The harvest of reason sample


Published on

  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

The harvest of reason sample

  1. 1. The Harvest of Reason By Rhea Harmsen Copyright © 2011 by Rhea Harmsen Cover design: Cara Harmsen Cover Copyright © 2011 Cover photograph by a young German friend (1974) This book is not autobiographical. The events and characters in this book are fictitious. Anysimilarities to persons either living or dead are purely coincidental. Similarly, locales and settingsherein are used in a fictitious manner. Opinions expressed by characters in the book do not representthe policies of any faculty members or departments of the institutions depicted. For the purposes of thestory it was necessary to present a fairly realistic thesis problem. The reader may wish to refer to theglossary for unfamiliar terms. All quotations in this book are taken from The Seven Valleys and The Hidden Words, or otherworks written by Bahá‘u‘lláh, except in the cases where it is otherwise noted.
  2. 2. For those dedicated students and scientists, both women and men, who are anxiously concernedwith the needs of the age we live in.
  3. 3. PART I "…and when the fire of love is ablaze,it burneth to ashes the harvest of reason." The Seven Valleys
  4. 4. PROLOGUE The beads of sweat were gathering on Maddie‘s upper lip and she tasted the salt. She‘d been toldnot to wear her blue jeans, only skirts below the knee, but it didn‘t matter, she was still dripping. Shecould see the vapor rising off the banana trees. She pinched her shirtfront and shook it. They had left the university vehicle behind and were traipsing thru the dry, narrow footpaths in themountainside. Places you couldn‘t get to in a car. The pace of their walking was limited by thetemperature, off course. Sometimes she looked down at the ground and saw deep cracks in the redearth. When she looked up into the distance she saw wispy clouds hiding the mountain peaks. Now they came upon a stick fence and Joseph Mliko, the interpreter, clapped his hands and yelledout a greeting before stepping tentatively inside the small compound. ―Wait,‖ Maddie whispered. ―Shouldn‘t we wait for permission to go in?‖ A small black woman peered out of the thatched hut and then emerged with a child in her arms. This is how Maddie first met Mama Tsongo in Nyasa village, in Malawi. ―Hi! How are you? I‘m Maddie Hawkins. I‘m from…the United States.‖ Did the woman knowwhere that was? Maddie spoke slowly and enunciated clearly. ―I‘m here because…to gather somedata…information.‖ She paused to let Joseph catch up on the translation of Chichewai to English. Her eyes flickeddown to the two little faces hanging onto Mama Tsongo‘s skirt, to the other curious eyes peering frombehind her. It was a small crowd of children. The little one in Mama Tsongo‘s arms had a fly crawlingall over his face. His droopy eyelids were crusted with a gritty white substance. The ones standingbehind her had round bloated bellies, matchstick legs. Kwashiorkor, Maddie recalled, clear signs ofmalnutrition. Lack of protein, actually. She panicked, trying to remember if she had any snacks in herbackpack. Was this woman their mother or their grandmother? She looked back up because the woman had become excited. She spoke rapidly and her voice roseand fell like a Miriam Makeba song. Joseph translated , ―She says, welcome back, tall daughter of Ahhfrica. She says you are home,‖his round face smiled the words.
  5. 5. ―Thank you. That‘s nice,‖ she smiled at the diminutive woman, then asked Joseph, ―What doesshe mean? Welcome back? I‘ve never been here.‖ "She thinks you are one of the lost children," he answered. ―The lost children?‖ She puzzled. ―The children that disappeared. They were taken by the slave traders.‖ He gestured to indicatesome remote point back in history. Maddie felt a sudden jolt. ―Oh my God!‖ she said, looking into the little woman‘s eyes. MamaTsongo reached up and pulled her down gently, cupping her face and patting her arms with a wornblack hand. An uninvited lump pained Maddie‘s throat. Things she had been taught—the MiddlePassage, the journey of Africans to America, the grievous holocaust of nine million souls—thesewelled up in her mind. How surreal. She had gone to Malawi for a simple college internship in agriculture, and discovered she had adeeper connection. It had become sort of a pilgrimage, a return to a heritage and a past imprinted in hergenes. *** Her internship with Malawi University lasted three months. Whenever she came from Lilongwe toNyasa village to gather data on the heirloom bean mixtures grown by the Malawi farmers Maddie wentto Mama Tsongo, ostensibly to document her farming practices, but more out of attraction to her wiseways. She appeared well over fifty and had the air of an elder, but Maddie discovered she was in factonly twenty-nine years old. She was the third wife in a polygamous marriage and she claimed she wasthe mother of thirteen children. ―Thirteen children? You‘ve borne thirteen children?‖ Maddie wasn‘t sure she‘d gotten the numberright. Her Chichewa was very rudimentary. Holy Mother of God! Hadn‘t she ever heard of birthcontrol pills? Don’t be stupid Maddie. Here? How? From whom would she get them? How many crops wouldshe have to grow and sell to afford a month‘s supply? Abstinence then. But would she have a choice about that? ―Only seven are living,‖ Joseph added.
  6. 6. Maddie drew in a thin stream of air. Slowly, to assuage an ache in her chest. How did a womanendure the loss of six children? She couldn‘t just let it pass. It wasn‘t just a survey question anymore. Something was required ofher. So she used the words she knew, to speak to her directly. ―And…and you‘ve lost six?‖ ―Six.‖ She nodded, an ancient smile in her eyes. This figure could have been attributed to poor counting ability because it was so fantastic, butMaddie found she could not discount it, because Mama Tsongo actually described the placing of thedead children by introducing the living children who flanked them in the family line. She put her handon the head of each child as she pulled them gently to stand before Maddie. Some tried to go back andhide behind her skirt, others just stood there gawking at her, showing all their teeth in their smiles. My God. So much innocence. Mama Tsongo‘s pride seemed to be in how many of her children shehad managed to keep alive, despite miscarriage and infant mortality. Maddie asked to walk around her plot and Mama Tsongo showed her the rocky field, no biggerthan a postage stamp, on a hillside with a forty-five degree slope. Like many African farmers, eightypercent of whom are women, she grew her beans on a plot she neither had the right to own nor inherit.With that same devotion with which she had nursed each one of her children, she wielded her hoe andtended the hillside. And all her watchful effort yielded no more than a few bushels of beans. Bundles of dry bean plants hung from the sides of the hut to dry. Mama Tsongo showed her theclay pots where she stored her harvest. If the beans were covered with ashes, they might be protectedfrom weevils, and feed her family until the next crop. Maddie sensed that for Mama Tsongo, farming was a high stakes game, with a deadly margin ofrisk. A bad rust infestation that reduced her harvest could also reduce her family. Maddie saw a lot in those three months. With the mind of a privileged American she registeredshock at every new discovery, every sign of ingrained and wrenching poverty. She dreamed of makinga difference. She dreamed of producing some revolutionary new bean variety, with high yield andimmune to disease. But she felt powerless to change the pattern of things. Then she came home and became engulfed by the seductive apathy of the academic grind. MamaTsongo and her brood receded slowly into a realm of unreality, far and distant as the outer orbits of aself-centered universe. But the mark left by that waif-like woman lay dormant until the day, mid-way through her Ph.D.,when Maddie found herself angrily crying in a bathroom stall. That day, the memory of Mama Tsongo
  7. 7. took on a symbolic importance in her affairs. A saying drummed into her from childhood resurfaced,"Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in and center your deliberations on itsexigencies and requirements.” And it was the combination of this saying, that ebony face, and the ignoble circumstance of themoment she found herself, sniveling in a bathroom stall, that propelled her to break the inertia thatbound her, to finally assert herself. And to move her dreams from the nebulous province of longing,into the realm of possibility.
  8. 8. Chapter 1 To merit the madness of love, man must abound in sanity… The Seven Valleys John Pitts, a second year doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, walked up thesteps of Linden Hall bright and early on Monday morning. When he opened the door to the mainoffice, he caused a bit of a stir. Barb sighed, Jennie salivated, and Alma offered a friendly, businesslikegreeting. "Hi, John, youre back! We thought youd be gone the whole semester." Her chirpy voice matchedher plump figure. "No way, Alma," John flashed a smile. ―I couldnt afford to stay away that long. I have my prelimsthis term." After being gone all summer in Puerto Rico harvesting experimental linesii, the grand stairway atthe entrance of the Plant Breedingiii Departmentiv and the dark wood of the archways had seemedoppressive to John, in stark contrast to the whitewashed simplicity back at the Isabela ExperimentStation. "Oh, well. Let me get your mail then,‖ Alma said. ―Its been piling up." She walked off into the back room to retrieve it. John looked up to see a smiling Jennie at the filecabinets. The top drawer slid closed and she leaned her body up against it, offering him a full frontalview. Jennie was much younger than Alma. "Boy, do you have a nice tan, John!" she said. "Bet you had a good time, knowing you." John shrugged off the veiled allusion to his ―party animal‖ reputation. "Nah, Jennie, I had to worktwenty-four seven to get the harvest in and get back here in time for classes." He felt dead tired. Theflight had gotten into O‘Hare at ten last night, and then he‘d had a three-hour bus ride to Madison. "Youre late. Fall semester started two weeks ago." "I know."
