All day the snow had been falling. Snow muffled every store and church; drifts erased streets and sidewalks. The punks at the new Harvard Square T stop had tramped off, bright as winter cardinals with their purple tufted hair and orange Mohawks. The sober Vietnam vet on Mass Ave had retreated to Au Bon Pain for coffee. Harvard Yard was quiet with snow. The undergraduates camping there for Harvard's divestment from South Africa had packed up their cardboard boxes, tents, and sleeping bags and begun building snow people. Cambridge schools were closed, but the Philpott Institute was open as usual. In the Mendelssohn-Glass lab, four postdocs and a couple of lab techs were working.
Two to a bench, like cooks crammed into a restaurant kitchen, the postdocs were extracting DNA in solution, examining cells, washing cells with chemicals, bursting cells open, changing cells forever by inserting new genetic material. They were operating sinks with foot pedals, measuring and moving solutions milliliter by milliliter with pipettes, their exacting eyedroppers. They were preparing liquids, ices, gels.
There was scarcely an inch of counter space. Lab benches were covered with ruled notebooks and plastic trays, some blue, some green, some red, each holding dozens of test tubes. Glass beakers stood above on shelves, each beaker filled with red medium for growing cells. The glass beakers were foil topped, like milk bottles sealed for home delivery. Peeling walls and undercounter incubators were covered with postcards, yellowing Doonesbury cartoons, photographs from a long-ago lab picnic at Walden Pond. The laminar flow hood was shared, as was the good microscope. In 1985, the Philpott was famous, but it was full of old instruments. Dials and needle indicators looked like stereo components from the early sixties. The centrifuge, designed for spinning down cells in solution, was clunky as an ancient washing machine. There wasn't enough money to buy new equipment. There was scarcely enough to pay the postdocs.
On ordinary days, the researchers darted into and out of the lab to the common areas on the floor. The cold room, warm room, and stockroom were shared with the other third-floor labs, as was the small conference room with its cheap chrome and wood-grain furniture, good for meetings and naps. But this Friday no one left the lab, not even the lab techs, Aidan and Natalya. Gofers and factotums for the postdocs, these two belonged to a scientific service class, but no one dared treat them like servants. They were strong-willed and politically aware, attuned to every power struggle. They kept darting looks at each other, as if to say "It's time to go downstairs," but they delayed going to the animal facility for fear of missing something. The lab directors, Marion Mendelssohn and Sandy Glass, were meeting in the office down the hall. They had been conferring for half an hour, and this did not bode well. One of the postdocs was in trouble.
How bad was it? No one spoke. Prithwish kept his head down over a tray of plastic tubes, eyes almost level with the avocado plant he'd grown from seed. "My most successful experiment," he often said ruefully. Robin ducked out to look up and down the hall, then brushed past Feng as she hurried back inside. The black and white clock on the wall was ticking past three, but like the clocks in grade school, this one was always slow. Natalya glared at Aidan, as if to say "I went downstairs last time; it's really your turn now," but Aidan turned airily away. It might have been funny, but no one joked at the techs' pantomime.
"Cliff." Suddenly, Marion Mendelssohn was standing in the doorway. She stood there, fearsome, implacable, dark eyes glowering.
"Could we have a word with you?" Cliff smiled tightly and shrugged, a desperate little show of nonchalance.
The others looked everywhere else, as their lab director led Cliff away to the office she shared with Sandy Glass.
Cliff 's cheeks were already burning as he followed Marion down the corridor. At six foot three, he was more than a foot taller than Marion. Still, he was entirely in her power, and he dreaded what she and Glass were about to say. For years he'd been developing a variant of Respiratory Syncytial Virus and had dreamed of using his modified RSV to transform cancer cells into normal cells. His experiments were not working; Sandy and Marion had ordered him to give them up, and he had disobeyed.
The door closed behind him, and Cliff was standing in the tight, cluttered office.
"Now, Cliff," said Glass, "did we or did we not have a discussion about your continuing trials with RSV?"
Cliff stood silent.
"Maybe you don't remember our conversation," said Glass, smiling. Cliff did remember, and he knew better than to smile back. Always cheerful, brimming with the irrepressible joy of his own intelligence, Sandy Glass smiled most when he was angry.
"I said you had to stop using RSV," Sandy reminded Cliff. "You said you understood."
"We established RSV has some effect in vitro," Glass said. "Congratulations. You're on your way to curing cancer in a petri dish. But what have we established when we try injecting RSV into living mice?"
Cliff looked away.
"You've established nothing. You injected fifty-six mice with RSV, with no effect on tumors whatsoever. Therefore, Marion and I asked you to stop. We asked you nicely to move on. What did you do next?"
"I tried again," Cliff said, staring down at the floor.
"Yes, you did. You tried again."
Sandy ignored this. "We told you to stop wasting resources on RSV."
"I didn't want to give up," Cliff said.
"Look, I realize RSV was your baby," Sandy said. "I realize this was two years' work developing the virus."
Two and a half years, Cliff amended silently.
"We understand you put your heart and soul into this project." Sandy glanced at Marion, who looked anything but understanding.
"The point is, RSV does not work. And now, yet another set of experiments& --- against all advice, against our specific instructions. What were you thinking, Cliff? Don't say anything. Perseverance can be a valuable trait, particularly when you're right. But we see now that this third trial is showing every sign of failing spectacularly. No, don't apologize. Just tell us what you were thinking. Tell us your thoughts, because we really want to know."
Why had he tried twice more with the virus after it had failed? They were expecting an answer, but Cliff could not speak. The truth shamed him; it was so simple: he could not bear to jettison work that had taken so much time. The hours, the thousands of hours he'd spent, sickened him. How could he confess to that? The scientific method was precise and calibrated. A scientist was, by definition, impassive. He cut his losses and moved on to something else; he was exhausted, perhaps, but never defiant with exhaustion. A scientist did not allow emotion to govern his experiments.
And yet Cliff had been emotional and unrealistic about his work. He had behaved unprofessionally, taking his long shot again, and yet again. How could he explain that? There was only one reasonable explanation: he was not a scientist. This was what Mendelssohn and Glass were driving at.
"Did we or did we not agree," said Glass, "that you would end the wholesale extermination of our lab animals?"
"We don't have the money," said Mendelssohn, and she didn't mean funds for the mice themselves, which cost about fifteen dollars each, but the money for the infinite care the delicate animals required. "You'll recall we asked you to work with Robin."
"She could still use another pair of hands," Glass said, and Cliff hated him for that, and for the patronizing, slightly prurient tone in Glass's voice.
