The Rosie Project Page 28

\Good luck with that one,\ he said. It didn\ answer the question, but he had moved on to serve another customer.

As I finished lunch at the University Club the following day, Gene walked in, accompanied by a woman I recognised from the singles party - Fabienne the se*-Deprived Researcher. It appeared that she had found a solution to her problem. We passed each other at the dining-room entrance.

Gene winked at me, and said, \Don, this is Fabienne. She\s visiting from Belgium and we\ e going to discuss some options for collaboration.\ He winked again, and quickly moved past.

Belgium. I had assumed Fabienne was French. Belgian explained it. Gene already had France.

I was waiting outside the Marquess of Queensbury when Rosie opened the doors at 9.00 p.m.

\Don.\ Rosie looked surprised. \Is everything okay?\

\I have some information.\

\Better be quick.\

\It\s not quick, there\s quite a lot of detail.\

\I\m sorry, Don, my boss is here. I\ll get into trouble. I need this job.\

\What time do you finish?\

\Three a.m.\

I couldn\ believe it! What sort of jobs did Rosie\s patrons have? Maybe they all worked in bars that opened at 9.00 p.m. and had four nights a week off. A whole invisible nocturnal subculture, using resources that would otherwise stand idle. I took a huge breath and a huge decision.

\I\ll meet you then.\

I rode home, went to bed, and set the alarm for 2.30 a.m. I cancelled the run I had scheduled with Gene for the following morning to retrieve an hour. I would also skip karate.

At 2.50 a.m. I was riding through the inner suburbs. It was not a totally unpleasant experience. In fact, I could see major advantages for myself in working at night. Empty laboratories. No students. Faster response times on the network. No contact with the Dean. If I could find a pure research position, with no teaching, it would be entirely feasible. Perhaps I could teach via video-link at a university in another time zone.

I arrived at Rosie\s workplace at exactly 3.00 a.m. The door was locked and a \Closed\ sign was up. I knocked hard. Rosie came to the door.

\I\m stuffed,\ she said. This was hardly surprising. \Come in - I\m almost done.\

Apparently the bar closed at 2.30 a.m. but Rosie had to clean up.

\You want a beer?\ she said. A beer! At 3 a.m. Ridiculous.

\Yes, please.\

I sat at the bar watching her clean up. The question I had asked sitting in the same place the previous day popped into my mind.

\Are you gay?\ I asked.

\You came here to ask me that?\

\No, the question is unrelated to the main purpose of my visit.\

\Pleased to hear it, alone at three in the morning in a bar with a strange man.\

\I\m not strange.\

\Not much,\ she said, but she was laughing, presumably making a joke to herself based on the two meanings of strange. I still didn\ have an answer to the gay question. She opened a beer for herself. I pulled out my folder and extracted the party photo.

\Is this the party where your mother was impregnated?\

\Shit. Where did this come from?\

I explained about my research and showed her my spreadsheet. \All names are listed. Sixty-three males, nineteen obviously non-Caucasian, as determined by visual assessment and supported by names, three already eliminated.\

\You\ve got to be kidding. We\ e not testing ... thirty-one people.\

\Forty-one.\

\Whatever. I don\ have an excuse to meet any of them.\

I told her about the reunion.

\Minor problem,\ said Rosie. \We\ e not invited.\

\Correct,\ I said. \The problem is minor and already solved. There will be alcohol.\

\So?\

I indicated the bar, and the collection of bottles on shelves behind it. \Your skills will be required.\

\You\ e kidding me.\

\Can you secure employment at the event?\

\Hang on, hang on. This is getting seriously crazy. You think we\ e going to turn up at this party and start swabbing people\s glasses. Oh man.\

\Not us. You. I don\ have the skills. But, otherwise, correct.\

\Forget it.\

\I thought you wanted to know who your father was.\

\I told you,\ she said. \Not that much.\

Two days later, Rosie appeared at my apartment. It was 8.47 p.m., and I was cleaning the bathroom, as Eva the short-skirted cleaner had cancelled due to illness. I buzzed her upstairs. I was wearing my bathroom-cleaning costume of shorts, surgical boots and gloves but no shirt.

\Wow.\ She stared at me for a few moments. \This is what martial-arts training does, is it?\ She appeared to be referring to my pectoral muscles. Then suddenly she jumped up and down like a child.

\We got the gig! I found the agency and I offered them shit rates and they went yeah, yeah, yeah, don\ tell anyone. I\ll report them to the union when it\s over.\

\I thought you didn\ want to do this.\

\Changed my mind.\ She gave me a stained paperback. \Memorise this. I\ve got to get to work.\ She turned and left.

I looked at the book- The Bartender\s Companion: A Complete Guide to Making and Serving Drinks. It appeared to specify the duties of the role I was to perform. I memorised the first few recipes before finishing the bathroom. As I prepared for sleep, having skipped the aikido routine to spend further time studying the book, it occurred to me that things were getting crazy. It was not the first time that my life had become chaotic and I had established a protocol for dealing with the problem and the consequent disturbance to rational thinking. I called Claudia.


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