  9. 9. "Didnt you have enough workers?" she asked. "A couple. It wasnt enough." "Yeah. Dr. Pinkerton‘s an old tightwad, isnt he? Tries to squeeze blood out of a turnip." Since shewas the departmental bookkeeper, Jennie was aware of his professor‘s accounts. Alma came back and handed him a box. "There! Have fun sorting through that!" He looked at the box filled with junk mail and lab equipment catalogs and groaned. "Well, I betterget busy. Goodbye ladies." His smile flashed indiscriminately. Alma went back to her typing, but Jennie looked at his retreating form. The backpack hung offbroad shoulders and the blue jeans fit his long legs perfectly. Barb threw her a barely audible whisper, ―Go on, I dare you!‖ Jennie made as if she were going to the mailboxes near the door and said, "Hey John…" He looked back. ―Yeah?‖ "Call me sometime." Her eyes held a warm promise. As he took the wide stairway two steps at a time John thought about it, but he wasnt sure hewould take her up on her offer. Maybe, if it didn‘t get complicated. He couldn‘t afford to goof offmuch this semester. He walked into the grad-student office on the second floor and was greeted by Pete Shalley‘s high-pitched voice. "John! There you are, you lucky dog!!‖ ―Hey, guys, how‘s it going around here?‖ His greeting took in Dave Rankin at the next desk. Theoffice was the same: books and papers piled on top of and under every desk; the two bookshelvescovered with dusty printouts, manuscripts, lab books and what-not; somebody‘s dirty boots in onecorner, boxes of seed samples stacked on the floor; notes taped to every available space, but not apicture, a plant anywhere. It was a thoroughly male bastion. Pete was all curiosity. ―How was Puerto Rico? How were the beaches? Did you catch some rays?What about the bikini babes, huh?" John was reminded of a panting puppy dog. He put the box of mail down on the desk and hisbackpack on the chair. He looked around for the garbage can. Pete turned to Dave, "Hey, knowing John, he caught more than a few of those Puerto Ricanbeauties. And he didnt just look, either. How about it John, did you score big-time? Spill the beans,man!"
  10. 10. "No. I was too busy harvesting your plants, remember?" Hed be damned if hed share any detailsof the few times he had taken time off. Girls in Puerto Rico weren‘t all living the vida loca, despite thepopular song. ―Yeah, I owe you one, man,‖ Pete said. Then he smiled as if he‘d figured out a way to repay John."Hey! Maybe you can get some action around here. Dr. Gates has this new graduate student." ―Oh?‖ John dumped the mail out on his desk. ―What‘s she like?‖ he asked. It didn‘t take much toturn Pete into a babbling idiot. ―Shes a goddess! A ripe papaya ready for the picking." He looked over his shoulder. ―Right,Dave?‖ Dave talked slower, but in the same vein as Pete. "Yeah. Talk about fruit. The girls definitely gotsome.‖ His lazy voice droned on, ―Hey! Why dont you go over and meet her, John?" ―Yeah, yeah!‖ Pete‘s voice always did raise another pitch when he was excited. John didnt care much for their metaphors. The guys were crude and their thinking on the subjectof women lacked elegance. It was amazing how much those two had in common, one being from ruralGeorgia, the other from Cicero. But his curiosity was mildly peaked. ―So, if she‘s so gorgeous, how is it that you‘re offering her to me?‖ He methodically discardedpieces of junk mail into the garbage after a cursory examination. ―Oh, she‘s, well, she‘s out of our league, you could say,‖ Pete explained, glancing sideways atDave. ―Yeah, you could say that,‖ Dave agreed. John‘s eyebrows went up. ―You too, Dave? Didn‘t you take a crack? You‘re only half as ugly asPete here.‖ ―Well excu-u-use me! We can‘t all have your sex appeal.‖ Dave got loud, then got sincere. ―Truthis, she‘s a little scary. But why don‘t you take a stab, pretty boy?‖ John shrugged. ―Fine, I‘ll take alook.‖ He dumped the last of the junk mail into the gray metal basket. ―Ive got to go over and giveDan Gates his seed I brought back, anyway." As he headed across the hall he thought he sniffed a rat. They were a little too anxious for him tomeet this paragon. Either something was seriously wrong with this woman, or she was unbearablyugly. ***
  11. 11. After John closed the door, Pete jumped up from his swivel chair. ―Ha! Won‘t that be a match!‖ Dave sneered. "This‘ll be one chick that wont come when old John Pitts whistles." "Hey, dont be too sure,‖ Pete countered, ―Theyre pretty hot to trot." "Nah, they stick to their own kind. Plus, you can get the tar beat out of you if you mess with them.Havent you seen the big guys walking around campus?‖ "Yeah, Ive seen them. You know, you can only get so many of them on the football team. Or thebasketball team. What else do you think they‘re here for?‖ "Well, Plant Breeding, for one," Dave answered, his thumb motioning across the hall where thegoddess lived. Pete frowned. "How do you suppose she got here?‖ ―Had to be that affirmative action shit,‖ Dave answered. Pete settled back down at his desk and picked up a horseracing pennant hanging off of it. ―Youknow. We got a saying back home.‖ ―Yeah?‖ Dave leaned back in his chair and crossed his hands behind his head. ―What?‖ ―Just ‗cause a filly got let out of the gate doesn‘t mean it‘ll make it to the finish line.‖ *** Although forewarned, John was unprepared for his first meeting with the goddess. As he openedthe door to Dr. Gates graduate student office, he was confronted with the back of a laughing womanreaching her hand out for the doorknob. She was exchanging some joke with Lisa Burnett and shenearly bumped into him. In a flash he absorbed a tall slim body, a little white T-shirt under thespaghetti-strap dress, beautiful feet in gold sandals. But the most salient features tickling hisconsciousness were those LEGS. Long, smooth, cinnamon legs, with slight dimples on the backs of theknees. Even as his brain registered all this, she was turning, and, as if in slow motion, he beheld an utterlyangelic brown face, framed by a mane of honey-brown hair, with twinkling deep pools for eyes.Orange brown eyes. ―Whoa!‖ she exclaimed, as her extended hand punched him somewhere between his chest and hissolar plexus. Her arm recoiled, whip-like. ―Sorry!‖ she smiled. And then it seemed to John that her whole being changed. Her smiling face was replaced by apolite expression. And the twinkling eyes became shuttered.
  12. 12. He heard Lisa say, "Hi John, have you met Maddie?" "No, I havent. How are you? Im John Pitts." The goddess replied "Hi, Im Maddie Hawkins. Pleased to meet you." But the expression was stillguarded, and those beautiful brown eyes were still shuttered. He wanted to make them smile again. He forced his eyes to focus on Lisa, "Hey, Lisa, Ive missed two weeks of Dr. Anderson‘s PlantGenetics class. Any chance I could take a peek at your notes, hon?" "Sure John, you can look at my scribbles. But Maddies are much better, I guarantee it. Why dontyou borrow hers?" He looked at the creature. She had a look that said, ―I know whats expected of me." "Youre welcome to have them," she said. "You sure you don‘t mind?‖ ―Yes—I mean, no!‖ she corrected. He smiled. ―Thanks, Ill stop by later, then." The girls proceeded out the door. Lisas head poked back in before she closed it. "You can shutyour mouth now, John," she whispered. Had he been that obvious? Had she taken a dislike of him because he‘d been foaming at themouth? But, goodness, he had reason. She was the most exquisite woman hed ever set eyes on. While shesmiled, the whole room had seemed lit up. And when that smile had vanished, hed felt like a little boywho had dropped his ice cream on the pavement. After just one lick. As she walked down the hall with Lisa, Maddie fought, with some irritation, to cool the fire in hercheeks. When shed bumped into the tall frame, she felt as if shed been stung. His tanned face and goldbrown hair spoke of California beach volleyball, and his smooth voice resonated somewhere deep inher core. Blue eyes, intense, magnetic, mischievous. God! Her face had become hot. She felt afascination against her will, an involuntary physical attraction. She had dropped her eyes and retreatedbehind a mask of politeness. Now she rebelled. No man was going to make her lower her eyes. Have some pride girl! You cancontrol your mind, can’t you? Besides, she wasn‘t supposed to be looking at men that way anyway.
  13. 13. "Who‘s he working for?" she asked the small woman who over the last months had become aclose friend. She and Lisa had hit it off the first day theyd met, despite the fact that she was only aMasters student and Maddie was starting her Ph.D. "Hes Dr. Pinkertons graduate student,‖ she said. ―Actually, he practically runs his project. Dr.Pinkerton doesnt keep a field technician like other professors, so his graduate students have to take onthose responsibilities. John ends up doing most of it." "How come he called you honey?" Maddie asked. "Oh that," Lisa shrugged. "Johns like a big brother to me. When I was in my undergrad I workedfor Dr. Pinkerton, watering plants, scrubbing down the greenhouse, washing glassware in the lab. Johntaught me the ropes." "Oh." Maddie wasnt sure why shed wanted to know. Maybe the term ―hon‖ had just soundedpolitically incorrect. But it appeared to be based on affection between friends. She was still getting to know Lisa‘s mannerisms. It seemed she was going to share somethingfurther about the guy and then her brown eyes sparkled and she jumped to another subject. It wasalmost as if she did it on purpose to distract Maddie. ―So how about those Badgers, huh? You going to the game on Saturday?‖ ―Me?‖ Maddie looked up in horror. ―You wouldn‘t catch me at one of those things if my lifedepended on it!‖ ―C‘mon. You ought to try it. It‘s one hell of a shindig. Everybody goes insane for the team. Thebeer, the brats.‖ ―Yeah, with guys puking all over the stands, yelling obscenities at the top of their lungs.‖ ―Hey. I‘ll have you know it‘s not just the guys who puke. We women can do a pretty good job ofthat too.‖ Maddie did a double take. Was Lisa kidding or was she proud of that? ―When people drink, they forget all their inhibitions—‖ Maddie started. ―And their stress. It‘s good to cut loose once in a while.‖ ―That might well be true. But not like that. People do all sorts of stupid, even dangerous thingswhen they‘re in that state. At MSU they used to grab girls and pass them up in the stands like a sack ofpotatoes.‖ ―Yeah. They do that here too. One time they passed a girl clear over the bleachers.‖ ―What?‖ Maddie gasped.
