Out of Control - Chapter Three - Part 2/2
The jet of hot water did its job of cleaning and refreshing him. Craig rinsed off the soap and hummed tunelessly. Then for the final ten seconds he snapped the shower control around to cold and held his breath as the icy water hit the top of his head first then spread its fiery cold all the way down to his toes. He carefully avoided chilling his lower back, but the rest of his body was fair game.
Sandy had never been able to understand his need for an ice cold splash at the end of a hot shower. He had explained his rationale to her a number of times but she simply didn't get it.
“Cold water tightens the outer layers of the skin …..” he had actually used the term ‘epidermis’ but she had just stared impassively back at him, “….. it closes the superficial capillaries and shunts warm blood to the internal tissues. You feel warmer and you don’t get the reddening and itching skin that can sometimes follow a hot shower.”
After listening to his explanation the first time, Sandy had shaken her head in disbelief and adamantly refused to try the routine, no matter how many times he subsequently suggested it.
These memories could still make him smile despite the gaping hole that had opened up when she left him.
Craig stepped carefully out of the cubicle and began towelling. The sound of splashing from the early morning swimmers told him that time was marching on; he wanted to get the work done before lunch and before the Presentation. His future funding might depended on it.
He dressed quickly and stuffed the towel into a plastic bag and placed this bag in his backpack. He completed the ten minute walk to his cramped and cluttered office, keyed the door and slid down into his worn but comfortable leather chair; his bacon roll forgotten.
Stretching forward with his left hand, Craig pressed the button that fired up his ancient PC. He had been offered a flashy upgrade earlier that term but refused, not wanting the hassle of learning a new operating system, let alone having to relocating his files. That sort of housekeeping could wait until Phase II of the study had finished. In the meantime he would happily put up with the slow boot-up and the poor performance.
While waiting for the PC to drag itself reluctantly into life he popped down to the alcove in the hall to feed money into the food dispenser; a packet of cheese and onion crisps was the only thing edible amongst the glutinous saccharine-coated gloop. ---Wonderful Craig, he admonished ---you spend all that time and effort keeping fit and then eat this rubbish?.
He made himself a huge mug of tea. The fancy tap dispensed boiling water instantly; a massive time saver and just about the best innovation to come out of the recent building refurbishment. He remembered to stick a five pound note in to the honesty box before returning to his office; it would be more than enough to cover his subs for a couple of weeks. He never knew who replenished the stocks of teabags, coffee, milk and sugar, but every so often a note would be stuck on the fridge to complain about the lack of funds in the kitty. He was never late with his money; others were obviously not so scrupulous.
By the time he returned to his office, the PC was still only half-awake so he punched the ‘on’ button of his transistor radio. He’d just be in time for the end of the seven-thirty news.
Yesterday: a car left the road and injured school child; an elderly man was rushed to hospital suffering from a suspected heart-attack after being robbed of his pension in a Post Office. Overnight: a local councillor had been arrested and charged with fiddling his expenses; a group of teenagers had been caught on camera vandalising a bus-stop....
He shook his head sadly ---‘What’s the world coming to? Stealing and old man’s pension, I’d like to get my hands on the bugger that did it!’ Abruptly, he shook himself out his reverie, Oh God no, I’m starting to sound like Dad.
He switched off the radio as the news faded into the weather report. The tea and savouries were finished by the time the battered old computer had finally whirred into life and demanded his attention. With some apprehension he opened the most recently used spreadsheet and reran the analysis that had so excited him the previous evening.
As the minutes passed the realisation grew. The machine spewed out some numbers. He checked the results he’d written down the previous evening; they matched!
“Yes!” he shouted, “bloody yes!”
Craig’s heartbeat quickened, he hadn’t been wrong. The association he’d predicted was actually supported by the results. What’s more, the statistical power was strong, there could be little doubt. This was the first time such an association had been supported in human trials. His heart raced faster and his breathing rate deepened. He punched the arm of the chair in delight. ---Yes! They can’t argue the toss now! He finally had something definitive to report.
The afternoon’s Presentation took on greater importance.
Craig couldn’t hold back the smile that spread on his face. This was it! Seven years of research and he was finally on the home stretch! He leaned back in his chair and stretched his arms out in front of him. He interlocked his fingers and, palms out, he cracked his knuckles. He held a deep breath for a couple of seconds before exhaling slowly.
“Whoever said stats were boring?” he shouted to the book-lined walls. ---Well, I did in school, but what the fuck did I know back then?
Craig waited until his heart-rate has slowed a little, and punched a button on his mobile; it took eight rings before his call was answered.
“That you Jem?”
“Who else would it be?” Craig’s colleague and close friend, Jeremy Armstrong, could be a sarcastic beggar at times. “Jees, what the hell time do you call this?” Craig could hear the smoker’s hacking cough rumble up from the deep. Craig waited for the worst to be over before he continued.
“It’s nine-fifteen you lazy sod. Why aren’t you at your desk?” Jem made it a point never to be at his desk before mid-morning, but regularly worked late into the night. The best statistician on campus, his timekeeping was grudgingly tolerated.
“I’ve run a couple standard tests and the results look really powerful to me...”
“Who the bloody hell’s that?” interrupted the smoker after the death of another rumbling loose cough.
“Come on man, it’s me, Andy!”
“Yeah, yeah, I know! Fuck sake Andy, can’t this wait?” Craig could hear sound of bedclothes rustling; a woman groaned sleepily in the background.
“Zees Jem, did you actually pull last night?” Jem’s single, lone-wolf-on-the-prowl, status was as notorious on campus as his timekeeping. “Put her down and get in here pronto. I need you to check my stats. I think we’re really on to something. We might actually have cracked it.”
“Can’t you just send the raw data over to my laptop so I can run the tests here?” He obviously had other things on his mind; the woman in his bed for one thing.
“Come on, you know I can’t drop data off the system.” A closed system was one of the mandatory security requirements of the Ministry of Justice, his current paymasters. It was another reason to delay upgrading his PC. He’d always thought that having to jump through all these security hoops was a bit strong, considering the alarming regularity at which data went missing from Government laptops.
“Yeah, I forgot about that for a minute. Fucking locked standalone system.” He paused then cautioned, “Don’t get too excited mate. You know you’re bound to have fucked something up. You’re about as good a numbers man as I am a runner.” Then, as if to emphasise his point another powerful cough exploded across the phone line.
Seconds later, “OK Andy, I’m on my way.” Jem had almost as much invested in the research as Craig and his reluctance was only for show.
“Great, thanks mate. I really need the results confirmed before the Presentation this afternoon,” he paused for a second, “and Jem?”
“Put the girl down and get in here OK? And put some decent threads on, if the stats hold up I’ll want you to back me up at the Presentation.”
“The stats always hold up Andy, even if you don’t like the results. But I am on my way.”
Craig broke the connection and started reworking his Presentation. Just in case.
- End -