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Rob Morris


Starfleet Academy

My name is Garrison Keilor Mitchell, and I am a very, very smart man. And I can prove that I am in fact, a very, very smart man. Not by means of this or that test, though I usually ace those. No, I can prove how smart I am by telling all about how I did something so incredibly stupid, only a very smart man would ever contemplate it. Future note to self: do not let the acceptance of any challenge predicate itself on boredom and arrogance.

Now, just what was this oh-so stupid thing I did? Well, I walked in between two friends, and I attempted to help their basically-doomed affair come back to life. I must have been in one of my ‘playing God’ phases. Those will yet be the death of me, I have no doubt.

I have to laugh at Jim Kirk, my dear friend and roommate. The one thing that bastard Finnegan is dead-on about is the cosmic unfairness of the female-magnet that is our Jimmy. Especially since of all the women interested in him, he’s deliberately chosen the most challenging one possible. Adding to the fear-factor is that every single Kirk male is exactly the same way. I’ve met his brother and sister-in-law. Sam married a woman smarter than he, so he’d never slack off in bettering himself. George, Sr., rest his soul, married a woman who said she was going to trap him, just to gauge the quality of her traps. There wasn’t a stronger marriage. Period.

The name of Jim’s challenge? Ruth. With her, he’s a veritable titan, riding a wave of destiny. Without her, he’s I hate jokes that are that obvious. So let me say that without her, he’s miserable.

Part of my problem in trying to help is that any fool can see why he’s attracted to her. Okay, so there’s an age difference. Fifteen years is only one-tenth of a life, last I checked. Yes, she is married, but it’s to a man foolish enough to openly cheat on her. And I do mean fool. She’s a knockout. She might not be who I’d choose for Jim. Her desire not to flaunt even a publicly known affair combines with Jim’s nerves about pursuing any married woman to keep Ruth from ever being a coffee and doughnuts date. With the shift he pulls, that’s what Jim really needs.

Yet as I found out when trying to reconnect the two, age still matters much more to some than others. Ruth is one such example.


"Ruth, there isn’t a man of any age on this campus who doesn’t envy Jim’s having you, myself included. He’s not shallow, you know. What he gives, he doesn’t give half-way. He loves you now. He’ll love you then."

"Gary, would you say I’m in the prime of my life?"

"Hell, yes!"

"And just what comes after the prime?"


She said it so very matter-of-factly, I knew my cause was lost. If Jim’s love and his lovemaking and our combined golden tongues couldn’t make her see otherwise, then this was the end of the affair. I could now see that clearly. But then, I believe in the no-win situation. Jim Kirk does not.


"Gary, do you know how I feel, just seeing her walk? Not away or towards me. Just seeing her walk makes me feel like a Greek statue has come to life. I feel like I’m watching a living Greek goddess. That she won’t have me anymore makes feel like I’ve been excluded from Olympus."

"Jim, the Gods of Olympus were incestuous assholes who transmuted people into worms for asking favors in a temple with the wrong type of carpeting. Ruth has way too much of her self-worth wrapped up in her looks. Ruth thinks your love has an expiration date. People have fundamental flaws, and sometimes they are so extreme, we haven’t a prayer of helping them past it. Rule One of Command: Captain’s can’t help everyone. Rule Two: Captains can’t change Rule One. You and Ruth, you’re done. And may I say you’ll be better off as a result?"

"Gary, you’re my best friend. But if you say that ever again, I swear to God, I’ll drop a mountain on you!"


Again, I firmly believe that a very smart man is best defined by his capacity to do very stupid things. Yet my record was about to be exceeded, by pi to the nth power. See, I oh-so wisely brought the feuding parties together. It’s moments like that make me wish I’d been born omnipotent.


"I’ve done very well without you, Jim Kirk! I think maybe I’ll continue to do so. I don’t want to end this. But I’m doing this for both our benefits."

"You can’t just run off like this! Maybe I lack something. Okay. But you will not use a factor that matters to me not at all to end the very best thing either of us has ever known. Can we at least have one dinner, to try and resolve matters?"

"Jim, a dinner won’t do it. Why can’t you be rational and accept things, like Gary?"

"A good dinner can do amazing things, Ruth. I wish you could just open your eyes to the possibilities, like Gary always does."

"All right, Mister Kirk. You’ll have your dinner, one week from now. But I want us both rational. So Gary will referee matters. All right?"

"Fine by me!"


I cannot allow this dinner to occur. Nothing will get solved; they’ll still break up, and Jim will hate me forever. But short of aiming a phaser at him, how do I stop a determined Iowan from pursuing his stated goal, no matter what?


A tired Gary Mitchell stopped recording, and silently bemoaned his upcoming fate. The dinner would go forward, but while it would end as badly as Gary feared, it would not also end his friendship. But Kirk’s withdrawal into his work was something Mitchell would be almost a year in beginning to correct.

Going to the commissary, his lost look was noted by a woman he had dated, although never seriously.

"Buck up, Gary. Can it be all that bad? What’s got you looking like a hollowed-out asteroid? Don’t tell me another harassed female turned you away! I thought that was my job."

Mitchell looked up. Though not a cadet, the very pretty technician was slated for bigger and better things. Best word was, she would be the one to break the terra-forming barrier. Cute to be certain, Mitchell had found they could never connect beyond the physical, and she had given forth some pointed words about that. In her own way, she was as intense and stubborn as his roommate.

"Hello, Gary!"

And then it hit Mitchell. His name was Garrison Keilor Mitchell, and he was a very smart man, and on certain days he would even prove too smart for his own good. Very smart people are often defined by their capacity to do very stupid things, and to overlook the incredibly obvious. In a year's time, Gary would kick himself hard for not realizing that the dinner with Ruth and Jim could easily have been avoided, and without aiming a phaser at Kirk. No, he would not have had to aim a phaser. Just this very smart woman.

"Hello, Carol. I guess you could say that I’m contemplating the life of an old friend."

Carol Marcus listened. And two of the smartest people Jim Kirk would ever know then said nothing more of it.

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This story can be found in printed form in ORION ARCHIVES 2229-2265  THE BEGINNINGS2
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