27.The Party

Sam and Sue were having dinner at their favorite French restaurant in Bethesda.

"I guess tonight sort of marks the end of an era," said Sam.

"What do you mean?"

"Our era of affluence; from here on in we pay our own way -no more government sponsored plane trips and dinners. I've budgeted my funds so that I'll be able to spend half of it on plane trips to Chicago."

"That hardly seems fair. All things considered, I probably have a better income than you do. Why don't I visit you in Salt Lake City. I'd like to meet your children."

"I don't mind flying to Chicago."

"Sam Michaelson, do you have something to hide? Perhaps you're a Mormon with twenty wives."

Sam smiled, "No, I've nothing to hide. Besides, even if I were a Mormon, most Mormons are frighteningly monogamous."

"Then Conan-Doyle was misinformed?"

"No, a century ago they were polygamous. Now there are only a few small splinter groups that believe in polygamy -none in the main church."

"Then why don't you want me visiting you?"

"I do want you to meet my children." Sam thought for a moment, "I guess what bothers me is the same thing that would bother me if you picked up the check for this dinner."

"But Uncle Sam is picking up this check. I hope that you don't intend to compete with him. If I were a male colleague, you'd have no compunctions about sharing the check or picking up alternate checks.

"But you're not a male."

"Sam, we share equal status -I'm not your chattel."

"I know that. I suppose that I'm being foolish but it's hard to break the habits of a lifetime."

"If you don't break them, they'll break you."


" To help you to do it, we can start by my signing the chit for the dinner. I have a government credit card too."

"O.K., I'll leave the tip."

"No, I'll put it on the card the way you do."

Sam laughed and raised his wine glass: "To us and to true equality!"

"Alfred will have the children for the Christmas holidays. I could come to Salt Lake then."

"Wonderful! Do you ski?"

"I used to when I was younger -was fairly good at it; but I haven't been on skis for twenty years. I've probably forgotten how."

"I doubt it. I'll reserve a room for us at the Alta Lodge and the girls could meet us there and we could all ski together."

"Then if they don't approve of me, they could push me off a mountain."

"Oh, they'll approve of you."

"Don't be too sure, Sam. Daughters can be very possessive of their father."

Sam had finished showering and shaving when Sue awakened.

"I thought that you were going to sleep all morning," Sam said.

"I wouldn't mind," said Sue, yawning.

"I'm famished."

"You're always famished, love."

"If you don't get up now, we won't be able to have breakfast before the meeting."

"I'm not hungry, and Levering always has tea and cakes at the meeting. I'd rather not rush -why don't you go down and have breakfast, and I'll meet you at the meeting."

Sam, bent down and kissed her, put on his jacket and left.

When Sam arrived at the cafeteria, Jack Monser was in the line, ahead of him. When they had collected their food and sat down, Sam asked," Do you still want to try the EE virus?"

"No, Ellen convinced me that I shouldn't take the chance. Besides, I've found out that you don't need a virus. After a month of living with a woman who needs sex four or five times a day, it's become a habit with me too. I was away from Ellen for a day, last week, and I started looking for a woman to satisfy my needs. I told myself that I didn't have EE and therefore could live without sex for a day -but I didn't really believe it. At the same time, Ellen has come to terms with her libido, and is back in her pre-EE work groove. The only difference is that we lock the office door when we have lunch, and we take the full hour."

"You've been conditioned like Runner's oversexed mice."

"Yup, and unless you sectioned my brain, you couldn't tell that I hadn't contracted EE."

"Could I cultivate the knack?"

"Sure, but why would you want to? There are lots of things to do that are more interesting than screwing. There's more variety in eating than in sex. If I had a free choice, I'd prefer to be able to take it or leave it."

" I always imagined that it would be great to have almost unlimited sexual prowess."

" What good would it do you? You couldn't even list it as one of your qualifications for a job. You'd try a lot of different women and end up bored with the whole thing."

Sam smiled; "I could become a porno movie star."

"I've never seen a porno movie where the male star looked as if he was enjoying himself. They always look as if it's just another job -and a very tedious one at that."

"I guess so. All the same, I've thought that I'd like to try it."

"You could volunteer to test Zabalka's virus."

"No! For some obscure reason, encephalitis has no appeal for me."

"Glad to hear it Sam! Just hang on to Sue and you'll have everything that a man could want."

