Cub reporter Elliott Oglethorpe was delighted. At last, an assignment that was more than emptying waste baskets and delivering copy. Now he would get to try his hand as a writer for a real newspaper -not just the school paper.
He had been trying to grow a mustache which would make him look older. What it did do, was made him look like a tall, gangling teen-ager who had been drinking hot chocolate and had forgotten to wipe his mouth.
His knock on Elise Prynne's door was answered by a woman attired in a rather filmy bathrobe -but not quite a negligee. She was about the same age as his mother, he thought, hardly at the age when one would expect her to engage in orgies.
Elise had been a school teacher all of her life and had a good deal of understanding of young people, although Elliott was a bit older than the kids she was used to dealing with. She offered him a coke, which he accepted -his mouth was a bit dry. After he had quenched his thirst she asked, "What would you like to know?"
"I've read the newspaper accounts of what happened at the Benedict School. Was what they said true?"
"Except for a few minor detail, yes, what they wrote was true."
"Then you actually engaged in an orgy at the Benedict School?" His face reddened a bit.
"If you call a bit of playful sex an orgy."
"Would you mind telling me what actually happened?"
"Not at all. We were talking at the end of the school day when Louise started running her fingers through Bob's hair. Bob kissed her and started to fondle her breasts. Then he put his hand inside her blouse......" She left out no detail, no matter how small. She noticed, with amusement, that he had placed his notebook on his lap and was writing in it there, despite the fact that it was awkward for him. When she reached a hiatus in her story, he asked if he could use her bathroom. He was gone for about five minutes, and when he returned, he seemed quite a bit more relaxed. She waited until he sat down on the couch and then joined him there and continued her story. She was now close enough to him so that he could smell her perfume. She was much shorter than he was so that, when he looked down, he could see her breasts -she was not wearing a brassiere.
"It didn't take Jim long," she continued, "to get hard again, but he decided that he wanted Louise, so we switched. I was glad, because Bob had a much bigger penis than Jim did..." When she saw his note book descend to his lap, she took it away from him. "Surely you'll be able to remember what I tell you without taking notes." She looked into his eyes and he could tell that she understood his embarrassment and was sympathetic to his immediate problem. While her eyes engaged his, she gently rubbed his thigh. "How would you like to try it yourself" she said softly, "then you could write from first hand experience -they say that that's the best way."
He lowered his eyes and blushed, "I've never done it before," he stammered.
"Don't worry; I'll be gentle," she said as she held
his face in her hands and gently kissed his lips.
The day after Sam was visited by the press, every newspaper had a story on Epidemic E on its front page. The Salt Lake Tribune had banner headlines, SEX EPIDEMIC TRACED TO VIRUS. Below the headline were three columns. One dealt with the interview with Sam under the heading "Local Scientist Discovers Virus." A second was headed "School Teacher Tells of Illness." The third was "Commissioner Blames Russians."
The first article told how Dr. Samuel Michaelson had "doggedly pursued every meager lead until he discovered that all of the oversexed people could be traced to contact with a child who had been given polio vaccine from Schneider lot R7001." It went on to describe Sam, what his office looked like, that he was the father of two children etc. etc.
The second article had interviews with the school teachers involved in the Benedict School orgy. All claimed that the new information proves conclusively that they had been fired unjustly. "It's immoral to fire someone for being ill," Elise Prynne was quoted as saying. The article referred to another column on page 8. It was headed "Teacher Firing Unjust" and was written under the byline of Elliott Oglethorpe, a name that Sam didn't recognize. He wondered whether this was written by the cub reporter whom Gray had mentioned. It said:
After being a devoted school teacher for all of her life, Elise Prynne and three other teachers at the Benedict School were summarily dismissed. They were dismissed because they had contracted an illness -more precisely, a virus infection. They had acquired it from one of their pupils who, in turn had been given one of two involved viruses as part of the polio immunization program.
What was the effect of this virus that she had acquired during the course of her work? " It made me more loving than I have ever been in my whole life -I loved everyone." What was her reward for being so loving? She lost her job. Why did she and her three colleagues lose their jobs? They lost them because they were loving in the faculty lounge, a place which was set up to afford teachers some privacy -a place sheltered from the prying eyes of their pupils.
The principal stated that "We cannot countenance public immorality in our teachers."
But is the faculty lounge a public place? Isn't it as much a place of refuge as a person's own home?
It was obvious that Oglethorpe was that he was militantly on the side of the dismissed teachers. Sam wondered why.
The last article contained an interview with the same City Commissioner
who had attributed the orgy to the introduction of X-rated films
to Salt Lake. He was willing to admit that the virus was a possibility
-but it couldn't have been accidental. Someone, probably the Russians,
must have introduced this virus into the vaccine in order to demoralize
When Sam got to his office, the Departmental Secretary literally screamed at him, "Dr. Michaelson, I'm certainly glad that you finally got here. The phone has been ringing steadily all morning and all of the calls were for you. There were so many of them that I just refused to take messages. I asked them all to call back after ten."
"That's fine. I'm glad that you didn't take messages because
I don't know whether I want to return them. At any rate, I'm here
-just pass the calls to me."
The first call was from a mother whose nine year old boy had gotten polio vaccine and he was acting peculiar. He and his eight year old girl friend liked to play in the garage and they both looked very guilty when they came out.
Sam assured her that the virus had no such effect on children, just adults over forty.
"But I'm over forty," she said sadly and nothing has
happened to me.
The next call was from a woman who wanted to know if her husband could have acquired the Epidemic E virus because he was always after her.
"How long has this been going on?" Sam asked.
"Fifteen years," she answered.
