2.10 Two Tango
2.10.1 Alenby Sets Off
On the Bank of the Loire near Beaugency
One second past midnight Friday 1 April 1988
At one minute past midnight on Friday 1 April 1988, Prohibition was officially repealed, its enforcement arm PROFATPOL disbanded, and persons detained by PROFATPOL set free. By two minutes past midnight, Alenby had set his running sandals on track to a hoped-for rendezvous with his beloved Olympe.
He'd chosen a route like that he and Ada had followed, just one year earlier, in the tomato red Mercedes: from the Reformatory, cross the Loire at Beaugency, then continue downriver along the left bank as far as St Dyé. From there, turn south and follow signs to Olympe's home, Restaurant Le Gardon in Pouzay.
His plan was good as far as it went, but the conditions were not favorable for running. The sky was overcast, threatening a rain storm. And so dark that without the LED headlight he wore strapped to his forehead, he would have had to slow to a walk.
The headlight was parting gift from his driver ed class. He felt strangely moved at the boys' gesture. He was not used to getting something for nothing. Of course it was not for nothing. Everything had gone well from the start--his fame as the renegade Red Baron had helped there--and he'd made an effort to inculcate in the boys an awareness of safety issues likely to crop up as they worked towards their career goals. He'd made taken care to point out, for example, that if a routine stinkpot heist should degenerate into car chase with the police, the simple precaution of maintaining correct tire pressure could well have a decisive effect on the outcome.
The rain came, heavy at times. Alenby ran on through the downpour, making good time despite chafing of his inner thighs from friction with the bunched and sodden denim of his running shorts. The rain let up from time to time, but the chafing got worse. He realized he would have to do something about it--perhaps take off the shorts, wring them out and stow them in his back pack. But after he arrived at the St Dyé rest area and had taken a couple of hours sleep there, a better solution presented itself. Or more accurately put, was presented to him.
2.10.2 Alenby Receives a Sign
On the Bank of the Loire near St Dyé
9h Friday 1 April 1988
Alenby awoke to the sound of men's voices. Two men conversing in what he thought at first might be a form of Scottish Gaelic with a few English words thrown in here and there: "Muckle, muckle wad t' provost an' t' bailies o'Glasgow gei t' hae micht a diel," and "Fa's tat, fa's tat, ye wad say," and so on. Still half asleep, but vaguely alarmed at the words "provost" and "bailies," he was scrambling to his feet and getting ready to run, when the two men came into view. He recognized the ostensible Scottish couriers whom he and Ada had picked up in the Mercedes. Same bedraggled kilts with the same too-high hemline, and very likely the same buns that Ada had found so appealing.
At his obvious questions the men roared with laughter and exchanged forceful though friendly punches to each others' ribs and shoulders. No, they weren't Scots and it wasn't Gaelic they spoke--it was just some impenetrable dialect lifted from the works of Sir Walter Scott. They were indeed couriers, however. Professor Ducru's couriers.
They took turns explaining their seemingly obsolete occupation.
"The professor--he's paranoid."
"Scared of getting scooped."
"So he has this crazy way of sending the goods."
"By mail--with a missing link."
"A bit? He's as nutty as a fracking fruit cake!"
"He's a playful polymath, given to highly original means of handling normal feelings of anxiety."
"Normal? Scared stiff other researches are going to get in ahead of him, publish first and get all the credit--is that normal?"
"Distrusts the postal service, places delivery of sensitive materials in the hands of reliable dispatch runners who might otherwise be o
as spoken by the . sounded like as a jocular vein. , It came in a bulk" y parcel, thrust roughly into his hands by two men in kilts, who had immediately turned and run off into the rain. The thought flitted through his mind--Scottish couriers. And from their auto stop signs, and the buns that Ada had admired so lasciviously, they could have been the very same Scottish couriers whom she had insisted he pick up in the red Mercedes.
He knew right away, this parcel contained the promised sign from Olympe. He tore it open, took out the contents: a kilt--a woolen kilt--and a sporran, dancing shoes and the rest of a traditional Scottish get-up. And an encircled note, Soon, but not before 19:00h.
Moments later, energized, kilted and consequently free of chafing, he strode on through the rain. Inwardly he thanked Olympe for her sign, and The woolen fabric, slightly oily, shed the rain. He ran steadily, repeating over and over in time with his breathing, there is no substitute for wool....
2.10.3 Alenby Meets a Murderer
On a South-Bound Running Path near Montbazon
14h Friday 1 April
By mid afternoon Alenby realized that, despite his best efforts he had not covered even half the distance to Pouzay. He needed some faster means of travel than by foot, such as one of the golf-cart things--Citroën 1CV plug-ins--that he'd seen rolling along the paved path that ran parallel to the running path. Extending a thumb to hitch a ride did not come naturally, but he did it anyway. After a while, one of them stopped for him. The driver, a short but heavily-built man with a thick black beard and a lot of hair, also black.
"Chuck your stuff in back and get in," the driver said. "Name's Tim." in the 'get He tossed his pack in the rear and squeezed in beside the driver,"Get out," said the hirsute one, "take your pack off, chuck it in the back, and get in again. Name's Tim."
ed the running path; by bicycle, or by one of or by one of what he had once The It othe reali
On the Terrace, Restaurant Le Gardon
6:30 pm Friday 4 April 1988
Having followed the instructions for entry into Restaurant Le Gardon--no problem there--Alenby settled himself at a table on the terrace. Checking his watch, he saw that in his haste he was a good half-hour ahead of time. A half-hour to enjoy the luxury of anticipation....
One lingering uncertainty had been resolved: he was glad, in balance, that he'd decided to wear the kilt non-regimental. Wool has many virtues--its warmth, its color-fastness, its hang and so on and so forth--but the genuine article is undeniably prickly, and he was now aware that his cotton underpants afforded him a degree of protection sufficient to offset the unease he always felt at flouting a venerable tradition. Suddenly he had that wonderful feeling celebrated in "Oklahoma": Everythin's going my wa-ay, he sang sotto voce, Everythin's going my way!
Still humming that melody, he glanced idly about the terrace. So this was the new add-on Olympe had been planning so long. She must have ordered the work hurriedly, just before they arrested her--arrested them both, though on different charges--at dawn of the day after the disappearance of Ada and Le Cépe. But hurried or not, the result was impressive. Very nice imitation-stone floor, smooth and black, gleaming dully like a ball-room floor, no doubt weather-proof. Around the balustrade, urns planted with trailing plants, flowers, ferns. Much as she had envisaged, and on that night of love had whispered to him across a shared pillow....
