1.10 Arrivals in Paris

1.10.1 Alenby à la Recherche des Bagages Perdus

Baggage Claim Area

Simone de Beauvoir Airport, Paris Roissy

About 7 am Wednesday 2 April 1987

Extraordinary enough, Alenby thought, that his valise had disappeared at the Newark check-in, before he’d even received his boarding pass. And it would be even more extraordinary if it reappeared in Paris. He had almost lost hope of getting it back.

Ada pressed him to file a baggage claim, but in his pessimistic mood he was slow to budge. He waited listlessly, watched people pluck their things from the carousel and hurry off, until no one was left but them and a couple of young American men ironing out some sort of mix-up. In the end there was nothing for it but Ada’s suggestion, the Lost Baggage office. His attempts to describe his missing valise met with skepticism. No one would believe that it weighed all of 70 pounds. Thirty-one kilos? Unimaginable!

Alenby turned away feeling disheartened. This nightmare of a twilight existence--no decent clothes, and no nice lunch in prospect--settled over him like a miasma. He followed Ada through the immigration formalities, watched without feeling more than a flicker of interest as she won over a suspicious official—male—to the view that his passport was valid for entry into France despite having been issued in another universe.

He clung to the one last hope, that just as the café at the end of the International Arrivals concourse had always seemed to him the place where the gastronomically undistinguished torpor of life in America ended and the sparkle and fizz of France began, so now might it prove the gateway to the cozy smoky lung-cancer-be-damned ambience and strong coffee in decent-size cups and croissants with brittle nutty-tasting crusts that shatter and fly all over when you bite into them. He shrugged off his depressed mood and with Ada seemingly floating at his side he stepped out energetically in the direction of petit déjeuner.

1.10.2 Izzy Bott and Leo Barton Exchange Duffles

Baggage Claim Area, then Café Brûlante Afrique

Simone de Beauvoir Airport, Paris Roissy

About 7 am Wednesday 2 April 1987

The Midwest accented male voice easily carried the length of the now almost vacant carousel area.

"Yo, dude! If you are Isador Bott MD of Shunway, Illinois, this is your duffel I’ve got here."

 Izzy automatically analyzed the voice: plenty of juice in that baritone, good projection from the diaphragm, possibly a singer or actor. Age about the same as his own, 35 or so—an estimate confirmed by a glance at the by now rapidly approaching figure.

"And if you are—" he read the label on the item he’d just picked off the carousel "—Leonard Barton of Ames Iowa, this is your practically-identical-to-mine duffel bag."

"Right. Leo Barton here."

"Izzy Bott, pleased to meet you."

The two men shook hands, swapped bags, slung them over their shoulders and strode out past customs.

"Well, Leo," said Izzy, "I’m sure glad our baggage mix-up sorted itself out."

"Yeah, for a minute there I thought I might miss the train. Now I’ve got a half-hour to spare, time for a slug of coffee."

"Same here. Same train, I guess. Richelieu?

"Right," Leo said, "Richelieu—I got a boondoggle at the PROFATPOL place there. Don’t tell me—"

"The same. With things heating up over here, Green Fedoras getting into it, they’re tapping enforcement funding, hence more openings.…

The pair stopped to read the signs in the arrivals concourse: right to the TGV station, left to Café Brûlante Afrique. They decided to get their train tickets, then head back to the café.

1.10.3 Alenby Relaxes

Café Brûlante Afrique

Simone de Beauvoir Airport, Paris Roissy

About 7:30 am Wednesday 2 April 1987

Café Brûlante Afrique was the site of Alenby’s ultimate disappointment, the quenching of his last spark of hope of return to the comfortable, buttery, crispy-toasty Gauloise-fugged France of his dreams. Before he and Ada had so much as set foot in the place, it was brutally evident to him that the its specialty was not croissants or brioches, but fruits exotiques—pineapple, mango, papaya, starfruit and the like. Simple fruit flavors only, nothing any discriminating gentleman would care to eat….

He turned to Ada with a complaint on his lips, but he saw at once that she did not share his mood. Eyes sparkling, face flushed, she radiated joie de vivre.

"Wait here, Alenby," she said. "Back in a couple of hours—bye!" With that she wafted away, light as a freshly baked pet de nonne.

