As soon as my last seminar on Monday afternoon ended, I headed straight for The Boomer’s place. Well, not exactly straight. I stopped off at my apartment to drop off The Cup first. I’d spent much of the day dithering about whether to take her with me or not. Or to be more accurate, how to get away with not taking her. It would be rude, a real slap in the face, and inexcusable on top of that not to show her to The Boomer, but I knew I wasn’t going to. Not yet. Thinking about it later, I realized that deep down inside, down on the level where the demons dance, I was afraid that once The Cup met The Boomer she’d realize what a chowder-head I was by comparison and refuse to go home with me. The two of them would talk for a minute or two, and then The Boomer would tell me in his disarming way how much he appreciated the gift, and The Cup would make me believe him, and I’d be back home wondering what had just happened. Oh, I know, I was being silly. But like introducing your beautiful leggy blonde wife to Mick Jagger (or whoever the equivalent would be today)—some things you just didn’t take a chance on.
Then I had a mild attack of paranoia that someone would break in and steal her while I was out. In my entire adult life I’d never spent a nanosecond worrying about burglars. On the other hand, in my entire adult life I had never owned anything truly worth stealing. Now I had the treasure of a lifetime. Finally I used the Vulture variant of Poe‘s Purloined Letter strategy, sticking her in the cupboard in and amongst the jelly glasses so an unlikely thief would mistake her for just another cheap unmatched receptacle for liquids.
The Boomer met me at the door with a pair of opened Buds in his hand and a curious look on his face. “Ah, Rice’s answer to Rasputin has come calling. So good of you to drop in, my mysterious friend. What may I do for you this fine spring afternoon?” (Since it had already started to turn hot, he might have been stretching a point.)
And so without the help of The Cup, I told him the story. We sat on the couch and I talked while he listened raptly, stopping only for the occasional trip to the fridge. We’d finished most of a six pack apiece by the time I got him caught up, not only with my adventures, but also with the story I’d been transcribing.
After I’d finished, he paced for about three minutes before speaking.
“That is the most fantastic yarn I’ve ever heard presented as the truth. I shouldn’t believe you for a minute, but I’m gullible enough to accept on faith that you couldn’t go from completely rational to totally irrational since I saw you last four days ago. I simply must meet this cup of yours sometime.”
Feeling even guiltier, I started babbling about why I hadn’t brought it, but he shushed me after less than a sentence.
“The way I see it, there are two major things that you’ve got to do. The first is to renovate your entire system of beliefs, restructure your day-to-day operating philosophies to match those new beliefs, and in light of those plus the power that this psionic-AKA-magic device gives you, decide what you want to do with the rest of your life.”
“Shit, that’s question one? Sounds like a final exam in quantum mechanics. What’s the second question: define the universe and give three examples?”
“Fortunately, it’s an unlimited time quantum mechanics exam. Truly unlimited in that you can take the rest of your life to complete the question. In fact, there’s a bonus: the longer you take, the shorter the rest of your life is and the easier the question gets.”
“What a concept. If the profs would just institute such a system, think how much it would reduce test anxiety.”
“Because it’s such a difficult and time-consuming question, I recommend you let The Marquis work on it while you skip right ahead to the second task: find out how powerful it really is.” The Boomer was the only person I had shared that name with, along with its deep psychological implications. Knowing that he would never spill it to the rest of the world no matter how drunk he got. So telling him about The Cup was not totally without precedent.
“It’s powerful enough that a beautiful stranger gave me her panties merely at its suggestion.” I hadn’t really gotten into the whole Cup-as-a-woman topic, so I was using gender-neutral pronouns.
“With your charm, she probably would have done so without the cup, had you pursued that end with the same diligence. Don’t get off the subject.” Hell, I’d thought that was the subject, but one didn’t argue with The Boomer. “By the cup’s own admission, it works best when filled with wine and held at close range to a preferably mildly intoxicated subject. You’ve tested it on three occasions.” He ticked off on his fingers as he enumerated: “The society matron—and by the way, I would appreciate it if you would not deprecate my potential clientele with such vague vulgarities as ‘bitch,’” he admonished with his tongue poking a hole through his cheek. “The clerk in Cobweb Liquors, and John and Anne at Alfred’s. It’s unlikely that any of the subjects were loosened up with intoxicants, but in every other way the circumstances were ideal.”
“There was one other time that I forgot to tell you about,” I broke in, remembering and relating to him about convincing Judy Blue Eyes that I was trying out Louis XIV-1/2’s speech.
“OK, four occasions. The circumstances were still virtually identical. Based on field trials so far, we can say with confidence that you have enough power to safely retire into the world of academia and never have to work again except to hit some benefactor up for a grant. But if you wanted to run for political officer higher than the mayor of Cut and Shoot, you could hardly get there talking to individual voters as they walk up to cast their ballots. If you made your pitch on Monday, would they still vote for you on Tuesday? If you addressed some high-brow event where a thousand people were listening attentively, could you convince a majority of them to go forth and campaign for you at no cost to yourself? And would they still carry that fire and zeal the next morning?” He paused for a moment to think and drink. “Say, rather than Senator from Texas, you aspire to a higher goal—sainthood, for example. If you broadcast a plea over the television for people to lay down their weapons and embrace their enemies, would we collect any guns?”
Good Old Boomer and his logical steel trap intellect. He can be exposed to radical information of life-changing consequence and still cut right to the heart of things. “OK, Einstein, enough already. What do you recommend?”
He paused a few seconds while he processed about ten kazillion possibilities before answering. “Let’s try a crowd.”
I liked the idea fine, but I liked the ‘let’s’ even better. Let’s. Let us. Us, as in him and me. Not just boggled chowder-head Bradley Tyler Schuster III, but Boomer the Brilliant as well. I could have kissed him, but with the faint memory of the taste of Anne still lingering on my lips, I decided not to ruin it.
“Meet me tomorrow at 2:30 on The Hill. Run along and let me get a few things ready.” And he shooed me out the door.