Below, beyond the balustrade and through the tree-tops he glimpsed the swift-flowing Vienne glittering in the waning light of the day. Sunset, time for an aperitif. He picked up the wall-mounted om and vexed an order: a flûte--no, two flûtes--of Champagne. Fayette, preferably.
Time passed. Damnably slow service, he thought, consulting his watch. Then he remembered the place wasn't open, he'd had to use the password. Could that mean--no service? His spirits sank, but rose again when, after all, a waiter came into view bearing a tray with the bubbly. The fellow, seemingly unpracticed in the waiter's tip-toe posture, moved jerkily, and Alenby, fearing spillage of the Champagne, urged him to adopt a less taxing attitude.
"Thank you, Excellency," he said, standing securely flat-footed and transferring the wine to the table. "This tip-toe thing is such a pain in the butt! It's the toughest thing about training to be a waiter. I don't know if I'm going to be able to make it. It's not just my butt, my gastrocnemius is killing me. And my--"
"Then take the weight off!" said Alenby. "Sit down, my good man, and pause for a drop of Champagne!" The waiter accepted, and for a time the two men quietly savored the yeasty, citrus-hinting savors of Fayette blanc de blancs.
"I somehow gather," said Alenby eventually, "that you are not a fully fledged waiter, not as yet at any rate. I seem to remember you as a doctor--Dr Isador Bott, of Prison Simone Weil."
"Yes, Excellency, I served as a doctor. That very doctor, indeed. Also as an actor--
"Isu Botu, the monosyllabic diagnostician of HV fame--"
"Is," smilingly agreed Dr Isador Bott, alias Isu Botu. "And please call me Izzy....
"Anyway," Izzy continued after a few more appreciative sips of Fayette, "that was then. Now, I want to be a waiter. For me it looks like the best way into the healthy food business--into the confluence of nutrition and gastronomy, or gastronutrition as I like to call it. As a waiter with a medical background, and consequently armed with prior knowledge of what might be termed gastronotrition as well as gastronutrition--"
"Excuse me for interrupting on a point that may be of no more than mere lexicographical significance," said Alenby, "but regarding the terms gastronutrition and gastronotrition--there is a difference I assume?"
"Yes, there is a slight difference," Izzy admitted, and he hastened to explain: "Gastronutrition reflects the outlook of the health maven, that one ought to eat to live, whereas gastronotrition reflects the outlook of the gastronome, that one ought to live to eat. Ultimately, the two converge, since eating to live--in other words consuming food of high nutritional value--has the effect of sharpening the sense of taste and consequently of enhancing the enjoyment of eating to the extent that eating itself might indeed become the main point of living."
Alenby nodded, neatly put. Both men took another sip of Champagne.
"Anyway," Izzy resumed, "as a waiter armed with knowledge of the art and science of eating, I hope to guide clients of Le Gardon Frit to food choices Gaea-friendly in the broadest sense: choices calculated to reduce the incidence of CHAOS AND OUCH; choices calculated to retard menarche and hasten menopause in women, thereby reducing overall fertility and keeping a brake on population growth; all this while helping to preserve the freshness and beauty of the environment while at the same time enhancing people's enjoyment of the varied, colorful and vividly flavored culinary creations of the new chef, Professor Ducru."
"Professor Ducru--so he's the new chef?" Despite his effort to appear au courant, Alenby failed to suppress a note of surprise.
"I beg your pardon, Excellency, I assumed you knew Professor Ducru was a prime candidate for the position. But I suppose little outside news reached you during your...detention."
Alenby agreed. He had been out of the loop, so to speak, since they had taken away his om for the entire period of his community service.
"The owner of the place," Izzy continued, "Madame Picpoul you know, tapped the Professor--DC, everyone calls him--immediately after the previous chef's untimely disappearance. Later, when DC accepted the position, I recognized my opportunity to serve at his side in Restaurant Le Gardon. Unfortunately, Madame Picpoul had by then been taken to Skerrick--"
"The little-known Scottish Isle of Skerrick, Excellency, not far from Lewis with Harris I believe. That's where she did the first part of her community service, before she was sent on to the only slightly better known Argentinean Isle of Saunders--"
"Saunders, Argentinean? If I am not mistaken, Saunders is the westernmost isle of the Falklands group, which is British. Argentina has always claimed it, but--you're saying they succeeded?"
"Yes, Excellency. They were thinking of going to war over it, but the British Mothers' Party, or the the Mums as they are called, insisted that to get what they wanted, the Argentineans needed only to ask nicely and remember to say 'please.' Anyway the Falklands is Argentinean now. They're called the Malvinas, and they dance the tango instead of the fox trot, but otherwise things are pretty much the same as before."
"Skerrick and Saunders--rather inhospitable spots to do time, I should think. Very chilly and windy. How in the name of Gaea could Madam Picpoul perform any worthwhile community service under those--?"
"As a shepherdess, actually, caring for sheep. Not just any ordinary sheep, mind you, but flocks that have proved particularly useful, because of their genetic uniformity, to serve as test animals for Professor Ducru's researches in what has become popularly known as genetic engineering. This work, incidentally, has met with some success--
"I see," said Alenby, although he didn't quite. "And does this research in genetic engineering have any practical application?"
"Yes. In the case of the Scottish flock, the production of a fiber called wool, much used back in prePro days for making cloth of extraordinary lightness, durability and luster. That activity was then considered economically viable only in conjunction with the weird old practice of killing the animals and eating the carcass--by the way, could that be a wool skirt you're wearing?"
"It's not a skirt," said Alenby with some asperity. "It's a kilt."
"Oh, quite so, a kilt," said Izzy with a placatory gesture. "A garment symbolic of manly physicality."
Alenby smiled slightly. Manly physicality--that's exactly what he felt full of....
"Anyway," Izzy continued, "in the case of the Argentinean flock, the economically promising application is the production of a human sex pheromone. The ewes of the flock have been reconfigured to secrete the stuff in their--" He mouthed the m word.
Before Alenby had time to digest this information, (his mind being focused on wool) Izzy went on: "After following a regime of topical application of Phyrupfem, as the new product is called, Paul--that is to say DC--Paul and I have managed to persuade an elegantly slim, short and charming, though skittish, young Motherhood-diplomate and author of a best-selling and critically acclaimed biography, to be our wife."
