Arecibo, Puerto Rico August 1974
Albert sat on the deck of their cabana, nursing a lemonade, viewing the expanse of the Rio Abajo Forest stretching below him to the sea. Wispy low clouds floated in and out of the trees, as did large birds, rising on the thermals. He was thinking about where they'd been and where he was going. He was involved in the mission of his life, but he was full of doubt. Rodrico Jorges was throwing a big party that night at his compound on Dos Bocas Lake. A tropical storm was building to the east, though you'd never know it. He had plenty of time to muse before then. His data was cranking away on the computer, ever so slowly. He poured some more rum in the lemonade.
He and Esther had been married by a judge in Elkins six months after they met. At first, he went with her to Logan with trepidation, but April had accepted him with a warm heart and made him feel at home right away. She would have wanted a large church wedding for her daughter, but she knew that, as God-fearing as the brothers of that congregation were, they would not stand for their mountain sister to marry some White Northerner. They were accepted at the juke joints, but got more attention than they wanted when they danced.
The Kaleidoscope Effect is a short, historical, science fiction novel of sweeping proportions. From the Iceman, a Copper Age hunter, to a disillusioned astronomer at the end of the Twentieth Century, if you've ever wondered what will happen to ordinary people when extraterrestrials arrive, follow Albert on his quest for the answer. You won't find flying saucers, aliens, or visitors from Mars, but you will understand the meaning of intelligent, extraterrestrial life.
The real test came in early September, when they took a couple of weeks and drove to Upper Michigan. Albert remembered calling his Mom and telling her that he was bringing a girlfriend along, then having to tell her that Esther was Black, so that there would be no surprises. They took the grand tour: Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Toledo, Detroit, Ann Arbor, and north to the Straits of Mackinac, where they crossed on the new bridge and savored the historic charm of Mackinac Island. Then, they were in his back yard, and he guided Esther through the wild country of his youth: The Big Spring, White Pine Mine, Porcupine Mountain, and Lake Superior. Albert's brothers and sisters were part of the big welcoming party that greeted them. They lost no time making Esther feel at home. Only Grandpa and Grandma Repaul, in their eighties, seemed unable to accept the idea that there might be a Black member of the family. Albert's Dad took him with him everywhere that week after school, showing off, "My Son, the scientist." He was even asked to speak in his science classes. School had just started, so it was a great way for him to create some enthusiasm in students more interested in sports and hunting than science. He understood, he was a hunter, too.
After a too brief stay, with the leaves in full color, and Winter on their heels, they continued their grand tour, through the heart of Wisconsin to Madison and Milwaukee, then Chicago. Esther said it was good to see black faces again. Albert wondered why there were so few white faces in the great cities. They got maps of tourist attractions and savored each city a bit, catching a motel late at night and leaving early the next morning. They especially enjoyed the college campuses. Albert stopped by astronomy departments and observatories. They made note to themselves where they would come back again some time and explore more. Then, it was on to Indianapolis, Louisville, Lexington, Huntington, Charleston, and home.
Esther said fond good byes to Mrs. Harper and they moved into a rented house on the grounds at Green Bank. Esther still drove to school four nights a week, and picked up a second degree in business administration. She started writing proposals for scientists and helping them obtain funding. She became good at driving that torturous US 250 to Stauton and beating a path to Washington. Her charm, beauty, and short skirts, not to mention her political savvy, soon got her access to the agencies, private foundations, scientific groups, and even Congressmen and Senators. When Albert's two year postdoctoral stint at Green Bank was up, they moved to Reston. They both missed the times they spent in the Monongahela National Forest hiking and camping, and in season, hunting deer and turkey.
The success of the Space Race and popularizers like Sagan and Drake had sent many to the Universities to study astronomy. For those who had not fallen out of the rigorous programs and completed their doctorates like Albert, job opportunities were few. One had to literally wait for a professor to die at the best institutions before a tenured spot would open up. Jobs in the Washington, DC, area were especially scarce. With NASA and the Pentagon cutting back at the same time, prospects were dim. Albert settled for a job teaching biology at Howard. Esther started her consulting firm from their two bedroom apartment.
