tagMind ControlMy Only Talent Ch. 30

My Only Talent Ch. 30


Note: The descriptions and accounts in these stories are fictional and do not portray any actual people or events.


Oh, I Can't Go For That! No Can Do!

I wish I could say that I slept like a baby Sunday night after our second 'swap fest' (as Lara had dubbed them) with Suzanne at Günter and Strelsa's apartment. I was exhausted, and I certainly slept deeply, but that meant dreams. Not happy, puffy bouncy baby boy dreams, nor early adolescent flying dreams, but rather the disconcerting almost nightmares of a young man with some issues. In my dream, I was attending a big wedding. I wasn't really too clear on whose wedding it was, but it was a very big deal. Some of the details are easy for me to remember, but other seemingly important things didn't seem so important to me at the time.

It was a big wedding, Dallas daddy's money style, but it was in a small town in the middle of the US - Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska or somewhere like that. It was to be held at a big ugly concrete event center that usually housed cattle auctions, tractor pulls, and indoor flea markets. There were lots of bridesmaids and groomsmen, and I seemed to vaguely know all of them, but I didn't really seem to know who the bride and groom were. All of the people involved were staying in a Holiday Inn Express that was between an Interstate and the state highway to the airport. It didn't have its own restaurant or room service, but there was a Hardee's on one side and a Red Lobster on the other, spanning both the low and high ends of the town's available culinary spectrum. The local shopping mall was just a few hundred feet away, of course.

The mother of the bride looked just like one of the serving ladies at the Jester dining hall, but wearing clothes from Saks Fifth Avenue rather than her normal Dickies cotton twill work pants and a burnt orange knit cotton polo shirt. Her primary concern seemed to be with how to find enough decorators and florists to completely disguise the event center and make it look like a country club dining room. Secondary issues included finding rental chairs that didn't have chewing tobacco spittle or cow manure on the legs, and a band that could imitate the Lester Lanin Orchestra that had apparently played at her own wedding, many moons ago. She would have gladly paid the freight to get them here from New York, but the orchestra was already booked for the chosen wedding date that the groom's incredibly gauche family had insisted upon in this horrid little town.

She gave me instructions, in that impatient way that women who are only interested in talking about what they want usually do, on how to get to the tuxedo rental place in the mall. I started out the side door of the Holiday Inn Express, echoing her procedural directions in my memory: start at the mall entrance nearest the hotel, right past the pretzel place, left at the Sunglass Hut, then go past the (long closed) Waldenbooks and it's right there: Jim's Formal Wear. I wandered, distracted by the people watching opportunities. It wasn't quite as good as the Texas state fair, but it was pretty amazing. I spotted a JFW logo.

I approached the counter and gave my name to the gum chewing high school girl behind it. She consulted a printed list in a manila folder, and then cast a jaundiced eye at me, seeming to spend a lot of time looking at my ass. "These pre-orders are never right! Come over here a second, I need to measure you." She pointed to her right.

I stepped up onto a little six inch tall platform in front of an angled trio of mirrors, and she pulled a yellow cloth tape measure from her pocket and started with my chest, then my waist, and my hips. She snorted. Then she measured my inseam with particular care. "Gonna have to charge you more. You need different sizes of pants and coat."

She went into the back of the store and came back with an incredibly ugly powder blue tux on a hangar, put it up on the little chrome bar sticking up, and began to cover it with plastic from a roll attached to the counter. She looked back at the manila folder. "Looks like the bride's family is paying for it all so never mind."

I finally felt assertive. "I don't care who is paying, I'm not wearing that baby blue piece of shit!"

She crossed her arms in front of her and leaned toward me. "This is the only color for the wedding. That's what the lady wants, and that's what the lady gets!"

I turned on my heels and walked back out of the store, intent on reversing the steps that brought me here. I looked up to see that the mall was composed of three wings laid out in three different directions, and discovered that I could walk diagonally across the parking lot and directly back to the hotel, covering one fifth the distance of the route the bride's momma had specified. Simple and direct, that's the way to go!