Alenby stumbled into the café and squeezed behind one of its little round marble-topped tables. A series of disappointments and absurdities he’d endured in the preceding few hours had left him feeling exhausted and disconnected from reality. He had slept on the flight, but maybe a little more sleep would be a blessed escape….

He thought carefully, and then made his move: two tablets of Comadöz to ensure two hours of natural relaxing slumber, plus one delayed-action Amphetojolt! to be followed up with a booster cup of coffee for a safe and swift return to consciousness. On second thoughts, better make that two coffees—those ridiculously small cups….

Just as he passed out, he recalled Ada’s saying something about some business in Paris. What business? A shopping expedition, probably. When the weaker sex got excited, shopping was the usual explanation.

1.10.4 Izzy and Leo Exchange Views

Café Brûlante Afrique

Simone de Beauvoir Airport, Paris Roissy

About 7:30 am Wednesday 2 April 1987

"I sure could use a coffee," said Leo. "Also a PMS. Looks like this Brûlante Afrique place ought to fill the bill."

"Right, a coffee," Izzy agreed. "Uh, PMS—what do you mean by that, actually?"

"Papaya mango and starfruit salad. Right now it’s all the rage with my students. Next year it’ll be something else. Don't tell me--PMS is a medical term?"

"It is, actually, Leo—premature menarche syndrome. Precocious sexuality is shaping up to be a real problem for young users, especially females. Plays havoc with their high school education. Substance ingestion leads to early and excessive secretions of sex hormones, you know. Result—they go ape over boys, neglect their studies. It's not just a youth thing, either. Victims suffer needlessly in later life, especially women. Delayed menopause, hot flashes and other symptoms as estrogen levels drop from too high to too low...I gather you teach? At Iowa State?

"Right, English lit. Ah, here we are, La Brûlante Afrique."

The two men went in, dumped their duffels and sat down at one of the little tables. They ordered. Then they looked at each other appraisingly.

"So Izzy, how d’you see the French Open shaping up? Does Stig the Slashing Swede have a chance this time around, would you say?"

"Well, he’s over 40. He’s peaked. And he’s carrying some excess weight. At 5-7, he ought to be 135, and he’s playing at a pound or two over that lately. Question: can he go five?"

"Right, but he can still knock in a blistering first serve. Over 100 mph—"

"Well, there again, with the new rule, he has to stand way behind the—"

"Right, but remember he has a kicker, heavy top-spin—"

After several more such ripostes, they paused and exchanged barely perceptible nods acknowledging the other’s mastery of sport speak. Male bonding ritual observed.

A waiter delivered their PMSes, and they dug in.

"English lit?" Izzy prompted after a time.

"Right," said Leo. "English lit, deconstruction and all, the art of interpreting texts as meaning the opposite to what the writer intended. A lot of gobbledygook, but it has its uses. Like creating disinfo--you know, writing lies that look true. Got quite facile at it actually, lined up this sabbatical year on the strength of it. I’m supposed to be writing disinfo for PROFATPOL. About how they help people stay away from Substances. Sheer crap, everybody with half a brain knows they just grab the loot to sell on the black market—"

"Then why did you—?"

Leo leaned forward. "It was in the fine print. Possibility of making publicity videos! To download to regular HV, you know. That’s what I really want to do. Of course it’s the same old disinfo dodge, but it’s just a chance to, you know, put your personal stamp on it, get into something interesting for a change. Just a possibility."

"Videos, huh? Hmm, that sounds interesting…."

"Yeah, I guess."

"So, Izzy," Leo resumed after a pause, "you’re a medic—practicing here in France?"

"Yes, I’ll be the assistant to the chief medical officer at Richelieu. Actually, I’m hoping to get some experience with users. Detoxification, rehabilitation—"

"Turn ’em back into decent, law-abiding citizens, eh. Well, lots of luck."

"Yes," Izzy agreed, "it is indeed a daunting task. We humans have evolved to desire high-calorie foods regardless of their nutricity value--"

"Nutricity, huh. What's--"

"Sorry, new jargon. Nutricity means total nutritional content divided by calories. As I was saying, we've evolved to desire high-calorie foods regardless of their nutricity value. Animal products of course, and lately sugary snacks and drinks like Coca-Cola, which promote--"

"Right—diabetes, the D in CHAOS AND OUCH."

