The young doctor and the professor are on their way to Barbados aboard The St Christopher
| THE WAISTING OF TIME
On the evening of the eighth day at sea, the sun refused to leave the hemisphere because the day had been so perfect. So flawless was the previous twelve hours, it was as if she wanted to turn around and admire her spectral splendor. She rested on the horizon as gently as she could in order not to disturb the surface and conspired to utilize all of her solar potency to remain as buoyant as possible. Soon however, the horizon began to sag under the enormous weight, and the inferno, fearing that this particular sunset would be her last, decided to smear her signature of molten orange along the western sky; Just to inform those who had not known, that she had been responsible for that perfect day.
That night the professor and Dr William Sarsfield were invited to sit at the captain’s table for dinner, along with other members of the first class cabins. William fished a crumpled jacket from his suitcase and pretended it matched his trousers. Professor Cowdry on the other hand, had put together finely tailored black tie ensemble which made him look quite distinguished. He was in a good mood that evening, partly because of the incredible day and due also in part to the level of alcohol in his blood.
Dinner reservations were set for seven-thirty and by seven-ten they were both striding out of their suite towards the mezzanine deck. The Professor began humming a piece from Bach’s repertoire then held William’s arm and steered him to a set of stairs that would not have taken them to the dinner party.
“Bear with me for a few minutes William; I want to check on our precious cargo.”
“Again professor? This will be the third time today.”
“Ah yes, but the difference now is that you will be accompanying me. Come, let us go down to the cargo hold and I will show you something.”
The hum of the turbines grew louder as they descended to the holding deck. A sleepy guard waved them through into the bay without officially signing the entry log as he had become so accustomed to seeing him throughout the trip. He led William up to the right back corner where a grey tarpaulin was covering a large wooden crate raised but tethered about two feet off the floor. There were other wooden boxes under the tarp also, but the professor focussed his attention on the largest.
“This, William, what’s in this crate …..will change mankind forever. You may think I am an old and foolish man but that is alright with me. There are forces in this universe that you or I will never comprehend in a thousand lifetimes, but if we can make it so that we live two or even three lifetimes, think of what we can achieve.” Dreamed an excited professor. He drew back a corner of the tarp’ off the big crate and pounded on the side with his fist.
“So this is what all the fuss is about, eh professor?” teased William.
“Yes my boy.”
“So how does it work?”
“Every thing in its time William, but I can tell you the principal it’s based on.”
“Okay.” Said William playing along.
“Music.” Whispered the professor.
“That’s it, Music?”
“Lower your voice. Do you know what a fugue is William?......... It is a musical technique perfected by Johann Sebastian Bach in which a theme is stated then repeated with a counterpoint variance. The technique is clearly evident in many of his works that feature his ‘well tempered clavicle’. Essentially it is an intriguing alignment of opposing notes that produces a sort of counter current. This musical phenomenon started me thinking about a cellular model and I’ve been experimenting for decades with various physical forces that might mimic Bach. There are many components to this recliner William but I will tell you that the most successful technique so far has been the hot and cold micro coils of Freon that alternate in different directions when placed about the body. This is why your question about the necessity for systemic action of the agent at the lecture hall shocked me to the core. I’ve found that when the cells are intermittently subjected to precise alignment they have less need for repair and hence they live longer.”
William was truly enthralled with what the professor was saying. He listened with intent to the intricacies of the project that would become his own one day. He asked what was the function of two stainless steel capsule like compartments . The professor smiled and began his reply in a nearly inaudible tone until the guard dropped his clipboard and whipped them both back into present time. The professor fished for his waistcoat watch and exclaimed when he saw that it was seven-forty. He flipped back down the corner of the tarpaulin and ushered William out of the cargo hold. The guard was not behind his cage anymore and when the professor called to say he was going there was no response. Both figuring that the man had taken a bathroom break, they proceeded up the narrow stairs to the Captain’s dinner.
They both stood at the entrance of the officer’s recreation room in a line behind other invited guests. Each party was announced at the top of the short flight of stairs in a failed attempt to create an aristocratic air to the proceedings.
“Professor Cowdry and Dr. Sarsfield!” Snooted one of the crew to the room of well dressed passengers. A puff of applause rose and died just as quickly and both took their seats around the rectangular table. The six piece band was playing the Cole Porter tune ‘Just one of those things’ and a festive mood seemed to have also arrived at the gathering.
