Manhattan Project #20 Berman and Don Quixote

(in which Berman’s partner urges him to keep digging)

When I got home, Jane was just pulling into the driveway after doing a reading tutoring session. She works in the local schools during the week, mostly elementary and middle schools, but she volunteers to do the same thing for adults on the weekend, usually Saturday morning. She is an amazing person. Like I said before, she’d have to be to put up with a tortured soul like me. But she really does care about people. She hangs out with the peaceniks in Bangor, and sings in the Peace Choir they started a couple years ago. She’s really something, and she’s still fairly “hot,” as the kids say, even though we’re both pushing into what the Labor Department refers to as middle age. I pulled in behind her and she waited for me to walk into the house.

“So, Mr. Philosopher, did you and your smoking buddy get it all figured out?”
I’d told her I was hoping to find some answers talking with this guy, but I admitted to her that it hadn’t really worked out that way.

“No, all he seems to want to do is play Socrates and raise more questions. He basically rejected my invention theory. He didn’t want to blame all the killing on whoever came up with the things we kill each other with.”

She patted my arm.
“Poor Jed. So passionate about these things.”

“I guess I am,” I admitted, “but you are too, aren’t you? All the time you spend with the Peace Choir and the justice crowd. Wouldn’t you like to understand it? Don’t even bother to answer that. I know you would. I guess my mistake is thinking any one person on the face of the earth is going to be able to lead me to the truth.”

“Don’t give up yet, Jed. And I think you should keep talking with this guy. What’s his name?”

“Oh, yeh, that’s the best part of our session today. I finally asked him his name. Guess what it is?”

“Come on, Jed. How would I know? What is it?”

“Well, he wouldn’t even tell me his real name. He said I should call him Doris. He said he’s a Doris Kearns Goodwin groupie or something.”

“You mean the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin?”

“That’s the one.”

She chuckled a little.
“Well, that makes him all the more interesting, doesn’t it? If you ask me, we don’t have nearly enough eccentrics around these days. Did Doris have an alternative explanation to your invention thing?”

“Not exactly. He just kept saying he didn’t think inventors could single-handedly perpetrate all the killing that’s gone on since forever. He said he thought we should look higher up on the food chain for people who could make inventions happen and then make people use them for violent purposes, like war.”

Jane nodded and sort of hummed a little, like Doris had.
“You know, Jed, I didn’t want to say anything until you had a chance to run the inventor thing by,” she paused and smiled as she said “Doris,” “but I wasn’t sure it was enough of a theory to explain the things you’ve been pondering for so long. Are you going to follow up on his new questions?”

We were standing in the front hallway by the coat closet. As she closed the door, she turned around to me and stretched up and gave me a kiss.

“I think you should keep at it, Jed. Even if you figure it all out, I don’t know if you’ll be able to change the whole world anymore than I can working with the peace people. But I think it’s a noble crusade and it keeps you—Mr. Big J Journalist—sensitized to the injustice and violence inflicted on so many people so many places every single day. I want my news delivered by someone who understands that, and isn’t in it just for cheap fame and glory. So keep on tilting at those windmills, Jed. I’m with you, honey.”

“Wait a minute,” I objected, “I’d like to think I’m operating out of a state of mind a bit less deluded than Don Quixote.”

“Oh, you are, big man. But you and the Don share the same big heart. That’s why I love you both.”

She kissed me again and headed into the kitchen to fix lunch. With that kind of encouragement, who wouldn’t keep at it? But, as I said before, I sometimes wish I’d never gotten into this. I wish I could just accept the way things are and get on with my life, like most people do.

I kept thinking about it and tried to do some reading, but my new job made some serious demands on my time, too. It turned out Fred DeMarco wasn’t just looking for an anchor; he needed some additional reporting firepower, too, and I was only too glad to provide it.

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