  14. 14. Lisa kind of lifted up her shoulders. ―Hey, that‘s what I heard. I wasn‘t around when it happened.People probably exaggerate.‖ ―I don‘t know. Doesn‘t sound like something I want to be around for. You really dig football thatmuch?‖ ―Oh, it‘s Ernie,‖ she explained, referring to her boyfriend. ―He loves to go. Comes down fromStevens Point just to see the Badgers lose. He paints his face red, sometimes his whole chest even.He‘s crazy. I think since he didn‘t go to school here, he went to UW-Stevens Point, he‘s like, youknow, obsessed. Badger mania.‖ Somehow, the picture Maddie was getting of Ernie wasn‘t very congruent with the womanstanding in front of her. ―So what‘s he studying?‖ ―Oh, Ernie‘s graduated already. He drives a pizza truck.‖ *** John was strictly businesslike later in the afternoon when he came to borrow Maddies notes. Shewas sitting at her desk and had to look up at him. ―Here they are.‖ She handed him the neat binder. "Okay," he said, "Ill run down to the copy shop and have these back to you in an hour." "Oh, no hurry,‖ she said, "Our next class isnt till Wednesday, and Ive already reviewed them,anyway." And shes organized, too. Watch it John. Youre staring again. She reached for a pen and started twirling it around in her fingers. "How…how come you missedthe first two weeks of the term, anyway?" she asked. "Oh, I was down in Puerto Rico.‖ John leaned against the bookshelf. ―Thats where Dr. Pinkertongrows all the F2 populations for the beet breeding project. I had to supervise the harvest." "Sounds interesting. How was it?" she asked. "Oh, lots of sun," John murmured, recalling backbreaking hours of labor in the midday heat. Her eyes seemed to be avoiding contact. "Well, just put the notes on my desk when youre donewith them,‖ she said. "Okay, thanks." John felt hed been dismissed. Back at his desk, he was impressed with the caliber of her notes. Even, rounded handwriting, veryneat. But what he admired was their content: she hadn‘t missed much. He wondered if the fact that
  15. 15. their graduate student office was almost clinically clean had anything to do with her presence there.The bookshelves were lined with neat rows of reprints and journals. The coffee maker on the counterhad sugar and creamer, and stirrers, for God‘s sake! Each of the six desks had some semblance of orderto it. And somebody had put a collection of African violets on the windowsill. He would have been happier to discover that she was somewhat stupid and incompetent, so as tolessen an impulsive attraction that could complicate his life. He did not need any distractions before hisprelims. Prelims…That dreaded rite of passage anyone seeking official admission to doctoral candidacyhad to pass. The three-hour exam, which was conducted orally by five professors, involved a review ofall knowledge pertinent to the field of Plant Breeding and Genetics. He would be grilled on everythinghed studied since kindergarten. Graduate students usually took their prelims after completing all oftheir coursework, and they studied for months beforehand. He would have to study while at the sametime taking classes, practically running Dr. Pinkertons project single-handed, and conducting his ownresearch. Nope, he really didn‘t want any distractions. The door swung open and Pete walked in and threw down his backpack. "Hey, John. Did you meether? Did you meet the goddess?" he asked. John frowned at the overloud voice. Glancing at the open door he answered quietly, "You mean Maddie Hawkins? Yeah, I met her. Imlooking over her notes right now." "Oh, wow!" Pete came to look over his shoulder. "I wouldnt mind looking over her notes myself.I wouldnt mind that at all." He lowered his insinuating voice, "Hey, John! Did you notice those…‖ Hishands looked like they were weighing two large grapefruits. John felt the hairs on the back of his neck rising. "All right, all right, Pete, thats enough." Whywouldn‘t he drop it? "Hey, just because shes… you know… doesnt make me blind. In fact," he grinned, then went on ,"they say that they have double the umph, these hoochie coochie mamas." ―Jesus!‖ John nearly catapulted from his seat to shut the door to the grad office. "Look, man, keepyour voice down," he nearly growled. ―Better yet, keep your thoughts to yourself!‖ Pete put up his palms, as if he were being unfairly chastised. "Okay, okay," he said. They both turned back to their own desks. John found he was violently angry. He had heard racialslurs all his life. Hed never much liked them; for the most part he just let them go by. But hearingthem leveled at the girl hed just met somehow disturbed him. She had seemed so wholesome, almost
  16. 16. pure, in contrast with Petes horny garbage. He cursed his luck at having to share a crowded office withfour other students, at least one of whom was an obvious moron. *** Maddie, Lisa, and several other female graduate students were seated halfway down theauditorium, waiting for the weekly Plant Breeding seminar to begin. The orange seats were not quitecomfortable, at least not if you wanted to take a nap. It was the third Friday of the semester, andMaddie was happy her own presentation was scheduled for November, so she would have enough timeto prepare. ―God, I still can‘t get used to the idea of graduate students having to give these seminars,‖ she toldLisa. ―How come?‖ ―At my old school it was the professors who gave the plant breeding seminars. Students weremostly spectators. Unless they were really self-confident.‖ There could be no hiding here. She would have to stand up in front of everybody and expose herthoughts. The turnout for these seminars included everyone from the head of the department down tothe technicians. Looking up toward the front of the auditorium, she saw John Pitts standing near the overheadprojector, talking in a relaxed manner to Dr. Castle, the seminar coordinator. She realized from his tieand sports coat that he must be giving todays seminar. She turned to Lisa. ―Is John Pitts the one giving today‘s seminar?‖ ―Looks like it.‖ She frowned. ―Why? He just got back, didn‘t he?‖ ―Well, probably because all the later dates were taken.‖ Poor guy, he really must have had to scramble to get ready. ―It doesn‘t seem fair,‖ she murmured. ―Oh pooh! This is nothing to John,‖ Lisa said. Maddie‘s eyes found their way back to John. He didn‘t appear to her to be nervous. Slowly,Maddie became aware of tittering among her companions. "Yeah, sure, Im interested in the topic…" Savannah said, snickering. "Right, Savannah, you came just to hear about his Beta vulgarisv." "Honey, Id go and listen to him talk about Drosophilavi if he did it in those jeans."
  17. 17. More snickering. Jean piped in, "You think hell turn around and give us a good view?" "View of what?" "Shh…" More laughter. "Quit talking about him like hes a sex object," Lisa said, good naturedly. Maddies eyes had gone wide; she was embarrassed to realize that she wasnt the only one affectedby his good looks. She was just like everyone else! The only thing that set her apart was that she hid itbetter. At least, she hoped she did. When John was introduced, Maddie watched mesmerized as he came forward, laser pointer inhand, and proceeded to deliver an almost flawless presentation. His topic was not the most naturallyfascinating. In lesser hands, she was sure it would have been boring. But his fluid presentationincorporated a thorough review of the literature and the pertinent current research. Interwoven was hispractical experience of the sugar beet crop, gleaned from years of dedicated work. Forgetting herprevious train of thought, Maddie became engrossed in his world. She was conscious of reallylearning. Not only did this guy move like a dream, he had the makings of an excellent teacher. During the question-and-answer period Maddie noticed that the professors asking questionstreated John almost like a colleague. No kid gloves, but hard-hitting questions. What was the prognosisfor breaking the Hawaiian yield record? Dr. Janski had asked. What was the status of Monsanto‘snutrient uptake studies? Dr. Gates wanted to know. These were very broad, scary questions. Heanswered them as if he already were a full-fledged breeder. As they rose to leave the auditorium,Maddie hoped that when her turn came, she would carry it off half as well as John Pitts. *** At nine oclock on Saturday night, Maddie walked out of a movie with Lisa, Savannah and Jean.They all felt it was too early to go home. Madison was not going to sleep for a long time. The Badgershad won the game. Badger mania meant party-town, tailgate parties and lots of red banners beingwaved about. But most of all, it meant binge drinking, although that had started already last night.Victory or defeat, no excuse was needed for drinking in this town. ―So Lisa, how come Ernie didn‘t come down?‖ Maddie asked. ―Oh, he had to put in a new toilet for his mom.‖ ―He must have been really disappointed.‖ ―Yeah, he was pissed as hell.‖
  18. 18. ―So what did you do with the tickets?‖ ―I gave them to John.‖ ―How come you didn‘t go with him?‖ Lisa spluttered. ―Yeah, right! Ernie‘d love to hear about that.‖ "Lets go around to the Madhatters," Savannah said, out of the blue. "Maybe we can bump intosomebody." She fluffed her permed platinum hair out with her fingers. "Oh, exactly who are you hoping to bump into?" Jean asked. Maddie thought Jean already hadsome idea of the answer. Madhatters was just around the block from the University Theater. As they walked in the doorMaddie felt her usual distaste for dark, smoky places and the stench of beer. They were playing asoulful tune, though, and that was okay. ―Let‘s give them something to talk about, babe,‖ Bonnie Raittsang, like a true B.B. King disciple. The tall, circular tables were only big enough to hold a basket of peanuts and a couple of drinks.They managed to get an empty one, but it was missing most of the stools, so the four women just stoodaround it. The whole room was swaying to the loudness, dancing close in the dim light, or talking closein the corner shadows. Savannah was scanning the large room as they gave their orders to the waitress.But it was Jean who apparently spotted what she was on the lookout for. ―Look! There he is," shewhispered. As her eyes moved down the length of the bar Maddie saw John Pitts with a couple of other guys.She couldnt place all of them. John was leaning sideways against the bar and popping peanuts in hismouth. The waitress said something to him as she went by. He laughed and she flashed him a widesmile as she emerged from behind the bar with a loaded tray. He seemed to be one of those guys whoreally liked to spread his attentions around. Maddie looked away and tried to shift her focus elsewhere.Suddenly, there was a little flutter at the table as they found themselves addressed by the very sameJohn and his buddies. "Well, hello ladies," John said in his hearty voice. It seemed to Maddie that Savannah actuallyflipped her hair back and pumped up her bosom before she said, ―Hi John.‖ One of the guys took Jean out on the dance floor, a peanut-shell-covered space off to one side. Over the music John asked, "Want to dance?" His eyes swept over all three women, then came torest on Maddie. Maddie hesitated, confused at the general request.
