places, would, in desperation, respond to a suggestive advertisement. She would then receive bear-woman in the mail as part of a trial offer.

     At that point, Francie, Diana’s favorite body double, would take over, and, in the interests of science, make love to bear-woman. The pornographers would then run the rest of the movie. There might be a bit too much lead-up for the average viewer, not to mention a certain abstractness of conception. However, Diana was, as always, trying to nudge popular taste up from the lowest levels.

     Out on the boat with Tim, Enoch said, “A lot of things have changed. There’s now no need for Diana to make money, and she doesn’t need to be in the pornography industry.”

“She does have a genuine interest in making films, doesn’t she?”

“Sure. And, of course, her only distribution channel is with the porno people. So, as before, she can only put in some twenty minutes of good stuff at the beginning.”

“I wonder if it’s wasted on the porno audience.”

“Not necessarily. I knew an old cop who told me that people, in private, do things you’d never imagine. They usually only come out in investigations of suicide or homicide. The nice family man who owns the hardware store and gives out a lot of free advice may have some secret tastes.”

“Like putting on an evening gown and watching porno?”

“Exactly. And he might also be appreciative of something better.”

“So the porno rolls on?”

“Maybe. However, Howie’s script is interesting, and they can also use it as a beginning for something entirely different.”

“He’s a good writer, but, without the porno people, you’d have to get your own cameras and stuff.”

“Diana already knows how to make low-budget movies with minimal equipment.”

“I’ve often wondered if those truck-loads of technicians and equipment are really necessary.”

“Professionals can immediately tell the difference, but you and I wouldn’t be able to.”

“So they make movies to please one another.”

“They have professional pride, just like football players. But the average guy in the stands wouldn’t know the difference if good semipro players were dressed up in NFL uniforms.  It turns out that there are very good amateur actors that they can use if they get beyond pornography.”

“So you’re going to be a producer, Enoch?”

“Money only. I suspect that the pornography will fade out fairly soon. We’ll end up just putting films on a web site.”

“In the NFL we used to reach millions of people with iffy, very likely negative, impact. So, now, we’re doing good things, if only for a handful of people.”

“Again, it’s a matter of getting beyond the desire for fame. There’s no more need to be a famous movie maker than to be a famous football player. At least when money no longer matters.”

     At lunch, one of the kayak instructors, a rather serious young blonde lady, had been upset by an NPR program she had just heard on the radio. She said,  “Nothing can keep the Chinese and Indians, followed by half the world, from hopelessly polluting the earth.”

Tim replied, “I thought we were doing pretty well by managing watercraft up to a 28 foot sloop without burning any oil at all.”

“We are. But it won’t make an iota of difference. As that awful man, Cheney, once said, we can feel personally virtuous, but it hardly matters.”

Tim made vaguely sympathetic noises, but he really didn’t know what to say to people who worried about things that were inevitable. Besides, he didn’t think he was supposed to admit that he went happily on his way without worrying about them himself.

     A couple of days later, Chris had a somewhat different reaction to the same thoughts. “The human species may well destroy itself, but that’s happened to other species which didn’t adapt.”

“Those were animals that didn’t learn to hunt a different kind of prey when conditions changed. That sort of thing.”

“Same with us. If we don’t learn not to consume things like oil, or even water in excess, we’ll become extinct.”

“That doesn’t seem to bother you much.”

“No. No one ever thought we were eternal. If it looks as if we’ll only go a thousand years instead of a million, it’s not going to give me a tummy ache.”

“How many years have we got to go to please you?”

“We want the children born now to be okay. And it’ll be sad if they think it unwise to have children if they should want them.”

“How about grandchildren?”

“Well, Tim, some people my age might want to have grandchildren. Not me, but I can imagine it.”

“It would take a strange teen-ager to worry about that.”

“Yeah. I think three hundred years should be enough. More important would be the way of ending, as with a single human life. A good solid strike from a big comet would probably be the simplest and least painful end.”

“The British Astronomer Royal thinks civilization has only an even chance of making it through this century.”

“Possibly. Now that I think of it, it might be a bit of a thrill to be part of the last, or even next-to-last generation.”

“Whatever we might do, we’d be doing it for its own sake.”

“The desire for fame would also be reduced. That might be a good thing.”

“Enoch would agree with you there. He’s against fame, and you’re probably both right.”

     Later, with Sharon, Tim remarked, “The consensus seems to be that it’s not a great idea to have children, and that it’s gradually becoming an increasingly bad idea.”

“Okay by me. I was just reading a little piece by a professional woman who didn’t want children, but got bullied into it by people who told her that it’s the greatest experience you can have in life.”

“Her critical facilities must not have been very active.”

