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Chapter 32
I went back to my office and changed from my Gregory Peckcostume into my new trousers and jacket. Then I made aphone call. The receptionist was not prepared to make anappointment for a personal matter, so I booked a fitnessevaluation with Phil Jarman, Rosie’s father in air quotes, for4.00 p.m.
As I got up to leave, the Dean knocked and walked in. Shesignalled for me to follow her. This was not part of my plan,but today was an appropriate day to close this phase of myprofessional life.
We went down in the lift and then across the campus to heroffice, not speaking. It seemed that our conversation needed totake place in a formal setting. I felt uncomfortable, which was arational response to the almost-certain prospect of beingdismissed from a tenured position at a prestigious university forprofessional misconduct. But I had expected this and myfeelings came from a different source. The scenario triggered amemory from my first week at high school, of being sent tothe headmaster’s office as a result of allegedly inappropriatebehaviour. The purported misconduct involved a rigorousquestioning252/290of our religious education teacher. In retrospect, I understoodthat she was a well-meaning person, but she used her positionof power over an eleven-year-old to cause me considerabledistress.
The headmaster was, in fact, reasonably sympathetic, butwarned me that I needed to show ‘respect’. But he was toolate: as I walked to his office I had made the decision that itwas pointless to try to fit in. I would be the class clown forthe next six years.
I have thought about this event often. At the time my decisionfelt like a rational response based on my assessment of thenew environment, but in retrospect I understood that I wasdriven by anger at the power structure that suppressed myarguments.
Now as I walked to the Dean’s office another thought occurredto me. What if my teacher had been a brilliant theologian,equipped with two thousand years of well-articulated Christianthinking? She would have had more compelling arguments thanan eleven-year-old. Would I have then been satisfied? I suspectnot. As a scientist, with an allegiance to scientific thinking, Iwould have had a deep-seated feeling that I was being, asRosie would say, bullshitted. Was that how Faith Healer hadfelt?
Had the flounder demonstration been an instance of bullying asheinous as the one committed by my religious educationteacher, even though I was right?
As we entered the Dean’s office for what I expected to be thelast time, I took notice of her full name on the door, and aminor confusion was resolved. Professor Charlotte Lawrence. Ihad never thought of her as ‘Charlie’, but presumably SimonLefebvre did.
We entered her office and sat down. ‘I see we’re in our jobinterview clothes,’ she said. ‘I’m sorry you didn’t see fit tograce us with them during your time here.’
I did not respond.
‘So. No report. No explanation?’
253/290Again, I could not think of anything appropriate to say.
Simon Lefebvre appeared at the door. Obviously this had beenplanned. The Dean – Charlie – waved him in.
‘You can save time by explaining to Simon and me together.’
Lefebvre was carrying the documents that I had given him.
At that point, the Dean’s personal assistant, Regina, who is notobjectified by having the words ‘The Beautiful’ included in hername, entered the room.
‘Sorry to bother you, Professor,’ she said, ambiguously, as wewere all professors, for the next few minutes at least, but thecontext made it clear she was addressing the Dean. ‘I’ve got aproblem with your booking at Le Gavroche. They seem to havetaken you off the VIP list.’
The Dean’s face registered annoyance but she waved Reginaaway.
Simon Lefebvre smiled at me. ‘You could’ve just sent me this,’
he said, referring to the documents. ‘No need for theidiot-savant impression. Which I have to concede was beautifullydone. As is the proposal.
We’ll need to run it by the ethics guys, but it’s exactly whatwe’re looking for. Genetics and medicine, topic’s current, we’llboth get publicity.’
I attempted to analyse the Dean’s expression. It was beyondmy current skill set.
‘So congratulations, Charlie,’ said Simon. ‘You’ve got your jointresearch project. The Medical Research Institute is prepared toput in four mill, which is more than the budget actuallyspecifies, so you’re set to go.’
I presumed he meant four million dollars.
He pointed to me. ‘Hang on to this one, Charlie. He’s a darkhorse.
And I need him to be part of the project.’
I got my first real return on my investment in improved socialskills.
I had worked out what was going on. I did not ask a sillyquestion. I did not put the Dean in a position of untenableembarrassment where254/290she might work against her own interests. I just nodded andwalked back to my office.
Phil Jarman had blue eyes. I knew this but it was the firstthing I noticed. He was in his mid-fifties, about ten centimetrestaller than me, powerfully built and extremely fit-looking. Wewere standing in front of the reception desk at Jarman’s Gym.
On the wall were newspaper cuttings and photos of a youngerPhil playing football. If I had been a medical student withoutadvanced martial-arts skills, I would have thought carefullybefore having sex with this man’s girlfriend. Perhaps this wasthe simple reason that Phil had never been informed of theidentity of Rosie&rsqu............
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