(If you’re here for the first time check out excerpts 1-32 in earlier Blogs )


John slammed shut the cover of the journal he had tried to read unsuccessfully for the third time and ran his fingers through his hair in desperation. He had to do something! He hadn’t seen Maddie all day Friday, or over the very long weekend. He was sure she was avoiding him. After what had happened last Thursday, he could barely sleep. It seemed as if he was in a fever. And focusing on work was not working at all. He got up and walked down the hall into Lisa’s office. She looked up from her desk.
“Lisa, honey, I’ve got to talk to you.”
“Okay John, shoot,” she said.
John cleared his throat. “Well, not here. Can I buy you a beer or something over at the pub?”
“Hey, I’m always up for a beer John. Lead the way,” she said, grabbing her coat and lightly skipping out the door.
At Sparky’s, Lisa had to do some prodding because he was nursing his beer and didn’t know where he was gonna start.
“Well, John, you got me here. Now what seems to be the problem? Used to be, you were the one who had to pull things out of me.”
“Yeah, you were a tough one to crack.”
“I was. But you never gave up on me, buddie.”
“Eh, you were worth it.”
“I still can’t thank you enough—“
John put up his hands. “Quit that.”
“Then you quit stalling. What’s up?”
Hell, he might as well just take the plunge. “Well, Lis, you and Maddie are pretty close, aren’t you?”
He watched for any signs that would tell him she knew, that Maddie had confided to her what had happened the other night.
“Yeah, sure” she answered, “you could say we’re best buddies. Now, don’t get me wrong, though. She’s in a whole different league than me, you know.”
“What do you mean?” John was all ears at the prospect of gaining some insight into the subject of his agonies.
“Well, she’s what you would call a really good girl.” Lisa stressed the word.
John nodded. Yes, he knew that. In fact, that was the crux of the matter, wasn’t it?
“Lisa. I know this is gonna sound strange but… ah…does she ever talk to you about me?”
He thought he detected some slight hesitation as she answered. “No, not really.”
John was a little disappointed. Not that he was over-anxious for it to get out in the Department that he went around grabbing fellow grad students.
“What’s this about, John?” Lisa frowned.
“Do you think…I mean…do you think she’d ever look at a guy like me?”
“What?” Lisa stared.
“Well, for instance, do you think she would have a hang-up about me being white? Does she care about that kind of thing?” He hastened to qualify, “I mean, if she liked me.” He felt stupid but it looked like Lisa was making an honest effort to stay with him.
“Well, John,” she started out slowly, “I don’t think so, no. From everything Maddie says I think her parents raised her to believe that there’s only one race, if you know what I mean. She’s got a brother who’s married to a white woman and a sister who’s married to an Iranian guy from Australia, so I think her whole family is pretty mixed.”
“’Scuse me? Did you say an Iranian guy from Australia?” His brain was trying to get around that one.
“Yeah, funny isn’t it? I think his parents went there as refugees or something, ‘cause they were being persecuted for their religion.”
John considered this, then shook his head and moved on to another topic of concern. “Well, I know she’s got some pretty high standards when it comes to men and stuff.” He took a deep breath. “Do you think she’d ever look at me?”
Lisa pondered hard for a moment. John felt himself suspended in midair. “Uh, well, you do seem to have a pretty strong effect on her,” Lisa was having fun.
“I know,” he said. He looked down at his beer and sighed. “She hates my guts.”
“What makes you say that?” Lisa asked.
“Ha!” he laughed. “Just the way she treats me. I seem to always…you know… irritate her. She can’t wait to get rid of me when I’m around, it seems. And I know she thinks I’m a self-centered jerk.”
“Now John. Wait a minute. I happen to know for a fact you’re not a self-centered jerk.”
“I’m treading on shaky ground, messing with other people’s lives, which is not my thing, but, you know what they say about love and hate…” Lisa murmured, a look of mischief in her eyes.
John blinked, trying to understand her meaning. “You mean…that maybe I just get under her skin?” he asked, as a flicker of hope ignited.
“Could be,” Lisa said. “Now mind you, I don’t know this for a fact. Maddie’s pretty close-mouthed about that kind of stuff.”
John digested this slowly and then thought of another problem “But, I know she doesn’t like me, she doesn’t think I’m a good man.”
“Oh nonsense, John.” Lisa leaned over and put her hand on his shoulder, very maternally. “You are a good man. You just have to communicate a little, you know, show her your good side.” She flashed a smile, then reached for her mug. “Hey, I’m dry here. Bartender!”