"I deserve my own project," Cliff said, raising his eyes.
"There is no such thing as your own project in this lab," Mendelssohn declared.
"Look, this is a team," Glass said, "and you need to pull your weight, not drag everyone else down with your personal flights of fancy."
Down the hall, in the lab, the others gathered like near relations at a funeral.
"They wouldn't fire him," Prithwish said loyally. He was Cliff 's roommate, after all.
"They will not fire him," Feng agreed.
Natalya thought about this. "My feeling is Mendelssohn would not, but Glass would." She was Russian and had been a doctor herself, before coming to America. Natalya had never taken to Glass.
"They'll be arguing, then," said Prithwish.
"They'll let him stay," Aidan predicted, "and make him so miserable he'll leave by himself."
"He was miserable before," Prithwish pointed out, but the others hushed him. Cliff was coming back down the corridor.
Instantly his friends scattered, vanishing into the clutter of glassware and instruments like rabbits in the brush. All but Robin, who pulled at Cliff 's sleeve. Silently they slipped into the adjoining stockroom, the lab's poisonous pharmacological pantry.
She closed the door behind her. "Are you all right?"
His cheeks were flushed, his eyes unusually bright. "I'm fine."
She drew closer, but he turned away.
"What are you going to do?"
"I don't know," he said. "They've already tried to pawn me off on you."
"They suggested that you work with me?"
"Six months ago, but I said no."
She was surprised, and hurt. "You never told me that."
"What was the point? I didn't want to work on your stuff."
She folded her arms. "What's wrong with my stuff?"
"Nothing!" he lied.
She had spent five years working on what had once been considered a dazzling project, an analysis of frozen samples of blood, collected over the years from cancer patients who had died of various forms of the disease. Sandy Glass had been convinced that somewhere in these samples was a common marker, a significant tag that would suddenly reveal a unifying syndrome underlying his patients' tragic and diverse conditions. Glass had presented the project to Robin in her first year with a flourish, as if he were bestowing upon her a great gift. He'd told Robin he was convinced there was a Nobel Prize in this work; that this above all was the research he himself had hoped to do if his clinical duties had allowed. Then, having bestowed his blood collection along with a great deal of disorganized documentation about each donor's illness and death, he'd left her to work alone.
He'd chosen her for her fierce intelligence, her passion for discovery, her ambition& --- and, of course, Glass had always liked a beautiful postdoc. Robin's eyes were a warm brown, brilliant under pale lashes, her blond hair silken, although she tied it back unceremoniously with any old rubber band she happened to find. Her features were delicate and easily flushed, her teeth were small and almost, but not quite, straight. On the upper right side, one tooth overlapped another slightly, like a page turned down in a book. With her fine eyes and shining hair, she'd always seemed to Cliff like a girl out of a fairy tale. Still, even she could not spin Glass's dross into gold.
"So there's nothing wrong with my work, but it's not good enough for you," she challenged Cliff.
"No, I didn't say that."
"That's what you were thinking."
"Look, if I ever thought that, I'm sorry. Just, please . . ."
Gravely, she turned on him. "But you aren't sorry."
"I just thought . . ." she began.
"Don't think anything. Just leave me alone."
He strode back through the lab and out into the hall. How could Robin expect him to talk to her? What did she want from him? To beg her to let him work on her dismal black hole of a project? To break down sobbing on her shoulder so she could comfort him? He still heard the humorous disdain in Glass's voice. He saw the hard disappointment in Mendelssohn's eyes. They had not ordered him to leave; they'd even allowed that he might stay, but they had made him suffer. They had held up the evidence of his disobedience and failure, then tossed whatever scrap of a scientist he'd been upon the garbage heap and all but called out "Next!" There was Prithwish coming after him down the corridor. Cliff was not going to suffer his condolences. He escaped into the stairwell and bolted down the stairs.
Outside the institute, the snow had stopped. The December sun was setting, and the world was strangely still. He'd run down four flights of stairs, and stood for a moment, breathing hard. Then he caught his breath and his anger flared again. He kicked his way through the snow, mouthing retorts. Who do you think you are? Who do you think I am?
He walked without noticing distance or direction. Startled, he saw a red neon sign, LIBBY'S IQUORS, and realized he was in Central Square. A bus swept past, but there were scarcely any cars on the road. Stores were closed, and clean snow blew over the empty taxi stands. All alone, Cliff walked on.
He walked over a mile, as far as MIT, and then turned around and started back again past shuttered Victorian factories converted into warehouses, redbrick ramparts lowering in the shadows of taller office buildings. He thought about calling his parents, but what could they say to him? They owned a stationery store in West Los Angeles. They'd always encouraged Cliff. He'd attended University High School, gone to science camp in summers, practiced triangulation on sunbaked tennis courts, built his own weather station, cooked homemade versions of Silly Putty, toothpaste, and glue. His parents had paid for chemistry sets, and student microscopes, and even Stanford. They were well educated; both had gone to college, but Cliff was the first person in his family to earn a PhD. His parents knew nothing about bench work or lab politics. He thought of his thesis advisor, now dead. What would Professor Oppenheimer have said? He'd have laughed, of course, showing off his yellow teeth. He'd say, "What do you expect? You don't listen to the lab director, you get busted. You screw around with someone in the lab; of course you're gonna end up fighting later. You get what you deserve. How many times do I have to tell you? Don't shit where you eat."
His hands were cold, even in his pockets. He walked and walked up Mass Ave, and then along the Charles River, and his heart began to calm. The cold air began to smooth and smother his angry pride; numb despair overtook indignation.
He imagined he would keep walking forever in ever-widening circles, but as the river curved, he came upon the Weeks Footbridge, and there on the bridge he stopped. The Charles stretched out in the dark; pure, white, frosted with snow, like an ancient road now forgotten.
Cliff was overcome with a profound idea. He would walk across the river. Invisibly he would walk across the invisible river and leave his own footprints in the white snow on the frozen water. In the middle of the city, he would wander alone as if in the country, the slight crunch of the ice under his feet. He would walk to the other side.
He ran down the cement stairs of the Weeks Footbridge and then more cautiously found his way down the frozen muck of the riverbank. He put one foot onto the white ice and felt a complete peace come over him, a total forgetfulness. Then he put his weight on the foot. The ice sank beneath him. Viselike, the cold of the water seized him, soaking his sneaker and sock, burning through to his skin. With a yelp, Cliff pulled back onto the bank. Instinctively he clambered up to the sidewalk on Memorial Drive. Faster than ever, he walked on, but now the cold burned his ears, and he couldn't feel his right foot. A single rational thought rang in his ears. He had now demonstrated that he was an idiot.
