Chapter no 9

The Rosie Project (Don Tillman, #1)

“I threw her in as a wild card,” said Gene, when I woke him up from the unscheduled sleep he was taking under his desk the next day.

Gene looked terrible and I told him he should refrain from staying up so late—although for once I had been guilty of the same error. It was important that he eat lunch at the correct time to get his circadian rhythm back on schedule. He had a packed lunch from home, and we headed for a grassy area in the university grounds. I collected seaweed salad, miso soup, and an apple from the Japanese café on the way.

It was a fine day. Unfortunately this meant that there were a number of females in brief clothing sitting on the grass and walking by to distract Gene. Gene is fifty-six years old, although that information is not supposed to be disclosed. At that age, his testosterone should have fallen to a level where his sex drive was significantly reduced. It is my theory that his unusually high focus on sex is due to mental habit. But human physiology varies, and he may be an exception.

Conversely, I think Gene believes I have an abnormally low sex drive.

is is not true; rather I am not as skilled as Gene in expressing it in a socially appropriate way. My occasional attempts to imitate Gene have been unsuccessful in the extreme.

We found a bench to sit on and Gene commenced his explanation. “She’s someone I know,” he said.

“No questionnaire?” “No questionnaire.”

is explained the smoking. In fact, it explained everything. Gene had reverted to the inecient practice of recommending acquaintances for dates. My expression must have conveyed my annoyance.

“You’re wasting your time with the questionnaire. You’d be better off measuring the length of their earlobes.”

Sexual attraction is Gene’s area of expertise. “ere’s a correlation?” I asked.

“People with long earlobes are more likely to choose partners with long earlobes. It’s a better predictor than IQ.”

is was incredible, but much behavior that developed in the ancestral environment seems incredible when considered in the context of the current world. Evolution has not kept up. But earlobes! Could there be a more irrational basis for a relationship? No wonder marriages fail.

“So, did you have fun?” asked Gene.

I informed him that his question was irrelevant: my goal was to find a partner and Rosie was patently unsuitable. Gene had caused me to waste an evening.

“But did you have fun?” he repeated.

Did he expect a dierent answer to the same question? To be fair, I had not given him a proper answer, but for a good reason. I had not had time to reflect on the evening and determine a proper response. I guessed that “fun” was going to be an oversimplification of a very complex experience.

I provided Gene with a summary of events. As I related the story of the dinner on the balcony, Gene interrupted. “If you see her again—”

ere is zero reason for me to see her again.”

If you see her again,” Gene continued, “it’s probably not a good idea to mention the Wife Project. Since she didn’t measure up.”

Ignoring the incorrect assumption about seeing Rosie again, this seemed like good advice.

At that point, the conversation changed direction dramatically, and I did not have an opportunity to find out how Gene had met Rosie. e reason for the change was Gene’s sandwich. He took a bite, then called out in pain and snatched my water bottle.

“Oh shit. Oh shit. Claudia put chilies in my sandwich.”

It was dicult to see how Claudia could make an error of this kind. But the priority was to reduce the pain. Chili is insoluble in water, so drinking from my bottle would not be eective. I advised him to find some oil. We headed back to the Japanese café and were not able to have any further conversation about Rosie. However, I had the basic information I needed. Gene had selected a woman without reference to the questionnaire. To see

her again would be in total contradiction to the rationale for the Wife Project.

Riding home, I reconsidered. I could see three reasons that it might be necessary to see Rosie again.

  1. Good experimental design requires the use of a control group. It would be interesting to use Rosie as a benchmark to compare with women selected by the questionnaire.

  2. e questionnaire had not produced any matches to date. I could interact with Rosie in the meantime.

  3. As a geneticist with access to DNA analysis, and the knowledge to interpret it, I was in a position to help Rosie find her biological father.

Reasons 1 and 2 were invalid. Rosie was clearly not a suitable life partner. ere was no point in interaction with someone so patently inappropriate. But reason 3 deserved consideration. Using my skills to assist her in a search for important knowledge aligned with my life purpose. I could do it in the time set aside for the Wife Project until a suitable candidate emerged.