John stared straight ahead, at the wall of Badger penants and paraphernalia tacked up behind the bar, feeling very uncertain at the prospect of convincing Maddie. He hated salesmanship, and besides, what did he have to impress her with anyway? A very checkered past! He’d been sleeping around with every woman who offered since high school. It had never occurred to him that abstinence was a viable life style anybody in America would choose.
There were no social mores against premarital sex when he was a teenager. Your only concern was not to get a girl pregnant or catch some unsavory disease. In the recent decade there was a very good reason not to sleep around: AIDS. Even though most people knew about safe sex there was still a lot of reason to be cautious in your choice of partners. But the very idea that someone would be celibate as a choice was almost fantastic. And Maddie had made that choice from some deep conviction he didn’t understand. Yet he admired it, he was drawn by it, even though…if he were thinking like most people he would be viewing Maddie’s virginity with deep suspicion. For a woman of her age to still be a virgin would give rise to many questions, none of them flattering. Was she a prude? Did she have some unnatural hang-ups? Was she cold?
No, he knew she wasn’t that. The way her lips had responded, the way her body had almost involuntarily molded itself against him. These all spoke for a very healthy libido. In fact, now that he thought about it a little more clearly, he began to feel that maybe she was attracted to him just a little bit. Maybe she just didn’t know how to handle it. How comfortable would a virgin be with her own sexuality?
But one thing was certain. If he went after her it would have to be on her own terms. He had no desire to seduce her or corrupt her beliefs.
He wanted it all. Maddie in his bed and Maddie in his life. Forever!
The suddenness of the realization startled him. Like leaping across a cliff on a wild mustang. He’d been riding hell for leather on that horse, not knowing where he was headed and then…BAM! He was on the other side of the cliff. And a whole panorama of possibilities opened up before him.
He wanted to marry this woman. Yeah.
If he ever had any children, this was the woman he wanted as the mother of his kids! What a phenomenal role model she would be. Strong, beautiful, intelligent, determined. A sudden tug on his arm brought him crashing down to earth.
“Hey John, where’ve you been, man?” Lisa asked.
“Oh, nowhere Lisa, I was just thinking,” he said, trying to squelch the adrenaline rush. “Listen, thanks for talking to me…thanks a lot.”
Lisa looked at him rather skeptically. “Well, I’ve got to get back now. You gonna stick around? You sure you’re all right, John?”
“Yeah, sure.” He waved her away, then called her back. “This was just between us, okay?”
“Sure, dude. Don’t worry.” She walked back out into the light and he turned back to his thoughts. He had a lot to think about.
His goal now clearly laid out before him, his brain was engaged in a search for strategies. He had to devise a plan of attack— subtle, patient, yet determined. He stretched back against his chair and put his hands behind his head. He felt better than he’d felt in ages, better than he’d felt in his life. He had energy to burn and he smiled through his concentration. Like a hunter, who after a long search, finally sights his prey. In fact, his whole future started to fall into place before him. He could see it coming together like the pieces on a puzzle board. A life with a woman like Maddie, a full, rich life. If only he could make it happen. If only…he could make Maddie Hawkins fall in love with him.

Hey! I’m really interested in your comments.* Please join this global bookclub discussion by leaving a comment below (in the comments box)

DISCUSSION QUESTION 33: Did John just experience a paradigm shift?

*(feel free to post your own question for group discussion)

*(you can also post your comment on facebook and start your own discussion with friends) ____________________________________


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, bahai, chastity, college students, educators, equality, excerpt from THE HARVEST OF REASON, female professors, food security, freedom, genetic engineering, genetics, global discussion, graduate school, interracial marriage, John Pitts, Maddie Hawkins, national discussion, plant breeding, race, race on campus, technology, Uncategorized, unity in diversity, University of Wisconsin-Madison, women in science and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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