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Chapter 10
The next morning, I returned with some relief to the routinethat had been so severely disrupted over the past two days.
My Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday runs to the market are afeature of my schedule, combining exercise, meal-ingredientspurchase and an opportunity for reflection. I was in great needof the last of these.
A woman had given me her phone number and told me tocall her.
More than the Jacket Incident, the Balcony Meal and even theexcite-ment of the potential Father Project, this had disruptedmy world. I knew that it happened regularly: people in books,films and TV shows do exactly what Rosie had done. But ithad never happened to me. No woman had ever casually,unthinkingly, automatically, written down her phone number,given it to me and said, ‘Call me.’ I had temporarily beenincluded in a culture that I considered closed to me. Althoughit was entirely logical that Rosie should provide me with ameans of contacting her, I had an irrational feeling that, whenI called, Rosie would realise she had made some kind of error.
78/290I arrived at the market and commenced purchasing. Becauseeach day’s ingredients are standard, I know which stalls to visit,and the vendors generally have my items pre-packaged inadvance. I need only pay. The vendors know me well and areconsistently friendly.
However, it is not possible to time-share major intellectualactivity with the purchasing process, due to the quantity ofhuman and inan-imate obstacles: vegetable pieces on theground, old ladies with shopping buggies, vendors still settingup stalls, Asian women comparing prices, goods being deliveredand tourists taking photos of each other in front of theproduce. Fortunately I am usually the only jogger.
On the way home, I resumed my analysis of the Rosiesituation. I realised that my actions had been driven more byinstinct than logic.
There were plenty of people in need of help, many in moredistress than Rosie, and numerous worthy scientific projectsthat would represent better use of my time than a quest tofind one individual’s father. And, of course, I should be givingpriority to the Wife Project. Better to push Gene to select moresuitable women from the list, or to relax some of the lessimportant selection criteria, as I had already done with theno-drinking rule.
The logical decision was to contact Rosie and explain that theFather Project was not a good idea. I phoned at 6.43 a.m. onreturning from the run and left a message for her to call back.
When I hung up, I was sweating despite the fact that themorning was still cool. I hoped I wasn’t developing a fever.
Rosie called back while I was delivering a lecture. Normally, Iturn my phone off at such times, but I was anxious to putthis problem to bed. I was feeling stressed at the prospect ofan interaction in which it was necessary for me to retract anoffer. Speaking on the phone in front of a lecture theatre fullof students was awkward, especially as I was wearing a lapelmicrophone.
They could hear my side of the conversation.
79/290‘Hi, Rosie.’
‘Don, I just want to say thanks for doing this thing for me. Ididn’t realise how much it had been eating me up. Do youknow that little coffee shop across from the Commerce Building– Barista’s? How about two o’clock tomorrow?’
Now that Rosie had accepted my offer of help, it would havebeen immoral, and technically a breach of contract, to withdrawit.
‘Barista’s 2.00 p.m. tomorrow,’ I confirmed, though I wastemporarily unable to access the schedule in my brain due tooverload.
‘You’re a star,’ she said.
Her tone indicated that this was the end of her contribution tothe conversation. It was my turn to use a standard platitude toreciprocate, and the obvious one was the simple reflection of‘You’re a star’.
But even I realised that made no sense. She was thebeneficiary of my star-ness in the form of my geneticsexpertise. On reflection, I could have just said ‘Goodbye’ or‘See you’, but I had no time for reflection.
There was considerable pressure to make a timely response.
‘I like you too.’
The entire lecture theatre exploded in applause.
A female student in the front row said, ‘Smooth.’ She wassmiling.
Fortunately I am accustomed to creating amusementinadvertently.
I did not feel too unhappy at failing to terminate the FatherProject.
The amount of work involved in one DNA test was trivial.
We met at Barista’s the next day at 2.07 p.m. Needless to say,the delay was Rosie’s fault. My students would be sitting intheir 2.15 p.m.
lecture waiting for my arrival. My intention had been only toadvise her on the collection of a DNA sample, but she seemedunable to process the instructions. In retrospect, I was probablyoffering too many options and too much technical detail toorapidly. With only seven minutes to discuss the problem(allowing one minute for running to80/290the lecture), we agreed that the simplest solution was to collectthe sample together.
We arrived at the residence of Dr Eamonn Hughes, thesuspected father, on the Saturday afternoon. Rosie hadtelephoned in advance.
Eamonn looked older than I had expected. I guessed sixty,BMI twenty-three. Eamonn’s wife, whose name was Belinda(approximately fifty-five, BMI twenty-eight), made us coffee, aspredicted by Rosie. This was critical, as we had decided thatthe coffee-cup rim would be an ideal source of saliva. I satbeside Rosie, pretending to be her friend. Eamonn and Belindawere opposite, and I was finding it hard to keep my eyesaway from Eamonn’s cup.
Fortunately, I was not required to make small talk. Eamonnwas a cardiologist and we had a fascinating discussion aboutgenetic markers for cardiac disease. Eamonn finally finished hiscoffee and Rosie stood up to take the cups to the kitchen.
There, she would be able to swab the lip of the cup and wewould have an excellent sample. When we discussed the plan, Isuggested that this would be a breach of social convention, butRosie assured me that she knew Eamonn and Belinda well asfamily friends, and, as a younger person, she would be allowedto perform this chore. For once, my understanding of socialconvention proved more accurate. Unfortunately.
As Rosie picked up Belinda’s cup, Belinda said, ‘Leave it, I’ll doit later.’
Rosie responded, ‘No, please,’ and took Eamonn’s cup.
Belinda picked up my cup and Rosie’s and said, ‘Okay, giveme a hand.’ They walked out to the kitchen together. It wasobviously going to be difficult for Rosie to swab Eamonn’s cupwith Belinda present, but I could not think of a way of gettingBelinda out of the kitchen.
‘Did Rosie tell you I studied medicine with her mother?’ askedEamonn.
81/290I nodded. Had I been a psychologist, I might have been ableto infer from Eamonn’s conversation and body languagewhether he was hiding the fact that he was Rosie’s father. Imight even have been able to lead the conversation in adirection to trap him. Fortunately we were not relying on myskills in this arena. If Rosie succeeded in collecting the sample,I would be able to provide a far more reliable answer thanone derived from observations of behaviour.
‘If I can offer you a little encouragement,’ Eamonn said,‘Rosie’s mother was a bit wild in her younger days. Verysmart, good-looking, she could have had anyone. All the otherwomen in medicine were going to marry doctors.’ He smiled.
‘But she surprised us all and picked the guy from left fieldwho persisted and stuck around.’
It was lucky I wasn’t looking for clues. My expression musthave conveyed my total lack of comprehension.
‘I suspect Rosie may follow in her mother’s footsteps,’ he said.
‘In what component of her life?’ It seemed safer to seekclarification than assume that he meant getting pregnant to anunknown fellow student or dying. These were the only facts Iknew about Rosie’s mother.
‘I’m just saying I think you’re probably good for her. Andshe’s had a rough time. Tell me to mind my own business ifyou like. But she’s a great kid.’
Now the intent of the conversation was clear, although Rosiewas surely too ol............
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