“Anyhow, she travelled a lot, and her husband did most of the work with her little daughter. However, just back from a trip, she changed the child’s diaper. Then, she held the child up to her face, kissed it, and stroked it. Just when she was getting into motherhood, the child said, ‘poopy hand.’ She didn’t know what it meant until she realized that the little girl had scooped up her own shit, and was now rubbing it on her mother’s lips.”

Tim, laughing, replied, “You do need a sense of humor in that circumstance.”

“Maybe she should have scooped up some of her own shit with a finger and rubbed it on the child.”

“A possibility.”

“Anyhow, this is a compulsively clean woman, and she seems to have fallen apart.”

“You wouldn’t have fallen apart, but it sounds like still another reason not to reproduce.”

      A little later, when rowing, Tim fell into a reflective mood. A woman had once told him that he did all the right things for the wrong reasons. Indeed, he did live minimally, without reproducing, and without consuming much. But he didn’t really think that he acted from principle. He just didn’t like expensive things or restaurants, and he didn’t want children. The charge had been put by a woman who tried to do the right things for the right reasons, but who ended up doing many of the wrong things. Tim hadn’t asked her whether she did the wrong things for the right or wrong reasons.

     That evening, Tim took Janet out to dinner. The routine began the same with his being picked up at the parking lot and struggling into the car. He hadn’t been sure just what sort of restaurant she expected to be taken to, but the highly-rated Greek place in Pacific Beach that he suggested seemed to draw enthusiasm. She replied, “It’s good without being pretentious. I can deal without the maitre-d nonsense.”

Tim wasn’t sure what that nonsense was, and she explained, “Some people go to certain restaurants to be shown respect. The top prize goes for being fawned on while knowing that others are treated with contempt.”

“That sounds awful!”

“But real. There are people, not only in the Middle East, who will kill if they think they aren’t being respected.”

“Has a customer, having been shown to a bad table near the kitchen, ever pulled out a gun and shot the head waiter?”

“Not because of any lack of fury. It’ll happen eventually.”

     In the event, they were seated comfortably in pleasant surroundings. It was more expensive than Tim’s ‘home’ Greek restaurant, and, in addition to metal silverware in place of the plastic, it looked as if there might be some Greek-Americans, if not actual Greeks, in the background. However, he knew from a previous visit that the food was much the same, and also good.

     Once they had ordered, Janet said, “I have some news. I’m going to have a baby.”

Tim realized that he had almost tipped over the chair, but Janet laughed and said, “Don’t worry, you’re not the father. In fact, there isn’t any father yet. I’m still shopping at the sperm bank.”

“So you’re doing it on your own.”

“Yes. I don’t think I’m the married type, and, just to avoid various complications, I’d rather that the father be someone I don’t know.”

“Is it all done anonymously?”

“You get a good deal of genetically relevant information about the donors, but not their identities. And, of course, the actual donor will know nothing about me or the child.”

“I had no idea you were interested in having a child.”

“People sometimes see me as cold and calculating. There are people who’ll expect me to be a terrible mother when they find out.

“A rational mother might be better than a sentimental one.”

“You’d never adopt a child, would you?”

“No, but there aren’t many men who’d choose to be a single parent.”

“Would your sister do what I’m doing?

“Probably not. She doesn’t seem to have the inclination, and I’d wind up being a sort of substitute father. She might not want that.”

“It does seem that you and she can have a pretty good life together. And, then, all you need is someone like me for a change of mood and the sex thing.”

“Do you have relatives who’ll help with the child?”

“My brother and his wife have tried unsuccessfully to have children, and they’ll be delighted. They might even move here from LA to be closer.”

“Can we keep up like this?”

“I’ll be changing in ways that probably won’t thrill you. Not only pregnancy, but a different set of values.”

“I wonder if the basic reason for this is that you actually want to have a new set of values.”

Janet laughed and replied, “Maybe so.”

“That’s close to having a new set of desires. There was a philosopher who defined goodness in terms of desire. It’s not necessarily what we desire, but what we desire to desire.”

“You mean, someone who wants York mint patties, but wishes she didn’t want them?”

“Yes. You may want new desires and values on a grander scale than that.”

“Yet another woman who finds life empty and figures that a child will at least change things, hopefully for the better.”

Tim resisted any inclination to tell Janet about ‘poopy hands’, and replied, “We all need luck. I think I can deal with the changes.”

“Good. I do value your company, Tim. You’ll also like my brother.”

“And his wife?”

“Not too interesting, but nice and perfectly okay.”

The lemon soup with an unpronounceable name arrived just then. Janet sipped it, shook some pepper into it, and smiled her tight thin smile.

Bill Todd -- Tim and Sharon
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