" I know," Sam said.

"Isn't Sue coming to the meeting?"

"She'll be there. Where's Ellen?"

"She decided to skip breakfast, although I can't understand how she can survive on what she eats. She'll be at the meeting too."

They walked to Mike Levering's office. Tarkas and Zabalka were there, having arrived on early airplane flights. Ellen and Sue were also there.

"Well," said Levering, "we can get started. Sam what have you found?"

"Absolutely nothing! We've been unable to find any cases of EE that were not associated with R7001. It looks as if Epidemic E is over."

"Jack, what have you found?"

"The same as Sam. Not a single case that wasn't associated with R7001."

"And you, Arthur. What have you come up with?"

" The only animals that the EE virus grows in are ferrets, suckling mice and monkeys. We haven't been able to detect any behavioral changes in the animals, but the technicians who have been watching them are beginning to act peculiar. I think that it's time to put the subject to rest. We've stored some of the virus in liquid nitrogen in case there is some future need for it. Should a real epidemic start, we'll have the wherewithal to make a vaccine. I think that it's time to publish our findings."

"I guess that we owe it to science to do that. If Sam wrote up the epidemiology, Nick wrote up the serology and Jack and Ellen wrote up the behavioral aspects, we could submit the three papers simultaneously to Science. It'll be a real blockbuster."

"I'd rather not wait. It could take them months," said Zabalka.

"Not if we set a two week deadline. Would that suit you, Arthur?"

"That would be fine, if the others agree to meet it."

Sam, Nick and Jack nodded in assent.

"Does this mean that Epidemic E is no longer secret?" Zabalka asked.

"If it gets into the newspapers before Science accepts it, it could jeopardize our publication. I think that we should wait until it comes out in print, before we say anything. I don't think that it's a good idea to have misinformation printed before the truth comes out."

"That seems reasonable," said Zabalka and everyone else seemed in agreement.

"Then," said Levering," we still have a few months of peace before it hits the fan."

"Is it going to be that bad?" asked Sam.

"I can't predict the future, but I'll bet that it'll be bigger than anything short of a presidential assassination," said Levering.

Everyone waited for someone to speak. Levering broke the silence.

"I've reserved a large table at The Piraeus. It has good food, good drinks and Greek and American dancing. It should be right up your alley, Nick. Let's meet there at six thirty. Just ask the cab driver to take you there.

Sue, Sam, Eric and the Monsers shared a cab to the Piraeus. When Sam's eyes got used to the dark, he perceived a large room occupied mostly by dance floor. Around the dance floor where three layers of tables. In one corner a bouzouki band was playing the theme from Zorba the Greek. Nick had an unrestrained expression of delight. The hostess who, judging from her costume, doubled as a belly dancer, showed them to a large table in the corner.

The waiter, attired in Greek costume, complete with skirt, asked "What would you like to drink?"

"Ouzo! Bring a bottle and glasses!" Nick said. Then, thinking better of it, "Would any of you like anything else?" He said it in a tone which indicated that he thought it unthinkable that anyone would order anything else.

"I've never tried ouzo before," said Sue.

"Do you like licorice?"

"Yes, I like it."

"Then you'll love ouzo."

"I can't stand licorice," said Eric.

"Then maybe you had better order something else." said Nick. Eric ordered a beer and Ellen ordered a glass of white wine. Sam had been to Greek restaurants with Nick and knew that he could down a few glasses of ouzo if he diluted them with copious quantities of water.

"Will I love ouzo, Sam?" Sue said.

"I don't know, but you'd better not try drinking it like Nick does, or I'll have to carry you back to the hotel. Try sipping it like a liqueur."

When the drinks arrived, Nick poured a round and raised his glass. "To EE" he said and downed it in one swallow." Sam and Jack followed suite. Sue sipped hers delicately.

"I like it," she said.

"I knew you would!" said Nick.

Mike and Arthur arrived. They were both old hands at Greek drinking and quickly downed a few.

"I'll be glad to help you order." said Nick.

"You don't have to be Greek to know Greek food," said Mike. "I've been eating here for years. It's all ordered. Of course, Nick, if you don't approve, you don't have to eat any of it." The waiter brought a tray filled with a variety of finger foods and set it in the center of the table. "Good evening, Dr. Levering," he said "When you are ready for the main course, let me know."

