Genesis Two


By John Vanderslice


He looked about fifty, not because of a receding hair line or wrinkles around his eyes or his body going to pot, but just for a certain beaten-down, distracted expression he showed, as if he had to remember from decades ago what to do on a date. He wore small, black, way-out-of-style (for the mid-80s) Charles Colson glasses and a standard issue short-sleeved white work shirt. He looked like an Eisenhower era government engineer. All he needed was a miniature slide rule in his pocket and a clipped on photo id. His haircut was bad, but he didn’t look like he cared, which after the dentist I counted as a plus. One thing that stood out was his shoes: spanking new New Balance running shoes, bold red and silver. Completely out of sync with the rest of his wardrobe. My eyes kept drifting down.

“I run twelve miles a day,” he said, as if confessing to something illicit.

“That’s a lot of running.”

He shrugged. His eyes went to the tablecloth.

“Mostly I just run to the liquor store,” I said.

He looked up, a smile stuck on.

“That’s funny,” he said, surprised.

“I thought so.”

We had just taken our table at the restaurant: Rory’s Charhouse in Watertown. His choice. He appreciated the steak and salad specials. His hair was silt thin and technically blonde but seemed more gray than yellow. When I looked carefully, though, I realized what I was seeing wasn’t gray but pale brown.

“Where did you go to school?” I said.

“You mean college?” he said, a skip in his voice. His eyes showed fear.

“Yes, college. I don’t need to know who taught you fourth grade math.”

A quick grimace. His cheeks went white. God god, I wanted to say, it’s just a starter question. I don’t really care.

“I didn’t go to college. Not quite.”

“Not quite?”

“One year at MIT. Almost.”

“Which year would that have been?”


I smiled patiently. “I mean which year of the century.”

He looked perplexed. “The century?”

“Which year?”

“Oh. Sorry. ’79.”


My turn to be stunned. This guy had been a college freshman just seven years before. He was younger than me, by a lot.

“You didn’t think 1879, did you?”

“No, of course not.” My face was getting warm. “Why did you only stay a year?”

“I said, ‘Almost a year.’”

“All right. Why only almost a year?”

“I had an idea.”

“About what?”


I looked at him. “How does somebody have ideas about plastic?”

He laughed: a strange sudden snort.

“Just one idea.”

“Which was?”

“Plastic that resists low level radiation. Based on a new polymer. ”


“One that doesn’t bleed carcinogens into food.”

I shrugged. “Okay.”

“That way you wouldn’t need to use those heavy porcelain bowls when you heat leftovers in a microwave.”

I nodded at him. It made a dull kind of sense. Then I heard again what he said.

“Wait a minute. Are you saying you invented microwaveable plastic?”

He raised one hand, palm skyward.

“And you did this only a year into college?”

“Almost a year.”

“Did you get the patent on it?”

“Oh, I made sure of that. Believe me.”

I was not so crass at to ask exactly how rich he was. Besides, there was another, far more pressing question.

“I don’t understand,” I said. “How do you know my mother?”

He smiled a second, then it went away.

“Through the board.”

“Which board?”


“General Electric?”

He nodded.

“My mother’s not on the board of General Electric. She’s not on any board.”

I had a frightening vision of mom disguising herself in a fifty-dollar haircut and a dark suit with big shoulder pads, sneaking into corporate headquarters to hunt out husbands for her ugly daughter.

“No, she’s not,” he said. “But she cleans their offices.”

My hand went to my face. All the blood in my body settled around my feet.

“You met my mother while she was cleaning your office?”

“No, not my office. Board members don’t exactly have offices. I was in the board room one night after a meeting. I was going over some figures. She came in to empty the trash can. She asked me about my shirt.”

I shook my head.

“Then she asked my name. Then she asked if I was married. Then she said she had the loveliest single daughter. ”

“Oh my god.”

“She assured me you were a college graduate.”

“No thanks to her.”

He shrugged.

“So my mother is your cleaning lady.”

He considered the equation for a long, suspended moment. “More or less,” he said.

I drank a glass of water in one gulp.

“Okay. I’m really sorry. Don’t take this wrong, but what is your name again?”

He snorted a laugh. “James Adamjewski.”

“Should I call you Jim?”

“Call me Adam.”


“That’s what everyone calls me.”

“I have no problem calling you Adam. As long as you don’t call me Rosa.”

His smile disappeared. He looked at me darkly.

“Why should I call you Rosa? You’re Eve.”

My mouth opened.

“That’s right,” I said, astonished.

“It’s a great name, by the way.”

At that instant, most of me was off, floating faint-headed in the ether near the ceiling. There was only a single strand of Rosa left behind to carry on the battle.

“Why do you think that?” I heard myself say.


“Yes. Why?”

“Why do I think Eve is a great name?”

“Yes. Why?”

He thought about it.

“It’s protean,” he said.

Then I was the one who laughed: a crazy, delighted, heedless, stupid giggle. I didn’t care who heard me. I didn’t care. Adam didn’t seem to care either. He just grinned full-eyed while Rosa floated up to join the rest of me at the ceiling. Together we looked down on this new couple at the table, about to take their first meal.

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