Part Two - Conservation of Momentum
The next morning, as the family prepared for Dr. Wilson's homecoming, relations between mother and daughter headed south.
"Look, Mom, I'm not ready for this!" Grace yelled.
"But your father expects you--"
"--But I don't know if I want to take over Daddy's practice."
Faith's lips began to purse and her right eye began to twitch.
Grace grunted angrily. I hate that fucking look, she thought to herself. Joy walked through the doorway to the living room, caught one look of her mother's conniption, and abruptly turned back into the kitchen.
"Chipmunk's in big trouble now," she whispered to Dana. "Let's go for a walk," she said, grasping Dana by the arm and leading her out the screen door to the back yard.
"Will they be okay?" Dana looked over her shoulder in concern.
"They do this all the time. Seems like since the day Gracie popped her head out of Mom's uterus, they've been arguing 'bout somethin'."
"Grace can be determined when she wants something."
Joy chuckled and smiled knowingly. "So, how did you two meet?"
"Grace picked me up one night off the side of the road."
"No way. Gracie was cruising?"
"Oh, yeah, I think she does it all the time, although she'll deny it. She met her last girlfriend in the car too. She tries to claim it was a speeding ticket that brought the two together."
Joy stared at Dana, completely stunned, a bit of fear for her sister lingering in that look.
"Actually, Joy, I was bleeding from a fight I had been in in a bar, and she stopped to administer me first aid."
"Now that sounds like Chipmunk."
"How's her bedside mannah?"
"Good, I guess. I haven't had that many doctors."
Joy began to laugh at the innocent answer. Dana stopped walking when she realized Joy's actual question. Her new private life--what little there was--was not something she was used to talking about. "What has Grace told you?"
"That it's none of my business and that I am a latent homosexual who lives vicariously through her woman-woman relationships."
Dana laughed, picturing her friend saying just such a thing. "Well, then, considering Grace's current position, I will have to decline any further conversation on the matter."
"Good answer," Joy said, bending over to pick up a twig from the yard.
"What are they arguing about?"
"Grace doesn't want to come back and take over Daddy's practice. The problem is that it's a family duty. She's the doctor and gets the dubious honor. Besides, they paid for her degree; they think it's their right to demand how she uses it."
"But she doesn't want the practice."
"Gracie is not ready. She's not even thirty yet. And on top of it, she has a bit of a reputation in Cox's Creek that Mom and Daddy aren't ready to accept."
"Yeah, she had an affair with the prom queen and several of the cheerleaders when she was in high school. A lot of people knew about that, and in a Bible Belt that hasn't loosened a notch in the past fifty years, it's a problem. Mom still thinks it's a phase. And you're an anomaly. Grace has never brought home any of the women she's involved with."
The slap of the back door screen drew the women's attention to the house. Grace had stormed out, angry and cursing under her breath.
"Watch your mouth, Grace," Joy scolded. "There's young 'uns around."
"Sorry," Grace said as she reached Dana and her sister. "She just makes me so pissed."
"You do the same to her, you know," Joy said plainly. "Why don't you take Dana down to the frog pond," she suggested, pointing with her stick into the woods. "Show her how beautiful the country is."
"Frog pond!" little voices cheered from the swing set. Then came the patter of sneakers across grass. "Can we go with you too, Aunt Gracie?"
Aunt Gracie looked to her friend, who shrugged. It did not matter to her if they came along.
"Yahoo! Let's go get the gigs."
"Gigs?" Dana asked.
"Long forks to spear the frogs with," Joy explained.
"Why would they do that?"
"They're going to catch us dinner," Joy said as she patted the long arm next to her.
Grace spent the next two weeks meeting her father's medical obligations by keeping his office functioning, reviewing the insurance paperwork, and seeing his patients. Richard Wilson did not venture to the office until his third week home and stayed only a few hours at a time. During this period, Dana kept to herself in her room or went for walks with the boys. While Joy was tending to sick cows, sheep, cats, dogs, and birds in her office or on surrounding farms, Faith watched the boys. Only Matthew was home all day; the others were at school. Matthew had a tendency to break anything nice that Grandma left within reach. This included her Siamese cat, who scatched him several times. Dana did not care much for the cat and kept her door closed as much as possible to keep it away.
When the older boys came home, it became Dana's responsibility to keep them occupied outside so as not to upset Poppy until Joy or Noah arrived to take them home.