  19. 19. Savannah jumped at the opportunity. ―Sure! Come on!‖ She linked her arm with his and draggedhim away. Maddie turned to the tall quiet guy at her left. ―Hi, you‘re Joel aren‘t you?‖ she asked. ―Who doyou work for?‖ ―Dr. Dobson,‖ he said. ―Oh!‖ Maddie stopped sipping on her straw. ―Tell me about her.‖ He seemed a little bit startled but said, ―Okay.‖ Dr. Marcia Dobson was the only female member of the faculty. Maddie was very curious abouther but it was doubtful she would ever have Dr. Dobson for a professor, since her area of study hadnothing to do with her own, and the courses she taught were the undergraduate ones. Besides, heroffice was stuck so far back in the basement, she seldom ran into her. Nevertheless, Maddie found thatthere was always an underlying awareness of Dr. Dobson in her mind. How she was treated, whatgossip circulated about her and whatever criticism was offered, seemed somehow to reflect on femalegraduate students. If there was only one woman on the faculty, and she was stuck down there in themiddle of nowhere, it told you how important womens contributions were thought to be in thedepartment. Joel was her first graduate student. He had been working on his Masters degree for a couple ofyears but did not seem to be close to finishing. That struck her as strange. *** John was annoyed with himself. The invitation to dance had come out of his mouth automaticallywhen he had looked at that woman, Maddie. He had forgotten that she seemed to dislike him. It was alucky thing Savannah had rescued him. To shake off the willies he threw himself into the dance experience with gusto. The Bob Marleysong was rocking and pretty soon he was wailing at all the right places and working up a sweat. Whenhe and Savannah got back to the table, there were new drinks all around. He talked to Lisa, whilecovertly eyeing Maddie. She was talking to Joel about something so engrossing she had barely lookedup. There was no opportunity for him to repeat his faux paux. This time he took Jean out on the dance floor for another workout. During the line dancing hisattention kept returning to the table, however. How is it that she had so much to talk about with Joel.
  20. 20. He didn‘t know they were on such good terms. He would have to get the scoop from Joel ‗cause itseems his best buddy was holding out on him. When he went back to the table he found her standing next to him. There was an awkward pause."Hey, I enjoyed your seminar yesterday," she said. "You did?" His voice came out loud due to a sudden lull in the music. John adjusted his voice,"What did you like about it?" ―Oh…I…‖ She seemed to be having trouble remembering what she liked about it. Maybe she hadn‘t liked itat all. A blonde head interposed itself between them, smiling like a predator. ―John, it‘s your guyagain— Bob whatshisname. C‘mon!‖ Savannah said, pulling him toward the dance floor. When John had asked her what she had liked about the seminar Maddie had inadvertentlyremembered some of the comments made about him before it had started. Did he know what a stir hecaused? Did he enjoy it? Just like a squirrel caught by the headlights, Maddie‘s mind went blank andshe couldn‘t think of an answer to his question. Around eleven o‘clock Lisa and Maddie came out of Madhatters and headed for home. Savannahand Jean had decided to stay behind. Either they would get a ride home, or by the look of things, mightnot make it home at all. Maddie wondered if Savannah would achieve her objective or whether thewaitress would have more luck. Because of Ernie, Lisa wasnt in the same frame of mind as the othertwo. As for herself, it was quite another matter. Because she never went down that road at all.
  21. 21. Chapter 2 In the ocean he findeth a drop, in a drop he beholdeth the secrets of the sea. The Seven Valleys Maddie Hawkins entered Edgar Simms‘ office on Monday morning and waited for Dr. Gates‘technician to look up from his desk. He was putting labels on packets of seed. He didn‘t look up, soshe went ahead. ―Edgar, I have an important appointment next Tuesday. I won‘t be able to go toHancock Experiment Station with the crew.‖ He issued a thin smile. "Well, thats just great, isnt it?" "Im really sorry," she began, "but Im having a hell of a time with this class and Dr. Carothers hasagreed to meet with me on Tuesday. I need to be here.‖ He was now looking at the wall and tapping his fingers on the desk. "You know, I have enoughproblems getting the project work done, I dont need to take on graduate student‘s work on top of it." "Oh! No--no. I wasnt asking you to!" She was dismayed by his conclusion. "I was just wonderingif I could go up on another day." ―I cant spare the van. Youll have to get a ride with someone else," he said. "Any ideas who might be going up?" she asked. "I dont know," he shrugged, "Try Dr. Pinkertons crew across the hall." Maddie walked away a little miffed. What had he been trying to imply, anyway? That she didntpull her weight? She was beginning to think maybe Edgar had a chip on his shoulder. At the last groupmeeting hed made a comment about having more comp-time hours built up than he would ever be ableto use. And then there was his snide remark about graduate students who didnt take their greenhousewatering duties seriously. Why did he always have to generalize like that about graduate students? Ifhe had a problem with an individual why didnt he just take it up with that person, instead of tarringeveryone with the same brush?
  22. 22. The result of his remark was that Dr. Gates had given a mini-lecture on the importance ofgreenhouse watering duty. Theyd all had to sit there feeling like naughty boys and girls, with no onereally knowing who had screwed up, or when. At one point she glanced at Edgar. Arms crossed, chintucked into his chest, he seemed to be enjoying it. He had manipulated them all like pieces on achessboard. Maybe that was his way of lashing out for feeling so overworked. Seriously passiveaggressive, she thought. *** When John Pitts walked into the office at six forty-five on Thursday morning he found a note fromDr. Pinkerton on his desk saying that they should give Maddie Hawkins a ride to Hancock ExperimentStation. ―Oh boy.‖ He ran his fingers through his hair and grimaced. He had mixed feelings about theprospect of spending a day with the woman, and he was not looking forward to controlling Pete andDave, so as to shield her from any unpleasant vibes. After picking up his field book he walked down the stairs. Outside the building, he found thePinkerton crew leaning against the sides of the van in the parking lot and an aloof Maddie sitting cross-legged on the curb. He unlocked the van and the guys all hopped in, leaving the seat next to the driverempty. He motioned Maddie to the seat beside him as he got in the drivers side. "Everybody here know Maddie?" John said to the group. "Maddie, thats Jiang and Lao Chu in theback seat, Pete and Dave right behind you." "Hi guys," she said. The replies were polite from the back seat and somewhat ribald from themiddle seat. John gritted his teeth and hoped that those two infantile jerks would behave themselves.He gave Maddie a sidelong glance. She seemed, thank goodness, to be unaware of any undercurrents. John switched the wipers on to get rid of the thin sheen of dew on the windshield and backed thevan out. ―Excuse me, ah…Maddie, could you wipe the outside of your window?‖ ―Sure.‖ She quickly rolled down the window and wiped it with her arm. She had to reach way out,something that brought the curve of her body into plain view. He took one appreciative look andbrought his focus back to the road. Glancing at the rear-view mirror he caught the leer on Pete‘s face ashe craned his neck.
  23. 23. ―That‘s enough! That‘s good!‖ he hastened to tell her, a frown creasing his forehead. He clearedhis throat, looking for a safe topic of conversation. "So, whats on your agenda for today?" he asked as they drove out Campus Drive to pick upJohnson Street. Most of Madison was still sleeping, despite the emerging blue sky. "Oh, nothing major," she answered, "just a little weeding and some disease resistance notes." ―Who are you taking resistance notes for?‖ ―What do you mean? It‘s my experiment,‖ she answered. ―You had stuff in the field this summer? I thought you were new here.‖ ―Yeah, I came at the end of May.‖ ―Then how come—‖ ―Well, I thought if I got a crop in this summer instead of waiting a year, it would put me ahead ofthe game.‖ ―No kidding, you jumped right in. That‘s pretty awesome.‖ ―Not really,‖ she brushed it off, looking out the window. They were almost to the point where theywould pick up highway 151. ―I think it‘s going to be hot today,‖ she said. ―Yep! It‘s gonna be a scorcher all right!‖ Pete barked from the back seat. Maddie appeared startled. As if she‘d forgotten there were other people in the car. It was actuallykind of creepy that Pete had been listening to their conversation. ―So where‘d you come from, huh?‖ Dave asked, abruptly. ―Me?‖ Maddie turned her head. ―Duh.‖ ―Michigan State. I did my undergrad and my Master‘s there.‖ ―How come you didn‘t stay there?‖ She hesitated a moment before answering the personal question. ―I…thought it would be goodto…experience another school.‖ ―They offered you money to come here, right?‖ Dave plunged ahead with his questions. ―What?‖ Again, she appeared startled by his rudeness. ―Yes, they did, a graduate schoolfellowship, but I turned them down,‖ she stated. Surprise registered on Dave‘s face. ―Why is that?‖ ―Well, I already have a three year National Science Foundation fellowship. It goes with mewherever I go.‖
  24. 24. John was enjoying this. The look on Dave‘s face was even more incredulous. ―What‘s your gradepoint average?‖ Dave asked. John intervened, ―Dave, I don‘t think that‘s any of your business.‖ ―Just a simple question,‖ he pressed. ―Well, knock it off. She doesn‘t have to tell you that.‖ John‘s tone would brook no defiance. ―Whatever,‖ Dave mumbled, and returned to quietly staring at their backs. John took a look at Maddie and redirected the conversation. "A little weeding can get prettybackbreaking," he said. "How big are your plots?" ―Well…you know how first year grad students are. Always biting off more than they can chew. Ithink my experiments are probably a lot bigger than they should be." They had all started out very ambitious and then had to downsize their research in the next fewseasons. ―What‘s your design? How many replications?‖ As they discussed the merits of her plot design he found that he really enjoyed talking to her. Shewas bright and sensible and when she talked it kept him from focusing on those LEGS. He noticed sheliked to cross them and then uncross them very shortly thereafter. She was wearing shorts and asleeveless top and even though there was no attempt at glamour in her clothing, the effect was heady.He had to tell himself to pay attention to his driving. As usual, the drive took about two and a half hours and they arrived at Hancock ExperimentStation around nine oclock. They split up as the Pinkerton crew headed for their own plots and Maddiewent to work in Dr. Gates plots. However, as their fields were adjoining, John was able to keep an eyeon her in the distance all morning. Gauzy clouds hung low in the blue sky. The rows of eucalyptus trees planted as windbreaksdecades ago bordered the fields geometrically and reached up to touch that sky. Whenever he glancedacross the field Maddie was busy wielding a hoe between bean rows. He never saw her take a break;she seemed determined to complete the job. He wished he could say the same for his own crew. Jiangand Lao Chu were working, but there was no end to Pete and Daves goofing off. They had no conceptof pulling their own weight. They hit the water jug at every turn in the field. When harvest time rolledaround things were not going to be easy. At lunchtime they stopped to pick up Maddie and drove back to the station. They sat on the grassunder the shade of the tall trees to eat. Jiang and Lao Chu gravitated to their own spot, while Pete andDave chose another tree. This left John to keep Maddie company. There was a comfortable silence
  25. 25. between them, of two people who had worked and sweated all morning and were pausing for adeserved rest. He saw, out of the corner of his eye, the fat black ant crawling up the blade of grass. Maddie‘s legwas resting on the ground. That bare expanse, from her khaki shorts down to her boots, wasvulnerable. He‘d never known workman‘s boots could look so sexy on a woman. It was the verycontrast of something feminine and something worn and rough. He spotted a second ant the samemoment she screeched. ―Oh! Ants! This place is crawling with them!‖ She searched the area around herself in a panic. ―Oh c‘mon! It‘s just one little ant.‖ ―Just one! There‘s tons of them!‖ ―That kind doesn‘t bite.‖ ―I don‘t care!‖ She jumped up, ―Do I have any on me?‖ she turned around slowly for inspection. ―No, you‘re all right,‖ he murmured, swallowing hard. ―Here! You can sit over here,‖ he movedover to make room beside him. She brought her backpack and sat with her back to the trunk of the tree. John was dealing with his emotions and would have been content to continue in this quiet vein,except for the fact that Pete and Dave were laughing at some joke. He wasn‘t sure what they weretalking about but he didn‘t want to run the risk of her overhearing them. "So, how are you getting along in Andersons class?" he asked. "Oh, all right," Maddie replied. "Weve formed a study group. Lisa, Emily Mbasa, Alex Vieira,Said Farhadi and myself." "For what purpose exactly?" he asked, taking a sip from his can. Maddie looked up, puzzled. "To review the material, quiz each other, help each other over therough spots. That kind of thing.‖ ―I see.‖ Maddie now frowned. ―Havent you ever participated in a study group?" "Nope," he replied. "Cant say I ever felt the need." Maddie stared open-mouthed. He‘d never felt the need, he said. It was a remark that made herlaunch into a diatribe of justification. ―Well, its not just about what you can get, you know; sometimesits about what you can give. I mean, some of these foreign students are still really struggling with thelanguage barrier; but beyond that they‘re brilliant. Theyre the cream of the crop, so to speak, in theirown country. They have to be, to be sent over here."
