For All Nails #82: Scenes From a Wedding
By David Mix Barrington and Dan McDonald (with help from Noel Maurer)
MRS. ANNA CONTRERAS
Miss Anna Domenica DiMaggio and Mr. Robert Thaddeus Contreras Junior were married Saturday in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of New Orleans. Father Enrico Petrocelli, President of the University, celebrated the Nuptial Mass. The reception followed in the University Gardens, of which the bride's father is general manager.
The bride is the daughter of Dominic and Ottavia DiMaggio of New Orleans. She is a graduate of UNO and of Plutarco Mercator University in Mexico, and is both General Counsel of Pomona Calculators, Inc. and a solicitor in private practice. The groom is the son of Robert Contreras Senior of New Orleans, late of Mexico City, and Mrs. Paul Kafelnikov of Novidessa, Mexico. He is a graduate of PMU and of Champlain University, and is now Professor of Mathematics and Electrical Engineering at PMU and Chairman of the Board of Pomona Calculators. After a wedding trip to the Caribbean, the new couple will make their home in Palo Alto, Mexico.
Best Man was Mr. Jefferson Dimaggio of Palo Alto, first cousin of the bride. Maid of Honor was Miss Jennifer Contreras of Mexico City, half-sister of the groom. Guests included Professor Gerard Belanger of Burlington NY, NC, winner of the 1961 Nobel Prize in Mathematics FN2, and Grand Councilman Anthony Conigliaro (PC-SC).
It was supposed to be the happiest day of a woman's life, Anna thought. Busiest day of her life was more like it, but it was quite happy as well, especially as it looked like everything was going to come off without any problems. Her biggest private worry had been Jennifer, actually, who had seemed a bit immature to be the maid of honor, but she'd done fine at the ceremony and delivered quite a funny toast, with several references to her and Bobby courting in California.
Which of her cousins had helped her the most, she wondered, in that crowd of Dimaggio honeybees now buzzing around the fair blossom. Put a pretty girl in a strapless dress -- now there had been a hassle, reconciling the fashion protocols for this international wedding. For the bridesmaids she'd worked out a design that was demure by Mexican standards but not ridiculously so, with a jacket to go over for the church ceremony -- Jennifer should be able to wear hers again back home. For herself she'd gone all out with lots of layers and frills. It was a little warm for a New Orleans June but would be more fun for Bobby to take off tonight. The bridal suite at the Lord Nelson, with a bathtub designed for two... there might not be the traditional novelty for their wedding night, but how much better to share it as experienced, compatible lovers...
But the work was not quite done, there were guests to take care of. Professor Piazza was standing alone--
"Professor, I'm so glad you could come!"
"Thank you, my dear, I must say you look radiant. And I dare say I recognize that cat-got-the-cream look you always had in class when you knew you had the right answer."
"Well, I've found the right husband, if that's what you mean."
"Oh, and thank you for the draft of your book. I'm learning quite a bit about Mexico, I think. As you've been doing yourself at the bar, it seems. A case headed for the Mexico Tribunal!"
"Oh, I just got the case started. Robert brought in the big sticks once it got to the federal system. I don't have much to do with it now."
"That's not true, you know." Robert! "My big sticks are working entirely from Anna's briefs, y talking to her every week. Of course, they could work straight from Lanza's decision, which was word for word from Anna's stuff anyway."
"That's an exaggeration, but it's very kind, thank you. Professor, this is my former client and new father-in-law, Robert Contreras. Robert, this is Professor Michael Piazza of the law school."
"Welcome to New Orleans, Mr. Contreras. I understand you've taken up business here?"
"Yeah, my lawyers keep winning all the cases, but Mercator's boys really had me by the eggs FN3 as long as I was playing under their rules. So now I'm a consultant to Tory companies on Mexican trade, which is a big laugh considering how I kicked the duck myself." Hmm... how much had Robert been drinking? This could be a problem...
"What do you think your chances are in the Tribunal?" Fortunately the professor seemed determined to stay on the subject.
"Anna says it's in the bag, now that it's finally going to be heard."
"That's right, Professor. Once Hawes and Armstrong were confirmed by the Senate last winter, we've had four firm votes for judicial independence out of seven. They've been trying to stall since then, but Robert's big sticks blocked the last Court of Appeals thing two weeks ago. We're going to the Tribunal, and we're going to get five votes, maybe even everybody but Dominguez himself."
"Isn't that a bit surprising, when there are only three Moctezuma appointees even now? And the Tribunal is such a political body, with only Senators and ex-Presidents eligible."