In order to proceed, I needed to reestablish contact with Rosie. I did not want to tell Gene that I planned to see her again so soon after telling him that the probability of my doing so was zero. Fortunately, I recalled the name of the bar she worked at: the Marquess of Queensbury.

ere was only one bar of that name, in a back street of an inner suburb. I had already modified the day’s schedule, canceling my market trip to catch up on the lost sleep. I would purchase a ready-made dinner instead. I am sometimes accused of being inflexible, but I think this demonstrates an ability to adapt to even the strangest of circumstances.

I arrived at 7:04 p.m. only to find that the bar did not open until 9:00

p.m. Incredible. No wonder people make mistakes at work. Would it be full of surgeons and flight controllers, drinking until after midnight before working the same day?

I ate dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant. By the time I had worked my way through the banquet and returned to the bar, it was 9:27 p.m. ere was a security ocial at the door, and I prepared myself for a repeat of the

previous night. He examined me carefully, then asked, “Do you know what sort of place this is?”

I am quite familiar with bars, perhaps even more familiar than most people. When I travel to conferences, I generally find a pleasant bar near my hotel and eat and drink there every evening. I replied in the armative and entered.

I wondered if I had come to the right location. e most obvious characteristic of Rosie was that she was female, and the patrons at the Marquess of Queensbury were without exception male. Many were wearing unusual costumes, and I took a few minutes to examine the range. Two men noted me looking at them and one smiled broadly and nodded. I smiled back. It seemed to be a friendly place.

But I was there to find Rosie. I walked to the bar. e two men followed and sat on either side of me. e clean-shaven one was wearing a cut-off T-shirt and clearly spent time at the gym. Steroids could also have been involved. e one with the mustache wore a leather costume and a black cap.

“I haven’t seen you here before,” said Black Cap.

I gave him the simple explanation. “I haven’t been here before.” “Can I buy you a drink?”

“You’re oering to buy my drink?” It was an unusual proposition from a stranger, and I guessed that I would be expected to reciprocate in some way. “I think that’s what I said,” said Black Cap. “What can we tempt you


I told him that the flavor didn’t matter, as long as it contained alcohol.

As in most social situations, I was nervous.

en Rosie appeared from the other side of the bar, dressed conventionally for her role in a collared black shirt. I was hugely relieved. I had come to the correct place and she was on duty. Black Cap waved to her. He ordered three Budweisers. en Rosie saw me.

“Don.” “Greetings.”

Rosie looked at us and asked, “Are you guys together?” “Give us a few minutes,” said Steroid Man.

Rosie said, “I think Don’s here to see me.” “Correct.”

“Well, pardon us interrupting your social life with drinks orders,” Black Cap said to Rosie.

“You could use DNA,” I said.

Rosie clearly didn’t follow, owing to lack of context. “What?” “To identify your father. DNA is the obvious approach.”

“Sure,” said Rosie. “Obvious. ‘Please send me your DNA so I can see if you’re my father.’ Forget it, I was just mouthing o.”

“You could collect it.” I wasn’t sure how Rosie would respond to the next part of my suggestion. “Surreptitiously.”

Rosie went silent. She was at least considering the idea. Or perhaps wondering whether to report me. Her response supported the first possibility. “And who’s going to analyze it?”

“I’m a geneticist.”

“You’re saying if I got a sample, you could analyze it for me?” “Trivial,” I said. “How many samples do we need to test?”

“Probably only one. I’ve got a pretty good idea. He’s a family friend.”

Steroid Man coughed loudly, and Rosie fetched two beers from the refrigerator. Black Cap put a twenty-dollar bill on the counter, but Rosie pushed it back and waved them away.

I tried the cough trick myself. Rosie took a moment to interpret the message this time, but then got me a beer.

“What do you need?” she asked. “To test the DNA?”

I explained that normally we would use scrapings from the inner cheek, but that it would be impractical to obtain these without the subject’s knowledge. “Blood is excellent, but skin scrapings, mucus, urine—”

“Pass,” said Rosie.

“—fecal material, semen—”

“It keeps getting better,” said Rosie. “I can screw a sixty-year-old family friend in the hope that he turns out to be my father.”

I was shocked. “You’d have sex—”

Rosie explained that she was making a joke. On such a serious matter! It was getting busy around the bar, and there were a lot of cough signals happening. An eective way to spread disease. Rosie wrote a telephone number on a piece of paper.

“Call me.”

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