He found some money in his pocket and stopped at Nini's Corner, the little store crammed with magazines and waxy apples and oranges stacked high up inside the windows. He bought a bag of honey-roasted almonds, which he ate as he strode up Brattle Street. He licked the sugar mixed with salt from his cold-numbed fingers, and he wondered where his gloves were, and whether he would have to teach high school.
He might have walked forever if it were not for his frozen foot. With a Californian's horror he began to wonder whether he had frostbite. How long did it take for necrosis to set in?
The phrase "personal flights of fancy" had lost some of its initial horror. The ringing of Glass's disapproval in his ears was just a little softer. He imagined Prithwish was still at the lab; Cliff wouldn't have to see him when he got to the apartment. But then, what did he care? Cliff had already had his humiliation, and he felt, with some relief, that his capacity for embarrassment, at least for this evening, was used up. What did it matter if he'd wasted years? What did he care if he'd ruined his chances in research? Realistically, what had been the odds that he'd succeed?
As he began trudging north to Somerville, the balm of apathy began to soothe Cliff 's wounds. His despair seemed to melt and pool inside him, until he could almost congratulate himself that he was no longer desperate, but simply demoralized and depressed& --- emotions entirely accepted, even expected, in the lab.
"You can't just crawl under a rock," Aidan told Cliff on the eve of Sandy Glass's Christmas party. Aidan and Natalya and Robin had come to pick him and Prithwish up, and they stood in the doorway of the apartment, like a bunch of carolers.
"I'm not crawling under a rock. I just don't feel like going," Cliff said.
"Ta ta ta tum." Aidan sang out the theme from Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet while playing air violin. Aidan was an impossible ham, and improbably handsome as well, an aging young swain with his curly blond locks and pale blue eyes. The lab tech position was just Aidan's day job. He was really a baritone and soloed all around Boston. He worked with Emmanuel Music, among other groups, and sang cantatas at every opportunity, even to the mice in the animal facility. "Ta ta ta tummmm, ta ta ta tum," he serenaded Cliff.
"Very funny," Cliff said.
"You'll need letters of recommendation," Robin reminded Cliff. She took his hand, and he smiled a little. Only she could be so earnest in such a low-cut black dress.
"You need to work," said Prithwish as he knotted his red tie.
"You need to eat," said Natalya.
"You can't turn away from all that free food," added Prithwish.
"I'll drink to that," said Aidan, and he produced a bottle of champagne from inside his dress coat, and plastic champagne flutes as well.
"Let's stay here," Cliff said to Robin.
"No, no, you aren't going to burn your bridges like that. You're going to work this out," she told him. "Here, see, we brought you a drink to get you started."
Cliff wasn't the only one who needed fortification before the Christmas party. Even in the best of times the researchers approached this event with trepidation. Sandy's house was so grand, his polished floors so perfect, his Persian carpets so rich and delicate, they never knew quite where to put their feet. Glass lived in Chestnut Hill in a brick Tudor with a turret and a wrought iron balcony and a slate roof like the armored plates of a prehistoric beast. Inside, the rooms were draped with damask curtains. The rosewood piano gleamed, and though the leather library chairs were cracked with age, though the radiators hissed, and the first floor was rather drafty, everything in Glass's home seemed precious, and historic.
Shy on arrival, the postdocs stood in the entryway, until Ann Glass took their coats and ushered them into the living room crowded with people from Sandy's other life, the medical practice where he made his money.
"Who is that? Robin?" Sandy embraced her and kissed her on the cheek. "I didn't recognize you all dressed up. I never recognize any of you," he said to the assembled: Aidan, Prithwish, Cliff, Feng, and his wife, Mei. "Go get yourselves some drinks." He shooed them to the bar. "Watch out for the mistletoe!"
Glass didn't mind overwhelming his researchers with hospitality and intimidating them with his prosperity. He liked to show his postdocs what could be done with money and talent and imagination. His house was an object lesson in that respect. After all, he'd been poor at their age too.
Glass loved the satin touch of fine woods, the patina of cracked leather, the ring of certain words. Appearances were not superficial, but of substantive importance to him. Thus, years ago, Glass had discarded Sam, his given name, and nicknamed himself Sandy. His last name was invented too. Toward the end of medical school, he'd changed it from Glazeroff. This he'd done not just to forget that his grandparents were Eastern European Jews, but for aesthetic reasons. He could not countenance living and working in such a Russian bear-coat of a last name, and so he'd distilled Glazeroff to its purer form.
Christmas appealed to him. Each year he adorned a tree with blown-glass ornaments. He appreciated lovely things, and over the years he collected more and more of them. He well recalled the cheap suits he'd worn when he was younger, the slip-covered furniture in his parents' house and the greasy potato latkes his mother fried for Hanukkah. In fact, he remembered these things with a certain nostalgia. Nevertheless, as soon as he could afford fine clothes and food and more elegant traditions, he availed himself of them. It was, of course, his wife, Ann, raised Episcopalian, who read books about Jewish history. It was she who lit a little silver menorah that Saturday night for the Christmas party. Nine slender candles were melting fast among the greens and pinecones on the dessert table. She lit the menorah every year because she felt it was important for the children.
The children were scarcely that anymore. There were three daughters. Louisa, who was twenty-four, and refused to go to medical school. Charlotte, a sophomore at Harvard, who wouldn't be a doctor either. And then there was the little one, Kate. She had come home from the John Parrish Hill Academy for winter break, only to disappear into her room with her books.
Even after the party had begun, Kate was upstairs reading John Donne's Devotions upon Emergent Occasions. With the kind of feverish, imaginative sympathy that won her the English award each year, she had begun living and breathing less and less like a fifteen-year-old girl and more like a Protestant divine.
Glassy-eyed, she read Donne's account of the illness that brought him close to death. She lay with her head propped up on pillows and imagined herself John Donne in bed, his illness overtaking her, swamping her like a flood covering her body, drowning her, as she read each section: "'Medicusque vocatur. The physician is sent for'. . . . 'Metuit. He is afraid.' " She read the words aloud, like one obsessed --- but this was practical as well. She was memorizing Donne's Fourth Meditation for the Southern New England Speech and Debate Festival.
Her mother appeared in the doorway several times and told her to change and come downstairs. When Kate finally threw on a red plaid wool dress and wandered down, the house was hot and made her strangely itchy. The crimson walls in the library seemed too bright, the caterers' silver platters too shiny. The dining table was covered with an array of pfeffernuesse, gingersnaps, madeleines, miniature napoleons, and bite-size chocolate mousses in sweating chocolate shells.