When she was alone, she stayed in her room away from Faith, working on her simulation programs as well as searching the Net for new technical postings. Every day there were new theories or studies being shared or offered for help or critique. Like most techs, she was always interested in new perspectives. Lately she had noticed a series of postings, all written by the same author, which on one level explained new theories and proposed results. However, underneath the style of the writing, Dana found inconsistencies in the physics as well as serious mathematical errors. She knew that many research facilities used the postings when they themselves were stalled, much like the Yale group, and many times found answers to their problems. This writer was calculating and subtle about the misinformation he or she was posting, and this irritated Dana. When she untangled the erroneous calculations, she would post her own counter findings. The total over the past six months had been thirteen faulty theories by this author, and over the past six months, none of the postings had been retracted.
Grace returned later each night, as more patients began to come to her. But the first thing she did each evening was to seek out Dana, whom she usually found in the room that Faith had assigned to the dark-haired woman. Dana usually sat by the wall phone jack for her downloads and remained there with her back to the wall, the only light coming from her screen. Sometimes Dana was sleeping or stretched out on the bed thinking about a problem or equation, or what it would be like to get past her sexual insecurities and take Grace to town.
They would talk for a few minutes; however, any sexual connection or prolonged kissing would be interrupted by a beckoning from Faith. After dinner Grace and her father would retire to his study to talk shop. By the fourth week, Dana was so desperate to spend time with Grace, she took up jogging in the morning just to be with her. She thanked her long legs for making the sacrifice bearable. But Grace barely spoke when she ran, some inner turmoil keeping her mind elsewhere. Dana was afraid to come out and demand time, despite the need. She had learned early that she had no right to demand anything from anyone. She was determined to be happy with what was offered.
So, when Grace showed up that Wednesday at noon, Dana was startled out of a deep thought pertaining to a certain blonde doctor in her underwear in the cabin of her boat. Her eyes were closed, and Grace was not sure if she was sleeping, long fingers entwined behind a thick, dark head of hair. Grace closed the door softly behind herself, but the noise caused Dana to open her eyes and face the sound.
"Shhh," Grace said, holding her finger to her lips. She tiptoed over to the bed and climbed astride the long legs.
Dana let her hands roam up the strong thighs that were wrapped around her hips, the daydream controlling her actions. Grace leaned forward and let her upper body barely brush the one below her.
"What are you thinking about?" Grace whispered, their mouths close. Dana let her hands roam up to the top of the blonde's inner thighs.
"You," she whispered back before reaching up to capture the lips of the elusive doctor. Her prize was pulled back and out of reach.
Dana growled her frustration. I'm going to die, she thought, unconsciously quickening the strokes.
Grace looked down at the beautiful features and dark hair sprawled out on the quilt. Her own hair was pulled away from her face in a professional manner, but still she could have passed for no older than twenty.
Dana continued the caresses, watching the movement of her hands intensely. All she had to do was go a little higher, unfasten the button of the slacks, and....
"Gracie?" Faith called loudly from the kitchen. Dana's hands slid off the warm slacks and fell to the bed.
"Yes, Mom!" she bellowed back through the door and down the hallway.
"Y'all want some lunch?"
"No, Mom, we're going out for lunch." Grace turned to Grace and whispered, "How does she know I'm here? I parked three houses down and snuck in the back door."
"Are we really going out?" Dana could barely contain her glee. She sat up and gave Grace a long, deep kiss.
"Wow!" Grace smiled, noticing the sudden glimmer in the pale blue eyes. Then it dawned on her how little time they had spent together over the past month. "You aren't having much fun, are you?"
Dana looked at her quizzically, wondering if she was supposed to be enjoying it.
Grace looked up over her plate, her small mouth stuffed with food. Dana waited for her to chew and swallow.
"It's supposed to be blue." They were seated at a window table of the Brown Bag, just a half-mile from the University of Louisville. A seemingly endless line of patrons slid past them, ordering sandwiches and homemade potato chips. The lunch crowd had not yet thinned, and it was already two-thirty.
Dana's dark eyebrows shot up into her bangs. "In prison, if your food was blue, it usually was a good idea not to eat it."
"You ain't in prison no more, Doc," Grace drawled.
Warily, after having been fed frog legs, she bit into the sandwich.
"Well, do you like?"
Dana wiped her lips with a napkin. She could not quite decide if she liked the tangy concoction. "It's different." Then she downed most of a bottle of water, trying to rid her mouth of greasy bacon residue.
"Is there anything you actually like to eat besides asparagus?"
Dana scratched her chin to emphasize that she was thinking hard. "Peppermint-stick ice cream, but it's been a few years."
"Never had it, but I bet I would find it 'different.'"