It was Esther, who got him here. He was teaching on a temporary basis when she spotted a three month study of quasar behavior at Arecibo in an NSF flyer. With her help, he applied, and, since the reviewers knew nothing of his foray into biology, he got the assignment. It wasn't glamorous, or even exciting, that's why no one applied for it. But it was good for a couple of papers and it kept his hand in astronomy. The timing was perfect for a teaching professor, covering June, July, and August, if not the best time to visit the island.
Teaching biology wasn't all that bad. His students, while often ill prepared in high school, were an eager lot. They had to be eager to take classes in an area most avoided in favor of programs of known financial potential like education, business, or political science. They were receptive to new ideas. He taught more than biology in those classes. As long as he completed the syllabus, the department head couldn't care less.
Esther joined him on the deck in her yellow bikini. She was on her third trip down from DC. Her busy schedule demanded that she return by Sunday. She was even more beautiful than when he first saw her. Her skin, burned pink in early summer when she first came down, had turned a deeper brown. After that first, painful experience, she was able to spend long hours at Sardinera Beach, searching for shells and carrying on like a sea nymph. The girls here were beautiful, and Esther blended in with them like one of the natives. The heat and humidity reminded her of the Southern West Virginia summers, but the expanse of sea and sand were a new experience, a place of endless possibilities. Men would come by and admire her from afar. Albert would listen to them extol her virtues, then, as politely as he could, burst their balloons with, "Yes, I know, she's my wife."
She teased him awhile, dancing a solo ballet, finally breaking through his thoughts as she paraded and pranced on bare tip toes in front of him, then turning and bending down, nuzzling his right ear. She had beads of sweat in all the right places. She was smiling broadly, and her dark eyes were inviting. She grabbed his hand and dragged him off to the bedroom, where they made hot, sweaty love under the ceiling fan.
They left early for the compound. It was a thirty mile drive, even shorter as the crow flies, but they had to drive halfway back to Arecibo City before they could pick up Highway 10 to the Lake. The road was reminiscent of US 250 to Staunton. They decided to shop a bit in the open market in the City for things Esther would take back with her to DC. Esther was dressed in an outfit she'd picked up on an earlier foray to the market. The wrap skirt, tied at the waist so that it left an opening for her right leg to show was red with yellow flowers printed on it.. The matching top, tied in the back, was more like a swimsuit top, leaving her midriff, shoulders, and back, bare. She topped it off with a turban of the same material in the African style. She was transformed from an urbane, sophisticated businesswoman to Black African Queen, newly arrived to the island, in the space of time it took her to get dressed. Albert was impressed, but he put on his Levi cords and a short sleeve, button down shirt because he knew it would be hot.
A half hour later, they were in the market, and Esther was causing a minor sensation. Albert could hear the men, barely making out their expressions in Spanish, but it amounted to the same thing as if she'd walked down K Street. That outfit, as natively correct as it was, was meant to catch a man's eye. It was attracting the women too, they were buzzing around her as she glided from stall to stall, picking up bits and pieces, then putting them back down. She bought some fine specimens of coral. Albert wrapped them carefully and carried them to her rented car. He wanted to tell her that she was contributing to the demise of coral reefs worldwide by her action, but in the interest of domestic tranquillity, her last night here, he declined.
"Wow, that was exciting. I felt like I was back in Africa, shopping for the family." Esther excitedly declared as they headed out of town on PR 10.
Albert thought, "Yeah, if you're wearing Christian Dior and have enough money to buy the village." But he didn't say it. After all, she bought the outfit at that market, and the powerful people she influenced with her gifts could help his research. That's why they were going to the party tonight.
Rodrico Jorges was a nefarious businessman and the largest benefactor of the Observatory. As such, his contributions landed him on the Board of Trustees and the opportunity to rub elbows with scientists working on the cutting edge of knowledge. Rising from the slums of San Juan, he was in charge of an island business empire that embraced gambling, prostitution, untaxed rum, Cuban cigars, and drug smuggling from Columbia to the States. But, everyone was paid off and conveniently looked the other way.