"Yes, an increased prevalence of the D in CHAOS AND OUCH is not a pretty prospect. But there is hope. An advocacy group called XPROW, Extend Prohibition Now!, has its sights on sugary items, and it seems to be getting traction in Washington. The founder, Ada Lynche I think her name is, they say she's a serious contender for Czarina in the next--"

"Ada Lynche!" Leo interrupted, snapping his fingers. "I think I saw her on HV. In Stig the Swede's friends' box at the Oz Open in Melbourne. Quite a looker. Hot, too, I wouldn't mind betting. Although she's been around a while, over 60 if she's a day."

"Oh, it wouldn't be at all unexpected for an American woman of 60 or 65 to have retained her youthful libido," said Izzy. "Born in the early Prohibition era, she was probably never exposed to the harmful effects of animal milk or other Substances. Most likely she never suffered the effects of excessive sex hormones. Nor of a deficiency of sex hormones after menopause, since a healthy diet supplies plant estrogens that are readily converted into the human kind as needed... Say, your students are right, Leo. This PMS is pretty good."

"Yeah, it’s good, all right. You gotta hand it to the Frogs, they know food…. Hey, what’s that noise? Sounds like a chopper or something. Coming over real low—"

Izzy laughed. "That sawing noise, you mean? That’s just somebody breathing in her or his sleep in such a way as to cause an audible vibration of the uvula and soft palate. It’s called snoring. It’s not that common, actually. Pretty much confined to users."

Leo around the room. "That must be him over there in the back," he said, indicating a burly figure slumped over a table in an attitude of total relaxation. "Gaea, that’s a big guy!"

Izzy wagged an admonitory finger. "Actually, Leo, according to the PROFATPOL orientation handbook, we’re supposed to stick to non-discriminatory language. Remember, don't say 'big,' say ‘dimensionally disadvantaged.’"

"Oh, right. So the guy is dimensionally disadvantaged in spades. He’s a user, wouldn’t you say?"

"I would. As a matter of fact, Leo, I happened to catch sight of him at the Baggage Claim, and I noticed that he is significantly disadvantaged vertically as well as horizontally. I would say that he’s been a user since birth, and consequently suffered overly rapid growth in childhood. In that case he would most likely be not only a user, but also an offspring of users."

"So dimensional disadvantage runs in families," said Leo, still glaring at the direction of the disadvantaged one. "You’re saying it’s a genetic thing?"

"To some extent genetic, but from research coming out of Ducru’s Institute—Paul Ducru, you know, quite an influential figure in the molecular genetics field, the one the others all quote these days--according to that research, gene expression may be significantly affected by environmental factors, including the ingestion of Substances. In other words you can get non-genetic as well as genetic transmission of characteristics."

"Well, whatever he is and however he got that way, if he doesn’t let up pretty soon on that Gaea-damn snoring I’m going to go over there and I’m gonna knock his fracking uvula down his—"

"Oh, I wouldn’t try anything like that, Leo. Remember, users can be quite vicious if disturbed. They frequently suffer from something called headache—often, though by no means always, it's the concomitant of detoxification after ingestion of Substances."

Leo shifted irritably. "Frankly, old buddy, I’m about fed up to here with this crap about users and their problems, and I haven’t got to Richelieu yet. Haven’t even got on the Gaea-damn train! Maybe I ought to head right on back to Iowa."

"You don’t want to quit just yet. Why not give that video thing a whirl. It might be your big chance. Writing for a movie or whatever—"

"Not writing, Izzy—acting. Acting’s my game, I reckon. The classics: Shakespeare, Shaw, Wilde. And farce—I’d like to take a shot at the British-type comic figure, the imperturbable butler sort of thing. Of course I wouldn’t be doing any of that for PROFATPOL, but you’re right, it could be my chance…."

"A butler, you mean like Jeeves?"

Leo jerked his head back and regarded Izzy with an expression that mingled incredulity and suppressed rage. "Jeeves?" he repeated in an icy tone. "In the writings of the author you may have in mind, the butler is Beach. Not Jeeves, Beach. Jeeves is a gentleman’s gentleman, not a butler. There is a difference, you know."

Izzy realized that he had started back in alarm. He tried to laugh, but brought out no more than a nervous croak. "Gaea, Leo," he said after a moment, "you certainly came across as a mean son of a sow."

Leo smiled broadly. "Well thank you, good buddy, thank you," he said in his normal voice.

With that the pair picked up their duffle bags and headed for the train.

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