"Congratulations," said Alenby, raising his glass. He also raised his eyebrows, but lowered them again upon recalling that the singular form was perfectly proper in a universe where polyandry was an accepted means of population control.
"Thank you," said Izzy, also raising his glass and then draining it with an air of finality. He put his glass down, stood up and proffered a tiny vial of whitish liquid. "Perhaps," he suggested, "you might care to help us evaluate the potential of Phyrupfem. You just dab on a bit here and there--wrists, you know. Throat, behind the ears...."
Alenby accepted the vial with genuine gratitude. Olympe might well prove skittish. A dab here and a dab there wouldn't hurt. No use being half safe.
"Now I'd better clear off," said Izzy, standing and putting the empty glasses on the tray. Alenby also stood.
"I wouldn't want the patronne to catch me here," Izzy continued. "Ever since she got back she's quite a hot--uh, rather formidable, I guess is the way to put it. I just came in to scope the place, sort of thing, find out where everything is, get a jump start on the job if I get it. By the way, if you happen to see her, would you mind putting in a word for me? For the waiter job, I mean."
"Oh, quite, quite" said Alenby. "Ah, Izzy, if you don't mind my asking, how did you get in? You knew the password?"
"No, but it was easy enough to guess. R-E-P-E-A-L, repeal, it's the word on everyone's mind these days. Practically everyone's in favor of repeal, actually. Willa t'Hellenbach's book tipped the balance. Repeal's going to go through without a hitch. Prohibition's dead, and a good thing, too. Out with the negative, in with the positive--go gastronutrition! Or in your case, go gastronotrition!"
"Go gastronotrition!" Alenby echoed, "and may our respective exhortations meld into one!" And after a pause he added thoughtfully, "But is it persuasive? Isn't it likely that after repeal, people will return to their old prePro ways of eating?"
The question had barely passed his lips before he realized that he, personally, didn't give a Gaeadamn about the old prePro ways. Not any more. Even his recollection of the most magnificent lunch of all (at Gaguin's place in Auch, featuring a particularly rich and bloody Magret en Coque de Sel) barely boosted his heart-rate into the red zone. Desolated, he paid little attention to Izzy's response:
"Oh, there may be a certain amount of backsliding, Excellency. But not all the way back to the old ways. Our civilization is wiser now, because of increased influence of women. Women in public life, champions of policies respectful of science and reason--Edith Bolling and Eleanor Roosevelt then, now Willa t'Hellenbach and for a brief brilliant flash before she disappeared so mysteriously, Ada Lynch. And mothers--mothers lovingly drilling their offspring to act as reason and science would dictate: Play nicely. No hitting. Say the magic word. Carrots n' kale--mm-mm-good."
Alenby came out of a brief reverie in which feelings of hope and love swelled and ripened like a red tomato on the vine in summer time. So she was "hot," also "formidable"--une vraie femme. He heard Izzy add quietly, "Oh oh, someone coming, it's her I think. It's her theme song, she's wild about that Latin beat--well, ciao!"
Olympe paused at the entrance, lithe form sheathed in a green gown, clingy, obviously woolen. She stepped forward, and hidden speakers announced her with the strains of "Besame Mucho." Her slinky gait, and the sounds of the late-summer evening--the hum of insects, the muted birdcalls, the sough of the gentle breeze in the treetops, the slop and hiss of the Vienne--all slid into line with the sulky stop-and-go rhythm of the tango. She flung off her om with a careless gesture, let loose her black mane to whirl and flop around her slightly hunched shoulders....
Reading in her body language that he wasn't in immediate need of Phyrupfem--the child-proof closure would have defeated him anyway--Alenby dropped the vial in his sporran and allowed himself to be swept into the primitive pleasure of the dance, the heady sensations of Olympe's body moving in synchrony with his own....
Living easy in lung and bowel, blood easy-flowing in pudendal artery, at last he knew joy.
1:00 pm Friday 4 April 1988
The Story in Outline
Alenby is in the process of boarding Air France Flight 004 from Newark, New Jersey, to Paris, with plans of a leisurely gastronomical vacation in France featuring a series of nice lunches in that country, when he unwittingly undergoes a U-to-u transition. He is bewildered to observe that the airport concourse and everything in it--the people, the check-in counters, even the glasses in which Champagne is served in the courtesy lounge--exist on a smaller scale than he is used to. Bewilderment changes to gut-wrenching uneasiness when he receives intimations that the kind of food he favors, the sole object of his trip to France, is considered improper. Even the one bright spot in his first in U is tarnished--both men and women dress with old-world panache--but only in cottons, silks and synthetics, not wool.
Alenby is naturally upset at these perceptions, but regains his normal state of calm by taking an appropriate combination of medications.
Meanwhile Ada, also booked on AF4, is preoccupied with schemes to advance her career in Washington. She hopes profit from an approach to Madame Cava, while at the same time cultivating in the media an image of probity commensurate with her ambition to serve as Substance Czarina with responsibility for Prohibition and for the ongoing war on substances. . Though confident that she can handle the technical details of the Czarinaship, she is aware that her commitment to the war on substances and to Prohibition itself is andor the war on substances if a problem that, if made public, could derail all her plans: aside from outward trappings of her career her sole she feels no commitment whatsoever to . She suffers from recurrent nightmares in which her bête noire, Willa 't Hellenbach, brings out this moral deficiency in an HV interview.
But with Alenby's sudden appearance in u--just in front of her at the airport check-in counter, as it happens--she is gripped by all-consuming lust for his bulky person. She contrives to be seated next to him on the airplane, and during the flight she ingratiates herself with him to the extent consistent with propriety. She fills him in on the history of u since its split from U, relating how US President Edith Bolling, influenced by lover-guru Paul D Beaucaillou, led a worldwide drive to embrace reason and science in public affairs--the Second Enlightenment, so called. She also pledges her assistance with matters that might present difficulties for aliens from another universe--passports, credit status and so on. She even provides him with u money in the form of several $100 dollar bills in exchange for a like sum in useless U paper. In the end she persuades him to change his travel plans to fit hers, and he agrees to spend time with her at Château Mourey.
