DR. ISAAC L. CARVER
“WELCOME TO THE MONKEY HOUSE”
“I don’t give a flea fuck’s ass about dinosaurs …”
…was Isaac Carver’s initial strike, aimed at UCLA paleontology professor Ilias J. Solomon. Carver punctuated the verbal broadside by bolting down the last dregs of his ever-present glass of straight-up vodka. Like a flamed-out dragon he exhaled the intoxicant fumes in the direction of Dr. Solomon, who defensively waved his hand in an effort to disperse the foul puff of alcoholic air. A lit match would have probably ignited it.
It wasn’t new news that Zack Carver had little use for dinosaur-fossil paleontologists. His career choices being anthropology and archeology, he classified Dr. Solomon and all those who pursued the study of the thunder-lizard geologic time scale as monster groupies.
“Come on, Carver, I’m a paleontologist and dinosaurs are what I do!” Solomon countered.
“For Christ’s sake, I. J., those big uglies were dumb as a bag of hair. They had no damned IQ at all.” Zack pulled at his scraggly beard. “I wanna know when the light bulb went on in mammals. Us! And I’m not interested in hearing about some bullshit evidence of rudimentary tool making either. Who cares if long ago some ancient chimpanzee picked up a twig and scratched its fuzzy monkey ass with it? That shows as much intelligence as early primates fucking. It was purely instinct … dealing with one itch or another.”
The cocktail soiree was called for six o’clock at the Sportsmen’s Lodge Hotel on Ventura Boulevard and Coldwater Canyon Avenue. Doctor Amelia Irwin Carle, the current chair of the Linguistics Department at USC, and her
husband, Dr. Oliver Carle, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Senior Astronomer, were hosting the get-together. Amelia and Oliver, more familiarly known as Melli and Ollie, were Zack Carver’s only remaining real friends in the world of academia … or anywhere else. It was through the Carle’s recommendations and assistance that Dr. Carver was able to acquire his most recent professorship. However, obtaining gainful employment for Zack was far easier than ginning up a list of possible invitees to celebrate it. The Drs. Carle had to painstakingly arrange the evening’s festivities by calling in years of favors and twisting a good deal of arms in order to round up a sufficient number of guests. The evening’s shanghaied attendees included USC and UCLA faculty members along with a light dusting of JPL rocket scientists. At first, the tone was mellow and genial but the tranquility and conviviality ended with the arrival of the guest of honor who came roaring in at 7:39—over an hour beyond the accepted, so L.A, fashionably late parameter. Although Zack knew he was tardy, he did exhibit a certain modicum of consideration for the rest of the gathering by being two sheets in the wind ahead of the crowd. Officially, Zack needed only one more sheet to fully qualify as a drunken sailor. The Carles, being well aware of his rant and rave potential, saw the storm brewing and discreetly tried to crowbar him away from Ilias Solomon.
Six years had passed since the Negev dig, and during that time a ceaseless maelstrom of controversy swirled around Dr. I. L. Carver. He had a lamentable inclination to pee in his own hand, which led to his dismissal from several major universities and a second marriage. Even worse, Zack’s woeful life choices took a physical toll and, though actually in his early-thirties, he looked more like a man of fifty. Maybe that’s okay if you want to take advantage of the early-\bird Senior Specials at Denny’s, but Zack wouldn’t patronize clone restaurants—ever.
Much to their chagrin, Ollie and Melli’s persistent efforts to distance Zack from Dr. Solomon were meeting resistance. Zack wasn’t quite finished with the paleontologist.
“Dinosaurs … shit! What a waste. In one-hundred and fifty million years those Jurassic farts didn’t leave one fucking building nor a single scrap of writing or art that says ‘we wuz here!’ All they left was bone, dung and track fossils, and an ecology-busting supply of dino-petro-go-juice. Then, sixty-five million years ago,” Zack made a whooshing sound through his clenched teeth and snapped his fingers, “whisht … gone … and I don’t give a one rat pellet about exactly what caused their extinction. It doesn’t matter to me if it was the freakin’ Chicxulub, Yucatán asteroid or it turned out to be the goddamn beast’s own flatulence that put ‘em out of their misery. Fuck ’em!”
Solomon tried to get in a word. “I think…”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. You think I’m out of line because you’re only supposed to speak good of the dead. Okay, how’s this? The dinosaurs are dead … good … if they weren’t, we’d have surely ended up as fossilized dino-droppings.”
Still armed with plenty of vitriol and alcohol, Zack decided it was time to fire his quiver of rancor-tipped vocal arrows at a new target. He turned away from Solomon and fixed his gaze on the chair of the UCLA Anthropology Department, Dr. Maxine Pearl.