"And I would like to get you flat on your back for a few hours," Dana said, deciding that she would try the chips and leave the sandwich to live its own life.
Grace looked around to see how many people had heard Dana's uncharacteristic remark. "I want to take you somewhere tonight," Grace said as she finished Dana's sandwich. "I think you'll really like it. Live music, great beer, and it's very dark."
"It's not flute music?"
"Would I do that to you, Dana?"
"In that case, it sounds great."
"I invited my brother and sister to join us."
"You invited Dick-uh?" she complained, rolling her eyes. "Do I have to go?"
Grace scowled, truly upset.
"It's just that...." How do you tell someone that you hate their beloved brother, their twin?
"Stay home, Dana. My mistake."
Boy, could Grace hold a grudge. She had changed her mind about spending the afternoon together in Louisville and dropped Dana off at the house after driving home in impenetrable silence. She spent the afternoon at the office with her father, who was back at work three-quarters time. Dana found the corner of her room and downloaded an old file she had put away for several months, and spent her lonely hours playing out scenarios in the Nanoverse.
The doctors returned at dinnertime. Dana was still planted on the floor, her back against the wall, silver-rimmed glasses halfway down her nose, when she heard the muffled noises. She had not noticed the room darken, having engrossed herself in debugging a new self-replication program she had finally finished. She could hear Grace and her father laughing with the same deep belly laugh. The house smelled of freshly baked bread and a roasting chicken, but Dana was not hungry. And it hurt that Grace had not come immediately to find her.
Dana had been wondering for some time if she had worn out her welcome with all of the Wilsons. She missed the ocean; that was something she could have told Grace she liked. Why was communicating so difficult? She forced her thoughts to her boat. It needed scraping and painting, and the inboard was due for an overhaul. She began to plan the hard physical work that would give her something to do when Grace finally sent her away.
She listened closely to the familiar sound of her friend padding down the hallway, past her door, and into the bathroom. The water hissed through the pipes in the wall, and off-key humming came from the shower just beyond the drywall and tiles.
"Dana, you in here?" Grace poked her wet head into the dark room.
"Over here," she said, trying to stand on comatose legs.
"Why is it so dark in here?" Grace flipped on the overhead.
The bright light made Dana's eyes ache and water. She pulled the glasses off her face and put them in her shirt pocket, all the while trying to blink into focus.
She was going to beat Grace to the punch. "I was thinking that you don't plan to head back soon. I should head home."
Grace stared at her for a moment. "Dinner's ready," she answered curtly and walked out of the room.
Dana picked at her food, her stomach twisted up in more knots than a two-year-old's slinky. No words passed between the two young people. Grace still talked, conversing with her father, and even her mother, but she would not even look in Dana's direction. Then, after dinner, Grace left.
"What the hell are we doing here?" Dana asked Rip as the two walked down the road. Rip looked at her with round, sad eyes. "Do you want to go home?" The dog looked up again. By nine-forty-five she had finally made her decision.
By ten-thirty Richard Wilson had dropped her off in downtown Louisville. Dana thanked him quickly and headed to the entrance of the gray stone building. "I hope I'm doing the right thing," she mumbled to herself as she trudged up the stone steps.
She filtered in with a group of young men dressed in red sweaters and white turtlenecks, their hair cropped short. Once in, she was forced to choose to go up more stairs or to the left and down another set. She decided to follow the pack and went to the left, ending up in the right place.
Joy was giggling at the debate between her siblings. Grace was trying to explain to Dick that being a gynecologist for the reasons he proposed would go against the Hippocratic Oath. He vehemently disagreed, claiming that one should thoroughly enjoy one's work. Noah was working his way to the bar for refills and losing the battle against the river of red and white.
Dana spied the golden heads at a table up front by the musician, a pasty woman with long red ringlets and metallic gold pants. She was playing a keyboard and singing sad, moody blues tunes.
Grace's back was to her, but Dana could tell she was talking, her hands moving for emphasis. It was Joy who spied the tall ex-con first. Their eyes met, and then an endearing smile slid to Joy's face. A moment later, Dick's eyes, the same green as his sisters', met hers, but his expression, as expected, was not one of welcome. Finally, the young doctor turned to see what had stolen their attention from her. Dana would not describe it as the glee she had hoped to see, but it was not the disgust she had imagined. She took a deep breath and exhaled. Grace was headed her way.
"Dana? What are you doing here?"
"I have to talk to you."
"Did you come to say goodbye?"
Grace's stomach unclenched. "You changed your mind?"
Dana nodded. Grace automatically touched her arm.
"But I have to tell you something, and I think I have to do it now before I lose my nerve."
