Bill Todd -- Tim and Sharon
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 Chapter 45

An Opportunity

     Tim agreed with Sharon that Helen was more socially adept than Chris had been. She could talk about the weather as if she really cared about it. Perhaps she did. Sharon then said, “From what she said when I was driving her home, it seems that her school was more primitive than the one Chris goes to.”

“Did she have friends there?”

“She mentioned a girl, but it was quite ambiguous. She seems not to have had a boy friend.”

“That’s surprising. She’s actually quite pretty.”

“Yes. And she’s also more obviously curious than Chris about the people she meets. That usually leads to something, but she must have been just about the only intellectual in her school. There probably wasn’t a boy who could keep up with her.”

“Well, now, there’s Chris.”

“Sure. He’s obviously attracted, but we don’t know where it might lead. Jane Heber suggested that Helen might suffer from some after-effects of a pretty bad childhood.”

“Apart from the school?”

“Her mother’s a nice lady, but very busy and distracted. She also had a breakdown. Helen had to be foster-parented, which is sometimes bad.”

“Well, Meredith certainly reacted to a bad experience, but Helen seems entirely different.”

“Moreover, Helen’s immediate problem isn’t a lingering one. It was solved when she left the school.”

     The next day, it was right in front of everyone that Helen asked Tim, “Would Plato have thought that all of science should be axiomatized along the lines of geometry?”

Tim wasn’t good at questions like that. His first thought was that he really knew very little about Plato. But, then, he pulled himself together. He could, at least, give the standard answer.

“Most people think that he would have classified science as mere opinion rather than true knowledge, the kind that concerns geometry and the relations between the Forms. He therefore wouldn’t have considered what we call science to be worthy of axiomatization.”

“But the science he knew was pretty rudimentary. It’s hard to think of the law of gravity as having no more basis than someone’s political opinions.”

That set them off. Chris and Duane weren’t there, but those present all had attitudes. It turned out that Helen liked Plato’s philosophy for its beauty, and wanted to extend it. Tim had known people who felt the same way. In further explanation, Helen said, “I’m also interested in writing about an English public school in about 1880, and their system of education was based almost entirely on ancient Greek philosophy.”

Howie asked, “I wondered if you might be interested in writing about your high school experience.”

“I could probably write something fairly gripping about that, but I don’t want to too obviously write about myself. I was thinking of historical fiction centered on a boy at Eton in the time of empire.”

“It’s always fun to imagine things from the point of view of the opposite sex.”

 “Have you written things from a woman’s point of view?”

“I’ve done only plays with no narrator. So the point of view has always moved between the female and male characters.”

“I might like to try that sometime.”

It occurred to Tim that Chris would be unlikely to do that. But one never knew!

     The other immediate object of Helen’s curiosity was Wolfgang. How had they happened to acquire him? When informed, she wanted to know about Meredith. It was almost like an adoptive parent asking about the previous parent. And, of course, those questions were not so easy to answer. Tim didn’t think it fair to Meredith to describe her difficulties to what amounted to a stranger, and the others evidently felt the same way. They simply told Helen that Meredith had gone back to college. The subject was then changed, but Tim had the feeling that there would later be more questions on that score.

     The others had never been able to run with Wolfgang because of his constant, and sudden, deviations from side to side. However, Helen was also a decent runner, and her mysterious mastery of him was such that he went along beside her. He got more activity than ever before, and had started curling up quietly into a large reddish ball for hours at a time. Even the kayak instructors remarked on the sudden change.

     Shortly before Christmas, while Chris was still in school, Duane visited with an announcement, “There’s something Chris and I’ve been talking about that seems about to happen.”

Duane had an old philosophy graduate student friend who was now a dean at a small, and quite selective, liberal arts college in Massachusetts.

“We’ve kept in touch, and he’s met Chris several times. We were talking on the phone when he suddenly suggested that Chris skip the rest of high school and come there for the spring semester.”

Tim replied, “I didn’t know you could do that.”

“You couldn’t in most places, but this is a small, very high quality, experimental college. Chris is exactly the sort of student they want, and they don’t care about high school graduation.”

“So he’s going to go?”

“Probably. He’s having the best time of his life, and he doesn’t really want to leave, but it’s a unique opportunity, and it even carries a full scholarship.”

“Hard to pass up.”

Sharon then spoke up, obviously a little concerned, and described her experience in visiting Geary, another small college in Massachusetts. In fact, they all knew something of such colleges, and Duane replied, “The people at Colony College are all research-oriented, and they treat the students as apprentices and aides. The students may drink beer, but it’s with the faculty.”

Sharon replied, “That does sound different. My friend at Geary said that the students are supposed to educate each other, but that she hasn’t learned a single interesting thing from another student.”

“The people who run those colleges have a romantic view of education. They do manage to impart the basic knowledge students will need to enter a graduate professional school, but beyond that, they try to give students what they call a ‘full college experience.’”

