[First post in this novel: Dedication]
[Previous post in this novel: Chapter 2: I]

Clorice packed her bags, and did a third and final reconnaissance around the room to make sure she did not miss anything and to satisfy her mildly obsessive-compulsive brain-wiring. Finally, having spent a summer as a chambermaid during her early student years, she left a well-deserved tip for the cleaning staff on her bed, which most hotel guests intend but forget to do.

With her stuffed daypack on her back and rolling her two suitcases behind her, Clorice took the elevator down to the lobby and went to the front desk to clear up her account. She noted that the Incan band had been replaced with an Egyptian band playing what sounded to her like an upbeat and patriotic military march, accompanied by cheers and happy sounds. After checking out, Clorice decided to go take a look at what was happening.

Walking down the steps of the hanging spiral staircase was a rather zaftig bride – a shape that is more to the liking of Egyptians than the svelte American woman ideal. As the Egyptian saying goes, ‘a woman needs to fill her home’ – and Mrs. Zaftig set a fine cultural example. Dressed in a traditional three tiered heavily frosted wedding cake white gown, the newly minted Mrs. Z was gliding down the stairs holding hands, possibly for the first time, with her nervous groom who wore a silver and black tuxedo. The couple were presumably on their way from their wedding ceremony to the walimah – the traditional wedding feast. At the bottom of the stairs, guests formed two lines on either side through which the couple passed to cheering and well-wishes.

There was always something happening in the lobby of this grand, albeit somewhat faded, hotel. Clorice took a seat on the other side of the lobby from the wedding to await her party, watching the happy tableau.

A few minutes later, Clorice saw Archie enter the room with a tall, muscular, dark haired man who made her heart skip a beat, brought roses to her cheeks and made the extreme upper, curved reaches of her thighs tighten. The infamous Dr. Jesse Sublime.

Clorice looked deeply and honestly into Jesse’s emerald green eyes with her sparkling saphire orbs. He always had this effect on her. The unconsummated sexual chemistry was undeniable. Jesse took Clorice’s hand in his, calloused by years of troweling, with a proverbial Golden Marshalltown Trowel, no doubt. Clorice noticed that there was still no ring on his ring finger. They stared at each other, grinning from ear to ear like a couple of doorknobs for a fraction of a second, the charming curvaceous cleft in his strong chin more pronounced than she had remembered. Clorice’s voice caught in her throat.

“Clorice. Great to see you again. I can’t tell you how delighted I am that you will be joining our team!” said Jesse, quickly replacing his momentary unguarded openness with his extremely well-polished professional salesperson facade that any large archaeological site director has to command.

Jesse let go of Clorices’ hand, bent down as she tiptoed upwards, and kissed her gently on each cheek. As he stepped back, Clorice caught him glancing down appreciatively through her oversized white boyfriend shirt at her nipples, which had turned into rock hard niblets, and were standing at attention due to his fleeting, albeit completely politically correct embrace. Pleasantries aside, Jesse got right down to work.

“I hope you don’t mind, but we have to take the subway back to the Institute. Driving in downtown Cairo is not something I would wish even on my most “Special Friend!” The trio laughed in unison.

Every academic worth their intellectual investment has their own “Special Friend(s)”.

“Special Friends” are a subset of academics who invest their careers and egos focusing on a single belief or idea under the guise of science with frightening fanatic zealotry. Special Friends prohibit any rational healthy discourse or disagreement in their protected theatre of the absurd. Any opposition is met swiftly with vitriolic and rabid attacks to ensure their personal ideological and id investments remain unchallenged. Special Friends perceive a priori those who are not disciples as evil adversaries who must be obliterated, and justify their unethical and intimidating behaviors for the better good.

A classic instrument of destroying those with other ideas is to misuse the academic review process. When invited by professional journals or funding agencies to review papers or proposals, Special Friends not only reject submissions that propose different ideas than they have published, or were thinking of publishing, or even may have thought of publishing if they had the time to think about it, they also attempt to discredit the proponent’s reputation.

Like badgers, Special Friends never let go. Even after retirement, they have a tendency to write flame letters to academic journals whenever someone they perceive as a potential competitor publishes anything, to attempt to discredit or undermine their carefully crafted narrative, and thus keep their own over-inflated egos stroked and stoked. That it might slow down the rate of academic progress does not bother them, as the progress in question would not have been in the direction they would have taken, and would therefore be wrong.

[Continue reading the next post in this novel: Chapter 2: III]


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