Grace's stomach tightened again. "What?" she inquired when her friend paused. Since Dana appeared hesitant to answer, Grace led her to a space by the wall, out of the sea of people.
"Grace, it's...I mean...." Suddenly she realized she had no idea how to discuss her feelings.
Grace was confused and concerned, and trying to read Dana's stoic expressions for clues was a waste of time. "You're giving me an ulcer making me wait. What's up?" she demanded impatiently, and a little roughly.
"This is hard for me, Grace," Dana explained defensively, biding her time. God, she wanted to kiss those pouting lips. Actions did speak louder than words, right? Grace crossed her arms to cover her anxiety. "I do want to go home, Grace, but I don't want to go anywhere without you. And I don't want to be the reason you leave your family."
"Dana," Grace said, shaking her head and averting her eyes.
"And it's killing me, not getting to be with you."
Grace continued to shake her head from side to side.
"Say something. Tell me to get lost or that you don't want to have anything to do with me."
"No! I'm not going to ever tell you that." She tightened her grip on Dana's arm. Tears were filling the corners of her eyes, making them dark emerald-green.
"Can I stay?"
"Hell, yes, you big dumb nano tech." Grace beamed at her, and Dana's heart fluttered.
"Will you buy me a beer too?"
"Come on." She took the larger, calloused hand of her emotionally fumbling friend and led her to the table.
This was going better than she had ever imagined it could, she thought, letting the young doctor guide her. She decided to test her momentum. Dana leaned in to her friend's ear. "Can I punch your brother if he pisses me off?"
"We'll see," she replied, smiling softly with her eyes and lips.
"Hey, it's tall, dark, and--"
"--Joy!" Grace snapped. "Behave."
Joy giggled and grabbed an empty chair from a neighboring table, setting it next to the end for her husband for when he finally returned.
Eventually he did, with four yards of ale. When his lovely wife asked him to wade back into the crowd for another he did so with only a roll of his eyes.
"God, he's pussy-whipped," Dick said in disgust.
"He's in love," Grace told her brother. "You should try it sometime."
"Love's bullshit. It's a convention of royalty, developed to give aristocratic women a goal in their otherwise meaningless existence."
"Oh, God." Joy rolled her eyes.
"Roll your eyes all you want, but the whole courtly love thing of soulmates and forever is a big sham thought up by poets and minstrels to seduce women while their lords and knights were away at war."
"Shut the fuck up."
The twins challenged each oher for a few seconds, then Dick looked away. "What about you, Nada Papasfritas, what do you think?"
"You're asking the wrong person."
"Come on, no prison romances? Ya never snuck a little nooky in a dark corner of the shower room?"
"Shut up, Dick!" Grace snapped.
Dana resisted the urge to kick the chair he was teetering backwards on backwards. "No," she replied evenly.
"You're telling me that you went eleven years with no deep-tonguing. Yeah, right."
"You're really a pig, Dick," Joy commented angrily.
"I'm only asking the questions everyone else wants to know but is afraid to say aloud." He turned to Dana, expecting an answer.
Dana had tensed when she realized Grace had told him about her imprisonment. She knew that Mark's question about her tattoo had led to more questions among the adults, but she had not been expecting the direct confrontation. He was right; most people were afraid to ask her, and for good reason. The fury was building in her, and he was becoming a target. Then she felt a hand brush her left knee. Grace glared at her brother.
"Shut up, and I mean it!" Grace growled.
Noah came back with his yard of ale and sat next to his wife, draping his free arm around her shoulders. Grace's hand had begun a gentle stroking of Dana's thigh for support. Now she knew why Dana had not wanted to come that evening. She did not like Dick too much herself at that moment.
"It's awfully quiet at this table," Noah commented. "Did I miss something?"
"I was asking Dana about love, penitentiary-style."
"Oh." He looked to his wife and they shared a knowing look that communicated that Dick was living up to his namesake.
"She's refusing to answer."
"Good for her," the schoolteacher replied. "Maybe we should change the subject."
"To what, Noah? Maybe you want to tell us about the Bible."
"Only if everyone else does."
"How about the story of Sodom and Gomorrah?" Dick directed his evil look at Grace.
Noah straightened his glasses.
"Never talk about religion in a bar, Dick," Joy said.
"Oh, Christ, I can't decide what I like more when I go to dinner at your house--the Bible-thumping or the plastic dinosaur that gets wedged up my ass every tme I sit down." He lifted the long yard to his lips and began to spin and drink until it was empty.
Grace leaned in to her friend's ear. "I'm sorry."
