Beauty and the Yeast
Episode Four of Blinded By Science
21 May 2006
Editor’s note: This is the fourth episode in a series of nine original stories, each written in a different style, following the career of a scientist called Fluke from graduate school to Nobel Prize. If you are curious about any technical words, you can browse Harrison's glossary, but it’s not necessary to enjoy the story.
I am getting crushed by Van Glory. Help me. Please! You're my only hope...my only hope."
Fluke stared at the computer screen. Where did this message come from? It had appeared in his e-mail overnight, but he had no idea who had written it. It was signed only "M." Fluke thought about it for a moment and concluded that he knew no one whose name started with M. He checked the originating address: firstname.lastname@example.org. VeBECYeC! The prominent Very Big East Coast Yeast Center run by the infamous Van Glory.
So now Fluke had figured out where the message had originated, but why was this person pleading to him? Fluke checked the mailing address and found his answer. These were the early days of the Internet. It wasn't for Fluke at all; the message had been misrouted. Fluke responded promptly: "Your desperate plea for help was misrouted to me. I would try again, or perhaps check to make sure you have the correct e-mail address."
Fluke returned to Mosaic to begin downloading some new Star Trek GIFs. By the time he had finished, another message was waiting in his mailbox from the enigmatic M. "I'm sorry to disturb you," it said. "My mistake. I guess I have no knight in shining armor."
Within a couple of days, Fluke forgot about the incident altogether. Little did he know that, very soon, he himself would be donning a suit of arms.
The annual conference for Schizocerevisiae slapromyces, the most studied organism in the United States research community, was being held at The Sea Otter Inn, an idyllic hotel on the breathtaking coast of Northern California. It was mid-January, and one of the attractions of this location was the whale migration that took place off the coast.
When Fluke and his professor, Frank Kruger, arrived, people were already gathering in the Sea Elephant room, where the first talks were being held. Fluke hurried to his room to put his bag away and then met Frank down by the refreshment table.
"Oh yeah," Fluke overheard Frank say as he poured himself a paper cup full of black coffee, "I have an outstanding postdoc working with me. As a matter of fact, he's looking for a position right now. Have you heard of anything?"
Fluke turned around to join the conversation. The professor Frank was speaking with had an impressive untrimmed beard which seemed to erupt from his face. He was shaking his head. "I don't know of anything offhand," he said with a German accent.
Frank put his arm around Fluke to introduce him. "Fluke, I want you to meet Professor Van Glory. He runs the Very Big East Coast Yeast Center, VeBECYeC."
Van Glory's face flushed upon seeing Fluke, as if he was embarrassed to meet him. Fluke was taken aback. He knew he had something of a reputation, but nothing like the legendary Van Glory's. Why would someone like Van Glory even take note of him?
Fluke took Van Glory's hand and shook it enthusiastically, determined not to show he'd even noticed the professor's discomfort. "Very pleased to meet you, sir."
"Pleased to meet you," Van Glory returned, bowing his head sheepishly.
That was when Fluke saw it. Van Glory's head looked odd. He was bald, but the light didn't reflect like it normally would off a bald head. There appeared to be a weird play of shadow on it. Fluke was distracted by his observation, but Frank kept the conversation going. While the professors continued to speak about research, Fluke kept staring at the bald head. He was a tall young man, and so he could do this without much fanfare.
"Oh," Van Glory suddenly exclaimed, "this is a new postdoc of mine." A tall woman with auburn hair held up in a thick bun came beside him, and Van Glory put his arm around her shoulder in a friendly gesture. She was wearing a handsome beige suit. "Monique," Van Glory announced her name with pride.
"A beautiful name," Frank said. "How appropriate for someone as beautiful as you." He took her hand and bent down to kiss it. She looked embarrassed. Straightening up again, Frank introduced Fluke.
Monique shook Fluke's hand quickly. "Nice to meet you," she said, and winked at him knowingly. Fluke had no idea what it was supposed to mean.
"Yes, yes," Van Glory beamed. "Monique is from Quebec."
"Nice," Frank indulged him.
"She speaks French," Van Glory persisted.
"And English too," she added, trying to make light of Van Glory's awkwardness.