As I approached the hotel, I heard the mother of the bride screaming at me, in a horrendous tone of voice somewhere between the earsplitting cry of one of the flying hoard of giant grackles that roamed the ESU campus and the hot smelly screech of unevenly worn brake pads: "Robbie Roberts! You come here this instant!"

Suddenly I woke up. My alarm clock was bleating loudly, having exhausted the ten minute grace period where it just played the radio, and was now filling the room with an irritating and distorted tone that was impossible to sleep through. By design, the snooze button no longer worked after the grace period had expired, and I pulled the cord out the wall about the same time one of Kevin's flip-flops landed on my head. This semester, he wasn't keeping the same kind of early hours that I was. He didn't need to get up for another two hours.

"Jesus, Robbie! Turn that fucking thing off. Are you sick or something? I don't remember you ever sleeping through your alarm. What the hell did you do last night?"

I didn't want to talk to Kevin right now, not about Jesus and especially not about what I did last night. I now had only about 30 minutes to shower, get dressed, get something for breakfast, and make it over to Greg gym for Saskia's conditioning class. The gym was right across 21st Street, but I still had to cut corners somewhere to make it on time. The shower was not optional, owing to the presence of various dried secretions from last night's exertions. I ended up wolfing down a couple of triple zero yogurts and grabbing a chocolate milk, which I chugged down on the way over.


Dr. Asa Weltschmerz, M.D., PhD, and lots of etc. was sitting at his desk, hours before anyone else showed up in the office. His new position as med school Dean in waiting had certainly changed his lifestyle, not to mention his goals. He had to recruit lots of new faculty members, and they had to be world class: even better if they were just about to become recognized as world class right after the joined his faculty. Identifying them wasn't really the hard part - it was working all the issues to get the staffs they would need in place and get their final commitments to move. Specific lab equipment, jobs for the spouses, schools for the children, and getting the research postdocs they wanted to move to Austin while leaving the unwanted ones behind at their old school. What a mess.

He missed the relatively simple joy of treating patients and seeing them get better, especially the kids that thrived. He thought of Lara and smiled. A year ago he had nightmares about having to tell his best old college friend that his only daughter was pre-suicidal. Now instead she was asking his advice about pre-natal vitamins, human genetics programs at med schools, and the best ways to ensure she had healthy children with Robbie. For his part, Robbie Roberts was the most puzzling and amazing patient that Asa had ever had. He was a mutant neurological phenomenon that Asa couldn't talk to anyone about, much less write the papers about that he wanted to. At least Robbie was going to help him solve some of his faculty recruiting problems. Sometimes you had to use one problem to solve another, especially when there just wasn't time to solve both serially.

In fact , he could see two or three things on his 'to do list' that could be combined and potentially handled as one task, and Robbie was most likely to soon deliver the first baby step to success right to his doorstep.


Monday morning goin' down. Saskia's workout plan nearly killed us. The good news was that I was not too sore when we started. But she promised to "ramp things up" and she delivered, in spades. I was pretty sure I was going to be amazingly sore tomorrow morning. Everyone in the class was at their limits by the time we finished, and drenched in sweat. She called a halt three minutes early so she could give us an update.

"Good workout, people. In your one on one meetings this week, I will do some more detailed measurements and tell you about your individual plans and set our new goals. We will program the machines to work you in the best way to build your muscles, taking into account your individual responses to the routines so far. I will offer some of you some really serious 'stretch goals' if you are game."

HFS! My current stretch goal was just to be able to walk down to breakfast on Tuesday, Thursdays, and Saturday's without having to plan every motion. I went back up to the room, showered again, and headed for my first class.

On the way, an incoming email pinged VIP: it was the always in motion international VP of Sales: Barry T. Fermy. He was updating me on the projects we had bid on in the Middle East over Christmas break. The risk profile generated by expert insurance actuary and uber nerd numbers guy Alexis T Quandry had thoroughly nixed the Yemeni deal - he said it was 99% certain the current government would fall long before the project could be completed. Most of the other risky deals killed themselves by demanding ridiculous pricing or impossible completion dates, but the UAE shipyard construction deal was signed and I could expect a check for my commission from the all-risk policy written by Lara's dad's insurance company on Abelard Peters' huge construction project there. I would also have my choice of summer jobs as a safety inspector either in Dubai or on the larger but more prosaic project to upgrade the "Chunnel" between England and France, Tier Group's other big ongoing effort.