Though practically mad with lust, Ada has planned carefully. To forestall publicity harmful to her career if she were recognized--or worse, caught by PROFATPOL in company of a person so obviously a user as Alenby is--she has made arrangements to travel from Paris by back roads with stops only at hostelries noted as much for obscurity as for excellent cuisine: for lunch at Restaurant Les Dhuits in Colombey-les-deux-Eglises, and for dinner and overnight at Hôtel-Restaurant Le Gardon on the banks of the river Vienne in Pouzey. She has also vexed Professor Ducrus to advise that she will arrive with current lover at Château Mourey the following day, Friday, for lunch.
By the time AF4 has crossed the Atlantic, Professor Ducru, at home at Château Mourey, has picked up Ada's message. He loves Ada as a daughter but does not particularly like her and has no wish to see her. To him, her visit is an opportunity to try out some of his ideas about gastronomy in relation to nutrition. In reply to her vex he regrets he will not be at home for lunch Friday [as usual on Fridays--market day at Richelieu--he has shopping to do, and after that the usual weekly HVO -- 2 date with the Cat], but he will leave a ready-to-serve high-nutrient lunch for two, with appropriate technical commentary.
The impersonal form of Professor Ducru's reply conceal emotions triggered not by Ada's message but by freshly awakened memories of Ada's mother, Edith Bolling, the love of his life, whom he had been forced to abandon on the very day she gave birth to Ada (US Election Day, 4 November 1924). In a sudden storm of emotion, he turns for solace to a secret comfort that was Edith's beverage of choice, and is now his own--a cup of tea laced with a spoonful of cow's milk.
He knows better than anyone that cow's milk is still a substance that harms in approximate proportion to the amount ingested--in other words there is no "safe" threshold. Yet in his perennial devotion to Edith's memory, he goes with the flow of habit. He moves to his kitchen alcove, a brightly lit space of which one wall is decorated with ceramic tiles of various colors in the manner of Mondrian's "Broadway Boogie Woogie," a wall that is actually a giant keypad of which the colored tiles are the keys. He touches particular sequences of tiles that are coded to give access to cabinets containing his illicit materials. Tea in one, and in the other....
As always when the hidden doors slide open, the aged polymath chuckles at the cleverness of his secret code. A code in full view, transparently related to the Fibonacci series, but requiring awareness of the specialness of two members of that series, namely 8 and 144.
Professor Ducru receives a new message from The Cat. Instead of HVO --2, she suggests lunch to help vet newly-arrived Americans Izzy Bott and Leo Barton for positions in the PROFATPOL publicity department in Richelieu. He accepts with relief. He is tiring of HVO -- 2 with The Cat. In fact he is tiring of Cat herself (though she is a mighty good ally when it comes to the Institute budget) and would much prefer, as he puts it in his Texan-accented English, "a young'un."
Meanwhile, at Restaurant Le Gardon, Olympe agonizes over Ada's reservation request. A quick google has shown Ada to be an important figure in the ongoing efforts to bolster Prohibition, a person too famous, it would seem, to patronize so modest a place as Le Gardon--at least without an ulterior motive. Olympe wonders anxiously what that motive might be. Might Ada be on some undercover mission? Checking the legality of the operation of Le Gardon? Of Le Gardon Frit?
Or else--an entirely different possibility--might Ada be her beloved "Tante Ada," the governess who cared for her as a young child, and is come now to search her out, renew their bond?
Olympe plumps for the brighter vision. She is suddenly convinced that worldly, successful Ada will show her a way to break free of the tedium of Le Gardon. To strike out in a new direction, perhaps even take a lover!
In contrast to Olympe's, Cleo's mood is one of calm confidence. Cleo has hacked into Ada's om, knows all her movements. Now, posing as a waitress in Restaurant Les Dhuites, she is about to let Ada lead her to the former Paul D Beaucaillou. She savors in advance the success that seems within her grasp. The mysterious Paul D--might he be a milkic? An idea so deliciously ironic, that adroitly exploited in an unauthorized bio, could make it a best seller!
Upon arrival in France, Alenby feels exhausted from the flight and takes a combination of meds that will ensure a safe, natural two-hour nap in the airport café while Ada, having early intuited Alenby's impotence, makes a side-trip into Paris to procure a vacuum pump to deal with this problem.
Hyper-alert as the wake-up med kicks in, Alenby attempts to escape from Ada in the new Morgan Aero sports car that he had previously arranged to be delivered to Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport in U but has mysteriously appeared in Simone de Beauvoir airport in u instead. He is foiled in this attempt by the reappearance of his valise, seemingly lost in hyperspace, now jammed into the Morgan's driver's space. He tries to push the valise into the rear compartment but the way is blocked by the thick ash-wood roll bar that he had had installed despite the engineers' recommendation of a steel roll bar. Ada returns in time to persuade him to abandon his stinkpot and join her in her car, a tomato-red Mercedes SEX hycell specially outfitted for seduction.
In due course the couple find that the pump works satisfactorily.
At the wheel of Ada's Mercedes hycell en route with her to Chezelet, Alenby finds himself in what he perceives as a civilization in decline: lacking in crowds and traffic and other growth indicators; offering nothing better for many people to do than mindless plodding along pedestrian paths to be found alongside every road; primitive in its medical practices regarding what they call CHAOS AND OUCH; and worst of all, offering no prospect of a nice lunch. And all the while languishing under what he thinks of as the loopy liberal tree-hugging animal-liberating rule of the weaker sex.
Ada has smart answers: Lack of crowds--a sign of the success of polyandry and other measures to limit human population at a sustainable level. Mindless plodding--a pleasant exercise, Gaea-friendly and conducive to health. CHAOS AND OUCH--sophisticated drugs and surgery have their uses, but prevention of these illnesses by such simple means such as diet have proved a more successful and cheaper alternative. Rule of the weaker sex--female empathy and common sense have a better record than violence for resolving disputes.
At Restaurant Les Dhuits, Ada sees that Cleo is "up to something," but dismisses her as harmless. Alenby ends up feeling bloated from eating the enormous green salad offered as the main course.
The couple arrive at Le Gardon in Pouzay ahead of the dinner hour. In the course of a pre-prandial stroll along the bank of the Vienne, Alenby wonders aloud if the water of the river is dangerously polluted. Ada, surprised, responds that u rivers are generally free of pollution. She explains that this is the outcome of water-conservation measures like on-site composting of humanure--human waste matter--instead of the prePro practice of putting humanure in drinking water and flushing it into lakes and streams.