Fluke loved Monique's sultry French accent. As Frank and Van Glory chatted about this and that genetic screening technique, Fluke found he couldn't keep his eyes off her. He thought he'd never seen anyone so beautiful – certainly no scientist so beautiful. Monique had large oval eyes with deep brown pupils. She had a magnificent, distinguished nose and wide, sensuous lips. Her face – so intelligent and knowing yet somehow innocent and unjaded at the same time.
Monique looked uncomfortable with Van Glory's stubby arm around her shoulder. For one, she was half a foot taller than he, but Van Glory also looked like he had less than ideal hygienic habits. Fluke imagined that the slight look of disgust on Monique's face must have been caused by the thick, musty odor coming from Van Glory's tweed jacket.
"Well," Van Glory concluded, "I must go show Monique off to some other people." He began to lead her away and she reluctantly complied. "A pleasure to meet you, Fluke," Van Glory said before turning away.
After they were a safe distance, Professor Kruger dropped his histrionic smile and advised Fluke, "He's an asshole, but he's got more power than all the rest of us put together. It's best not to get on his bad side."
"That's why she takes that shit?"
Frank nodded his head. "That's how you get ahead in this field," he advised. "You'd better get used to it."
The talks started a few minutes later. Van Glory was slated to give the opening address at the conference. Fluke and his Professor took their seats and everyone settled down as Van Glory was being introduced.
". . . you're all familiar with his groundbreaking work with plasmid transformation, " the speaker was saying, "so without further ado, may I introduce the legendary Doctor Myron Van Glory..."
Van Glory began after more than a minute of thunderous applause. "Today I would like to talk to you about making scientific research more accessible to the public. To the average person, our writing and speech are full of 'scientific speak,’ ” he sneered. "They don't understand what we do, and because they don't understand what we do, they think it is not worth doing. Our very livelihoods are in danger because of this ignorance. But it is within our power to change that. I am calling today for nothing short of a revolution in the way we present our data to the public."
There was an excited murmur in the crowd.
Van Glory continued: "Today I will show you how to reach out to your communities, how to present your data in simple, accessible terms for the lay person. And I will demonstrate using my own research. Can I have the lights down and the first slide please?"
The lights went down and the audience was faced with a screen showing a blue slide that said "Today's Topic" in simple, bold white block letters.
"What I will talk about today is simply," he began, slowly and deliberately mouthing his words as if he were talking to a kindergarten class, "the crp34 cold-sensitive loss-of-function mutation in S. slapromyces on chromosome 4.6 which affects the regulation of the uptake as well as the internal transmission of external hormonal signals to the regulatory machinery of the phosphorylated as well as acetylated residues on proteins involved in the mechanisms of cell cycle inhibition and progression through checkpoints as it relates to feedback inhibition of signal transduction in the transcription of adjacent cells and, indeed, in adjacent tissues."
Fluke dozed off during the talk, as did many people around him. But later, everyone agreed that, except for some minor details like saying that Ras was an actin-binding protein in muscle and that p32 was a DNA ligase, it was a fine talk covering a broad range of general concepts that well illustrated the overall usefulness of S. slapromyces research.
"So in conclusion," Van Glory rallied, "I hope that I've shown you the limitless potential of good communication skills, how if we could all make our goals and objectives clear, concise, lucid and easy to understand, and speak in facilely comprehendible – even simple – terms, we can forward our entire cause and carry ourselves jubilantly, indeed, triumphantly into the next century, which is to say the next one hundred years!"
The standing ovation lasted for almost five minutes. The room thundered with applause. "He's brilliant," Fluke heard among the praises around him. "A genius!"
Unfortunately, the rest of the afternoon session wasn't so groundbreaking – just the usual talks from grad students and postdocs and the occasional professor.
In the dining room, snippets of conversation flitted past Fluke's ears as he was led to one of the big round tables:
"What could it be doing? You really think it's repression?"
"I think suppressor screens are a damned good thing and, by golly, I stand by that opinion!"
"And he called me a grind-and-finder! The nerve!"
Much to his approval, Fluke was seated at a table with Monique. She was already sitting between two male postdocs when he got there. Fluke introduced himself to the table before he sat down, and then the rest went around introducing themselves. One of the men beside Monique turned out to be Fluke's conference roommate, Bruce. Bruce was short and pudgy with thick-rimmed glasses, faded jeans, an old plaid flannel shirt worn over a tee shirt, and a five o'clock shadow. "Hello, Fluke," he said with an awkward, overbearing cordiality, standing up and reaching clear across the table to grasp Fluke's hand. "You're my roommate, aren't you?"