I already had two other co-op job offers from the people I met at the reception. I guess those thank you notes really did differentiate me from the other guys. I had to make a decision this week about which offer to accept. I instantly narrowed it down to Dubai or England, planning to ask the USA based jobs for a rain check until next spring. From now on I would alternate one or two semesters in Austin and one semester on the job somewhere, and I wanted to work for at least three or four different employers during my co-op program to gain varied experience and make lots of contacts. I would also hopefully collect enough paychecks in the process to cover my school costs. I could make some great contacts in Dubai, I was sure, if I didn't get arrested and flogged for attempted fornication. London, however, promised the zaftig and very accommodating art historian Peggy and her new super model friends, and perhaps two overly enthusiastic teenage tennis twins.

My classes were going well, and the TA's were getting used to my follow up questions on the stuff I didn't grok from the lectures - at least they didn't cringe when I showed up for office hours. My chief source of worry right now was Suzanne's potential sexual adventures that may or may not include me, either by my choice or hers.


I was just as sore Tuesday morning as I thought I would be, and very much aware of how strange and off balance my chest and shoulders felt. I would wait and see if I felt better this afternoon and perhaps try running then, but this morning's plan was a little homework after breakfast followed by taking Saskia to Asa's brown bag lunch seminar at the med school. I made my way gingerly down to breakfast and indulged in a heaping helping of bacon and eggs as protein sources rather than the more politically correct triple zero yogurt. It seemed as though I was even hungrier this semester than the last, and the yogurt just didn't make me feel full they way the bacon did. I added in some glazed cinnamon rolls to top off my glucose tank, hoping to learn more from snooping Saskia's Suzie signals on the way over to the Med School.

Back up in the room, I brushed my teeth and polished off the prep for my next physics lab to the accompaniment of Kevin's sonorous snore and a few muffled spring bird calls (thankfully not grackles) through the (welded shut) dorm window. There was considerable 'dorm-lore' about the windows. When the dorm was first opened in the late 1960's, one tower was all-male and the other all-female, with a more secure lobby to keep roving males out of the girl's rooms. The windows opened up at the top for ventilation, which hopefully discouraged the exit of objects like water balloons or rocks. One story was that girls would try sneak guys in through the windows, so the windows were welded shut. The other was that students would leave their windows open at night and wake to find Mexican free tailed bats (like the one million plus now famous residents of the understructure of the Congress Avenue bridge) had decided to hang out on the ceiling, so the windows were welded shut to prevent potential cases of rabies. Kevin's dad told a more cynical and likely tale: several students had leapt to their death from the windows and the university had welded them shut to reduce future liability.

When I got downstairs, Saskia was waiting on the sidewalk outside of Gregory gym, looking fit as a fiddle. She was, in point of fact, fit as the whole orchestra. Her Suzie did sizzle a little as she saw me, then she seemed to hold it in, almost like Nora did. I opted for the soft sell, kissing her gently on the cheek, and then tuning up my receiver. Saskia was in a great mood, and talkative.

"Thanks for inviting me, Robbie. It gives me a chance to get out of the depressing orbit of the evil Arturia Brown and get exposed to some real scientists for a change. How is it that you know Dr. Weltschmerz again?"

"We met at an ESU home football game. He went to college with the father of one of my friends, and we all sat together for the rest of the season. I got to know him pretty well."

She snorted again. "Not exactly the student section, eh?"

I laughed. "Not hardly. Apparently one of the things a dean has to do is raise funds."

She looked thoughtful. "I suppose schmoozing donors at ESU games is better than lying, taking over grants, and cheating the foundations the way Arturia Brown does it."

I remembered something. "You know, Saskia, Suzanne Pliskin says the same kinds of things about Arturia, so I know that you two do actually agree on something, but I sense a lot of tension when you mention each other. What's the deal with that?"