He put his empty yard down on the table and wiped his mouth with his hand.
"What the hell is wrong with you, Dick?" Grace asked the man whom she no longer recognized. He had changed over the ten years they had been separated when she left for undergraduate school at Yale and he went to the University of Kentucky.
Dick belched. "Let's talk about religion."
"Let's not," Grace interjected.
"No, no, and let's start with, oh, let's see...Nada. Nada, are you Christian?"
"I think we're going to leave," Grace said, beginning to stand.
Here was Dana's chance. Dick had made a big mistake when he had decided to take Dana on in the theology/philosophy department. You don't hang out with the prison priest for a year without learning a thing or two. "I'm a Basic Transcendentalist."
"What's that?" Joy asked.
"Do you know what that is, Dick-uh?" Dana asked.
Dana turned to Joy. "I believe that we are all part of this collective spirit that binds all living things together. This spirit flows through us, and when you shut it out and don't allow it to flow through you, then you lose the truth and focus, and you become mean and hateful and do bad things." She looked directly at Dick. "And you make it hard for anyone to love you. But if you have clarity of heart and mind, your actions will only follow, and that allows us to perform miracles of thought and body. Of course, this spirit ebbs and flows through everything, and it is very easy to lose that clarity and shut off the spirit or distort it."
"Sounds like electricity," Noah said.
"Sounds like bullshit."
"I think it's energy. The driving force of life is based on the electron."
Joy smiled. "This spirit could be God."
"Well, sure, Christianity is transcendentalism with the energy personified, although nowadays the personification of God has been thrown by the wayside by many cultures."
Dick laughed. "Is this your idea?"
"No, I read about it in seventh grade. Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Don't they teach them to English majors down here?"
"A transcendentalist believes that moral guidelines exist outside of the mind, as opposed to contrivances of the mind. I think Christ lived exactly the type of life that epitomizes letting the spirit flow and enhancing human existence."
"Gee, Chipmunk, and I thought you might have found yourself a fellow atheist," Dick burbled.
Grace looked at her friend and explained, "I'm in that contrivance group."
"Been an atheist since the Big Wave," Joy explained. "She wrote an essay about it that got her into Yale."
"I'm an empiricist, not an atheist," Grace clarified. "I believe that the reason societies have morals is due to genetic moral propensity passed down generationally based on the pressures of survival. Those people with moral conscience tended to create larger communities where the payoffs were money, status, sex, comfort, health, and food. Basically longevity."
She sighed, having explained this a million times, it seemed. "All animals live through cycles guided by elaborate instinctual algorithms. Why should we be any different? We need leaders, just like a pack of dogs or nonhuman primates. But humans are emotional, symbol-forming creatures and are not satisfied with raw pack life. They strive to build communities and cultures that are completely rewarding. Luckily, moral sentiment is carried on an identifiable gene on the seventh chromosome. Religion is a derivative of that particular gene and is passed on genetically. Morals are our leaders, providing something to guide the development of human society. We create religion to justify these genetically-instilled ideas of morality. Religion also helps us deal with grief, explain the inexplicable, and commune with the rest of what exists. A similar gene on chromosome three carries one's tendency toward altruism and has survived throughout human evolution for the same reasons. When people with the genetic propensity to sacrifice themselves for the greater good do so, their genes are more likely to live on in their offspring because of their sacrifice. The loss of the one is offset by the survival of the group.
"So you see, what guides--and has guided--our creation and survival is not some transcendental energy or spiritualism, it is biology."
A moment of silence.
"I like Dana's view a lot better," Joy said.
"Yeah, Gracie, you need to let that energy flow through you," Noah said.
"Dick, you're simply a lost cause," Joy added.
He growled. "So, Nada, I take it you haven't always practiced what you preach."
"What did you do to land in prison?"
The moment had arrived.
"I killed a man."
Dick began to laugh uncontrollably. "My God, Chipmunk, Mom's gonna shit a cinderblock when she gets a hold that you're shacking up with a freakin' murderer."
Dana's leg began to tremble. Grace slipped her hand to the shaking leg, and it was the only thing restraining Dana from lunging across the table and breaking his windpipe. "I have to go to the ladies' room," she finally said through gritted teeth. She stood and quickly left the table so disoriented from opening herself up to Dick's potshots, she was surprised she had not knocked anyone down on the way. But instead of going to the restroom, she slipped outside, away from people.
Grace looked at her sister.
"Go!" her older sister mouthed.
"Damn," Dick said, still laughing. "That Dana sure knows how to take the fun out of dysfunctional."
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