Her father's old doctor friends wore black and navy. Wiry, whitehaired Dr. Hoffbauer, with his narrow blue eyes, and fat Dr. Krieger from South Africa, and bald Dr. Bier all shook Kate's hand and examined her, and said she'd grown, as if this were an important clinical observation and not a cliché. Her mother's colleagues wore purple and houndstooth, and teal knits and gold buttons, and they smiled at her and complained among themselves about "the administration," and they smoked. At a slight distance, clutching their drinks, stood the small contingent from her father's lab. They huddled together for mutual protection, the women spindly in high heels, the men trussed up in crimson neckties. Only one postdoc had wandered off.
He was clearly a lab rat, although she couldn't quite place him. He was tall and jittery, his dirty-blond hair too long, his suit jacket too short in the arms. Still, he had an air of nobility about him as he leaned against the mantel in the library. He had dark, disillusioned eyes, and fine features scuffed with the beginnings of a beard, as if he were a prince in disguise.
"Are you new?" Kate asked politely.
"No," he said, flustered. He hadn't noticed her before. "Are you?"
"Not really." She liked him for not figuring out who she was. He scanned her face, her ash brown hair and bemused blue eyes. Suddenly he understood she was Glass's youngest daughter. "Oh," he said miserably.
"Yeah, I'm Kate," she said.
"You've grown," he said, defending himself.
She drew herself up, self-conscious, annoyed. "So I hear."
"That's why I didn't recognize you."
"Well, we're even." She relented. "I didn't remember you either."
"I've been at the lab almost three years."
"That's nothing," Kate told him. "Some of you guys have been coming here half my life."
"Hmm." He smiled fleetingly at his shoes. "I doubt I'll last that long."
"Why?" Kate asked. "Are you not producing?"
Nervously, but with a glint of humor, Cliff 's dark eyes darted over her, and Kate felt flustered, herself, to be looked at. "How old are you?" he asked her.
"How old are you?"
"Thirty," he said.
"Are you a Mud-Phud?"
"Just a PhD," he said. "I was at MIT before this."
"So you must really like research."
"Oh, yeah," he said. "I really like research. I really, really do."
She stared at him. She would have died rather than ask, but "really, really"? Was that irony? Or was he serious? He looked unhappy enough, standing there all alone. "It'll get better," Kate said earnestly.
"You know," she told him, "when John Donne was thirty, he was imprisoned."
In the dining room, Kate's mother was helping along the conversation here, urging miniature mince pies there. Ann Glass was an associate professor at Boston College and had published a book on George Eliot. Still, she tended everything in the house. She shepherded the party along, consulting with the caterer, introducing Marion's husband, Jacob, to a linguist she thought he might find interesting. She thought of the guests even when Sandy forgot them and talked shop in the bay window of the living room.
He was debating some point with Marion, and his blue eyes sparkled as his hands sliced the air. Ann's husband was not a handsome man. His features were coarse, his mouth wide, his forehead the more prominent because he had so little hair left. His nose began well, but drooped at the end. His cheeks were red with rosacea. With Sandy, however, the rules of attraction did not apply. He had a quality that went much farther than youth or beauty --- an irresistible liveliness that seemed to override cynicism and doubt, a self-confidence occasionally unbearable, but in many cases deeply reassuring. Had he not enjoyed the benefit of a medical education, it's doubtless Sandy would have been an extraordinary salesman like his father, Irving. Shoes, hardware, large appliances, and Israel bonds would have flown like doves from his hands. As it happened, Sandy's sparkling savoir faire made him a stellar oncologist. He radiated hope to every patient. Instead of death, he dwelt on baseball games and the Boston Marathon. He asked termiallegranally ill investment bankers about the stock market; joked that they should give him tips. He focused on the day-to-day, never on the eternal, and his patients loved him for it. He wasn't going to give up on them and turn spiritual. He was an old-fashioned doctor, fighting tooth and nail against disease. Patients came to him from all over the world. Tycoons and Saudi princes, even other doctors. His overworked residents called him a VIP-ologist, and there was some truth to this. Still, no one could deny his gifts. No one played the end game against cancer as Sandy did. He set himself squarely against every cancerous cell, and so inspired his patients into battle that, magically, even the most sophisticated believed that he could never fail them. Their worry was that in dying they might fail him.
Naturally, Sandy's colleagues hated him, yet he had come to thrive on the brine of their dislike. At forty-nine, Sandy didn't just endure, he adored his job. His ambition was not corrosive, but creative, a byproduct of his buoyant spirit. Egotist, optimist, Sandy was a force of nature, and Ann resented but also loved him for it. She shook her head and smiled at her husband holding forth, wineglass in hand, his scant gray hair bristling with a kind of static energy.
"We'll have to scrape something together," he told Marion.
"We don't have the results," she replied.
"Well, we'll just have to find them, won't we?" Sandy said.
"I've come to think," Marion said, "it's more a question of which results find us."
"Passivity is not the answer," Sandy snapped.
Marion looked at him reproachfully. She knew as well as he that their old grant from the National Institutes of Health was ending, that last year's research gambit had failed, and that they desperately needed funding. She knew they had to pull together a resoundingly good grant proposal for NIH by April first or contemplate folding. The Philpott Institute was governed by strict Darwinian principles. Investigators broke even or went bankrupt, losing staff and space and equipment to their rivals. Peter Hawking, the institute's director, was saddened when his researchers failed, but, preferring to dwell on happier laboratories, he averted his eyes from their distress. Lab directors without funding had little recourse; they took desperate measures: they switched fields, or retired, or sometimes left science altogether. Marion knew her position was precarious, but she took it stoically. Unlike her research partner, she was a staunch pessimist. Armed with the constant expectation of setbacks and disasters, she took catastrophe in stride.
"We're going to have to make a fresh start." Sandy's voice was low.
"And the first thing we should work on is replacing Cliff."
"Sandy!" whispered Marion, drawing closer. "First of all, he's fully funded through June . . ."
"Then in June, he's leaving. If he can't get with the program, I want someone else."
"You can't just boot him out." Marion bristled at Sandy's authoritarian approach, but as a clinician, Sandy came from a world where those who were younger or less experienced did exactly as they were told, or faced the consequences.
"Watch me," Sandy said.
"If he wants to stick it out, then I think we should reassess the situation six months from now . . ."
"Are you actually defending him?" Sandy asked.
"I hired him," she pointed out. She did feel responsible for Cliff.