His parties were legendary. As Esther drove them through the attended gate, they were struck by the lavish opulence of the place, stretching from the big house set up on the side of the hill through grounds of gardens and small houses, down to the docks on the lake. It was dusk, and lights were popping on all over, adding to the smells of the food cooking, a festive air. They were greeted by Rodrico himself, dressed in black bell bottoms and a white silk embroidered shirt, his black, curly hair slicked back, with graying temples that matched his mustache. "Ah, ... Dr. Repaul, it is a pleasure to have you join us. This must be your wife. You look lovely, my dear. Feel free to wander and enjoy. My house is yours." Jorges was trying to be charming, but Albert could see how the man leered at his wife.
As the guests arrived, they spread throughout the grounds, now lit with lamps that gave a soft glow to the warm evening. By the waterfront, a steel drum band was playing, closer to the house lounges and chairs were placed where intimate conversations could take place. Waiters scurried about, bringing drinks and directing party goers to the lavish spread of whole roast pig, racks of lamb, beef ribs, swordfish, conch , jellyfish, and other delicacies, balanced by bean dishes, salads, and fruits of every description.
In addition the scientists from the Observatory, there were politicians, businessmen, and professors from the University, and, in the background, characters that clearly looked like gangsters. Esther's outfit, while appropriate for the heat, was a bit out of place amid the formal wear some of the women were wearing. Soon, with good food and liquor flowing, the coats and ties and shawls came off, and everyone felt more at home in the heat. Well, not everyone. Some guests, checking their watches and muttering about the possibility of a tropical storm, left early, against the wishes of their host, who said that it would veer north and spare the island.
After eating until they felt stuffed, Albert and Esther took a motorboat ride out around the lake. The lake was still, but the surrounding jungle was alive with night sounds, so it was both tranquil and haunting to be out there. It cooled them off and refreshed them. When they returned to the dock, most of the party was there, dancing to the steel drum band. Albert and Esther joined them. Esther was in her element, having the time of her life. Everyone was watching her.
As was the host's prerogative, Rodrico stepped out on the dance area and announced that he had a special treat for the guests. "I know there's a tropical storm coming, but we've seen tropical storms before. So this one's not going to spoil our party. For your pleasure, all the way from our kitchen, I present, ... Rosa and Maria!"
Two girls whom Albert had seen earlier serving guests at the tables appeared in front of the band wearing white outfits similar to Esther's. The band started playing one of those rythyms that came off the slave boats from Africa, and the girls started dancing. Rodrico had come directly from the center and was now standing next to Esther. It was a very sensuous, suggestive dance. The guests had had enough to drink so that they were caught up in it. It was hypnotic, like a Voodoo dance, and put everyone in a trance.
Soon, Rodrico grabbed Esther by both arms, pushing her forward, and whispered something in her ear. It was all she needed. She kicked off her sandals, ran out barefoot, positioned herself between the two girls, and started dancing. She was taller and more beautiful than her partners, and her dancing was more exotic and erotic, as though she'd been born to dance like that. Albert had never seen his wife like that. He was shocked and pleased. If he could only feel what she was feeling. The dancing got more suggestive, and the guests more into it. Some of the other women joined in. The men drew closer. Albert wondered what it would lead to.
A loudspeaker up by the big house blared, "We are sorry to spoil your evening, but the storm has turned and strengthened. For those of you from San Juan, it has reached the City, and it is too late to return tonight. You can stay here or one of the resorts Mr. Jorges owns near here!"
All hell broke loose. Guests were running everywhere, gathering up their things and heading for their cars. Rodrico had reached Esther before Albert. He was entreating her to stay when she said, "Come on, Albert, let's blow this joint. Thank you, Mr. Jorges, for a wonderful time, but we'd better be heading home before this storm hits." Her experience in diplomacy was paying off.
As she drove them out through the gate into the hot, still night, alive with jungle sounds, Esther sighed and said, "God, that was exhilarating! But I'm glad we were stopped because there was no telling what I would have done next. It was as though I was under a spell. Can't wait to get you home. It started to rain and blow before they turned onto 651.
Note to the reader. If you liked this chapter you can buy the book at your local bookstore, Booklocker.com and other online stores. Return to Chapter 1: Copper Age Hunter. Or, if you want to publish a review or have a way for me to get the word out about the story send an email to me with your suggestions. I might be persuaded to send you a free copy.