MY FRIENDS CAN READ IT FOR FREE. (Excerpt #5 from The Harvest of Reason). At nine o’clock on Saturday night, Maddie walked out of a movie with Lisa, Savannah and Jean. They all felt it was too early to go home…. READ MORE

(if you’re here for the first time look at the excerpts 1-4 in earlier posts)

At nine o’clock on Saturday night, Maddie walked out of a movie with Lisa, Savannah and Jean. They all felt it was too early to go home. Madison was not going to sleep for a long time. The Badgers had won the game. Badger mania meant party-town, tailgate parties and lots of red banners being waved about. But most of all, it meant binge drinking, although that had started already last night. Victory or defeat, no excuse was needed for drinking in this town.

“So Lisa, how come Ernie didn’t come down?” Maddie asked.

“Oh, he had to put in a new toilet for his mom.”

“He must have been really disappointed.”

“Yeah, he was pissed as hell.”

“So what did you do with the tickets?”

“I gave them to John.”

“How come you didn’t go with him?”

Lisa spluttered. “Yeah, right! Ernie’d love to hear about that.”

“Let’s go around to the Madhatters,” Savannah said, out of the blue. “Maybe we can bump into somebody.” She fluffed her permed platinum hair out with her fingers.

“Oh, exactly who are you hoping to bump into?” Jean asked. Maddie thought Jean already had some idea of the answer.

Madhatters was just around the block from the University Theater. As they walked in the door Maddie felt her usual distaste for dark, smoky places and the stench of beer. They were playing a soulful tune, though, and that was okay. “Let’s give them something to talk about, babe,” Bonnie Raitt sang, like a true B.B. King disciple.

The tall, circular tables were only big enough to hold a basket of peanuts and a couple of drinks. They managed to get an empty one, but it was missing most of the stools, so the four women just stood around it. The whole room was swaying to the loudness, dancing close in the dim light, or talking close in the corner shadows. Savannah was scanning the large room as they gave their orders to the waitress. But it was Jean who apparently spotted what she was on the lookout for. “Look! There he is,” she whispered.

As her eyes moved down the length of the bar Maddie saw John Pitts with a couple of other guys. She couldn’t place all of them. John was leaning sideways against the bar and popping peanuts in his mouth. The waitress said something to him as she went by. He laughed and she flashed him a wide smile as she emerged from behind the bar with a loaded tray. He seemed to be one of those guys who really liked to spread his attentions around. Maddie looked away and tried to shift her focus elsewhere. Suddenly, there was a little flutter at the table as they found themselves addressed by the very same John and his buddies.

“Well, hello ladies,” John said in his hearty voice. It seemed to Maddie that Savannah actually flipped her hair back and pumped up her bosom before she said, “Hi John.”

One of the guys took Jean out on the dance floor, a peanut-shell-covered space off to one side.

Over the music John asked, “Want to dance?” His eyes swept over all three women, then came to rest on Maddie.

Maddie hesitated, confused at the general request.

Savannah jumped at the opportunity. “Sure! Come on!” She linked her arm with his and dragged him away.

Maddie turned to the tall quiet guy at her left. “Hi, you’re Joel aren’t you?” she asked. “Who do you work for?”

“Dr. Dobson,” he said.

“Oh!” Maddie stopped sipping on her straw. “Tell me about her.”

He seemed a little bit startled but said, “Okay.”

Dr. Marcia Dobson was the only female member of the faculty. Maddie was very curious about her but it was doubtful she would ever have Dr. Dobson for a professor, since her area of study had nothing to do with her own, and the courses she taught were the undergraduate ones. Besides, her office was stuck so far back in the basement, she seldom ran into her. Nevertheless, Maddie found that there was always an underlying awareness of Dr. Dobson in her mind. How she was treated, what gossip circulated about her and whatever criticism was offered, seemed somehow to reflect on female graduate students. If there was only one woman on the faculty, and she was stuck down there in the middle of nowhere, it told you how important women’s contributions were thought to be in the department.

Joel was her first graduate student. He had been working on his Master’s degree for a couple of years but did not seem to be close to finishing. That struck her as strange.

John was annoyed with himself. The invitation to dance had come out of his mouth automatically when he had looked at that woman, Maddie. He had forgotten that she seemed to dislike him. It was a lucky thing Savannah had rescued him.

To shake off the willies he threw himself into the dance experience with gusto. The Bob Marley song was rocking and pretty soon he was wailing at all the right places and working up a sweat. When he and Savannah got back to the table, there were new drinks all around. He talked to Lisa, while covertly eyeing Maddie. She was talking to Joel about something so engrossing she had barely looked up. There was no opportunity for him to repeat his faux paux.

This time he took Jean out on the dance floor for another workout. During the line dancing his attention kept returning to the table, however. How is it that she had so much to talk about with Joel. He didn’t know they were on such good terms. He would have to get the scoop from Joel ‘cause it seems his best buddy was holding out on him.

When he went back to the table he found her standing next to him. There was an awkward pause. “Hey, I enjoyed your seminar yesterday,” she said.

“You did?” His voice came out loud due to a sudden lull in the music. John adjusted his voice, “What did you like about it?”


She seemed to be having trouble remembering what she liked about it. Maybe she hadn’t liked it at all.

A blonde head interposed itself between them, smiling like a predator. “John, it’s your guy again— Bob whatshisname. C’mon!” Savannah said, pulling him toward the dance floor.

When John had asked her what she had liked about the seminar Maddie had inadvertently remembered some of the comments made about him before it had started. Did he know what a stir he caused? Did he enjoy it? Just like a squirrel caught by the headlights, Maddie’s mind went blank and she couldn’t think of an answer to his question.

Around eleven o’clock Lisa and Maddie came out of Madhatters and headed for home. Savannah and Jean had decided to stay behind. Either they would get a ride home, or by the look of things, might not make it home at all. Maddie wondered if Savannah would achieve her objective or whether the waitress would have more luck. Because of Ernie, Lisa wasn’t in the same frame of mind as the other two. As for herself, it was quite another matter. Because she never went down that road at all.




I’m really interested in your comments.

DISCUSSION QUESTION 5     How many female science professors have you had in college?

About rheaharmsen

Rhea Harmsen is a scientist, novelist and author of Language of the Spirit, a volume of selected poems. She has also released three novels, The Harvest of Reason, Intermarry, and God Created Women. Harmsen was born in a family with a black father and a white mother at a time when interracial marriage was still illegal in some states. Her parents gave her a vision of world citizenship that informs her writing and her lifestyle and has caused her to reject traditional views of race and gender. Harmsen's article "Science in the Hands of Women: Present Barriers, Future Promise" appeared in World Order in 1998 and provides the foundation for the story line for her novel The Harvest of Reason. She co-published the Monroeville Race Unity Forum Bulletin and authored many poems on racial topics, crystallizing the "conversation on race" in the novel Intermarry. Her work with domestic violence survivors in Puerto Rico inspired the novel God Created Women. Harmsen holds a doctorate in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She currently resides in Puerto Rico. Upcomming projects are described in her web page at
This entry was posted in agriculture, chastity, college students, educators, equality, feminism, genetic engineering, genetics, graduate school, interracial marriage, John Pitts, Maddie Hawkins, national discussion, plant breeding, race on campus, unity in diversity, University of Wisconsin-Madison, women in science and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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