The lines I have written that you read between,
The lines on the pages
The lines on the screen
Of lines spoken – I say what I mean.
It’s parallel lines that will never meet. – Deborah Harry
The dinner dishes had been rinsed and placed in the washer, the young men were on the veranda talking about yesterday’s football game and the kids were already kissing, cuddling and playing in the family room, but Molly had not seen Jake since dessert. She walked over to Sarah, squeezed her hand and kissed her cheek, and asked, “Hey, cutie, have you seen my first-born?”
Sarah smiled and said, “I think he’s got a new book going; he’s been on the computer all day and I had to force him to stop for lunch. Mary said she heard him up late last night, too.”
“That boy and his habits! He certainly didn’t get them from me,” said Molly in mock exasperation.
“Oh, Molly, it’s harmless. Sure, he gets a bit anti-social when he first gets an idea and is just starting to outline it, but that never lasts more than a week or two and then he’s back to his old loveable self.”
“Besides,” interjected Karen, “We could use the money; the big truck is on its last legs and the little one just can’t do the same work.”
Molly gently tweaked her nipple and said, “Who invited you into the conversation, nosey?”
The older woman sighed. “I know you’re right, but you can’t blame me for worrying about his health. I’ll bring him some coffee and check on him.”
Jake’s room was the last one at the end of the west wing; he said it was quieter there, and the sunrise would not awaken him if he worked past midnight, as he often did while writing. Molly knocked on his door, waited for him to call out and then went in.
He turned from the monitor just long enough to see who it was, then turned back with a “Hi, Mama!” and resumed typing.
“Hi yourself, stranger,” she said, coming up behind him to rub his shoulders. “You fled from the table as though you were going to be sick.”
“Oh, Ma, you know how it is when I get a new idea, and this is going to be a great one.”
“Maybe a trilogy, or even a series.”
“Well, that’s good! But you won’t be in any condition to write even one book, let alone three, if you don’t mind your health; Sarah said you didn’t want lunch, and now here you are in your room when we’re all going to be making love in a little while.”
He turned from the screen and took a deep sip of the coffee. “I’m not trying to offend anyone, honestly. It’s just that this is such an incredible, unusual idea that I have to outline it all while it’s still fresh in my mind.”
Molly glanced at the file name showing at the top of the word processor screen. “Parallel Lines,” she read; “Does that mean it’s an alternate-reality kind of thing?”
“Yes, I got the idea while watching a documentary about chimpanzees.”
“Well, you know that there are two kinds of chimps, right?”
She thought for a moment. “Standard chimps and…bonobos, no?”
“Yes. And there’s only about a 1.5% genetic difference between us and either species, but behaviorally we’re more like the bonobos.”
“Good thing, too; chimps are brutal, nasty creatures.”
“But just as intelligent as bonobos,” Jake said with excitement. “So what I started thinking was, what if humans had been behaviorally more like chimps than bonobos? Where would that parallel line of evolution have taken us? Female chimps don’t form sexual bonds like humans or bonobos do, so they don’t form the female network which allows women to civilize men. Thus male chimps maintain juvenile levels of aggression all through life, and because they’re bigger and stronger they can pretty much run the show. They even form packs and go looking for strange males to kill.”
“But wouldn’t these chimp-like humans necessarily be primitive? How could they co-operate to form an advanced culture?”
“Well, they’d still have clan and tribal bonds; I think when they developed agriculture the tribes would just get a lot bigger, so instead of roving groups you’d have organized bodies of men fighting between these super-tribes, even when there wasn’t really anything important to fight over.”
“It sounds like a perfectly dreadful world to live in,” said Molly. “Wouldn’t their sexual development be stunted as well?”
“Oh, undoubtedly,” he mused; “in fact, that’s what I was just trying to work out. I think they would probably be very sexually possessive, like a dog with a bone. But it isn’t easy to imagine what effect that sort of behavioral pattern would have on their culture. Sex is the backbone of society, the social glue that lets us live together in peace; what kind of twisted culture would you get if it weren’t there?”
“I’m sure you’ll describe it brilliantly, as usual,” she said, “but in the meantime I don’t want you turning into a chimp-man due to sex deprivation. If you won’t play with the whole group tonight, may I at least ask one of the girls to sleep with you later? I’m sure Della would enjoy that.”
He grinned sheepishly. “You win, Ma. Ask her to come in when she’s ready for bed, and I promise I won’t keep her waiting.”
“Deal. I love you.”
“I love you too, Mama. And thanks for worrying.”
Molly kissed him on the head, gave him a quick hug and took the now-empty coffee cup, closing the door behind her so as to give him his privacy. She understood that reading about a place was quite a different thing from living there; but all the same, she thought, it’s probably best that parallel lines can never meet.