Three years ago he'd been a hot prospect from MIT. His professors had raved about his technical ability, his insight, his gift for seeking out and cracking intractable problems. Max Oppenheimer declared Cliff the brightest student he had ever seen. And Marion had known Oppenheimer for twenty years and never heard him speak that way. She had not just hired Cliff, she'd insisted to Sandy that he would be a key player, a star in the making. Together they had welcomed Cliff with open arms. And then? Perhaps their expectations had been too much for him to bear. Tacitly, she and Sandy had taught Cliff to be unrealistic.
"He's talented," she said.
They both knew that in the end, talent hardly mattered if you couldn't get results. Lots of people were talented. Talent and intelligence, not to mention tireless hard work, got lab scientists through the door, but --- this was the dirty secret --- you needed luck. You might be prepared and bright and diligent, and fail and fail and fail. The gene you sought to isolate, the phenomenon you thought significant, could still elude you; the trend and significant pattern of disease could devolve into an endless hell of ambiguities.
"I still think he has potential," Marion pressed.
"Potential for what?"
She said nothing. Sandy was probably right. Still, she would not simply cut Cliff loose. She knew what it was like to struggle. At the Philpott she had fought for her scientific life, foraged and competed for every last piece of equipment in her lab. After years of ceaseless competition, she'd grown thin and patient, critical of herself and others. Anyone who worked for Marion tensed at her glance and dreaded her questions --- never rhetorical, never dramatic, but quietly devastating in their acuity. With one pointed query she could lift the paint off the best ideas to reveal the rotting suppositions underneath."You know he has to go," Sandy said.
Still, she frowned and ever so slightly shook her head.
Marion had been a lithe young scientist once, a beautiful, impulsive girl who earned a PhD at twenty-five and imagined Harvard would hire her just for her elegant work in crystallography. She had been quick to smile, joyous in her facility as carbon structures opened up to her, each in turn, lovely and elliptical. The scientific world had seemed to her then translucent, sparkling, orderly as the Peabody Museum's collection of glass flowers. But there was no job for her at Harvard. A sly postdoc named Arthur Ginsburg got a position there instead, and Marion almost came to believe what others said of her: that her papers were repetitive, descriptive, and nothing more. She scrambled to find a place for herself and the means to carry on her work, and when she ended up at the Philpott Institute, she came as a pauper and had to switch fields. She knew the misery of starting over.
"'It is too little to call Man a little World,' " Kate recited in the library.
Cliff sat in a brown leather chair and Kate perched on the matching brass-studded ottoman. "'Except God, Man is a diminutive to nothing. Man consistes of more parts --- '"
"'More pieces,' " corrected Cliff. Kate had brought down Donne'sDevotions so he could check her.
"'Man consists of more pieces . . .'"
"'And if those pieces were extended, and stretched out in Man, as they are in the world, Man would be the gyant, and the World the Dwarfe, the World but the Map, and the Man the World.' " She stopped for a moment, and Cliff thought she'd forgotten her lines again, but she shook her head, interjecting, "He makes man a microcosm of the earth, and then he just explodes the metaphor! Because man is more complex than the world, more subtle, and more . . . vast." Kate beamed for a moment, radiant, pedantic. She was herself a secret poet, essayist, dedicated humanist --- her mother's child.
"Hmm." Cliff stared at the open page before him. Truth be told, until now, he hadn't heard of John Donne. He hadn't learned much about seventeenth-century poets during his years of chemistry and biology and graduate school. It occurred to him now that he'd spent his whole adult life in a prison workshop. Years and years of manual labor went by. New results filtered through only on the rarest occasions, and always to other people. Miracles didn't happen, but Cliff and his friends kept on working. Like scientific sharecroppers, they slaved all day. They were too highly trained to stop. Overeducated for other work, they kept repeating their experiments. They kept trying to live on their seventeen-thousand- dollar salaries. There was not much poetry in that, or if there was, Cliff had certainly not been privileged to see it.
"Kate, what are you doing?"
"Are you reciting poems to the guests again?"
Kate's older sisters had come to rescue Cliff. They burst into the library laughing, impudently underdressed in jeans. The young women were like Ann, tall and auburn-haired, their arms elegantly slender, their complexions fair. They looked nothing like Sandy, but they possessed something of his frenetic energy and self-confidence. They laughed because they knew that when they whirled into the room they changed the weather; they were the magician's daughters.
"It's not poetry," Kate said, "and he asked."
"Be honest, did you really ask her to recite for you?" inquired Louisa.
"I did," said Cliff. "And I like it."
"Oh, really!" Louisa pulled up a straight-back chair and sat down on it backward, long legs straddling the seat. "It must be good stuff, then."
"What is it? Let me see." Laughing, Charlotte leaned over to read the title of the book in Cliff 's hands.
"Don't tease her." Louisa was protective, gentle-hearted, though frighteningly accomplished.
Cliff ignored all this and turned to Kate with such warmth and pleasure she nearly blushed. "Where were you?" He turned back to the Devotions.
"'If all the Veines in our bodies, were extended to Rivers,' " Kate recited, " 'and all the Sinewes, to Vaines of Mines, and all the Muscles, that lye upon one another, to Hilles, and all the Bones to Quarries of stones, and all the other pieces, to the proportion of those which correspond to them in the world, Aire would be too little for this Orbe of Man to move in . . .'"
Sipping his drink, Cliff kept listening, prompting Kate when she forgot a word. Her sisters left, but he stayed on, letting his mind wander in Donne's ever-evolving conceits. Man was like a world, but so much greater, so much more complex. The world was plagued with caterpillars, serpents, and vipers. Man's diseases were like giants. Monsters. Through the library's great square doorway he could view the others standing in the dining room, feasting at the long table. Robin was playing her part, listening intently to Ann Glass. He could not see Marion or Sandy, but could easily imagine them somewhere in the house, plotting some punishment for him in the guise of a new research program. It was good to take refuge in the library with Kate. Cliff felt himself covered by metaphors there, safe, as if he were hidden behind old tapestries. "'And can the other world name so many venimous, so many consuming, so many monstrous creatures, as we can diseases . . . ?'" Kate read, and he smiled at her for bestowing her unexpected archaic self upon him, for reciting instead of forcing him to make conversation. He laughed softly at the words --- really not a bad description of a postdoc's life: "'O miserable abundance, O beggarly riches! '"
The guard at the institute barely looked up from his Boston Globe the next morning as Marion headed for the back stairs to the underground animal facility. She came in almost every Sunday to look in on the mice, her lab's tiny livestock.