  26. 26. She realized shed digressed and gotten preachy. "Anyhow," she continued, "I find that poolingresources with other people is really helpful. It saves time and is actually quite productive.‖ He was silent. It was like an unspoken challenge. How could he be so individualistic as to neverhave needed a study group? And why did he sit there so placidly sipping his pop, not even taking thetrouble to defend his point of view. ―Oh, these ants!" She slapped her leg in frustration and then moved her backpack. ―Where?‖ he asked. ―On the grass! Can‘t you see them?‖ ―No. I don‘t see them.‖ He seemed amused. She shoved her lunch things into her backpack and got up, stomping. ―I‘m going to freshen upbefore we go back out,‖ she said, and headed for the inside of the station. As she walked into the building Maddie was still wrestling with the conversation. "For whatpurpose?" he had asked. For survival, of course! Didnt everybody need all the help they could get tomake it through graduate school? She felt a prickle of annoyance. That was the thing about these whiteguys that always puzzled her. They appeared never to doubt their own abilities. And they seemed toexpect to be at the high end of the bell curve. No crippling self-doubt, no question of whether theywere entitled to be here. Just arrogance and individualism come hell or high water. John didn‘t evenseem to be aware of the conflict in their ideologies. Besides which, he was too good looking forcomfort. She had always been suspicious of guys who looked too good. Back at her bean plots Maddie tried frantically to finish her weeding. Her right arm ached fromrepeating the same movement over and over, so she switched the hoe to the left hand. This provedawkward so pretty soon she was back to the right hand again. By two oclock she was able to put down the hoe to begin surveying her plots for severity ofdisease infection. She needed to take notes on bacterial blightvii and BCMVviii. It would be veryconfusing to attempt to rate both diseases at the same time, so she started with bacterial blight. Eachrow was numbered both in the field and in the field book, as she surveyed each row she wrote down aranking from 1 to 5. It was really a two-person job, one for taking notes while the other one examinedthe plants and called out the ratings. If she had been able to come up with Dr. Gates‘ crew earlier in theweek she would have had a partner to get the job done. Maddie looked repeatedly at her watch; time seemed to evaporate in the heat of the afternoon. Sheworked at a steady pace but her mind also sifted through other issues. Disease resistance rating was asubjective skill developed through experience; and she was proud of having learned that skill from
  27. 27. masters. She had fond memories of old Dr. Maurice and the whole bean crew at MSU. In fact, shewould not have said it to anyone here, but she was homesick. A whole summer had not been longenough to make the adjustment from her friendly alma mater to the impersonal atmosphere of UW.She remembered wistfully the coffee hour in Ag Hall, where the professors all sat around the tabletelling jokes and grad students drifted in and out to chew the fat. Another neat memory was theHorticulture Garden right behind Ag Hall, planted with dozens of varieties of roses, oodles of differentshades of begonias and cascades of multicolored azaleas. A place where one could go lie on the grassat lunchtime and sunbathe. The UW-Madison campus was beautiful in its own way, and the school had a reputation thatranked it with the Ivy League universities. But the department was not yet a comfortable place to be.One reason was the lack of female faculty members. Also, there were relatively few women gradstudents and there were absolutely no African Americans anywhere--among the faculty, staff orgraduate student body. Maddie sometimes felt that she was an alien among earthlings. She felt that allday she had to speak a foreign language and live up to a male code of behavior. Last weeks research group meeting had been acutely uncomfortable when she had said she had―an intuitive hunch‖ about something in her experiment. Dr. Gates said, ―Science is conducted on factsand empirical observations. Not on intuition.‖ How could she stand up in front of that group and explain the part that intuition had always playedin her decisions; how it guided her to develop experimental hypotheses which could be tested; how itinfluenced her view of agriculture as an interconnected system of plants, insects and pathogens; howshe felt that hormones and metabolites never operated in a metabolic vacuum, but rather, in a complexbalance which affected the growth and yield of a plant. No—it would be impossible to tell them. Shewould be considered flaky, and would lose her credibility. All the time she was walking a tight rope. She was startled out of her introspection by a voice. "Hows it going there?" She looked up to find John. "Oh, is it time to go already? My goodness, I cant believe—" "Relax, relax,‖ he said. ―Weve still got another, oh…‖ he looked at his watch, ―half hour. Theguys are finishing up and then theyre going to load up the van. I just came over to see if there‘sanything I can help you with." She stared for a split second. His T-shirt was stained with sweat, he looked sunburned, she feltsure he would have preferred to sit out and rest if he had some extra time on his hands. "Thanks,‖ she said. ―You could help me by taking notes. If youre sure?" she added.
  28. 28. "Yeah. Im sure," he said, taking the field book and pencil from her hands. She pointed over hisarm to the column for the BCMV rating, unwittingly touching him in the process. She thought she heard him murmur something under his breath. "Excuse me?" Maddie glanced back, "Did you say something?" "Oh no. No." He shook his head. She was puzzled. She walked slowly up and down rows, reading off row numbers, pausing, bending down toexamine plants, calling out the ratings. At five oclock they were finished, and Maddie flashed him agrateful smile. "I would never have finished if you hadnt come along," she said. ―It would have taken me threetimes as long to do it by myself. Thank you!‖ For a moment he looked like a schoolboy, who had been given a treat for good behavior. "Dont sweat it," he replied, his manner gruff. He cleared his throat and glanced across the field."Here they come," he motioned to the van heading their way. When the van pulled up they jumped in and headed back to the station to hit the rest-rooms beforetaking to the road. Maddie washed her face and arms, trying to get off some of the grime, thatunpleasant mixture of sweat and dust. She looked at herself in the mirror, her color was high and hertank top was wet and streaked. She took it off and used it to wipe her face and arms, but it was nocomfort. The longing for a shower was acute. She fished in her backpack for her reserve shirt. As they all assembled outside again the same seating arrangement ensued as in the morning, withMaddie and John still slotted for the front seat. "Aw c‘mon," John pleaded with the two in the middle seat, "One of you guys can drive back, youboth have drivers licenses." "No way, man" Dave said, "I need to catch some Zs." John looked in appeal at Pete, who responded by pulling his cap down over his eyes and settlingagainst the window for a nap. He didn‘t ask the foreign students; perhaps they didn‘t have Americanlicenses. At that moment Maddie sensed a weariness in John. Underneath the irritation he tried not toshow she detected a streak of exhaustion. As he turned resignedly toward the drivers seat, she wasstruck by the unfairness of the situation and the pettiness of his co-workers. He seemed so much moremature than the others. "I can drive back," she offered. John hesitated for a moment; ―That‘s okay,‖ he said.
  29. 29. "I have a drivers license too, you know.‖ She stressed the point. ―And Im not a bad driver." shesaid. "Well, okay, here you go.‖ He handed her the keys. ―Thanks.‖ Maddie got in and turned on the ignition. Slowly, she maneuvered the van out of the station. Asthey picked up speed her nose began to wrinkle at the thickness of the body odor in the van. A bunchof stinky, dusty guys, she thought. She smiled in the darkness as she drove the van full of sleeping menback to Madison. Would you look at this? Now, which sex would you say has greater endurance,Maddie Hawkins? She glanced over at a sleeping John, leaning his head against the window, his cap falling in hisface, his arms crossed over his chest. He looked quite harmless like that. *** Maddie sat across the wide desk from the gray haired man and looked around Dr. Gates‘ office,trying to familiarize herself with it. The walls were lined with tall shelves filled with boxes of reprintsof published papers. She knew he had co-authored hundreds of them over a thirty year span. She hadasked to meet with Dr. Gates because she didn‘t know what to do next. Time was ticking, they werewell into the semester, and despite endless hours spent working on the harvest, she wasn‘t clear whather research priorities were supposed to be. She kept hoping he would clarify things but he neverseemed to have time. After waiting a whole week for an appointment, Dr. Gates had managed tosqueeze her in at eight o‘clock on Friday morning, before his nine o‘clock lecture. He arrived fifteen minutes late, and then proceeded to make a phone call to the departmentalsecretary, with some lengthy instructions on a manuscript to be finalized. Maddie just knew they weregoing to run out of time, before she could get what she had come for. She shifted her feet under the seat, and then crossed her ankles to keep them still. She lookedthrough her field book for the umpteenth time and then realized it was unnecessary, she kneweverything in there. ―What was on your mind then, Maddie?‖ Dr. Gates asked. She tried to discipline herself to speak coherently and concisely. Without ―feelings.‖ Although shehad been at UW several months she did not feel she knew this man at all. He didn‘t have a verydemonstrative personality.