As Alenby and Ada take petit déjeuner the following morning, Friday, Olympe makes a clumsy attempt at a flirtation with Alenby, and is embarrassed when he ignores her advance. He is not indifferent to her, however--can't quite get her out of his mind, in fact.
Olympe's approach to Ada is more successful. As Olympe had hoped, the two women find common ground in their earlier relationship, and Olympe warns Ada of a PROFATPOL roadblock that she knows to be set up on the shortest route to Chezeley.
As they set out for Chezeley in the red Mercedes hycell, Ada begs Alenby to take a longer route, but he ignores her entreaties and uses his skills as a stunt driver to avoid the roadblock and outrun PROFATPOL's speedier though less maneuverable stinkpots. The upshot is that the police suffer three vehicles seriously damaged, but fail to learn anything about Ada's hycell aside from its color. Nevertheless the fugitives realize that PROFATPOL agents will be looking for them and that they must lie low for the time being.
On their arrival at Château Mourey they are greeted by the piglet Georges, who leaps up into Ada's arms in a faux-sincere sign of affection belying his preference for Professor Ducru.
Alenby and Ada relax and sun-bathe beside the swimming pool in the mansion's courtyard. Then they take the lunch prepared by Professor Ducru, along with his commentary, duly recited by Ada, explaining how the meal is designed with a high nutrient/calorie ration to produce a feeling of satiety without excessive bulk or excessive caloric content.
Later, they swim in the pool--the pool fed, Ada explains, by the clean water of the Vienne. Ada reveals herself an accomplished swimmer, and Alenby recovers something of the joy of the sport in which he'd excelled as a youth at Hamilton Acad.
The following Friday, before leaving for shopping at the market in Richelieu: Alenby has swum his morning laps--several more than yesterday's--and he sits on the edge of the pool and admires Ada's form as she continues to churn back and forth. His own endurance has improved, and it seems his meds have kicked in to cure certain hitherto nagging health problems. But his impotence persists, and after a whole week on nothing but fruit, freshly harvested green asparagus and green salads he feels life has lost its sparkle.
His reverie is interrupted by Ada reminding him that they must use a Citroën 2CV Plug-in in place of the red Mercedes. The media have picked up the roadblock-running exploit, making Alenby a celeb--"The Red Baron," so-called--and the red car is too conspicuous for safety.
An hour later, shopping done, Alenby and Ada have just left the market with Georges trotting quietly alongside them, when an unexpected thing happens. Georges suddenly darts forward and gallops across the square in the direction of the Kitty Kat Salon! Resisting her initial impulse to arrest the piglet's flight, Ada allows the piglet to lead her to the soy emporium and the stairs to Madame Cava's apartment. Alenby, having followed more slowly, arrives in time to witness, from the bottom of the staircase, a bizarre tableau: Professor Ducru at the top, in costume for the part of Siegmund in Die Walküre, fondly holding Georges in his arms. Ada, tentatively paused half-way up in an attitude of supplication.
From the interior, Madame Cava demands in her harsh soprano that the would-be intruder on the stairs be brought into her presence to be formally introduced.
Alenby, confused and only vaguely aware of Ada's desire to meet Madame Cava, retreats to the Kitty Kat Salon and subsides at the bar. Cleo--now presiding as the establishment's sole waitress--serves coffee with a white fluid known to Alenby as soy milk. Time passes. He takes a second cup of café à l'émulsion de soja....
At length Ada comes into the Salon, with Georges unwillingly following at her heels. She informs Alenby that until further notice she will be working on an important project for Madame Cava, something to do with the War on Substances. She will take the 2CV, and he will return on foot to Château Mourey with Georges and wait for her there. She leaves.
[Ada has no inkling that Madame Cava has engaged her to take the heat of a sub-rosa probe of French PROFATPOL by investigative journalist Willa 't Hellenbach.]
Dazed by this sudden change in his circumstances, Alenby can think of nothing to do but order lunch right there in the Kitty Kat Salon. He looks about for Cleo, but discovers Cleo is not there, and neither is Georges.
[Only later will Alenby learn that Cleo has taken the piglet to Professor Ducru in an attempt, ultimately successful, to ingratiate herself with both parties.]
Alenby is not alone in the Kitty Kat Salon, however. A PROFATPOL officer places him under arrest for a misdemeanor--possession of an ancillary substance, to wit 100 grams of Assam tea, apparently planted among his purchases at the market. The sentence is thirty days in Prison Simone Weil in Richelieu, where lunch, the officer announces with a guffaw, is a breath of fresh air accompanied by a glass of distilled water.
On arriving at Prison Simone Weil, Alenby is aghast to find he will be required go without food of any description for twenty-one days. At first he feels weak and sick, and he suffers the discomforts of detoxification, such as swelling and itching from his body's excretion of medication residues through the skin. But after a few days, with the process called ketosis providing access to the fat reserves as an alternative bodily fuel supply, the weak feeling goes away and the effects of detoxification begin to diminish. A few more days and he adapts to the prison regime without much further discomfort.
He is actually encouraged by certain results of fasting, particularly an improvement in erectile function. The supervising physician, Isador Bott MD, cites tests showing that his impotence problem is due to atherosclerosis--the first "A" of CHAOS AND OUCH--resulting, in Alenby's case, in a partial blockage of the arteries serving the penis--and he explains how the fast will ameliorate this condition. In brief, in the fasting state the body scavenges the fatty deposits that often cause arterial blockages and dangerous clotting, and converts them through ketosis from a menace to health to a useful source of energy.
[The account of Alenby in prison is informed by the author's experience of a medically-supervised water-only fast. ]
Alenby becomes a confidant of his cell-mate, prisoner #314159 or 31 for short, a writer of advertising copy who like Alenby has been imprisoned for a misdemeanor, in his case that of advocating bread as nourishing food. From 31 Alenby learns that the building next to the one in which they are confined is Prison Fernand Point, and that its Superintendant--Curnonsky, Prince of Gourmets--is about to set out on his annual tour of France to meet with the prison's extra-legal network of suppliers of traditional French food and fine wine. Alenby feels a burning desire to accompany Curnonsky on his travels.
Immediately upon his release from Prison Simone Weil, Alenby presents himself at Prison Fernand Point, meets with Curnonsky, impresses that paragon of gastronomy with his deep knowledge and enthusiasm for traditional French cuisine, is hired as companion-consultant-chauffeur, and in due course sets out with the Prince of Gastronomes' 1987 gastronomical tour of France.