On the Philpott's lowest level, she made her way through a labyrinth of white-tiled hallways cluttered with rolling carts and bins. There were bins of rumpled lab coats, which would go out Monday to the laundry service, and carts of clear plastic cages replete with smudged water bottles and soiled pine shavings, all stacked up like a thousand dirty dishes at the door of the equipment room. Lab techs would sterilize and return them, sparkling clean. This institute had never suffered sabotage from animal rights activists. Still, there were locks on every door. There was the unspoken sentiment that this work was safer here, under the earth.
At a bank of lockers in the hall, Marion donned a clean pale blue lab coat. All personnel had to wear them in the animal facility. She slipped aqua disposable paper booties over her shoes and a matching cap over her hair. Then, briskly, she made her way toward the numbered doors where the Philpott's mice were kept. Each door had a window tinted red. From the outside looking in, each holding area looked like a little room in hell, but the devilish red glow in Philpott's animal rooms was actually a precaution. The animals needed rest, and the red windows shielded them from the hall lights at night.
Marion was an attentive and compassionate investigator, almost fond of her small charges, proud and careful of them-not as if they had rights or souls, but as a craftsman might treat precious tools. She had worked with many strains of mice in her time and knew their particular traits. She knew the sleek albinos, their fine white hair and timid manner, their ruby eyes like the tiny birthstones in children's jewelry. She knew a particular strain of black mice, always agitated, jumping and flipping over constantly, like dark socks in a Laundromat dryer. Those animals knocked food pellets from their wire holders. Their fur was spiked and greasy with their rations, their manner mischievous. They looked like little punks. She knew a gray strain that fought, and others that wouldn't breed. She knew the strains that habitually ate their own pups-although all the mice ate their young to some extent. She had seen mice rip each other to pieces, and watched, as well, as three or four slept together, breathing delicately, in one soft mossy heap. These and others lived at the Philpott: some thin, some fat, some drug addicted, some healthy, some sick by design. She knew them all well, but these days she worked with mice the color of pink rubber erasers; they lacked a thymus gland, and because of this condition, they were hairless. They were called nude.
Nude mice lack a normal immune system. They cannot reject grafts of foreign tissue. Like quivering pink agar they would accept tissue from a lizard or a cat or even a patch of chicken skin complete with tiny feathers. Nude mice accept these xenografts and support the tissue as if it were their own. Marion's mice harbored human cancer cells. With her athymic mice, she could study tumors in vivo.
Nude mice were, in many ways, ideal vessels for Marion's experiments, but their great utility was also their weakness. They could not fight off contaminants as ordinary mice might, and so they were a target for disease. The Philpott maintained strict rules for the care of these animals. Their water and food, bottles and cages, were all sterilized. Food pellets for nudes had a soggy, cooked texture from the autoclave. Entering the athymic mouse room after handling other animals was strictly prohibited.
Peering through the red window in the door of the lab's animal room, she was pleased to see that Feng had come in before her. Each postdoc had lab duties, and Feng managed the colony record keeping. He often came in on weekends, and, like her, he'd come to check up on each group of the lab's experimental mice.
His full name was Xiang Feng, but he went by Feng, whichMarion only gradually realized was pronounced Fung. Feng himself had been too polite to correct her. He'd been born in Beijing, but had grown up in the north, where his professor parents had been reeducated to grow soybeans. Despite his father's transformation from molecular biologist to farmer, and his mother's parallel metamorphosis from historian to productive member of the proletariat, Feng had excelled in academic subjects and placed high enough on his national exams to earn admittance to Beijing University. In his graduate work he had excelled again, and after several years of research and teaching had petitioned successfully to come to the United States to train with Marion. He had arrived in Cambridge with a Pan Am flight bag, one suitcase, and a formidable arsenal of lab techniques.
Feng kept a punishing schedule. He chose his problems well, and he worked constantly. He seemed to live the life of a scientific ascetic- except that he was so funny. That was the odd thing about Feng. He was driven like few Marion had ever seen, but his manner was entirely bubbly. He wore glasses, but he also sported a mustache. A demon for accuracy, he kept meticulous records but downplayed the effort. He'd spent years beating his head against intractable problems, but this did not discourage him. He did more than any other postdoc in the lab, but he expected nothing. He worked with a kind of gallows humor to which the others could only aspire. Deliciously self-deprecating, he dismissed his own results as minor, or even accidental. "It's random luck," he'd say whenever he published an article or research note, and this, along with myriad other sayings of Feng's, had become a catchphrase in the lab. "Fungi," the other postdocs called them. To Marion's secret amusement, the researchers collected Fungi in their lab books. For the past six months or so the postdocs had been compiling a lexicon that included such classic definitions as:
Successful grant proposal (idiom): "major disaster, long-term"
Analyze (verb): "to flounder"
Hypothesis (noun): "highly flawed thinking"
Conference (noun): "cancer junket"
Government Appropriations for Cancer Research: GAC
(acronym): "sick tax"
Breakthrough (noun): "artifact"
Feng kept his sense of humor, and he stayed calm. When progress stalled and it seemed to Marion the others wallowed in self-pity, Feng persevered.
He nodded to her as she opened the door, and together they faced the cages that filled the windowless white room. Five steel racks held between twenty and thirty cages each. Over one hundred cages, almost three hundred mice. A living library of the hairless creatures. And yet the room was almost silent. The animals had been bred for quiet, as they had been bred for so many other conveniences. Only once in a great while did the faintest squeak escape from any of the mice living there together.
"What did you find?" Marion asked Feng.
"We'll see." Feng opened his record book. Cage number, mouse number, weight, condition. Each was neatly marked in columns on the pale green and white page. Finding his place in the record, Feng took two of Cliff 's cages from their rack and carried them to the high stainless steel worktable. Then Feng turned on the laminar flow hood, a mechanism that blew a constant stream of air over his work surface and sucked away contaminants. Under the hood, Feng picked up and turned the experimental mice one by one. Their skin rippled and wrinkled with every move. The creatures seemed nearly transparent under the examining light. Their organs showed lavender and purple through their thin skin, and the blood vessels in their ears were clearly visible, like the red veins in budding leaves. In some ways the animals acted like normal mice, nosing their food curiously, standing up on hind legs and cleaning their front paws-but without fur, the mice looked like wizened little men. They seemed fussy and careful. They strained to reach the edges of their cages when the lids were removed; they tried to chin themselves up over the side; but it never occurred to them to dash around wildly, spring into the air, and make a break for it, as an ordinary mouse would do. The nudes were rarefied creatures. Outside the animal facility, no field mouse would recognize them.