  30. 30. ―Well, Dr. Gates, I was hoping we could outline my research project further.‖ She still used theformal address because he had not yet given her permission to address him by his first name. Shewondered how some of the other graduate students did it, was the liberty just taken or was it given? "At this point how many diseases do you have data on, Maddie?" he asked. "I tried to screen for eight, but I really think I have good data for only five. In the case of whitemoldix and powdery mildewx there was no real infection in the field this summer so it was hard to ratethe different lines." She leafed through the fieldbook as she spoke, but it was awkward to show himanything across the wide desk. "And in the case of Ascochytaxi I didnt really know what I was looking for. So, that was a bust."She was slightly embarrassed at the admission. "But you think you have good enough data on the others?" "Yes, I think so." "What diseases did you end up with then?" "Well, I have data on bacterial blight, BCMV, anthracnosexii, bean pod lesionxiii and rusty leafspotxiv." "Very well. I would say that phase of the work was completed well. Now we must proceed to thenext step. As I told you Maddie, when you first arrived, we are interested in correlating the seedproteins of these newly discovered wild linesxv with the high levels of resistance to certain diseases." "Yes, Dr. Gates, I remember our earlier discussions.‖ She hadn‘t been asleep altogether. ―WhatIve been wondering about though, is this: arent most of the diseases were looking at manifested in theleaf stage?" "Yes." "Why then, are we looking at proteins in the seed? Wouldnt… it be more logical to look for aresistance compound in the leaves?" "Ah. Im glad to see youve been thinking. In looking for a correlation here, we are not trying toidentify the compound that confers resistance." "Were not?" She scrunched her forehead. "No. We are simply looking for a clue that will indicate which lines have that resistance. We callthat a markerxvi." Maddie frowned. Goodness, she knew what a marker was. "But why dont we grind up the leavesinstead of the seeds?‖ she asked.
  31. 31. ―Because we can scrape just enough powder off the seed to assay without damaging the embryo.We make an extract of that, run it through electrophoresisxvii, which separates out the proteins based ontheir size…" "Yes, I know, the electrical charge of a protein is proportional to its molecular weight." Shewished he would speed up. "Correct. Now, the fact that we have not damaged the embryo means that we can go on to plantthat seed, once we know it has the desired marker, and grow it into a plant that we can cross." "Okay, so you dont have to wait to test something in the field, you can just assay it in the lab." "Yes, you‘re beginning to see the possibilities." "Uh-hum. Now I really have a lot of questions." "Go ahead." He looked at his watch. Some of her questions she could voice, others she couldn‘t. She knew he wasn‘t inviting anyconfidences, only the facts. She couldn‘t ask him, for instance, ―How do you balance everythingyou‘re supposed to do?‖ or ―How do you survive your first semester of your Ph.D.?‖ The light from the window behind his head was glaring, giving her the beginnings of a headache,but she focused on the task at hand. She knew her time was running out. "Is our next step to try and transfer this resistance from the wild to cultivated bean lines?" "Yes." "So…if I cross a wild line and a cultivated one, then I would use this screening technique toidentify those seeds with the right protein band, and that should also give us the resistance?" "If!‖ He raised his index finger in a sign of caution and then repeated, ―if it was a good markerthere would be a high correlation." "So then we can breed for resistance without having identified the compound responsible." Thatwas a light bulb. "Exactly. Its done all the time." "What if we want to identify the compound?" "Well, if you want to pursue that you can, perhaps with assistance from a lab in the Biochemistrydepartment, but first we have to make sure that the transfer is stable." "What do you mean?" "If we transfer the protein band but the resistance doesn‘t come along with it, then theres no usetrying to use this screening method to breed resistant lines.‖ ―Oh! Okay, I see,‖ she nodded.
  32. 32. ―Now, since we only want to transfer those genes for disease resistance and not bring a whole lotof other garbage with them, you have to keep crossing back to the cultivated line." Maddie looked up from her hurried note taking. "Backcrossingxviii," she said. "Yes, I estimate four or five backcrossesxix would be needed to eliminate most of the undesirablewild line genes." "But I can only get in two generations between now and next summer, even if I grow themcontinuously in the greenhouse," she said. "Thats true Maddie, but you can screen them in the field again next summer, select the best onesand then continue on during the next year, if its still necessary.‖ By selection she would greatly increase her chances of getting only desirable traits. ―You can select for the best yielding lines and get rid of the late maturity problems that usuallycome with using wild material,‖ he continued. Maddie was nodding her head. "Then it seems my first priority is to learn how to do theelectrophoresis," she said, tentatively. ―Yes,‖ he agreed. ―It‘s easy. One of the other students can show you how.‖ Maddie doubted it would be as easy as he promised. ―And…and after I screen the lines, I shouldplant them out in the greenhouse?‖ ―That‘s right. Edgar will give you a bench.‖ Maddie left Dr. Gates office with a full-blown headache. She was wondering how she would beable to get everything done that needed to be done, and in a timely fashion. She stopped by AlexVieiras desk. She might as well get started. "Alex, I have a favor to ask." "Sure, what can I help you with," he replied, in his Brazilian accented English. "Youve been running some electrophoresis gels, right? Can you show me how the procedure isdone?" "Yeah, I can show you. I am going to run some tonight, you can watch me, okay?" She didnt let on that tonight was not the best time. After all, beggars couldnt be choosers. If hewas willing to show her how to run the procedure she would have to jump at it. But it meant that afterthe lab run she would probably have to pull an all-nighter to get the assignment for Plant Genetics donein time for tomorrows class.
  33. 33. She met Alex in the lab at seven p.m. Apparently, he always went home to married studenthousing to have dinner. ―If I don‘t go - I don‘t see my kids,‖ he said, with a smile. ―So, dinner time is,how you say, sagrada, sacred!‖ ―Sure. I admire that, that you take time out. It must be pretty hard to be a graduate student with afamily.‖ Like many such foreign students, however, Alex was graced with a wife who saw to all thedetails of their childrens lives. Maddie had met the vivacious Maria Elena and liked her a lot. "Did you read the manuals I gave to you?" Alex asked. Maddie nodded. She had pored over them for the last two hours. ―Yeah, I took notes. I‘m lucky tohave someone to walk me through the process, it seems really involved.‖ "Well, what we do here is old fashioned way," Alex said. "What do you mean?" "Well, I think they developed some new techniques, but we still have old glass plates, we have tomake everything from, how you say—scratch." Alex said. Maddie made a mental note that there was an easier way to do this. The process of making the agar gels was an extremely tricky one. She had botched her ownattempt and from then on had let Alex take over and had simply watched. She felt guilty for the delayshe had caused him. Around twelve oclock they finished loading the protein extracts, and Maddie waswondering how much longer the rest of the process would take. It seemed interminable. To herextreme relief, Alex said they could run the gel overnight and come back in the morning to continuethe procedure. After thanking Alex she went back to the office to stare at the computer screen and try to write upher paper for Plant Genetics. She was now asking herself how she could have left it to the eleventhhour. It wasnt like her. But then, she had tried to advance the readings and make an outline, doing alittle at a time, fitting it in between other commitments. But it had gotten away from her. The semesterhad swiftly gathered momentum and now seemed to be spinning out of control. Now she waswondering how she was going to do it. She was wondering how everybody else did it. Nobodycomplained, everybody seemed to be handling it, except her. Watch it, Maddie. She shook her head to clear away the demoralizing thoughts. It was late. Herperceptions were distorted by exhaustion. Her back was aching, her shoulder muscles stinging. She gotup to see about making herself a cup of coffee at the counter. She wasnt generally a coffee drinker butshe knew she couldnt get through this particular night without some.
  34. 34. When people started arriving at the office at eight o‘clock in the morning Maddie was putting thefinishing touches on her bibliography. She really didnt know if her paper was coherent, but it waswritten. She felt a little numb. "Hi, Maddie, youre in early," Saíd Farhadi commented. ―Yeah.‖ She didn‘t challenge his assumption because she didnt feel like broadcasting the fact thatshe had pulled an all-nighter to get her paper done. Somehow, it felt more like a failure than a victory.She should have been more organized. In Dr. Anderson‘s class that morning the discussion was about the paper. Maddie sat in the back ofthe class and watched the proceedings. She found that she wasnt entirely clueless, but as usual, kepther thoughts to herself unless called upon. One student seemed to shine in the discussion, however, andthat was John Pitts. When Dr. Anderson asked for an analysis of the relevance of the papers topic tofuture research, most students had grown silent and only John volunteered an opinion. From there, heand Dr. Anderson appeared engaged in a private dialogue, to which the rest of the students were merespectators. Maddie thought back to the conversation she had had with John about study groups. Shebegan to understand his never having had a need for one. She didnt hold it against him anymore. But itunderscored her own sense of inadequacy all the more. Maddie spent every free moment during the next forty-eight hours shadowing Alex Vieiras labrun. After that she attempted her own trial run. Dr. Gates had said it should only take her a few days tolearn the procedure. But at the end of a highly frustrating week Maddie was still trying. She was mad.At herself, for her own clumsiness; at Dr. Gates, for saying the process was easy; she wondered whenhe had last set foot in the lab. And she was mad at the world, because everything was closing in on her. At the end of a second week she concluded her first electrophoresis run and realized it would takeher weeks to complete the process of screening all her seeds. She decided she couldn‘t wait for thefinal information before planting out her lines in the greenhouse. She would simply plant all sixty-seven lines. They could be growing while she did the lab work, she would make cross-pollinations andlater eliminate whatever lines were not relevant, harvesting the resulting seeds. Then she would screenthem again, and again plant out the selected lines over winter semester in order to have enough seedfor her field experiments next summer. Timing was everything. If she took too long with any stage ofthe process, her field experiment next summer could be jeopardized. Loss of a growing season wasunthinkable; a graduate student could add a year to his or her Ph.D. with such bungling. No—she hadto plant the seeds now!