Meanwhile, Cleo has closed in on her quarry, Professor Ducru--formerly Paul D Beaucaillou--with a view to gathering juicy material for an unauthorized biography. Employed now as the Professor's housekeeper in Château Mourey, she suspects that evidence of his milkism is hidden behind the brightly colored, "Broadway Boogie-Woogie" tiling of the kitchen alcove, protected presumably by a password activated upon touching a particular sequence of tiles. But which sequence? She stands before the tiling, thinking hard, but knows she is going nowhere. Frustrated, she covertly touches tiles at random. A security alarm sounds, and Professor Ducru appears. Chortling at the housekeeper's discomfiture, and seeking to prolong it, he tosses her deliberately obscure hints to the code of the Mondrian Boogie-Woogie. But she uses the hints, coupled with her superior eyesight, to solve the puzzle.
Enchanted by Cleo's cleverness, Professor Ducru reveals the hitherto secret story of his life. It all spills out: his first research project, sponsored by the Texas Cowmen, that led to the discovery of the carcinogenic properties of milk; his joy in his achievement, the anger of the Cowmen, their death threats; his panicked flight to Washington, to Edith; his love for Edith, and the pain of parting from her and their new-born; his flight, still in fear of the Cowmen, first to Argentina and then to the Scottish Isle of Skerrick....
He authorizes her to use it as she wishes, and she begins a first draft without delay.
After a few week's absence, Alenby and Curnonsky return from their grand gastronomical tour of France. Dulled and plumped by daily feasts of traditional food and wine, Alenby accepts Curnonsky's invitation to take up residence in Prison Fernand Point. He has just settled into a comfortable cell suite to contemplate his first prison lunch when he is is interrupted by the announcement of an unwelcome visitor, a priestess made to wait in the dingy düngermischmaschine room, demanding to see him. The priestess--actually Olympe disguised in the priestess' traditional burka--tells Alenby that by entering the prison he has relinquished his freedom. Worse, Curnonsky, having run through his fortune, is about to take the Assiette Noire, and Alenby, being a man of considerable wealth [this is news to Alenby] is likely to be appointed his successor. Deeply impressed by his visitor's plangent voice and aristocratic bearing, Alenby accepts her offers to help him escape, and following her instructions he walks out in priestess' guise while she leaves by way of the chumanure chute of the düngermischmaschine.
Outside the prison, Alenby has taken off and hidden the burka, and is the act of eating the priestess' ID card that he'd used in his escape, when he is arrested on a misdemeanor charge--attempted consumption of a possible ancillary substance--and is once again committed to Prison Simone Weil.
Ada has by this time settled into the role assigned to her by Madame Cava, that of observer attached to a unit of the American Special Forces--the famed Green Fedoras--currently engaged the War on Substances in Central France. In the course of this assignment she has been shocked to discover that the chief suppliers of animal products like meat, eggs and dairy products are not traditional farms, but secret factory farms in which animals and crowded together in cruel and filthy conditions. Nevertheless, she persists in her desire to try the substances Alenby had spoken of in glowing terms, and now at lunch in her current base of operations, Hôtel-Restaurant Le Gardon Frit, she has prevailed on the chef, Le Cèpe, to serve her a sirloin steak grilled à point.
Her reaction is disappointment. The steak is greasy, mushy in texture and gives off a faint off-odor reminiscent of the abandoned factory farm the Green Fedoras had discovered that very morning. Le Cèpe admits the steak's deficiencies, explaining that it is good enough for to entrap the American users who make up the majority of the restaurant's clientele. He explains that superior quality meat would cost a great deal more, payable strictly in cash or kind so as to dodge government scrutiny.
Ada picks up a vex from Sotheby's. As expected, Alenby's U $100 bills have netted as much as a mid-level Picasso. She'd been planning to split the proceeds, but in a sentimental moment she takes out a token $1M commission and directs payment of the rest to Alenby's bank account.
Meanwhile Alenby, has emerged from his second term in Prison Simone Weil thinner and livelier than ever before, with a sense of taste sharpened and virility restored. He has returned to Château Mourey where he lives quietly, caring for Georges and helping Jules César with the vegetable garden. He swims laps and has taken up long-distance running. On Fridays he routinely attends the market in Richelieu, always on foot since he feels it imprudent to draw attention to himself by using the red Mercedes or acquiring a new vehicle. Life is good. But of course he is still dimensionally disadvantaged vertically, and he has a couple of problems stemming from his relatively great height. He has not been able to find running shorts to fit properly, and most important, he has not found a supplier of running shoes in his size. Jules César, who has a mechanical bent, tries to help by making a running sandal out of straps and old Michelin rubber tires, but so far without success.
One Thursday--the American holiday Thanksgiving, as it happens--Alenby picks up a secret note that seems to have been placed in his shopping backpack the Friday before, to the effect that Ada is involuntarily detained and needs help to escape. Volunteers, the note specifies, should present themselves at Restaurant Le Gardon, Pouzay, on or before Thanksgiving day. A hoax, he assumes, but Jules César has made some ingenious modifications of his running sandals and a run to Pouzay and back would be just the right distance--15 km or so--to check them out. And Pouzay has another attraction for Alenby--his indelible recollection of the Olympe. So after a light lunch--lettuce and sweet-onion salad--he puts on the latest version of the sandals and sets out.
As instructed in the note, he presents himself at Restaurant Le Gardon and is greeted by Cleo. [Cleo is working as a waitress at Hôtel-Restaurant Le Gardon at the behest of Professor Ducru, who is concerned about Ada's safety.] She conducts him to the foyer of Restaurant Le Gardon Frit, where before handing him over to the Maître d'Hôtel, Leo Barton, she gives Alenby a password to use should he wish to return to Le Gardon. [Leo has received rapid promotion in PROFATPOL's publicity division, and is now in charge of a Thanksgiving celebration mounted for the purpose of providing American users with an agreeable and patriotic entrapment experience.]
Ada and Alenby meet in one of Le Gardon Frit's luxurious private dining rooms, where they are served the usual precursors to the Thanksgiving feast such as weak coffee, Bourbon and a variety of salty snacks. Ada--somewhat overweight and weakened by recent indulgence in substances--explains that she is being held in house arrest by PROFATPOL, and she asks Alenby to help her escape by way of the River Vienne, starting at 9:00 pm.