Saskia snorted, then she drew in a deep breath. "I suppose I hated Suzanne for being one of Bob the Knob's favorite students: much more of a favorite than I was. She wasn't even a physiologist, or a real scientist: she was a damn bullshit squishy so called science economist. Yuck. She was also much prettier than I was, and she got a lot more attention than I did." Saskia's Suzie signals supplied another datum: she was attracted to Suzanne, and that made her even angrier, and hotter, too.

By now we had reached 17th Street and turned east toward the medical center. On our right was the 'super drum' AKA the Frank Erwin Center, site of ESU basketball games, rock concerts, and high school graduation ceremonies. Word was it was to be demolished soon to make way for a new complex of medical school buildings, with a new basketball and concert venue to be constructed somewhere east of IH35, continuing the massive expansion of the university footprint beyond the original 'Forty Acres' campus plan. We turned back south on Trinity - we were almost there.

"I suppose it doesn't matter anymore now that Bob the Knob defected to UCSD." She sighed. "Now Suzanne doesn't have any more contact with him than I do, but I am now held by the 'wicked witch of postdoc prison' who may never allow me to publish all the work I started when Bob was here."

We climbed the few steps up to the building where Asa's office was. I led the way and Saskia looked around intently. Asa's forty-something receptionist ogled my butt again while we waited, but also spent some time looking at my chest. Asa emerged to greet us.

"Hi Robbie! Doctor Grandael, welcome, I am glad you could come today."

Saskia was clearly enthralled with Asa: wide eyed and animated. "I am excited to hear Dr. Augie!"

Asa smiled. "If you would excuse me just a moment, I need to talk to Robbie alone briefly. Patient confidentiality, and all that."

Saskia almost curtsied. "Of course. I'll be right here."

Asa took my arm and steered me into his office, shutting the door behind us. "I want you to go down to see Dr. Dee again for a few minutes before the seminar begins. We want to follow up on your testing. Are you still hungry all the time? Anything else you can tell me about your diet that might be relevant?"

"Yeah, doc, I am still hungry much of the day, but it may be the training I am doing with Saskia. She is trying to build up my chest and shoulders, and bringing home the concept of 'no pain no gain' in a very dramatic way."

"Be sure to eat more protein. Zero fat yogurt would be best."

"That's exactly what Saskia said. But I still crave fat and sugar. In fact, I remember something else about my diet. When I went through puberty, I developed some strange and very powerful cravings. "

He nodded thoughtfully while I went through the inventory of foods I had such a burning need for, and described how many of them were still on my hit parade. Suddenly his face lit up, and he snapped his fingers.

"I should have realized this. That massive 'antenna array' of yours with all those extra nerve fiber cross connections probably has more myelin insulation than half a dozen normal people. When that complex of neurons first began to really expand and grow, apparently during early puberty, you would have needed all those foods in massive quantities to feed your Schwann cells. Your biochemical metabolism was grabbing cholesterol and lipids out of your bloodstream as fast as it could and using them as raw materials to build layer upon layer of insulation for your internal listening device. Even now as a young adult, just the normal cell turnover would be like that of two or three people. No wonder your circulating cholesterol is so low. Your brain is sucking it all out of the bloodstream to use for itself. The same thing is happening to glucose to power all those extra neurons. I feel funny saying this to a patient, but you should eat all the fat and sugary foods you want. Chicken and beef liver, fried chicken, avocados, butter beans, asparagus, donuts, chocolate fudge, anything you want. As long as you don't gain visible layers of fat on your torso, go for it. Have you ever tried calf brains and scrambled eggs?"

Come to think of it, Jay Kincaid's grandfather (and Millie's future grandfather in law) 'Cactus Jake' Warner made that for breakfast on the ranch when they butchered calves for veal. I had some when I was there once and I loved it. Now I knew why.

"Let's not mention this to Dr. Dee. I don't want to give him any more clues to your secret talent. Likewise Dr. Grandael - she is also curious and well educated. Speaking of that - how committed do you think she is to her current position at ESU? Could I recruit her as a postdoc for the new medical school?"

I giggled. "Shoot, doc, she would crawl through ground glass and work for minimum wage just to get away from Arturia Brown!" I went on to explain her situation and both Saskia and Suzanne's opinions on the apparently thoroughly execrable Dr. Brown. He began to nod his head excitedly.

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