"But the judges who became Senators under Dominguez were actually pretty good judges, Professor. Mercator mostly filled the Senate with people who were well-known from vitavision, to get the voting numbers up. FN4 So you've got Rivera and del Popolo, who are colorful, but really know the law. And then they're the natural choice to fill Tribunal slots."
Robert added excitedly, "Speaking of well-known people in the Senate, that's how we got an actress as Secretary of State. Mercator put her in the Senate for her looks, besides the fact that he was banging her at the time--"
She had to get him out of here now! "Excuse me, Robert, could you join me over at the punch table for a moment?"
The poor man. He was proud of Bobby and happy that Bobby had found her, but this occasion had to be reminding him of his own three failed marriages. Not to mention that Linda was here with her Alaskan second husband. She needed some way to keep Robert in line for a couple of hours, until she and Bobby could make their getaway to the hotel (and to that bathtub). Where to put him? Well, there was Connie Magliazzi, pretty enough to hold Robert's attention and young enough not to be offended by a few crude remarks. Good old reliable Connie. She began steering her father-in-law toward the bridesmaid, who was talking to the very pregnant wife of one of Bobby's Burlington friends.
"I tell you, Dominic, paisan, the city is changing, and we've got to change with it."
"You mean just more of the Spanish?"
"That's the start of it. My district's maybe twenty, maybe twenty-five percent Spanish-speaking already. When they redistrict next year I'm going to lose some of the outer suburbs and get the rest of Spanish Town. Don't get me wrong, they're good people and I love 'em. Not really any different from our ancestors when they came over."
" A French city, then Spanish, Tory, Italian, now Spanish again?"
"You mean you'd run as a Liberal?"
"Do you think the Italians would still back me?"
"It's a tough call there. Skinner's sort of naive, true, but he'd probably have Mike Murphy as Foreign Minister. Moca was mostly the Army's fault, but we know now Monaghan really shouldn't have gone in there. We lost so much--"
"Yeah, you know Connie? The cute little bridesmaid there talking to Bobby's dad? She was dating an officer in Tarleton's who never came back."
"Ooh, Dom, that's a shame. At least we got the prisoners back. But all these deals with the Mexicans, now, I don't know..."
"I've gotten to know a lot more Mexicans lately, though, Tony. They're pretty sensible people -- all Bobby and his friends seem to want from the CNA is to sell us calculators. I mean, my own brother's a Mexican now."
"Oh, I know, the regular people are all right, but there's that goddam big army and old Mercator always itching for a place to use it. Not to mention New Granada, handsome young King or not. Yeah, I know, he worked for you in the garden. But now he's working for that Elbittar, who I wouldn't trust for a minute."
"So you'll run as a Liberal in '78?" "Or before that. I'm not convinced Monaghan's going to last out his term."
"The PJP people would backstab him?"
"No, we might, we Green Dogs FN6. Monaghan's majority doesn't really exist any more, not with so many of us ready to switch parties. Sometime that's going to become obvious. It happened to Mason back in '62, right? He lost half of his own party, but Jay and Speigal decided to wait for the regular election. I'm not sure the country could wait three years this time."
"Damn. That's never happened before, I guess, a midterm election. Well, this neighborhood will be with you, Tony, I can tell you that."
"Thank you, Dom, that means a lot to me. Even if your whole damn family is Mexican now."
Geoffrey Bild was a satiated man. He liked his food, and he liked it spicy, and New Orleans (with its traditional Italian cuisine) was unlike the rest of the CNA in catering to his desires. He cradled a bowl of zuppa di ocra in one hand and a plate of pesce rosso nerato FN7 in the other. The anduila sausage had been just the thing too, in gravy on top of red beans and rice. He belatedly thought about Caroline.
"Honey, do you want another juice?"
"I really could use some chocolate milk, but I don't think I could get that here," sighed his wife.
"The bar seems pretty well stocked, it might be worth a try--"
"It's all right, Geoff. Two more months, then I'll be back to three glasses of champagne at one of these things." She giggled nervously. "It beats six glasses, I suppose."
He nodded his head in firm agreement. Caroline used to be the life of a party, and weddings always made her more rambunctious than usual. Their own wedding had been a hasty one at sea, on the Kramer ship in 1959. There had been a reception in Taichung when they arrived, but Caroline had always felt shortchanged. They'd been through a lot since then -- all the trouble with Kramer, their sudden and stealthy departure from Taiwan, setting up in a new (and unexpectedly frigid) country -- but he was finally beginning to make for her the life that she deserved. That they all deserved, including their first baby, conceived after three years of trying.
"Oooh, there's Cupertino. I need to talk with him. Honey, you all right?"
"I'm okay, Geoff. I'm craving something... maybe the dessert table has been restocked. Go talk business, we'll have another mouth to feed soon."