These animals were already quite sick. Tumors bulged grotesquely, as if the mice had swallowed marbles. By Marion's reckoning, most of the tumors were close to the institute's mandated one-centimeter limit. Cancer had deformed the animals entirely. Indeed, there was the first fatality, a small body lying in the corner of a cage. As Marion recorded the death, Feng sealed the dead mouse in a black plastic bag. He would put the corpse in the refrigerator that served as the animal facility's morgue.
As Feng examined the mice in one cage, Marion studied those in another. In silence Feng and Marion held each mouse gently, with gloved thumb and forefinger grasping the fold of skin behind the neck. Positioned on their backs, the mice flailed their legs helplessly and could not turn or bite while Feng and Marion measured their tumors with tiny calipers. Cliff had injected six groups of mice with breast cancer cells. Nine mice in each group. Fifty-four in all. After the tumors developed, he'd injected three groups with his virus, and set three groups aside for his control. Each experimental group had received a different genetic variant of the virus. The mice in two groups with the virus had already died, and those in the third group were close to death as well. Marion couldn't help tsking for a moment at the waste. She wasn't proud of sacrificing living creatures for the idle repetition of failed experiments.
"Marion," Feng said.
He rarely spoke while working, and she started, surprised to hear his voice.
"What is this?" He was turning a mouse slowly in his hand. "Is this mouse correct?"
"What do you mean?"
"Is it from the protocol?" Feng asked.
"I've already checked that. This is the correct mouse. This is number three hundred sixty-three," she said, pointing to the metal tag on the mouse's translucent ear.
"Then where is it?" Feng asked.
"Where is what?"
"The tumor," he said.
She took the mouse herself and turned and felt the wriggling body in her hands. Instinctively, the creature flexed its feet as Marion palallegrapated the first set of mammary glands. The tumor was barely perceptible, scarcely protruding on the animal's neck.
"Now look at this one. Three-sixty-five." Feng lifted another mouse from the cage. "This one last week had a tumor point five centimeters in diameter. Where is it now?"
They began to examine all the mice, comparing tumor size with the records in Feng's lab book. Nearly all had tumors as big as, or slightly bigger than, they had been before. Three mice, however, had tumors significantly smaller. How could this be? Somehow three tumors had actually shrunk.
Marion and Feng looked at each other. After repeated failure, could one of Cliff 's viral variants actually have some effect? What had changed here? What had Cliff done? The variation of the virus was R-7. Cliff had scrawled a note on the blue index card labeling this cage of mice. But he'd never gotten R-7 to work effectively in live animals before. Were these three mice significant? Or were they outliers of some kind-tainted by some other condition? This was the difficulty with animal research: so many different things could go wrong. Cancer cells would not grow or grew too slowly, blood work was inconclusive, animals died of some extraneous illness. Despite all Marion's precautions, there had been an outbreak in the colony years before. Only a few animals had died, but Marion had terminated all her experiments anyway."The mice were exposed to pathogens, and they're tainted," she'd announced at the lab meeting. "Obviously, we can't study cancer and some other unknown infection as well. What would we be looking at?"
What were they looking at now? Probably nothing. And yet . . . What were the chances that Cliff had actually happened onto something? If there was a real cause and effect, if R-7 actually reversed the progress of cancer growth, then they must find out how. Marion was not excited; she would never pin her hopes on one such observation, but she could not let it pass either.
She knew Feng was making the same calculations she was. The odds were against them. Still, there was the slight chance of some significance, that Cliff 's technique might have had some effect on these three mice. If that was the case, the ramifications could be huge. Holding a mouse on its back, Marion accidentally pinched the loose skin of its neck. The mouse's eyes bulged, its mouth popped open, exposing sharp white teeth. The animal's pink face started into a tiny mask of surprise.
"I don't think there's anything here," Marion said.
"I doubt it," Feng agreed.
"We'll observe them, in any case," Marion said. "We'll watch to see if the cancer grows again, or if for some reason tumors on other mice decrease. We can see if anything more happens here."
"I don't think anything will," Feng said cheerfully. When it came to nonchalance and scientific pessimism, he outmatched even Marion. The difference was, Marion's pessimism had been earned, while Feng was a natural.
Marion arrived home to find Jacob playing speed chess at the kitchen table with their son, Aaron. Jacob pushed his knight forward and slapped down the button on his side of the time clock with his hand; Aaron countered with his bishop, then slapped the clock in turn. At fourteen, Aaron had his father's lanky body, messy brown hair, and craggy nose. He was a nationally ranked chess player in the undereighteen category, but his father still beat him on occasion. Although Jacob no longer practiced seriously, he was a wily competitor.
Marion's husband had been that rarest of creatures, a child prodigy. Growing up in Cincinnati, Jacob spoke late, but his first word, according to family lore, was "delicious." He could read A. A. Milne to himself at the age of four, Dickens by six and a half. At seven, he made his concert debut, playing Mozart's second violin concerto with the local youth orchestra. At age nine he matriculated at the University of Cincinnati. He graduated with a degree in biology just before his bar mitzvah, and then stayed on for his doctorate. By the time he was seventeen he had left home for a postdoc with Franz Applebaum at Columbia. He arrived with glowing recommendations from all his professors, and three publications. Like an academic red carpet, his future seemed to unroll before him.
In Applebaum's lab, however, Jacob's apparently inexorable path toward scientific glory took a startling turn. Away from home, with only the minimal supervision for which Applebaum was famous, Jacob began, for the first time in his life, to reflect critically on the nature of his accomplishments. As he solved myriad minor problems in cell biology, and studied the scientific literature-as he watched Applebaum direct his lab, choosing investigative paths, deciding where to invest his time and experimental energy-Jacob identified in himself a fatal inability to generate new problems. He mastered techniques and processes, absorbed methods, systems, languages with amazing speed, but he could not derive systems of his own. With the tremendous clarity of his seventeen-year-old mind, Jacob recognized this deficiency. Applebaum gave him the run of his lab, and yet Jacob found himself incapable of devising his own investigative program. In short, Jacob realized that he was not creative.
This was the most important discovery of Jacob's life, and characteristically, he made the determination with ruthless accuracy. He had been groomed to think of himself as the next Pasteur-if not the next Heifetz. He had been raised by a science-mad rabbinical father and a pianist mother to understand that life's glory lay in molecular structures and medical research. Now he realized, for the first time, that he was not one of the chosen few; that he was probably incapable of anything more than incremental advances. He lacked the second sight to shape new paradigms and shake up the world with revolutionary propositions.