"Yup," Fluke confirmed, and thought inside his head that he had gotten yet another dorky grad student as a roommate.
"I knew it," Bruce said. "I've been developing my networking skills, you see, trying to remember names and everything. I remembered yours pretty quick."
"That's good," Fluke said, trying not to seem patronizing. "Nice to meet you, Bruce."
The only vacant seat at the table was right beside Bruce, so Fluke had no choice but to sit there.
"So is that a Spanish accent you have?" Fluke overheard Bruce saying to Monique as he sat down.
"French, actually," she said.
"French. Very romantic," Bruce said clumsily.
The waiter rescued them by coming to take their orders. The choices were fish and chips or roast beef.
"I'm a vegetarian," Monique said.
"Oh," the waiter condescended, "I see this hasn't been explained to you. You see, you're in California. We don't serve any real meat. The roast beef is made from wheat gluten, and the fish is saitan."
"Wonderful! I'll have the roast beef."
"That comes with either baked potato or French fries."
"Get the French fries," Bruce said. "You'll feel like you're at home in France."
"I'll have the baked potato," Monique said, ignoring him.
"Jeez – it was just a joke."
"I think I could figure that out, Bruce," Monique said impatiently. "It just wasn't a good joke."
Bruce persisted as the waiter moved the other way around the table, "So, Monique, are you from France?"
"I'm from Quebec," she answered reluctantly.
"Oh – in Canada. Did you know where they got that name from?"
"No, I can't say I do," she said.
"Well, they used to eat all their food out of cans in the old days. They were always going, 'I'll have a can 'a da peaches.' 'I'll have a can 'a da peas.' 'I'll have a can 'a da beans.' That's why they named it Canada. Cause they were always eatin' out of cans."
"And you, sir," the waiter interrupted Bruce. "What would you like?"
Distracted by his own humor, Bruce looked up, "Don't you have anything with real meat?"
"I'm sorry, sir. Only if you special-ordered it."
"Shoot. I guess I'll have that roast tofu, then."
"It's gluten, sir. Wheat gluten. It's much better than tofu."
"Yeah, whatever. Just bring me a lot of ketchup, would you?"
Bruce, with his constant flow of bad jokes and anecdotes, dominated the entire dinner conversation. Fluke barely got to speak a couple of words to Monique the whole time. He hoped he'd have better luck later in the conference.
After dinner, there were some more talks until nine o’clock, then a poster session and party in the Blue Dolphin room. Fluke stood by his poster and fielded questions, but most people were more interested in the beer, chips and social scene than in the science. When Bruce came by and asked him if he wanted to 'cruise,' Fluke decided to just go along and have a good time.
They went to get some beer, and then Bruce led as they strolled around the room with the bottles in their hands. It was a large open space, with food and drink tables along the edge with some folding chairs. Dance music was blaring, but no one was dancing yet; they were just chatting along the periphery of the room. Outside the windows, a group of grad students was shouting and laughing, already drunk and beginning to chase wildlife.
Fluke spotted Monique along the side of the room surrounded by a bunch of guys. She was wearing old blue jeans that sat snugly on her voluptuous hips, and a loose red angora sweater that revealed only hints of the shape beneath. Fluke was completely smitten by her. He gazed as she stood with her hands in her back pockets, only barely tolerating the attention she was being given. He wished he had her alone to himself.
"Hey, Fluke," Bruce turned back to him. "What do you say we try to pick up some girls?"
"No, you go ahead," Fluke said distractedly.
"Yeah. Knock yourself out, Bruce."
Bruce walked off and approached two young female grad students. Fluke turned away to spent the next half hour or so strolling aimlessly around the room. Frank was talking Science, and Fluke, not in the mood, tried to avoid him. As he circled the room, he picked up fragments of pickup lines:
"Hey, what do you say we find out if we're compatible mating types?"
"Let's make a diploid, baby."
"My alpha factor might just stimulate some kind of expressive response deep in your nucleus – that is, if your signal transduction pathways haven't been blocked off."