The next call was from a man who wanted to know where he could
get this Epidemic E virus so that he could give it to his wife.
The next call was from a woman who also wanted to know where she
could get some of the virus, so that she could give it to her
The next call was from Elise Prynne who "just want to thank you for all the nice things. Since the story came out in the paper, I've been having so much fun. Is that nice Dr. Levering going to come back to Salt Lake?
"Was he really that nice?"
"Oh yes, we had a wonderful time!"
By the end of a morning filled with non-stop phone calls, Sam had had it, and decided to use Levering's gambit. He went to the Departmental Secretary and said, "If calls come from people who know me or seem to be important, put them through. For all others, ask them to call back after Monday."
"But today is Monday."
"I mean next Monday."
Late that afternoon, Sam went to the television station for the panel discussion on Epidemic E.
His nose and forehead were dusted with powder and he was escorted to a sound stage where a microphone was clipped to his lapel. On stage were three other, similarly rigged, people. A man in a checked show-biz suit walked over and extended a hand; "I'm Gavin McGee and I'll be leading this panel." He introduced Sam to Dr. Carline Parker who was a clinical psychologist with the university and to Miss Louise Case who had been one of the originals in the Benedict School affair. ("I thought that it was Mrs. Case, " said Sam. "Not any more; he divorced me last month. I think that the publicity got to him -it certainly couldn't have been anything else.") Sam knew the last panelist well: Dr. Alexander, Head of Microbiology at the medical school. McGee told them what questions he would start with, so that they would have time to consider their answers. "I have no idea," he said," what the other questions will be since they're phoned in by members of the television audience."
Everyone tried to looked intelligent as they waited for the cameraman who suddenly pointed his finger at McGee.
"With us here today are three distinguished scientists and a victim of that new virus disease that has been named Epidemic E, or EE." He then proceeded to introduce the panel and then paused for a commercial. When the commercial was ended, he turned to Sam: "Dr. Michaelson, the stories that we've heard about people becoming oversexed as a result of a virus infection are so incredible than many people, including me, view it with a good deal of skepticism. Is it real or just a figment of some people's imagination?"
"It's real enough. Now that the public knows about it, it would be difficult to tell fact from fantasy, but at the time that we worked on it there seems to be no question that the increased sexuality of those people who contracted the virus was due to brain damage caused by the virus."
"Did you say brain damage, Doctor?"
"Yes, I did. Apparently the virus destroys certain nerve cells in the brain. That's the way that it exerts its effect."
"Dr. Alexander, how do you feel about this?"
"I share your skepticism. If this had come through some reputable scientific journal, I might feel differently about it. I don't mean to impugn my colleague, Dr. Michaelson, but I find it hard to believe that a virus would be that specific and just cause changes in one's libido."
Sam knew that to answer that comment properly, he would have to talk about secret material, so he prudently said nothing.
A glance from McGee was enough to activate Miss Case: "It wouldn't be hard to believe if you had caught the virus, doctor. I was just like everyone else until I got that virus. I had the worst headache that I've ever had and was burning up with fever for three days. Then, all of a sudden, the fever was gone and I couldn't get enough loving. I......."
Miss Case's face suddenly disappeared from the monitor to be replaced by McGee who asked "how does a psychologist view these changes, Dr. Parker?"
"I've known people to change their sex drives, but not so suddenly. There's a principle in clinical psychology that when a patient changes very radically for no apparent reason, you look for organic brain disease."
"Organic brain disease?" McGee asked.
"Yes, such as a tumor or some kind of brain cell degeneration. From what I have read about Epidemic E it seems to be that kind of picture. To produce libidinal changes of such a magnitude usually requires intensive psychotherapy and that rarely succeeds to the extent seen in these EE people."
"You say succeeds. This implies that you view these changes as desirable?"
"No! What I mean is that people rarely come to a therapist to have their sexual drive reduced. It's always because they feel that it isn't adequate. So in that sense we consider increased sexuality as desirable."
"What about excessive sexuality?"
"Unless it leads to antisocial behavior, such as the May Company rape, psychologists don't recognize any sexuality as excessive."
"Dr. Michaelson, how do you feel about the comments that you've just heard?"
"I agree with Dr. Alexander that it would have been better if our findings had come out first in a reputable journal. In fact, my colleagues and I were preparing papers to submit to Science when this thing broke in the press. I can respect his skepticism since this was exactly what I thought when I first heard about Epidemic E. As to Dr.Parker's statement: I know nothing about clinical psychology, but what she says seems reasonable -especially since she's agreeing with me," Sam said smiling.
McGee picked up the telephone that was on a small pedestal in the middle of the stage. The conversation was broadcast through a speaker behind the camera. "Harold, what is your question?"
"I don't have a question, I would like to make a comment to Miss Case. I want to say that she"....... there were a series of bleeps.
"I'm sorry about that," said McGee," we can't allow that kind of language one the air. Our next caller is Mabel from Ogden."
"I want to ask if it's possible to get the virus and not know it; I mean to get extra sexual without having a fever and headache?"
Dr. Parker said that it was, but that it was probably not EE.
Sam was glad that there was a trained therapist able to field
most of those questions. Dr. Alexander was pretty much ignored
and the rest of the questions, ranging from what it felt like
to have a sudden surge of passion to whether the changes are permanent,
were fielded by the other three panelists.
When Sam got home, his first call was from his oldest daughter.
"I saw you on television, Dad. Gol, you were wonderful."
"Thank you, my loyal fan."
"Mom wants to talk to you."
"Sam," Janet said," I just wanted to tell you that now I know why you seemed so happy when you had dinner with us."
She seemed happier than she had in a long time. Sam couldn't figure out why his being on television would make her happy.
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