The Professor

Voice Card  -  Volume 10  -  John Card Number 3  -  Wed, Oct 25, 1989 9:01 PM

This is ONE OF 2 responses to Vol 9 John 12 ("Gilligan's Island")...

[This is part 2 of story two of THE FICTION PROJECT; See Vol 9 John 10]

The professor is the only one of us on the island who lives alone. Lately he's been keeping to himself even more than usual and at night a strange yellow-green glow comes from inside his hut. He's got a big table in there that's always crowded with homemade beakers filled with bubbling chemicals. The professor can do more things with bamboo than any man I've ever met.

Sometimes I help him with his experiments. He and I both like bugs and somedays we spend hours on end just watching them. The professor watches everything, including us, and he writes it all down in a journal. He also has a shelf full of textbooks and I think he loves those books even more than Mr. Howell loves his money.

I knocked on his door and poked my head in. The professor was pouring over his biology book and his hands were kind of cupped over his eyes. When he looked up at me he seemed old and tired. Before, whenever I interrupted his reading like this, he would just glance at me and go back to his book. But this time he sat back in his chair and looked right at me, like he was making a measurement of some kind.

"Come in, Gilligan. Sit down."

I sat down and fidgeted in the chair. "The skipper said I should talk to you."

"Yes I know. He dropped by earlier this morning. He seems to think you are in need of some prophylactics."

"I don't know about that, professor. I think the skipper just wanted me to have some rubbers."

The professor sighed. "So he sent you down the local drugstore, eh? Five degrees on two continents, top of my class at Cal Tech, and here I am dispensing condoms, diaphragms, preparation H, and an endless stream of barbiturates for Mrs. Howell. I wonder sometimes if I'm being punished."

"But professor, you never do anything wrong that I can see. That's why we all look up to you. What could you be punished for?"

The professor chuckled and looked at me gratefully. "Thank you, Gilligan. But you just don't realize what kind of danger you people put me in. You place yourselves so completely in my hands. It's one thing to be a teacher. But here I am, in effect, the only teacher. I am the sole source of technology on this island and science itself exists here only as long as I exist. I have become your medicine man, your Mr. Wizard, your unwilling Prospero. Do you know what that does to me?"

"I guess not. I mean, I can see that we are always distracting you from your work. I really am sorry about spilling that bottle of slime you've been growing. I don't mean to ruin things."

"No No No! I don't care about that. Look." The professor pulled a tray out of his drawer and I saw that it was filled with rubbers. He had molded them himself out of some gucky stuff he makes from different plants on the island. A lot of work had gone into them and it was clear that he had been manufacturing them for some time. He lifted one of them from the tray with one hand and waved a pin with the other.

"This is what you're after. You come to me because you don't want anyone to get pregnant and you trust me to take care of it for you. It never occurs to you that I might want the girls to get pregnant. Which one is it by the way?"

"It's not anyone yet. I just thought I should be prepared in case something happens. I guess I was kind of thinking about Maryanne, though."

"Good. Stay away from Ginger. Maryanne is the girl for you. Did you notice the perfume she was wearing last night?"

"I think everyone noticed."

"I made it. Strangely effective, I think. Maryanne is a remarkably healthy young woman." His voice trailed off and his eyes got kind of distant. But then he remembered the pin he was holding and started to wave it again.

"Let us suppose for a moment that we are never going to be rescued. We've never really talked about that before, but just suppose. Suppose there's only one man on the island who can see the truth. And in the midst of his despair he sees the possibility for a new beginning. He sees a line of descendants prospering in a society that from its very inception is free of superstition. All he needs is the raw material, the children.

"And suppose that this same man has complete control of all contraceptive devices on the island. He can make them permeable to spermatozoa, he can make them dissolve at a certain temperature, in fact so complete is the trust of his fellow inhabitants that he could simply prick the membranes with a pin and no one would be the wiser until it was too late. At first they would complain, but better this way than to deny the truth until the women can no longer bear children.

"Of course it may occur to this man that it would be a grave crime to bring children onto so small an island. Perhaps his descendants would curse him. He is not trained to make decisions like this. He tries to talk with the women. But suppose this man is terribly alone. Suppose no one will listen to him and like Cassandra he is doomed to suffer the rebukes of those who cannot see what he sees. Suppose the only people who can understand him are the authors of the books he reads, each author dead now, each book a graveyard he wanders in so deeply that he becomes a ghost himself, writing words that no man will ever read. Unless there are children."

By now the professor was pacing back and forth and the same yellow-green light that came out of his hut was now coming out of his eyes. We are all used to these speeches of his and none of us understand them, but I like to watch his face and the way his eyes search in all directions.

"I'm sorry, Gilligan. You don't understand any of this, do you?"

"I understand that you always come through when we need you. If there's anything I can ever do for you, professor, you just name it. We are all your friends."

"This is a brave new world for you, isn't it, Gilligan? Here, take as many as you want. There are no pin pricks in any of them."