A young couple was finally starting to dance and Fluke watched the woman's movement with longing, slinky and sultry, as her male partner bounced off-rhythm and stared lustily at her. Fluke spent the rest of the night hovering, getting into brief conversations, mostly with men, about science. He knew he was supposed to be networking, but he just couldn't get enthusiastic about it. All he could think about was Monique. Fluke kept close to her the entire night, but he never got close enough to say a word. With all the men surrounding her, she didn't seem to notice Fluke at all.
Fluke retired around midnight, depressed and lonely amidst all the partying and merrymaking. Couples had formed all night, breaking off to go for walks along the beach. Roaming groups of drunken young men could be seen around the grounds, chasing squirrels and raccoons and deer, or down by the beach sticking crabs in their ears.
How Fluke wished he and Monique were one of those romantic couples down by the beach. The convention was only two nights long. If he didn't talk to her tomorrow, he'd probably never get another chance. What if she was The One? The One who he was supposed to spend the rest of his life with? And he'd just given up the chance to be with her because he was too chicken to go talk to her?
But what if Monique were at the beach with someone else right now, consummating a relationship that would last the rest of their lives? His chances to win her might be ending right now as he lay in bed helpless, powerless to do the slightest thing about it. Fluke finally fell asleep with this last distressing thought in his mind.
Fluke had set his alarm clock to get up early so he could see if he could catch a view of the whales. He got dressed quietly so as not to wake up Bruce, grabbed his binoculars and left for the beach by himself. No one was around when he got there. Fluke figured they all must have been out late partying. He looked toward the water through his binoculars and saw a couple of whale spouts, but nothing too exciting.
Then Fluke heard a voice – the voice he had dreamt about last night – saying his name. He lowered his binoculars to see Monique standing beside him. She had a pair of sleek new binoculars, not the bulky old kind like Fluke had.
Fluke smiled and said good morning. When Monique responded with the same, his heart jumped. Fluke knew he was in love right then.
"See anything good?" she asked.
"Just some spouts."
She raised her binoculars to look out. "Can't see the whales?"
"They're too far out. I can't really tell."
Fluke was excited just to have Monique beside him. He looked through his binoculars, but barely paid attention to the whales.
"I see one," Monique said.
Monique pointed, but Fluke couldn't find it.
"Maybe it's your binoculars," Monique said. "Try mine." She offered her binoculars to Fluke, but they were still around her neck. He moved closer to her and raised the binoculars to his eyes. He was so near, he could smell the fresh fragrance of her shampoo, even in the sea breeze.
"Do you see it?" she asked.
"I see a spout."
"It's right underneath."
Fluke didn't see the whale itself, although he really didn't know what he was looking for. Underneath the spout, everything was gray – water, whale – how could he tell if he was seeing the whale or not? Anyway, he wanted to prolong his proximity to Monique as long as he could.
"I still don't see it," he eventually said.
"Let me see," Monique took the binoculars back. "I don't know if you're looking in the right place. There. I see it. You might be looking at another whale."
She gave the binoculars back to Fluke again, but this time she leaned close toward him and kept her hand on the binoculars in order to direct his eyes where to look. Fluke's heart raced as their fingers touched on the side of the binoculars. He saw the same thing again, but didn't want to disappoint her, so he said he saw a whale.
"They're beautiful, aren't they?" Monique commented. "So majestic."
"Yeah," Fluke tried to say with awe.
Just then, Fluke detected a musty smell and turned around.
Van Glory was standing behind them in a red sweatsuit, his big stomach pressing out against the pliant cloth. Van Glory was taken by surprise, and tried to act as if he'd just stepped up to them.
"Ah. Hello my two young ones. I was just coming by to say hello. I was out for my morning walk."
"Well, hi Professor," Fluke greeted him.
"Hello," Monique said coolly, taking back the binoculars and looking out toward the ocean.
"Do you see anything special this wonderful morning?" asked Van Glory.
"There are some whales out there," Fluke answered.
"May I see?"
Fluke handed him his binoculars, and Van Glory stepped aggressively between the two of them to look. His dank odor was almost overpowering.
"Ah. I see them. They are beautiful." He handed the binoculars back to Fluke. "Monique, we must get back to change in time for the first talk. Come, accompany me back to the hotel."
