The Perils of Dr. Laura Whitfield
by Channie Greenberg
Table of Contents|
chapters 1, 2, 3, 4
Chapter 4: A Certain Visitor
George pressed the call button and said, “Mrs. Whitfield, you have a visitor.” When the person standing at the door could no longer hear the intercom, George guffawed. It was so much fun to be a kept man.
It was fun, too, to mock Laura. She would never become a “Mrs.,” if he could help it. Whereas he owned no scientific tomes across which iguanas could scamper and flew no projectiles above his unsorted laundry, he continued to experience plenty of scurrying between his life and that of his newest mate, Laura. He fantasized of Laura committing her relatively short life to him and of her doing so without religious or social legislation. Marriage was overrated and never lasted long enough with humans.
Once joined, he and she could make babies, could birth their offspring at home, could concoct herbal tinctures, and could adopt a clowder of cats. George who, indeed, had been born on a distant planet, had studied for and had received his herbal medicine certification from the California School of Herbal Studies. A sweet piece of paper, which he had been granted by the American College Board, likewise marked him as having completed a workshop on Advanced Placement Calculus AB.
George could teach physics and math and earn a side income from crafting herbal tinctures. Laura could run barefoot with their children. He plighted his troth to the scientist.
While hanging around for a few months for her answer, he volunteered at a children’s center, joined an organic farm, taught gardening, and managed to nurture neighborly relationships. He could wait; it was Laura who would age in the interval.
For her part, Laura couldn’t tell if George was really an Earthly youth, hence a spring to her autumn or, in fact, as he claimed, a long-lived denizen from a faraway region of space, hence an autumn to her spring. Most days, the answer to that riddle didn’t matter; happy people were gracious ones. People of good character and deed who regularly cleaned up after their inner selves were the ones she valued. George seemed to be of that ilk. He did not take people or particulars for granted.
On the flip side, he lacked common sense. He would as soon eat chocolate for dinner as he would run naked in their fence-free backyard. Her makeup was as appealing to him, for his own use, as was the feed they gave her Jupiter lobsters. There was little he wouldn’t try, no matter how odd, at least once.
If she consented to a permanent partnership with him, she would never again enjoy elevated social status. On the other hand, she would smile a lot. She just had to figure out whether or not she could everlastingly — or at least until someone better came along — compromise her fundamental, that is, scientific nature.
Ever the scholar, Laura broke her concerns down to smaller issues. The scientific method failed her. Committing to George would be like accepting those egg sacks from the mother lobster on Jupiter; her passage with him, even if they remained in her apartment, would take her to places she could not imagine.
More months passed. Laura and George and her Jupiter lobsters, which seemed to grow very slowly, lived together without benefit of social sanction.
Laura published fewer and fewer articles about her passage to Jupiter. George, conversely, began to broadcast his philosophy on world domination. He also taught lots of writing, speaking, communication, and kindred courses at nearby universities.
George’s newest aspiration was to announce his viewpoint at the next Blizzcon. He began to invest tens of thousands of dollars in plastic surgery, to study all things Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo, and to leave Laura and her crustaceans to stew alone for long periods of time
Laura wondered about the merit of her lover being recognized as an outlander by the local gaming community. She wondered, too, about his newly purple hair and his painful-looking tongue piercings. On balance, she was fine with his adopted giant Australian borrowing cockroaches, although the lobsters had eaten them, and with the star chart he had brought home that featured a galaxy which was allegedly George’s.
Additionally, she resisted the gelatinous wildebeest George had stabled next to their Volkswagen and had been horrified by the spacefaring equipment he was welding for her; it glistened in neon colors. What’s more, George’s protests to the contrary, she could no longer envision herself raising the Jupiter lobsters.
The local climate was a few hundreds or thousands of degrees too warm for her hatchlings and Earth’s atmosphere was lethal to her brood. More so, her critters seemed to be failing to thrive because of lack of appropriate stimulation. Since Laura had no plans to import the lobsters’ natural predators, she had no idea how she could continue to maintain those shelled young.
Worse, there had been that incident with Phlox, Laura’s twin, confident, and favorite cheerleader. Although Phlox’s university insisted that Phlox remained their best emissary, Phlox had informed those administrators that she was no longer willing to travel to the Indian subcontinent or to Europe. Subsequently, most of Phlox’s funding had been cut.
Laura discovered those data while helping her sister wash floors. Leaving George and their menagerie home in California, Laura had flown to Connecticut for a sisterly summit. There, she and Phlox, on bent hands and knees, scrubbed and talked together. Whereas Laura, given her relative age, had produced the larger physical effort, Phlox, as was her nature, produced the larger psychological one.
First, Phlox spoke of her flagging career, and then she spoke of the general senselessness of academia. Without so much as breathing between sentences, she moved on to the topic of Laura and George.
Phlox claimed that romantic love ought to continue to rock Laura’s boat, float her rolls, and otherwise mix her metaphors, and that it was a pity that Laura had been sidelined by her responsibility for her Jupiter lobsters. She ought to emulate Phlox, whose amazing spouse, shiny children and irascible friends made days and nights tastier than boardwalk ice cream fallen in the sand. In short, Phlox told Laura to get a life.
Scientific prizes such as the Alexander Hollaender Award in Biophysics and the Apker Award ought not to remain Laura’s greatest ambitions, Phlox iterated. Plus, someone other than Laura could return the alien crustaceans to their home planet. Their mother might still be alive to greet them.
In answer to her sister’s well-meaning sagacity, Laura shrugged not once but twice, shook her head, and gave Phlox the finger. Thereafter, she turned her back to her twin, walked out of Phlox’s home and allowed herself to slam the door just a bit as she left.
It hurt that scholarship proved to be a dead end. Phlox was telling the truth, but Laura did not want to hear it. The publications and television show, which constituted her sister’s fame, had long been a sore point for the physicist. Although she had never competed with her sister for affection even in the arena of brains, Phlox had trumped her. It was awful to think that her and her sister’s professional gallantry had been for naught.
After crying a little and screaming a lot, Laura thought about how to proceed. It was unlikely that she would again take part of a surreptitious voyage on a NASA vessel, or that she would be the recipient of enough NSI funding to allow her to create an alternative space program.
Likewise, it was highly improbable that she would suddenly grow antennules or unexpectedly develop an ability to breathe Jupiter’s atmosphere. The line of research, in which she had invested decades of her life, had dead-ended. The lobsters needed to be moved from her possession. Perhaps, however, she could keep George.
A few days later, the physicist sighed as she sipped Merlot and nibbled on the Petit Beurre and Caval that the love of her life had packed in a cute basket. Her contribution had been lobster tails, culled fresh from their source and drenched in unspeakable amounts of butter.
She planned on enjoying many more al fresco meals with her man. Maybe she would let him dye her hair green or persuade her to ride his gelatinous moose. For the time being, though, it was enough for Laura to enjoy his lovely blue eyes and to take comfort in the thought that she had a freezer stuffed with Jupiter-sourced victuals.
Copyright © 2015 by Channie Greenberg