  35. 35. She went to the Walnut Street complex, a huge conglomerate of greenhouses, to set up theplanting. When she walked into the greenhouse complex, with its faint odor of Malathion and sterilizedsoil, saw its newly washed benches, she felt at home. She had to haggle with Edgar, though. "I dont have any more greenhouse space," he said. "Youre supposed to reserve your space at thebeginning of the semester." "Im sorry, I didnt know that, Dr. Gates didnt tell me about that procedure," she said, invoking Dr.Gates‘ name in the hopes that higher authority would induce him to try to accommodate her. "Well, it‘s gonna be difficult to find space," he said. "Come by tomorrow and Ill see what I cando." ―Tomorrow?‖ She knew of at least one bench in the four greenhouses owned by Dr. Gates projectthat was only half-covered with potted plants. She wasn‘t willing to lose a whole day, she had a chunk of time now, and she had to make the bestpossible use of it. "If theres something I can help you with, some stuff that needs to be moved, I cando it now. Put me to work," she said, making a direct offer. He shrugged. ―Suit yourself.‖ After clearing the bench, she hauled clay pots down to the soil bins at the entrance to the complexand filled them with sterilized soil. She lost track of how many trips she made back and forth. She waspulling a flatcar of soil-filled pots up the central corridor, back to greenhouse 44 when she heard afamiliar voice. "Whoa!" John Pitts exclaimed, as he caught a pot about to fall off the flatcar. "Hi, there," he said, flashing that smile as he handed her back the pot. How long had he been walking behind her? She hadnt heard anyone. "Thanks," she murmured, brushing a wisp of stray hair behind her ear. You got on your dirty graysweats and youre dropping your pots, Maddie. John reached out a hand to her face. She jerked her head back out of instinct. ―Dirt smudge on your cheek,‖ he said, and then dropped his hand, apparently realizing that to rubit off would definitely be politically incorrect. "Hows it going?" he asked while she rubbed her face. "Oh, its going great, just great!" she said. She was tugging the cart while walking backwards, so she could face him. It was awkward. ―Here,let me help you with that.‖ He reached out for the handle. ―No! I can do it!‖ she hastened to say, just as his hand closed over hers.
  36. 36. ―Sorry, I forgot!‖ John lifted his hand off the handle. ―What?‖ ―You‘re Miss Independence.‖ ―I am not!‖ she bristled. ―You‘re not?‖ he lifted an eyebrow. Maddie spluttered. ―Oh, you‘re bad!‖ she smiled. He seemed to be satisfied with her reaction. "You guys gonna be done with your harvest soon?" heasked. "Well, yeah, weve got most everything out of the field, but then we have to do all the threshing,so I think well be going up to Hancock for another good month." Did it sound like she wascomplaining? She didnt want to come off like a whiner. "Well, you guys are ahead of us then. If we get everything out before the first snow well belucky." "Well, good luck to both of us," she said, as a parting comment. He held open the door togreenhouse 44 while she awkwardly maneuvered the cart inside. Luck! She needed much more than luck. Harvest of Dr. Gates project, for which graduate students were expected to provide free labor, wastaking too much of her time, her seminar was coming up, and midterms were almost upon her. Her laband greenhouse work had to be squeezed into the dawn hours or the late hours of the day. If only shecould get the lab tests done in time, she would be able to cut down greatly on the number of crossesshe had to make when the plants flowered. But they would begin flowering in four weeks, and she stillhad weeks of lab work to get done. Dear God, just let me get through this semester, she prayed.
  37. 37. Chapter 3 Then he came to a garden wall, and with untold pain he scaled it, for it proved very high… The Seven Valleys ―Hello? Hi, this is Maddie Hawkins. Can I speak to Jimmy?‖ ―Uh…he‘s out right now, can I take a message?‖ The voice on the other end sounded sleepy.Maddie looked at her watch. No wonder, it was still eight in the morning. She remembered being anundergrad herself; if you didn‘t have an early class you slept in as late as you could. ―Could you tell him his tutor called? I‘ve got to re-schedule our session. I got too much going onthis week. Tell him to call me, okay?‖ ―Sure thing.‖ The phone clicked. Maddie had a twinge of guilt. Maybe she shouldn‘t cancel out.Jimmy needed help as bad as she did. ―Who was that?‖ Lisa asked from behind her. ―Oh, there you are. I didn‘t know you‘d snuck up behind me. It was…it was some kid. Actually,it‘s the roommate of the kid I tutor.‖ ―Tutor? When did this happen?‖ ―When you weren‘t looking.‖ Maddie smiled. ―Way back in the beginning of the semester I askedat the Minorities Office and they gave me two students.‖ ―Really? What exactly do you tutor?‖ ―Organic Chemistry. Calculus.‖ ―Both kids?‖ ―No. Dawn‘s a pre-med sophomore. I see her once a week for Organic. And Jimmy, I help himwith Calculus. He wants to be an engineer. He‘s the one I was calling. Feel really cruddy canceling outon him.‖ ―Maddie, I don‘t know where you find the time to do this, with the schedule we‘ve got.‖
  38. 38. ―Yeah. I don‘t either. But it‘s real important. Jimmy could lose his basketball scholarship if hedoesn‘t keep up his average. And that‘s his ticket, you know.‖ ―Wait. Is he the really tall one? I‘ve seen him around the halls. He‘s cute!!‖ ―Yep. He‘s full of attitude, too. But underneath he‘s real sweet.‖ ―Cool.‖ Lisa turned to go. ―Maddie, study group tonight. Don‘t forget.‖ ―Okay,‖ she had already drifted back to Jimmy. Jimmy Tyson had landed a Wisconsin athletic scholarship after a career as a popular high schoolbasketball star. His grades had been good enough to get him into the engineering program but sincehed arrived hed had trouble keeping up. He was scared, Maddie could tell. He wasnt about to admit it,though. It had taken a lot of effort on Maddies part to break through all his cockiness. He told herabout the grueling practice schedule, with so many away games on weekends. How it was putting aserious dent in his academics. All the coach wanted was the points he scored. All his professors caredabout were the grades. He didn‘t know what he was doing here. He was sure he wasn‘t going to makeit. Maddie felt her first job was to assure him that he could make it. Although he was obviouslybright, his fear was having such a paralyzing effect he was freezing up during his exams. She hadworked with him throughout the semester, meeting every week to coach him. But for now, she had to focus on her own problems; she‘d have to resume her meetings with himthe week after midterms were over. Maddie met Lisa again in the hallway that evening, hurrying down to room 312 for the studygroup meeting. They passed one closed office door after another, their dark wood archways somberwith decades of old history. "Did you study?" Lisa asked. "Barely. Between the harvest and the greenhouse and the lab work, Ive been running myselfragged.‖ She faked being out of breath. ―I can barely keep up with the reading assignments. How areyou doing?" "Me? Well, I havent kept up with the reading. Im at least a hundred pages behind in PlantGenetics and the last two chapters of Quantitative Genetics I havent even looked at," Lisa stated. Maddie looked at her, wondering how come she was so unflappable. She would have been pullingher hair out if she had been a hundred pages behind.
  39. 39. "Yes, but Lisa, at least you get the stuff. You have a feel for that quantitative theory. That stuff isso hard for me. I tell you, I read the chapters and it‘s all a blur to me. I cant believe we have a midtermin four days. I feel like I dont know anything." "Eh! Dont worry your pooorr head so much missy, you‘ll give yerself a brain fever,‖ Lisamimicked. ―Well pound it into that thick head of yours." She reached up to tap the much taller Maddieon the head. Maddie swatted her arm away. "God, Lisa, youre so laid back. I wish I were more like you,"Maddie sighed, wishing she weren‘t the kind of person to sleep and wake with her stress, alwaysforming knots in her stomach. They reached room 312 and found that in addition to the regulars, a few more faces were present.Apparently, the word had gotten out about their study group and the desperates were congregating. For the next several hours Maddie fluctuated between feelings of relief and exasperation. At timessome person was able to shed light on a problem; at others, the general confusion and ignorance wereenough to make her despair. Around ten-thirty her concentration was vaguely disturbed by the sight ofJohn Pitts getting a drink from the water fountain in front of the doorway. She thought wistfully of hislack of need for study groups. *** John had noticed Maddie standing at the blackboard in the corner classroom when he was comingdown the hallway. His curiosity was peaked; she seemed to be explaining something to someone in theroom. When he neared the open doorway he saw a bunch of other people in the room, engaged in aheated debate. He lowered his head over the water fountain and perked up his ears. What impressedhim was that some of the voices were those of foreign students he had always regarded as very quietand reserved. It surprised him that an Indonesian female could be argumentative, that those quietAfrican students were raising their voices. He wondered why he had never seen this side of thembefore. Was there something about Maddie that brought them out? And was there something in hisbehavior that precluded that kind of familiarity? He was so curious about the proceedings he almost turned on his heels and went back to the room.But then what would he do? Theyd all probably look at him like he was crashing a party. He had toadmit to himself, he had never really made personal friends among the foreign students. He just
  40. 40. worked with them, assumed they had their own circle and left it at that. Maybe his own expectations,or lack thereof, had something to do with what side of them he saw. The week that followed was a crazy marathon. Maddie took the test in Quantitative Genetics onMonday afternoon and felt awful when she walked out. Then she crammed all night for another examon Tuesday. The depth of content covered in the courses was mammoth, so she developed a method ofdistilling it all down to a very highly concentrated substance. She took a single note card and in thesmallest possible handwriting proceeded to fill up both sides with a summary of everything in thecourse. When she was done she had a ―cheat sheet‖ which of course she would never use for thatpurpose. The beauty of the method was that once she summarized the material down to such a degree itacted as a photographic image in her memory. She had another exam on Thursday. Meantime she had to balance her own research with projectwork. She was a circus artist carrying a pole, sitting on a unicycle on top of a high wire. When she finished her midterms and thought she could let up the pace she realized with fullcrashing panic that her graduate seminar presentation was less than two weeks away and that she hadno more than a sketchy outline of the topic. What had happened? It had been a month away last timeshe looked. She spent every free moment at Steenbok Agricultural Library researching her topic and trying todevelop a coherent presentation. In her zeal, she over-shot the mark. She ended up with more materialthan she could possibly present in two hours, much less in the allotted twenty minutes. Throughout the process, however, she had to fight the mixture of fear and excitement she felt atthe prospect of facing the department with her presentation. At times the fear was so palpable as tovirtually render her insensible. The panic rose in her throat. It was only by a combined process oftaking deep breaths and administering verbal self-admonitions that she was able to calm herself andkeep moving forward. Six days of this routine led her into an even greater challenge; that of having to learn how to shootand develop her own acetate slidesxx for the presentation. What made this project more complicatedwas that the keeper of the knowledge she so desperately needed was Edgar Simms. When she went to his office for help with the procedure he was unenthusiastic. "You want me toshow you how to do slides? Now? Its Thursday afternoon, tomorrows Friday!" he added for doubleemphasis, leaning back in his swivel chair. "So?" Maddie didn‘t get it.