"I've already showered and dressed," Monique said icily. "I'll meet you there later."
Van Glory was disappointed and left reluctantly, glaring at Fluke as he receded. Monique kept looking out toward the water.
"What a jackass," she said once he was gone.
"A very important jackass," Fluke said.
"Still a jackass all the same." Monique put down her binoculars and began to study Fluke.
"What?" he asked uncomfortably. "What's wrong?"
"It was you, wasn't it?"
"What was me?"
"That cry for help I sent over the e-mail. It was misrouted. I remember the person who responded to me was named Fluke. I thought it such a strange name at the time."
"That was you?" Fluke exclaimed, the memory of the mysterious message suddenly coming back to him.
Monique nodded her head. "Fluke, do you believe in Fate?"
"I guess so."
"What do you think the chances were of my message being misrouted to you, of all the people on the Internet?"
"And then of us meeting here at this conference?"
"Fluke," she said carefully, "I think that maybe some greater force meant for us to be together. Do you think so?"
"I hope so," Fluke said, taken aback, his heart lifting.
Monique flashed her brilliant smile. "So what do you say to breakfast?" she asked. "After all, I think we owe it to ourselves to get to know each other a little better."
And so they went on their first date.
By the time they reached the Sea Elephant Room after breakfast, it was already abuzz with talk about Van Glory's condition. An ambulance had taken him away that morning. Rumor was that they suspected a murder attempt. But who would want to murder Van Glory?
The introductory speaker tried to quiet the room and announced that Van Glory had slipped into a coma. He had been knocked on the head with what the assailant had apparently thought was a fatal blow. It wasn't clear whether Van Glory was going to make it. The police wanted to question everyone at the conference, so the afternoon hikes were canceled.
In their interviews, Fluke and Monique found out that they were the last ones to see Van Glory. They met after their interviews to talk about what had happened, but neither could come up with any hint that anything had been wrong that morning. They hadn't seen anyone else on the beach, much less seen someone following Van Glory. And Van Glory hadn't been acting strange in the least, either – just his usual annoying self, according to Monique.
Fluke and Monique spent the entire afternoon together, talking about Van Glory in the lounge, strolling along the beach and chatting about G proteins and signal transduction. Fluke knew he was in love.
But there was a problem. Fluke was supposed to be making professional connections at this conference. At one point in the afternoon, Frank Kruger saw him on the beach and gave him a scornful frown. Fluke was starting to feel guilty; by spending all this time with Monique, he was not being a true Scientist.
Fluke sat beside Monique at dinner that evening and, though she paid close attention to the scientific conversations around the table, all Fluke could focus on were her deep brown eyes and her sensuous, expressive lips. He fantasized endlessly about kissing them, and decided that tonight he would actually do it.
More talks were held after dinner, and even though his mentor Frank gave one of the talks, Fluke daydreamed his way through all of them, thinking about the elegant woman who was sitting beside him and taking such copious notes. At the big party afterward, Fluke and Monique spent all their time together. This time, men still came over constantly to talk to Monique, but she and Fluke excluded them from conversation until they left them alone again. Fluke no longer felt any guilt about not networking: one goal only had come to dominate his mind, and that was to win over the woman he loved.
Later in the evening, they went for a walk outside. It was cold and misty. They went down to the water, where it was dark and deserted, and as they watched the froth from the waves creep toward them in the moonlight, Fluke put his arm around Monique's waist. She didn't resist.
"Monique," Fluke began, but couldn't find any words to continue. He turned to face her, and she leaned against him, chest to chest. She was almost as tall as Fluke, and they would have been looking straight into each other's eyes if Fluke hadn't been so shy that he was looking away from her and down at the sand.
"Just kiss me, Fluke," she whispered.
Fluke raised his head and slowly moved toward the lips of his recent dreams. Monique closed her eyes. Fluke's heart was racing – he'd never kissed a woman before. Well, he'd kissed his mother, but that really didn't count. His heart felt like it was about to burst out of his chest, it was beating so fast. He was just about to touch her lips with his, when suddenly they heard: "Hey, there you are!"
It was Bruce, jogging toward them. They had escaped him at dinner that evening, but apparently hadn't rid themselves of him for the night. They jumped apart as Bruce reached them, both blushing and trying to straighten themselves out.