They kissed, and Bild followed the young Mexican toward Gerry Belanger and one of the groomsmen, let's see, that would be the best man's little brother Vince. Cupertino gave Vince a rough but affectionate slap on the back.
"Oye, Vinny! What's this Tory been telling you?"
"Orale, Steve. Says I should go up to New York, do an MBA at his school."
Cupertino turned in mock anger toward the North American. "So, Belanger. You think sales managers grow on trees? This man is a moron, true, but he goes off to Toryland and who's gonna do his job?"
Belanger seemed comfortable with the banter. "I was just pointing out to Vincent that we have a fine business program, and that Burlington is an excellent place to live, just ask Bobby."
Cupertino seemed unimpressed. "Hey, Vicente, don't bother, Bobby already told me all about it. You can see a lot of these Tory girls around here in the summer, but come winter in the North? They're bundled up so tight you'll never see a bit of skin. Take away your favorite pastime, mano."
"Hey mano, my favorite pastime ain't watching. And you know what Juan Bailleres says about those Tory girls when they get in out of the cold."
Cupertino gave Belanger a nudge in the shoulder. "So, big Professor vato, you really want this guy in the CNA? Are your women gonna be safe?"
"Champlain women can take care of themselves, don't worry. You'll have to come see for yourself, Steve. I'd love to have you give a talk about the Pomona-2."
"Hey, that would be ok, thanks. And maybe we get you to visit PMU, how come you never been there to see Bobby anyway?"
"Oh, I did some defense work here and there back in the sixties. I doubt I know any secrets that are still worth anything, but the Science Ministry would prefer that I stay on this side of the line. Not that we don't trust our new Mexican partners in peace or anything."
This seemed to set Cupertino off. "Goddam politicians. Always have to chingar a good deal. Do you know how many Pomona-2's I could sell in the CNA if our goddam government would let me? Tell him, Vince. Vince? Whoops, he's spotted Bobby's litle sister again, we won't see him for a while..."
Bild swallowed the last of his spicy fish and cut in to the conversation. "You know, you could sell even more if you used CNA-built parts. Smaller, cheaper ones than GC is building for you now."
Belanger welcomed him effusively. "Geoffrey, hello! Steve, this is Geoffrey Bild, formerly of General Computing, now on his own in -- Massachusetts, isn't it? Geoff, you seem to know Steve Cupertino?"
"Only by reputation so far, it's nice to finally meet you. So anyway, Steve, you interested in wafers?"
"I'm always interested in wafers. You got wafers?"
"Charlie Lee and I got wafers, and like I said, they're smaller and cheaper than GC's. We can give you 256 bivs on a single wafer. That's twice the store, and half the heat. And if you can wait a year, we think we can hit 1024, or even 2048!"
"If they have exactly the same switches as the GC ones, just smaller, we could plug them in without too much trouble. But is that a patent problem?"
"Not in the CNA. If it's built differently, it's a different machine even if it does the same thing. And our license for the building process never belonged to GC in the first place. It was Parker's, and now we got Parker!"
"Parker left Edison?"
"Technically he's retired, but yeah, we got Parker!"
"I'm interested, I'm interested. But I use CNA-built wafers now -- how do your wafers help me sell any better in the CNA? You know about Bobby's dad, right? Mexican customs wants his ass so bad we don't dare move a thing over the line. Imports are ok, no exports."
"How complicated is your assembly setup?"
"For the kit-builts it's nothing, of course. For Pomona-2's we want most of them to come pre-assembled, to make 'em easier to use."
"What you need, I think, is a CNA-based partner. Stick our wafers into a version of your box that's built here, and nothing crosses the line at all, right?"
"And you have just the partner for us in mind, I bet. What do you think, Gerry? You think this might work?"
Belanger rejoined the conversation. "Small wafers mean small computers. Someone's going to build them, and you're the one who knows how. Geoff, what's the limit on how small you might be able to make components, like individual switches?"
It was a good question, Bild thought. "Limit? I'm not sure there is one. Once you start making a wire by painting it on by a particle beam, it's just a matter of how well you calibrate the beam. I guess a wire has to be a few atoms wide..."
Belanger began to wax eloquent. "You see, I don't see any reason why you couldn't get an engine the size of a GC-4's into a single wafer. And if Steve and Bobby design it, instead of GC, it might actually work. Steve, could you sell a little tiny GC-4 if Geoff can build it for you?"
"Wait a minute, I meant no limit in principle. A GC-4 on one wafer would take--"
"A GC-3, then. Steve?"