The discovery shocked and saddened him, and yet with the newfound understanding of his limitations, he also felt profound relief. Young as he was, Jacob had been exercising his mind since babyhood. And now, suddenly, he saw that he could stop. He could simply get a job, and read and play. He could abandon his prodigious expectations and begin to live.
His parents were baffled by this turn of events, and some of his Cincinnati professors were heartbroken, but Jacob did not waste much time pining for what might have been. He was busy now with growing up, and he had just fallen in love with Marion.
They'd met in Applebaum's lab when she arrived from Barnard to do her initial crystallography research. He was a postdoc, and she a freshman in college, but they were just the same age. Jacob saw in Marion everything he was not. He saw the way she pursued her work, taking her own direction in the lab. She was small, with curly brown hair and snapping black eyes, and she worked with a baggy lab coat thrown over her dress. The sleeves were too long on her, so her fingers just peeped out. Jacob had hardly noticed women before, but in his eighteenth year, when he gave up being a genius, he gave his heart to Marion, and more than that, he laid his formidable mind at her feet. When they were twenty he asked her to marry him. She was only a girl, but he believed she would make radical discoveries.
This was why Jacob dedicated himself to Marion. He was not trying to be a feminist, or to sacrifice himself. He did not particularly resent his teaching career at Tufts. He believed in Marion. He proofread every paper she wrote, and discussed every nuance of her work in the lab. Friends and colleagues thought him saintly and quite strange. Some felt secretly that he emasculated himself in his devotion to his wife's career. He had been a preternaturally gifted boy, and was now a highly unusual man. His mind was still agile, his reasoning frighteningly quick. He was a microbiology lecturer known for his clarity and his passion for the subject. He was famous, as well, for his dedication to those undergraduates who came to him for help. Patiently, during office hours, he tried to explain his course material, even while privately he wondered if some of his students had been mistakenly admitted to college, because they seemed to him mildly retarded. He was a happy man, for he had grown up. Indeed, he had grown out of himself, as many child prodigies fail to do. He was happy because he had discovered early, rather than late, that he would not be winning a Nobel Prize. And he had been granted an insight many of his scientific peers lacked-that when it came to Nobels, he himself did not need one. No, someday that distinction would belong to his wife.
"Is something wrong?" he asked Marion without looking up from the chessboard. Instead of joining them, she had been standing silently in the doorway of the kitchen. "What is it?"
"Something strange with the mice," she said.
"Yes." She described to him what she and Feng had seen.
"Suddenly the virus is working?"
"Well, it's probably not."
"You'll have to test it out," Jacob said. "Then you'll see."
He nodded matter-of-factly, eyes on his queen.
"I don't know if we should tell Sandy yet," Marion said.
"Because he'll put out a press release that you've cured cancer."
"I didn't mean that . . ."
"Check," said Jacob. "Well, I think you're right not to tell him."
"That's the thing." Marion fretted. "I don't think it's right at all to keep information from him, but I'm worried . . ."
"He'll go off half-cocked," said Jacob.
"Your turn," said Aaron, extricating himself.
Unhappily, Marion came over to the table and set down her worn brown briefcase with the small gold initials MJM. The J was for Joyce --- a fact that amused Sandy greatly. He'd teased, "Suspicious would be a better middle name for you. Or Doubtful."
"You know I'm right," Jacob said, frowning at the board.
She did know. Sandy went off half-cocked: that was the danger, but it was also entirely the good of him. You could set him off like a firecracker. She knew no one else so flammable. He was incautious. Imprudent. And yet Cliff, and Prithwish, and Robin-especially Robin-had been working so long without relief. They needed some change, or at least some news. They needed a little of Sandy's excitement.
"I think sometimes his timing . . ." Jacob began.
"He has an excellent sense of timing."
Jacob moved a piece and slapped his time clock. "He's a terrific publicist. He's a great fund-raiser. But I'm not talking about how well he speaks at conferences, or how he can charm money from NIH."
"Don't you think those are important qualities?"
"No question." Jacob's dark eyes darted over the chessboard. "I give him all the credit he deserves. Particularly when it comes to charming money. But those aren't scientific qualities, are they?"
"That's not entirely fair."
Aaron looked up, curious. His parents kept no secrets from him, but they seemed at times to speak in private code, hiding their meaning in plain sight.
"Look," said Marion, "you know how he is."
"Yes, I know exactly how he is."
Distracted by their serious, almost sparring, voices, Aaron made a careless mistake.
"Aha!" His father pounced. "Check."
Aaron stopped eavesdropping instantly; now he had to scramble to find a way out again.
"You'll have to use your own judgment," Jacob told Marion.
He liked Sandy. He would say that to anybody. Sandy was a wonderful storyteller, and had a great ear for satire. He loved to argue-argued brilliantly about everything from global warming to Reagan's Star Wars defense system-and often took a contrarian's point of view, a great virtue in Jacob's mind. Sandy was musical, literate, and a mean Scrabble player. He was almost everything one could ask. And yet, Jacob did not entirely respect him.
He did not begrudge Marion her friendship. When Sandy had first approached Marion, Jacob had encouraged her to collaborate with him. He had immediately appreciated the money and publicity that the doctor would bring in. Nor did Jacob resent Marion's loyalty to Sandy, and her increasing closeness to him over the past ten years. Perhaps some husbands would be jealous, but Jacob found nothing interesting in the idea that jealousy is a natural counterpart to love, or that when men and women work together there inevitably are sexual undercurrents. These sentimental notions-reductive, clichéd, ingrained in the cultural fantasies of romance-were utterly foreign to him, and had no relevance, as far as Jacob saw, to anyone offscreen, or offstage, or outside the pages of books.
Jacob's reservations about Sandy were scientific, and thus, far more profound. When it came to science, Sandy's motives were not entirely pure. True, Sandy was excited by discovery. Captured by a research program, no one touted that program so well. But Sandy was not Marion. Sandy's work was not about giving of himself, but about building up himself, his ego, and his persona. Sandy lacked humility; he lacked respect for the complexity of the problems before him, and attacked research with evangelical zeal. Given any encouragement, Sandy would go off rampaging for bold new results, sometimes forgetting what might be small and diffident, and difficult to describe-the truth.
"I wouldn't tell him anything yet." Jacob couldn't help warning one last time.
"But I should," Marion concluded, in such a decided voice that Aaron looked up again.
"The less he knows, the better."
"That's not true," said Marion.
"It's mostly true."
"It's a little true," she conceded.
But now Jacob was back in the game, eyes sparkling with competitive fire. "Checkmate."
- Genres: Fiction
- paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback
- ISBN-10: 0385336101
- ISBN-13: 9780385336109