"Hah!" said Nick, "You do know Greek food."

"I should," said Mike, " I spent a year in Athens."

Nick started tapping his feet in time to the music and Sam knew what was coming next.

"We dance!" said Nick, taking Sues hands and lifting her out bodily out of her chair.

"I don't know how," Sue whispered to Sam in desperation.

" Just follow Nick and do what he does." Then to Nick "The ladies have never tried Greek dancing."

"O.K., I'll go very slow."

Nick shouted something in Greek to the band, and the music slowed. Nick lifted his left foot and brought it down with a thump. In less than a minute, everyone was following Nick as if they had been dancing that way for all of their lives. Gradually the tempo of the music accelerated. As the participants became winded, they left the line amid peals of laughter. Sue returned to the table, her face flushed and her eyes shining; as did the others. Eventually, only Nick remained on the floor. He stomped and gyrated with extraordinary grace and power. Everyone's eyes were riveted on his massive form.

"I think that I can read your mind," said Sam to Ellen.

"That shouldn't take much," she retorted, "I'd love to have that brute."

"He's magnificent," Sue said.

When the music ended, Nick returned to the table. He poured himself a glass of ouzo and downed it. "Whew, I think I'm getting old. One dance and I'm winded," he said and he sprawled on a chair.

"I was winded half way through," said Sam.

Sue and Ellen and Sam and Jack paired up. Both Sam and Jack were feeling the effects of the ouzo.

"How did you get to be a sex therapist, Jack?" Sam asked.

"For one thing I'm interested in sex."

"So am I, but I didn't make a career out of it. I don't think that I would care to think about it all the time."

"I suspect that I don't spend any more time thinking about sex than you do. If you want someone who thinks about sex all the time, look for someone who thinks that sex is evil and who is not supposed to have evil thoughts. He has to remind himself all of the time not to think about sex, so he thinks about it all the time."

"I don't understand it, but I'm willing to take your word for it. But don't you try to improve peoples sex lives?"

"Sure, but that usually has little to do with sex. If people are angry, their sex life suffers; so most of the time the most important thing to do is deal with the anger. The improved sex life is the therapists report card -if their sex life gets better, then I know that I've done my job successfully. Actually, the sexual aspect of the problem is the easiest part of the job."

"How did you get started in sex therapy?"

"I didn't; I started in psychiatry. When I finished med school, I decided that I couldn't stand the sight of blood. Besides, I was pretty screwed up, and that allowed me to get un-screwed up under the guise of training. Then I practiced psychiatry for ten years. Coincidentally with getting bored with my job, my first wife and I had a sex problem, so we went to Masters and Johnson to get it straightened out. I liked what they were doing so much, that I decided to switch to sex therapy."

"Did it work for you and your wife?"

"Sure, our sex life was great when we separated. What the hell am I telling you all this for. I'm the goddamn shrink! You ought to be telling me. How did you get to be an epidemiologist?"

"Destiny! My father was a physician and my mother was a writer of detective stories."

"And I suppose that you were named Sam after Sam Spade?"

"You guessed it!"

"Guessed, hell! I deduced it," Monser said.

The bottle of ouzo was empty by eight o'clock and another was ordered. Food came continuously. No sooner was one tray emptied, then it was replaced by another. By eleven, Sam was feeling no pain, Sue's eyes were shining, and the rest were in various states of inebriation. Arthur Zabalka was very drunk. He got on to the dance floor and started to dance. Except for occasionally stumbling over his feet, he did a fine job. His tall thin frame gyrated gracefully as the rest clapped their hands in time to the music. Ellen sat on Nick's lap and started kissing him. Nick was enjoying every minute of it. Jack sat back with a patient smile on his face. He knew what awaited him when they returned to the hotel.

When Ellen gave Nick a chance to breathe, Sam asked, "Nick, what are you going to tell Illona that you were doing this evening?"

"The truth! I'll tell her that I was sitting up with a sick friend."

Sam and Sue were both beginning to nod; it had been a long day. At one a.m. there was a last toast proposed by Levering. It was "to research and its benefits to mankind -especially us!"

Zabalka had tears in his eyes as he said "I love you all. It's been wonderful."

It was a side of him that Sam had never seen, and he found, much to his surprise, that he had grown quite fond of Arthur Zabalka.

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