"Everyone's been looking for you," Bruce gasped, out of breath. "Van Glory's out of his coma, but they say he isn't going to last long. He's been calling both your names. No one has any idea why, but the police are waiting to bring you down to the hospital."
Fluke and Monique glanced toward each other in puzzlement.
"Thanks, Bruce," Monique said brusquely, and they both took off in a trot for the main building.
"Hey, Monique," Bruce stopped them after only a couple of steps. "I got you a snack in case you're hungry." He offered her some snails in the palm of his hand. "Don't you French eat these?"
"Bruce, you know, your jokes really aren't funny."
Bruce smiled at his own humor anyway.
Van Glory looked terrible. He was ghostly pale, there was a respirator in his nostrils, and an IV stuck into each arm. His head was all bandaged up.
"Ah," you're here," he smiled weakly when Fluke and Monique came into the room. "I had to see you before I died."
"Who did this to you?" Monique asked as she came to the near side of the bed. Fluke walked around to the other.
"I did it. I did it to myself."
"You tried to kill yourself?"
He shook his head. "No. It was an accident."
"What were you doing?"
"You slipped shaving?"
Van Glory frowned and took a deep breath. "I don't want anyone else but you to know this," he began slowly. "You won't tell anyone what happened to me if I tell you the truth?"
"We promise," Monique said, and Fluke nodded his head also.
"I was shaving...shaving my head."
There was a long moment of silence before Monique finally asked, "What for?"
"As a young scientist, I was finding it very hard to get grants. But then I noticed something. Everyone who got grants had a big bushy mustache and beard, and was bald, at least partially." Van Glory turned his head slowly toward Fluke. His beard was so messy, Fluke could barely see his mouth move as he continued, "So I started shaving my head."
"You did?" Monique asked in disgust.
"I did," Van Glory confirmed. "I'm not really partially bald. I've been shaving my head in this attractive pattern for years."
"And it really made a difference?" Monique asked.
"I started getting grants right away. My lab has been swimming in money ever since."
"My god," they said together in amazement.
After waiting a few seconds for this news to sink in, Fluke asked the big question, "But what happened to you this morning?"
"I…" Van Glory began, but was reluctant to go on. He gathered himself, then finally told his story: "The mirrors in this place are so damned high. I noticed that I had a five o'clock shadow on my scalp – I think you noticed that too, Fluke. Being tall, you were looking right at my bald spot. I caught you trying to figure out what was wrong with my head and so I knew I would have to shave again. Am I right? Did you think something was strange?"
"I did," Fluke conceded.
"But the mirrors here are so high, I had to stand on the toilet and lean over the sink very awkwardly to see what I was doing. I guess I just slipped. I banged my head and I don't remember anything else."
They stood on either side of the bed shaking their heads with regret. "It's terrible," Monique said, "that such a superficial change can be so important. And it was nearly fatal."
"Yes, Monique. And that is the real reason I called you here. I fear I may die tonight, and I don't want my secret to die with me."
"Wasn't that your secret?" Fluke asked.
"A secret, yes. But not my Deep Dark Secret."
"Your Deep Dark Secret?" Monique asked.
"Yes. That Deep Dark Secret involves you, Monique."
"Oh, no, Van Glory," she snapped. "Spare me the details. I don't want to hear how you're in love with me. You've made that quite apparent."
"But I am in love with you, Monique. More deeply than with anyone else I've ever loved."
"Yeah," Fluke joined, "I don't want to hear this either."
"But you must," Van Glory insisted.
"I'm leaving," Fluke said.
"Me too," Monique chimed in. "You're nothing but a dirty old man, Van Glory."
As they started to leave, Van Glory called after them: "No one should doubt that I love my daughter more than anyone in the world."
They stopped. Monique went back to the bed, staring at him wide-eyed. Fluke went back to his place, too.
"She was a young test tube washer," Van Glory resumed. "The way her skirt billowed, the way her thin, corseted torso would twist as she washed and stacked and put away glassware. Her deep brown eyes, her sensuous lips so wide...like yours, Monique. Just like yours."
"Mon dieux!" Monique exclaimed.