That was a bit of a joke, and, when everyone laughed, he went on, “These days, the ‘full college experience’ is just a continuation of the ‘full high school experience’ for a more socially exclusive group. Chris knows about that.”

     Chris came up the next day, and went rowing with Tim. There was a light breeze against them, but Tim was pleased to discover that, with both rowing, they could easily overcome it. As often happened, some people in a motorboat began taking pictures of them. Tim’s usual response was to wave briefly, and then ignore the onlookers. Chris, amused, said, “You may not have as many fans as you did in the NFL, but you still have fans.”

“I must admit that I enjoy having a few fans, as long as they don’t overdo it.”

“I think you’re safe.”

     When Tim asked Chris about the college, he replied, “It’s very free and easy. Dad knows one guy who teaches there, but only gets half his salary with the understanding that he won’t have to be on any committees.”

“That sounds pretty extreme.”

“Well, it’s an entirely non-traditional self-governing faculty with student input, so there may be a lot of arguments over what they should be teaching and learning.”

“I see. That sounds a lot like us on a larger more organized scale with much more knowledgeable people.”

“I think it is.”

“You know, your going there at this point can also help us here. Sharon and I’ve been working on applications of the predicate calculus of logic to physics and other things, but we generate all kinds of questions that we can’t answer. Some seem quite basic, and even naïve, but we’re stuck.”

“So you can give them to me, and I can get answers. I’m not embarrassed to ask naïve questions.”

“In some cases, we can guess the answers, but would like to be confirmed. In others, we haven’t a clue.”

“Colonial College may not be Harvard, but it’s full of high-powered people.”

“Certainly. We’re so used to having the resources of a university within easy reach that we probably didn’t realize how dependent on them we were.”

“You seemed to be doing fine.”

“We were for a while, but, now, in many areas, it turns out that we just don’t know enough. We may also not be smart enough.”

“I’m sure I don’t know enough, and I’ll be finding out how far I can get.”

     It was at that point that they almost ran down some fishermen in a small boat anchored in the middle of the channel. Having apologized, they went back to a discussion of the college. Chris said, “It’s a much worse climate, but they apparently do a lot of cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing.”

“Well, Chris, you’re a lot stronger than you used to be. You can learn to do that.”


“You’ve had a lot of changes in the last few months.”

“Certainly. The meeting with you and the others, the boating expeditions, the break-up of my parents, and something else just recently.”

Tim replied, “For you to say that, there must have been a major earthquake.”

“Not quite. But there’s a fairly attractive girl in my class who’s known for sleeping with almost everyone, including the football coach. She caught up with me after school one day last week and invited me to her house.”

“So you knew what was going to happen.”

“Pretty much. It’s because my ratings have gone way up since the dance. Her parents weren’t home, and she had hardly made us coffee when she began to undress. I didn’t have to do much, and everything seemed to happen.”

“Were you protected?”

“She had a big supply of condoms.”

“That’s good.”

“It was all rather casual and matter-of-fact.”

“Pretty much like me with Janet.”

“I liked it. But I’d hardly recovered when she wanted to do it again. And then again.”

“At your age, you can do that.”

“It did seem rather excessive. But she got amazingly excited. It was almost scary.”

“I don’t have a great deal of experience myself, but I’m told that most women don’t have orgasms that easily.”

“I wondered about that.”

“You may never meet with it again.”

“Probably not. She invited me to come by any time, but she’s really not very interesting, and I don’t want to get involved.”

 “Anyhow, the mystery is dispelled.”

“Yeah. The only trouble is that it seems rather sleazy.”

“Sharon thinks that Melissa is sleazy.”

“She isn’t really, is she?”

“No. Other people in her circumstances might have reacted in ways that would strike people as more virtuous, but we can’t be too judgmental.”

“I bet Sharon wouldn’t approve of my little operation. Helen might not either.”

“Well, Chris, there are always going to be some things that are kept secret. This one in particular.”

“Thanks. There may be some sexual activity at the college, but I’m not going to do anything casual.”

“You’ve certainly gotten to know what women are like in our group.”

“An impossibly high standard. Probably just as well. I don’t want to go crazy over anyone I might meet in the near future.”

“I haven’t, but Howie and Enoch have.”

“I guess it’s been okay for them.”

 “Anyhow, when are you off?”

“Almost immediately. Dad’s friend has invited us to spend Christmas with his family.”

“In June, you can come back and teach us what you’ve learned.”

“And you can teach me what I haven’t learned. I’ll still be a minor legally, but it’s become pretty obvious that my mother will be pleased to have me stay with Dad.”

“If he’s still living in his office, you can both stay on one of the boats.”

“You’ll still be here, then?”

“There’s probably nowhere that has such good access to the open ocean in our various kinds of boats.”    

Bill Todd -- Tim and Sharon
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