Alenby agrees, but sickened by an off-note in the cooking smells of broad-beam turkey he is soon forced to find refuge in the relatively salubrious surroundings of the toilet. Upon eventually emerging from the toilet, instead of rejoining Ada he uses the password, REPEAL, to return to Le Gardon, where Olympe is eagerly waiting for him. The couple repair to Olympe's bedroom, but time is tight and as 9:00 pm approaches with Olympe's virginity still intact, she is true to her promise to help Ada escape, and she insists that Alenby go through with the rescue.
As planned, Ada and Alenby take to the river and allow themselves to be swept away downstream. Once out of range of the PROFATPOL patrols, Ada explains in fits and starts, gasps and gurgles, her need to escape. It adds up to this: Ada is by this time aware that Madame Cava, fearing exposure of various criminal activities in conjunction with PROFATPOL, is determined that Ada take her place in an interview with ace investigative journalist Willa 't Hellenbach, and plans a meeting with Ada and regional PROFATPOL chiefs to announce this. Ada is equally determined to avoid the meeting and the interview. She knows that, faced with the formidable Willa, she will likely admit her growing disaffection for the war on substances and thus end any chance of making Substance Czarina.
The fugitives emerge on the left bank near L'Ile Bouchard and are beginning to wonder how to get past the PROFATPOL checkpoint at the bridge when Jules César arrives in his pickup and conducts them safely back to Château Mourey.
At breakfast the following morning Ada confesses that she in love with Le Cèpe. She adores his artistry in preparing, oh lots of things, like buttery flaky croissants at petit déjeuner--much nicer, she thinks, than Alenby's neatly segmented white Moroccan grapefruit. She omits mention of the chef's darker deeds--his occasional threats of blackmail for example, and his outright theft of her 2CV plugin--seeing them simply as following PROFATPOL orders.
After a pause, Ada also mentions that of late she has been suffering intolerably from something called constipation, and wonders if Alenby has any suitable medications for that condition. He thinks at once of gentle natural crudulax, but given the urgency of the situation he suggests xaludurc, the French, or suppository, form.
A little later, Alenby is in the garden picking a few tender greens for lunch--mâche, lettuce, green beans--when Ada appears, shouting exultantly the it worked! Xaludurc worked--what a relief! But the words are hardly out of her mouth when a siren sounds, and Ada at once realizes that, as a result of her recent diet leading to an excessive content of nitrogenous matter in her stool, the düngermischmaschine has malfunctioned! PROFATPOL will have been alerted and is on its way to get her and conduct her to the dreaded meeting at Le Gardon Frit. Panicked, she screams that they must clear out this very moment, and Alenby, still keenly aware that as the Red Baron he is still on PROFATPOL's wanted list, is carried along. The pair hastily gather a few belongings, and throwing caution to the winds leap into the red Mercedes and make off at speed.
They are barely out of the garage when they notice the Mercedes is low on fuel, and they stop at the service station on the Ile of L'Ile Bouchard for a replacement hydrogen pod. In the rearview mirror Alenby notices several PROFATPOL stinkpots blocking their exit--one of them a Morgan Aero, his Morgan Aero with the unmistakable ash-wood roll bar! He leaps out of the Mercedes, runs back and is about to grab the Morgan's driver and knock the humanure out of him when he sees it is Leo in PROFATPOL uniform. Though annoyed by the fellow's presumption in announcing that Ada is needed at a meeting at Le Gardon Frit called by Madame Cava and scheduled to begin already fifteen minutes earlier, and stung by his derisive reference to the "amateurish" roll bar, Alenby shifts to a more conciliatory approach. By a ruse, he takes control of his Morgan with Ada at his side, and then in a stunning display of stunt-driving skills escapes from the service area, rolls the Morgan down the left bank of the Vienne, and swiftly backs out of sight under the bridge.
Exhilarated by their adventure, Ada babbles about escape. Escape to anywhere. Escape from PROFATPOL, from Madame Cava, from Willa 't Hellenbach. Escape to Spain, perhaps, where they'll sip young sherry and nibble tapas!
But Alenby's mood is somber. The time for adolescent stunts is passed. Now he has to face reality. He backs the Morgan out from its hiding place and slowly inserts it in the waiting motorcade of PROFATPOL stinkpots headed towards Pouzay.
Ignoring the hopelessness of the situation, Ada persists in her obsession with escape, escape from the harassment of Madame Cava and from the potential embarrassment of a one-on-one with Willa 't Hellenbach, Escape, if not by force or guile by sheer intensity of desire. She repeatedly asks Alenby about his state of mind prior to his U-to-u transition. Did he at that moment wish for with all his heart for escape? Yes, he did so wish, he acknowledges. But his thoughts are elsewhere--with Olympe. He longs for one last moment with her, one last embrace. The password, he needs the password! The clue is six letters, revoke or abrogate by legislative enactment... He gets it just as they arrive at Le Gardon--"Repeal!" It's his password to happiness, and as it happens, to Ada's aswell.
Alenby observes PROFATPOL agents hustling Ada into the conference room with Madame Cava following impatiently. He glimpses black-uniformed figures--the regional PROFATPOL chiefs, and their bodyguards robot-like behind their reflective sunglasses--crowded around a buffet presided over by Le Cèpe resplendent in his chef's whites....
He moves on quickly to the entrance to Le Gardon, enters the password--but is interrupted. It's Leo, warning that that both Alenby and Olympe are scheduled for arrest at dawn, and will each face punishment appropriate to their misdeeds. But there's a way out for Alenby: simply participate as stunt driver in a PROFATPOL promotion featuring the Morgan, and all charges will be dismissed, generous bonus....
Alternative ending. Leo also wishes to put space between him and PROFATPOL. Alenby accepts Leo's offer with the proviso that they take Olympe along with Leo in the luggage compartment of the Morgan.
Alenby pauses for a moment to relish that possibility. Then with a sigh he strides through the door and slams it shut behind him.
The meeting convened by Madame Cava might have been little remarked upon in the universe at large had it not been for a curious discrepancy: two fewer attendees came out of the conference room than went in. The missing were Ada and Le Cèpe.
The surviving attendees having refused to comment, the proceedings would have remained a mystery but for a YouTube video of the affair--made, some suggested, by the waitress at the buffet table--that was widely distributed the the following day.