  41. 41. "Im not coming in here on the weekend," he stated. "Okay, Edgar. I just…want to know where the materials are kept," she spoke slowly, calmly. "Iftheres a set of instructions I can use them too." Shed be dammed if she would let him put her off untilMonday. What if the first set didnt work and she had to do them over? She was running out of time. He seemed to recapitulate somewhat at this point and said, "Be here first thing in the morning. Illget you started." She thanked him and walked away, thinking tomorrow was better than nothing, even though shewould be losing a whole night. She had a nagging uneasiness, which she couldn‘t quite put her fingeron, but it had to do with his habitual unwillingness to help her. It was part of his job to manage andallocate project resources for Dr. Gates. Did he treat all the graduate students with the same ill will, orwas it just her? He had said "first thing in the morning," which was rather vague, but she didnt want to give himany cause to default on his promise so she came in at seven a.m. At nine oclock he walked into hisoffice and when Maddie reminded him he got up without comment and went to the lab down the hall.She grabbed her notebook and ran after him. His instructions were sketchy but Maddie was determined to try the process and see what wouldhappen. She had never been handy or particularly mechanically inclined, but she was meticulous infollowing recipes and instructions. She worked non-stop on the process over the weekend, and whenshe finally held the blue slides up to the light she thought she had some acceptable results. On Monday morning she and Lisa went down to the little auditorium and put the slides into theprojector. "Oh no!" she gasped as she clicked on the first slide. "Its too blurry to read!" "Yeah, that one is pretty bad," Lisa agreed. "Lets see the other ones." "Oh my God, theyre all like that! Theyre unreadable!" Maddie wailed, as she clicked on one slideafter another. "What am I gonna do?" she said, turning to Lisa. "Maddie, why dont you just do overheads? I used them in my seminar last semester," Lisaoffered. Maddie‘s perfectionism reared its ugly head. "Oh! Im not gonna give up now. No way. Ill justhave to shoot them over again." "What if you make the same mistake?" Lisa asked. "Ill just have to ask someone what I did wrong." "Why dont you ask John? He makes them for Dr. Pinkerton‘s talks. In fact he promised he wouldteach me sometime," Lisa said.
  42. 42. Maddie found the prospect of asking John Pitts for help rather disturbing, but the alternative wasdemeaning. And she didnt feel like crawling back to Edgar. John said sure, he could show her right away. Lisa stuck around to watch. He gave Maddie somepointers on taking pictures with the mounted camera and then actually began shooting them for her.Maddie couldnt allow this. "No, you dont have to shoot them, Ill do it," she said, abruptly. She wasn‘tthe kind of woman who had to have a guy to change her tire. He looked up, puzzled. ―Suit yourself,‖ he said and backed out of the way. She began to take the pictures, bending over the mounted camera. ―Wait!‖ John intervened, ―Make sure you focus each shot. Even though it‘s mounted on the barthe camera jiggles.‖ ―Oh!‖ Maddie hastened to obey. ―Thanks,‖ she said, trying to make up for her earlier abruptness. ―Another thing. Make sure your text fills the frame. You don‘t want to have a lot of space aroundit. You want the words as large as possible. Here, let me see.‖ He bent over, looked in the camera andadjusted it downward somewhat. ―Here, look at that.‖ Maddie had to lean right into him to peer into the camera. ―See what I mean?‖ ―Oh, yeah. That‘s great.‖ Now why couldn‘t Edgar have told her all that stuff? ―Right. Just do them like that and you‘ll be fine.‖ He moved to leave. ―Wait! I mean…can you spare a few more minutes?‖ ―Sure. Do you want me to show you how to develop?" ―I…could you review the steps in the process? Maybe I screwed up there, too.‖ ―Okay, tell me what you did.‖ As she went over the process, it turned out she had done that part right, and so it was just a matterof taking good pictures. ―Call me if you need me,‖ he said on his way out. ―I‘ll be here till late.‖ After he left, Maddie turned to Lisa. ―Gosh, am I glad you talked me into asking him for help.‖She was so grateful she had almost choked up. He had made it so easy, so matter of fact. She didn‘tfeel stupid or humiliated when he helped her. It wasn‘t like asking Edgar for something. Not at all. With dogged determination Maddie began the painstaking process of re-shooting the whole role offilm. By Wednesday afternoon, at which time she was reduced to whispering prayers under her breath,she found that she had a set of usable slides.
  43. 43. But when she began to practice her talk she discovered, to her dismay, that it was running fortyfive minutes in length. Two other students had to make their presentations during that hour so her talkcould not go over the allotted time. But all her rigorous efforts, in the end, only whittled the talk downto thirty minutes. She entered the auditorium on Friday conscious of a need to rush through her material and withvery little confidence in her ability to keep it down to twenty minutes. She scanned the audience asthey came in the back of the room and walked down the steps toward the front. Cup of coffee in hand,Dr. Ellison walked in, trailed by his graduate students. Dr. Pinkerton yelled out a question to Dr.Carothers, across the auditorium, about whether he was having a tailgate party that weekend. Dr.Marcia Dobson was sitting in the back row. The Bean Group was in the fourth row, so she felt somesupport from that quarter. John Pitts and his group were on the right hand side. Dr. Gates hadn‘tarrived yet. Like a child, she kept turning back to the door to watch for his entrance. But he nevercame. She had chosen to wear a dark suit coat over slacks; it was a dress-down compromise. If she hadallowed herself to look her best she would have worn a nice skirt and suit coat, in a happy color. Butno one ever dressed up in this department; she would have called attention to herself by the oddity ofsuch behavior. Even so, Lisa had said she looked okay; "scrumptious" was the word she had used. From the moment Dr. Castle introduced her she felt like a racehorse let out of the gate. She taggedone sentence onto the next, one slide at a time, keeping the pointer handy, projecting her voice to theback row. She felt it all come out as the exhalation of a single breath. Before she knew it, she had reached the end and was asking the audience if there were anyquestions. Her adrenaline had carried her thus far and it was only at this point that she was consciousof a little prick of fear, and a hope that there wouldn‘t be any questions, or that at least she would beable to answer the ones there were. Only four questions later, it was over and she felt slightly deflatedas she sat down to listen to the other presentations. Lisa squeezed her hand and whispered "Great job, Maddie!" "Really?" she whispered back. She had no idea how shed done. It was all a blur. One person in the audience had found particular pleasure in the presentation. It was John. He felthe had witnessed a commanding performance by someone with natural stage presence. Her choice ofsubject was somewhat unorthodox, though, at least in this setting. She was talking about theadvantages of multilinesxxi, in a country where pure linexxii varieties were the absolute state of affairs.
  44. 44. Big-money vegetable agriculture, which Wisconsin was famous for, did not consider multilines aviable alternative. Yet the research she presented, showing the advantages from the disease and insectresistance standpoints, was sound. She even had data showing that there could be actual yieldimprovements. Yet, he looked around at the audience and knew there were many who simplydismissed the topic as impractical. Somehow, this choice of presentation reinforced his view of her asan idealist. *** After the seminar Maddie went back to her lab work. It took her three weeks of running gelspractically every night in order to complete the process. On a gel, a column of stained protein bandsrepresented each of the wild beans. She had numbered every protein band on the gel from top tobottom just as one would number the lines on a piece of paper. Some lines showed blank spaces andother lines were filled by a stained protein band. The data for each of the wild varieties had beenentered in the computer as she got the gels done; each had a unique set of proteins. The question was,did the resistant ones all have a protein band in common? "Tonight‘s the night! Okay baby, now let‘s see what you got," she said to the empty computerroom. The blue screen lit up and Maddie entered the protein data into the computer. Next, she pulledup the file with the corresponding disease ratings for bacterial blight obtained over the summer, andbegan setting up the statistical analysis. "Please, give me a significant difference," she implored, crossing her fingers as the computercrunched the numbers. It was getting late and she wanted to have something to report at the researchgroup meeting tomorrow. She wanted to report some results! Preferably, that lines that contained acertain protein band had significantly higher resistance than the ones that didn‘t. When she heard the hum of the printer she jumped up, eager to scan the results one at a time,careful not to take her eyes off the printout. She took a deep breath, bracing herself. The numbers cameout drop by drop. At the end her hopes were dashed. There was no clear-cut relationship between anyof the 34 protein bands and resistance to bacterial blight. She tore the sheet off the digital printer and went over it again. "Nope, you cant say there‘s a significant difference there. The means are the same whether theprotein band is present or absent.‖ She sighed. ―Whatever the mechanism of resistance is, its definitelynot in these proteins."