“Dr. Pearl, maybe you can help me with something. I know you are aware that the Maya and the early Egyptians had the technology to build incredible pyramids and other stone structures to tolerances that would make contemporary architects consider blowing up their computers and burning their drafting tables. So how do you explain that while they were doing all this major construction work, they hadn’t gotten around to inventing the wheel yet? The Maya resorted to sending runners down to the sea to pick up the catch of the day and the early Egyptians had to use enormous wooden sleds to drag the gigantic blocks of stone up huge ramps to their building sites because there was no damned wheel. And please don’t give me any of that ancient astronaut crap.”
Dr. Pearl shook her head and managed to force a polite smile. “Great steps take time.”
“Time? Time?” Zack mocked. “It would seem to me that someone must’ve noticed that both the sun and the moon were round. Or that a Maya or two must have watched a rock or a melon or something roll down a hill or a mountainside. As a person of science aren’t you the least bit curious about how both of these civilizations got a lot of the Bob the Builder crap but missed something as basic as the freaking wheel?”
Having properly offended Doctors Solomon and Pearl, Zack now turned his attention to the entire crowd. At that very moment Amelia thought it a good idea to shoo the other guests out of earshot. However, she was well aware that she would probably have to shoo them to the moon to accomplish that feat because Zack, now draining his fifth full glass of Slavic internal alcohol rub, was really ripped and pumping up the volume.
Zack’s modus operandi was to seek out the most attractive and apparently unattached female in the group, then reel over to and lean against her for support. He studied his empty tumbler, narrowed his eyes to search through the throng and picked out Melli’s friend from the Comparative Religion Department. What wuzzer name? he thought … Ah yes … Ruthie Becker.
At this point the other partygoers began to treat the whole Zack experience as the entertainment portion of the evening. The Isaac Ludlow Carver floor-show was chugging along at a full head of steam and guests were now collecting around him in the living room of the mid-sized suite. The main reason for the interest was the pool set up before Zack’s arrival. Whoever guessed the precise moment that the guest of honor would pass out would win the pot, which was worth two hundred and fifty-nine bucks, and it was getting closer to crunch time.
Zack weaved over to the lovely Ruthie and inhaled her for a moment. “You smell delightful,” he whispered in her ear with distilled-spud-soaked words. “Like the 3000-BC geological layer on a perfect Negev Desert morning.” The perplexed Ms. Becker’s nose crinkled at the remark and then Zack put his arm around shoulder—for support.
“You know, Ruthie, I once gave a seminar on Science and Organized Religion. I can remember my opening remarks… As a scientist I have seen no empirical evidence proving that there is some guy in the sky who runs the universe, punishes the wicked, and rewards the righteous. Far too few of the wicked get punished and far too few of the righteous get rewarded. But the human part of me has to be open to the possibility that the notion of a Supreme Being did have a reason and purpose.”
In his mind’s eye Zack visualized the crammed lecture hall at Arizona State. There he was, standing in front of an eager student body. “Remember, someone once said, ‘An idea is more powerful than ideology.’ The simple concept of a controlling force, the idea of God, might have helped bring our earliest ancestors down the bumpy road through the dark and foreboding night. All well and good, but then the psychos took over. Aristotle knew the drill thousands of years ago: ‘A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious.’”
Given Zack’s dubious personality it was no Herculean leap to conclude that most of Melli and Ollie’s guests were not seeking membership in an Isaac Carver fan club. There were also a copious number of Zack detractors in the scientific community. Like—most of the scientific community. At best, Dr. Carver was considered off-center, but the majority thought he was a full-blown crackpot—and they didn’t like him much either.
Zack was about to slosh into a new topic. But before he was able to continue, his eyelids fluttered. Knowing what was on tap, he quickly wrapped his arms around Ruthie’s most prominent parts and slid down the length of her body. An instant before things got dark; he couldn’t help being the scientist. “If someone cops a feel but was too numb to actually feel the feel, did he really cop a feel at all?” The blitzed-out Zack would have fallen on his face if his friend Oliver wasn’t waiting to catch him before he hit the floor. Then Ollie, with Amelia’s help, carried Zack to the room they had reserved across the hall for him to sleep it off.
So it was that Zack’s often erratic social behavior reduced him to pariah standing. Without the intervention of Amelia and Oliver Carle, Zack would have found it impossible to secure any academic position at all. The Carles cajoled the University of Alaska in Anchorage to hire Carver to beef up their Department of Archeology. However it was no secret that this would be his last stop before becoming a tour guide at an igloo village in Deadhorse. Yet it was in Alaska that Zack believed he could find evidence to help prove his theories and perhaps provide him with some measure of vindication. He speculated that he might uncover proof of indigenous intelligent hominoid life dating back over a hundred thousand years. Life that was able to do much more than scratch its ass with a twig.