The video starts with Madame Cava announcing that the business session will be delayed to accommodate a latecomer, and the buffet will be served first. By the time Ada is brought in, the PROFATPOL chiefs are clustered about the buffet and ignore Madame Cava's call to begin business. Furious, she turns on the chef, faulting him for the poor quality of the buffet's blanc neige of leftover Thanksgiving turkey. She dismisses his excuses--the budget busting costs of quality substances--with the suggestion that any PROFATPOL operative with the good of the organization in mind would find a way to do his job. She doesn't actually mention extortion, but her peau lisse gesture--fingers of on hand brushing the palm of the other--conveys her meaning clearly enough.
Ada speaks up to defend her lover, completely overriding Madame Cava's attempts to silence her. Addressing Le Cèpe in low but forceful tones she speaks of a certain other universe where he will be not reviled, but feted for his culinary skills. Turning to assembly, she praises Le Cèpe's capabilities as an extortionist as well as a chef, and she puts the blame for his budget problems on the cost of quality substances, elevated as they are by the activities of PROFATPOL, by the war, by Prohibition itself. Into the ensuing shocked silence she declaims that it is time for...repeal!
For a tense moment no one moves or speaks. Then all of a sudden one of the bodyguards springs to Ada's side and whips off her sunglasses to reveal a face familiar to HV viewers everywhere--that of Willa 't Hellenbach, hitherto the face of science and reason now thumping her forehead, crying "Why didn't I think of that!" and "Repeal! My next title right there!" She turns to Ada and promises fulsome support in her quest for the Czarinaship. Then resuming her customary logical coherence, she offers an incisive critique of Prohibition, explaining how its success lies in making itself unnecessary.
No one notices when Ada moves away, as if in a trance, to join Le Cèpe. No one notices the cold blue aura, faint and wavering, that envelops the couple, flares and dies away to leave...nothing. Only the camcorder notices.
On a Friday, shopping day at Richelieu, a year after Ada and Le Cèpe disappeared and Alenby and Olympe were arrested: Alenby and Georges return on foot from the market at Richelieu with backpacks stuffed with their purchases. Both are running easily, pleasurably, well within themselves. moving eas at the market. It has been three months since Alenby completed his community service assignment--teaching Driver Ed at a tough lycée in Marseilles--and he has returned to
Noticing she had lost her audience--Alenby, emotionally drained as he was plainly entranced by HV--she switched topics: "As to the safety thing, I had them attach an extension to your seat belt."
Alenby frowned. An extension? Nonsense, he had never before needed an extension. But he’d let go, he reminded himself, so he didn’t protest. He remained calm. Best to play along, he decided.
"Thank you," he said, fastening the seat belt, "it does in fact fit. But tell me, ah, Ada, how did you identify me as—whatever you said?"
"Precisely, whatever that might signify."
All that nonsense about Prohibition and the law and so on having evaporated out of his mind without a trace, he permitted himself a discreet chortle. Might as well humor this midget busybody, he thought, let her babble away. Within seven hours he would be free of her. And within twelve, settled at his usual table in Chez Schreiber in Strasbourg, contemplating a Riesling-scented slice of tête de veau. Unless Monsieur Schreiber had some other suggestion....
"In answer to your first question, Alenby, very simply. Your physical characteristics fit the U-person profile—great height and girth, for example. But the clincher is your use of a penetrating artificial perfume—bologna, I believe it's called."
"Yes," she said, "of course, I meant cologne. So difficult to keep track of curious
alien expressions! Anyway, authorities agree that cologne is the unique signature of U-person-hood. Incidentally, what is the purpose of cologne? Is it to ward off evil spirits?"
Alenby tried to laugh. Evil spirits—how droll! But what was the purpose of cologne? It was a little distasteful to think about, actually—covering up offensive body odors and all that. His thoughts were interrupted by an HV announcement about Safety aboard this aircraft, followed by another about Sécurité. The aircraft began to move into position for takeoff.
"As for what is meant by the term ‘U-person," Ada resumed, "I'll try to explain, but—well, I only know for sure what scholars have inferred from periodicals, novels and the like, published prior to Prohibition. Also from recollections of elderly people, memoirs and the like. And you can get more recent information about other universes from the tabloids--you know, the sort of publication they have at supermarket checkouts--but it's so bizarre.... Are U-people really permitted to drink animal's milk? Even children?"
She's probably insane, Alenby thought. Doesn't seem to know milk is nature's perfect food, supplies lots of calcium and vitamin D to make kids big and strong. She's probably hearing voices or something. Might make a fuss, maybe sue. Better
For example a multifaceted scientific triumph, a detailed ecological study of human nutrition, has proved that consumption of food-like substances of animal origin leads to increased risk of CHAOS AND OUCH, which is an acronym for diseases caused or exacerbated by consumption of substances, ranging from the life threatening (Cancer, Heart disease) through the seriously debilitating (Arthritis, Diabetes, Osteoporosis) to the merely painful and embarrassing (Constipation, Hemorrhoids). And more is to come when Congress finally recognizes the merits of the NixTwinkies initiative, which will extend Prohibition to vegetable based food-like substances of negligible nutritive value including not only Twinkies but also all sugar drinks such as Coca-Cola--"
, was prohibited because of its carcenogenetic propertiesthe prohibited substion of milk. Alcohol in U, perhaps, ; a' , the very day .... as if he'd given audible expression to that realization (he had an uneasy feeling that he might have). " last spoken"cho
He became aware of Ada’s voice cutting through the subsiding drone of the engines:
"Yes, Alenby, U and u are quite close--at least as distances are measured in hyperspace. So it’s not surprising that we occasionally make contact with U-people. Apparently I have the good fortune to make such a contact."
Alenby frowned. "Excuse me," he said, "but I fail to see any reason for excitement, since our universes are apparently quite similar to each other. For example, the words you quoted, ‘Light of the light, splitting up universes’ are, aside from one inconsequential error, precisely those familiar to us folk of U, also." Neatly put, he thought with a self-congratulatory smirk.
Ada nodded, smiling. "Yes, our universes are alike in many respects, in all but one respect in fact. There is but one basic difference—and I fear you may have missed this—food. In u, human society has evolved to embrace excellent nutrition."
At the word food, Alenby started like a jolted blob of barely-set aspic. At the word nutrition, however, he recovered his customary air of complacency.
"Nutrition, being that which happens after food has passed one's palate, is unimportant," he declared. "Therefore I perceive little of interest in this excursion in hyperspace, as you call it. Indeed, your universe u seems to me much as usual, except for the seats being somewhat cramped for First Class. What is it you find so,