"Hmm... you could design some nice games with that kind of power. There's this idea of dactyling things straight to a vita screen too -- bigger memory and a faster engine makes that work too. It'd be hobbyists buying them first, like now, but you could start breaking into the general market pretty quick."
Belanger abruptly put an arm around each of them. "I like what I'm hearing, gentlemen. Back in the fifties I wrote this paper FN8 about a giant system of calculators spanning the country, or the world. You could have the Confederation Library at your fingertips in your home or your office. Or the Mexican National Library. Or the German--"
Bild saw where he was going. "But to do that you need a pretty big calc in your home or office -- I get you."
"And you two are going to put it there for me. Starting with games."
Cupertino's eyes seemed to unfocus. "You know, if we do, we could also make a lot of money..."
And score a poke in the eye on both Kramer and GC, Bild thought. This was looking better and better all the time...
Sometimes you looked forward to a particular moment for a long time, Anna thought, and then it was a letdown. She'd thought about being married to Bobby for a long time, and about soaking with him in this big bathtub since they'd booked the Lord Nelson. All day, rushing around through the ceremony and reception, she'd looked forward to this moment of peace.
And you know, it wasn't a letdown at all. In the afterglow of making love once, and the anticipation of many more times, it just felt really good to snuggle her warm, wet, naked body against Bobby's. Did it make a difference that CNA society now approved of what they'd been doing for most of the past two years anyway? Yes, she thought,it did. No sneaking around this hotel in the wee hours of the morning--
"I just wanted to make sure you weren't too upset about my dad and Connie."
"What about your dad and Connie?"
"Uh-oh. You didn't notice? I should have told you later, I guess."
"Tell me now. What happened?"
"Uh, they went home together, I'm pretty sure."
"What?" A considerable quantity of water splashed onto the floor.
"I can't believe-- did anyone see?"
"I don't think so, my dad's gotten pretty good at being subtle, but I can tell. I've known the guy a long time, after all."
"But Connie-- Jesus! Bobby, we're talking about your father and my roommate! She's twenty-three, for God's sake! How could he take advantage--"
"It's ok, it's ok, take a deep breath, and let me hold you. Yes, it's wrong, but that's how my dad is. And I watched them for a while, and I don't think it was all his idea."
"Connie? She's probably still a virgin, for Christ's sake!"
"Not from what I picked up. Your dad was saying how she had this boyfriend in the service, who got killed last year."
"Well, reading between the lines, that was pretty hot and heavy. C'mon,Anna, you're twenty-three. You're old enough to decide which strange men you're going to sleep with, aren't you?"
"But your father! He's old enough to be her father -- older!"
"I can't argue with that. But he's also a lonely man in a strange country. And he's what we call a mujeriego. It's a sin, and it's not very nice, but it's how he is. I'm sure he was good to Connie, man to woman, for what that's worth. But how do you think he kicked the duck on three marriages?"
"He cheated on your mom?"
"Of course. They got married pretty quick during the war, right before he went off, and it was never really right. She finally caught him in '49, I think it was, when he came back from Manitoba, and kicked him out. I think he stayed faithful to Jennifer's mom for a while, but not that long. The one I'm really sorry about was Marie."
"His third wife?"
"Yeah. She was actually the woman in '49 in Manitoba. If she hadn't already been married they might have managed it then, but they went their separate ways. He always thought about her, though, I think. Finally he talked her into leaving her husband twenty years later, and they got married. I thought it might work, but he started fooling around almost right away, and the papers caught him at it, and that was that."
"And now he picks up young girls at weddings."
"Young women, yeah. I know what you're thinking, love. Is it in my germ plasm?"
"Yes you were, and you should be. I'm thinking it too. My dad is a complete duck-kicker when it comes to marriage. Am I going to be any better?"
"That's not fair, though--"
"Yes it is. Being with you now I could never imagine wanting another woman. But some day I'm going to look at one, and want her. And I'm not going to do anything about it. Because I love you, Anna. I know you, and I want to stay with you forever. Dad could have been happy with Mom if he'd really looked at her and really committed to her, but he never decided to do that. I know better, and I'll be different."
There was silence for a few minutes, punctuated only by splashes.
"If you ever do really want another woman?"
"Bring her home to me, and if I like her too we can convert to Turnerism. I could imagine sharing you, but I could never imagine losing you."
"Hmm. I don't think they make bathtubs big enough for three. No, you're enough woman for me, now and forever. Come here and let me prove it again..."
Forward to FAN #83A: Live From Nairobi.
Forward to 15 June 1974: Youth of the Coronation.
Forward to CNA Politics: The Briar Patch.
Forward to Contreras Family: Springtime for Ferdi and Elbittar.
Forward to Calculating Machines: A Boy's Life.
(Return to For All Nails.)