"We couldn't help ourselves," Van Glory continued. "When she got pregnant, we didn't know what to do. I couldn't get married – none of my grants would have been renewed if they knew I wasn't serious about Science. So we kept it a secret. She went on a 'trip,' or so we said, to hide her condition. I went nearly broke trying to take care of her and conceal her. Then she had a beautiful baby girl. And her name…" he said heavily, "her name was...Monique."
There were tears in Monique's eyes.
"We ran away to Canada and brought you to a convent. I watched you grow up but you never knew me. And that's why I courted you so aggressively to come to my lab. I wanted you near me, and I wanted to tell you the truth one day, but until this day I couldn't bring myself to do it."
"You're a real bastard," Monique said stoically through her tears.
"I know," Van Glory humbly acknowledged. "But maybe I can make it up to you, Monique. I've lived poorly all these years, partly so that I could maintain my image as a frumpy scientist, but there was another reason. I saved my entire fortune for you, Monique. You're going to be a millionaire when I die. You can live however you want. You'll never have to worry about money again."
Monique hugged her father. "Fluke," she said, pulling away from him. "I have money! Do you know what this means? We can be married! We don't have to worry about postdocs and where we get jobs. We can live happily ever after – together forever!"
Fluke was taken aback by all this. "I...but why…" he stumbled, looked down toward Van Glory.
"Yes, Fluke," Van Glory resumed. "I know what you're thinking. You're wondering why I asked you here too. Monique, I'm afraid you and Fluke can't be together."
"You mean you're attaching conditions to the money?" Monique exclaimed.
"No, Monique," he shook his head sadly. "Fate has brought you and Fluke together, but you still cannot marry him."
"Because Fluke...is your brother."
"What?" Fluke exclaimed "but my father…"
"I am your father," Van Glory stopped him.
"Yes. Your foster parents chose not to tell you that you were adopted. If you check into it, however, you'll find that I am telling the truth."
"I don't believe it."
"Believe it. I was at a conference very much like this one. We were on a whale watching cruise. She was...she was attracted to my distinguished beard and pattern baldness. She was something of an airhead, but her legs were like . . ."
"Fluke, what are we going to do?" Monique cut him off.
"Let's talk to the doctor," Fluke said, and Monique agreed.
"I doubt that he'll last the night," the doctor told the two of them.
"OK, Fluke," Monique said when they were alone again. "The old buzzard's dead by morning and his secret dies with him. Agreed?"
"I've got no problem with that," Fluke assented, taking her in his arms. And right there in the hospital hallway they fell into a passionate kiss, two strangers brought together by Fate and smitten forever by Love.
Van Glory died the next morning, and Fluke and Monique lived happily ever after, subsisting comfortably off the money they'd inherited from him. Eventually, they set up a lab together and hired Bruce as a postdoc, determined to teach him some social graces and help him find the woman he was destined to marry. "She's out there somewhere," they kept telling Bruce. "Look at us; we found each other. You just have to keep looking."
Even though they were half brother and sister, Fluke and Monique didn't have to worry about amplifying bad genes. Like many scientists, they chose not to have children. Kids would just get in the way of Science!
Teasers for subsequent episodes of Blinded by Science:
Apoptosis Now. Fluke is applying for a faculty position at Braggadocio University, but they have a small job for him before he can get the position. Fluke must travel to the heart of Darness, an old biology building on campus, where the enigmatic Professor Hurtz has surrounded himself with a gang of fiercely loyal students who continue to carry out his experiments despite the department's scorn.
Selected Excerpts From The Notebook of Jane Baxman. Jane is a meticulous new technician in Fluke's lab who has a slightly distorted view of her own worth.
The A-Maize-ing Maize Man: A Tale From The Corny Side. Jack, a sloppy postdoc in Fluke's lab, spills some chemicals on himself that cause corn kernels to sprout all over his body. A nasty human tomato is willing to go to any lengths to discover the secret to Jack's transformation. It's a good thing that two FBI agents specializing in the paranormal are on the scene.
The Coli. A magazine reporter finds the story of a lifetime when he learns that a postdoc in Fluke's lab has invented a prototype teleportation device. But a horrible accident ensues when the postdoc forgets to sterilize the chamber.
Back to the Past. What's Fluke doing drunk and passed out in the back room of a pub? Finally, learn the real secret to Fluke's success.