Captain Marchello Tornini was making his casual greetings to the invited guests. He smiled broadly and nodded with humility with his passengers and William thought that perhaps he himself should take a note from this Italian naval officer and be more patient with his co workers and staff. But when the captain moved closer and extended his arm to shake, he could not have been more disappointed in the brief contact. It was as if the captain’s hand was an octopus’s tentacle and he had seven more hidden beneath his clothing. So weak was his handshake William hoped that it did not confer actual personality traits into his captaincy of the Saint Christopher. He was once told by one of his medical school educators that the index of a man’s mettle could be decided on the strength of his hand shake, the standing distance between them and the number of times he blinked during the handshake. In William’s mind Captain Tornini had tabulated poorly in all three categories.
During the entrée of braised salmon with scalloped potatoes and artichokes William did not even mind the matchmaking attempts of the plump middle aged lady from Brisbane who thought her daughter would be a perfect for him. He kept smiling politely even after she handed him a recent photograph of the young lady. William’s kind and truthful comment to her was that she had certainly looked healthy, as he handed the picture back to the Australian woman.
William however, had his eye on the young French server who he observed was slightly more attentive to his needs than any of the other guests. He had first seen her as she performed her duties as chamber maid for his suite and as she echoed back and forth from the kitchen, she seemed to hover generally behind his chair or directly across from his seated position. He smiled at her furtive attempts to gaze at him and found her most appealing when she teased the lock of brown hair from before her eye to behind her ear. He beckoned her over on the pretense for filling his glass with water and when she leaned in, he asked her name and told her that if he could not dance with her now to this beautiful music then she should meet him at midnight on the rear deck to find out what made her so gorgeous.
“Please monsieur.” Said Elisa, “We are not allowed to be social with our guests.”
“I’ll see you at midnight Elisa.” Said William with a silly wink, ignoring her protest.
Some passengers that had finished their meal early had decided to accept the band leader’s invitation to dance on the floor just next to the banquet table. The music of ‘The entertainer’ had just started and a man immediately stood and pushed his chair with the back of his knees. He could not wait for his wife to join him as he began to dance alone on the floor. Some of the seated guests clapped at his enthusiasm for the music as he slapped at his chest and twisted to the rhythms. William too arose and joined him on the dance floor. He strode purposefully to the man then struck him hard in the chest! The man fell to the floor with his hands to his neck. The music continued, but a few of the guests saw the violence and stood in aghast shock. William picked the man up by his lapels and stood him up roughly. He looked directly into his eyeballs with a scowled face and swung him around to face the opposite direction. The melody by this time had become ragged as one by one of the players stopped performing from the music sheets before them.
The gentleman’s wife appealed to the captain for restraint from the ongoing assault. Elisa dropped the empty wine glass she was carrying and stood with her hands on both cheeks, while professor Cowdry remained seated and smiled.
William bear hugged the struggling helpless man who appeared not to want to fight anymore in this unfair, odd wrestle waltz. It seemed as if William wanted the man to stand up on his own and concede defeat in this one sided unprovoked act of violence. The man could hardly speak and looked unhealthily blue in the face from the anger he generated from his attacker. Then suddenly a sizable chunk of salmon sailed from his mouth fell onto the floor near to the feet of the choking man’s wife.
Captain Tornini had, by this time, left the head of the table and was spluttering orders in a dialect of Italian. It seemed he was saying to the gathering to give the man some air and that he would go and find some medical help for the passenger. He left the officer’s recreation room running.
The once choking man had now gained enough composure to stand and give thanks to William, although his wife was not convinced that the ‘ends’ of her husband’s returned respirations justified the ‘means’ of administration. Elisa brought over a glass of water and handed it to William. He smiled and was devilishly glad that she was there to witness the intervention. He took the glass from her and she swiped a lock of her hair behind her left ear.
At 12:35 AM, in the cool breeze off the rear deck, William realized that Elisa would not be meeting him and returned to his suite. The professor was still awake and from his open door he asked.
“I too find women who are chambermaids and waitresses very appealing. How was she?”
“Come on…. The little French maiden.”
“Oh fine fine ..she was …fine.” William lied.
“There is just something I find irresistible about the uniformed apron and women in the kitchen.” Babbled the professor for the next ten minutes. William was hardly listening to the ranting of his obtuse fantasy. He slept well despite the fact that the rendezvous did not occur. After all he had saved a life tonight.