Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Real Victory

This is my 11th Indie Ink Writing Challenge. The challenge I received is at the end of this post.

Jack threw his notebook down in frustration. Ten years ago if someone had told him he would be a researcher spending his nights and weekends at a lab, he would have laughed it off saying he was not mad scientist material. And yet here he was on a Saturday night, meddling with his numbers and trying to make his Matlab program give him the sinusoid graph he wanted. He banged the keys of the computer in frustration, but no graph yet.

It had been a long rocky road, the way to a PhD. Picking a research topic had proved a lot more difficult than picking a major in college. And the Professor he worked for did not make anything easier. He wouldn't let him defend his thesis and graduate, always wanting more proofs, more publications and more results. Jack had been an A student right from kindergarden and to have someone constantly criticizing did nothing to improve his attitude. He thought about quitting, for the hundredth time in the last few days. There was this symposium coming up in August and his professor expected him to present a paper on his research there. It was quite a prestigious convention, and he realized that making a good impression there would go a long way in improving his academic standing and help with his prospective career. But his Professor laughed it off when he said he wanted to include a section on his findings and had mocked him that he had nothing of value to show as yet. It became imperative to him that he needed to prove that his mettle not just to his advisor but to himself.

"Take a grenade for ya" his phone sang, with his sanity on the other end. Sweet sweet Ally always called every two hours to check on him. He answered the phone and mumbled some expletives in answer to how his research was going. Talking to her always calmed him down and he often discovered that a calm mind accomplished more.

Jack couldn't believe his eyes. The screen showed a perfect sinusoid curve. He leapt off his feet and screamed out in happiness. It worked, it actually worked. His first thought was not to call Ally and celebrate, but to fling that graph on the face of his snooty advisor. Of course he was right, he had been right all along. His near perfect GRE scores and his 4.0 GPA were not flukes like his Professor hinted. He called Ally and told her that they were going out for drinks to celebrate.

He gathered his papers, saved the program to his email and external harddisk before leaving the lab. Ally gave him a hero's welcome and bear hugged him in the driveway. This was another reason why he loved her so much. Ally was far from being an intellectual, she was a kindergarden teacher who loved simple things. But she understood the nature of his work and always encouraged him to talk about it at home.

They came back home at three in the morning and Jack was glad that it wasn't because of a late night at the lab. He kissed Ally goodnight and told her that he would come to bed after typing an email. He went to the tiny nook he called his office and loaded his program into his computer. He wanted to see that sinusoid again. He was absently going through his papers, when he noticed it. The miscalculation that had caused the sinusoid. He couldn't believe his eyes. He furiously scribbled on his notebook, desperately trying to prove that his miscalculation never existed. After an hour, the truth slowly sunk in. He had no results to show. He needed to retrace his steps and move his research in a different direction altogether. Tears threatened to moisten his eyes and a million thoughts crisscrossed in his mind - his two years of wasted effort, his advisor's face, the conference for which he had no paper. He cringed when he thought about the conference. And then a thought struck him.

Ally knew something was wrong when she heard Jack typing furiously. His ashen face was proof enough.

"Ally, I made a mistake, a tiny but fate changing mistake"

"Calm down, it's going to be alright. You will fix it before the symposium, you always do"

"Not this time. But the good thing is, only I know about this. My imbecile advisor will never find this out in a million years."

Ally looked at him, with her head bent and giving him the look she gave one of her kindergarden children when they did something naughty.

The next morning, Jack had an uncomfortable talk with his advisor. Like he expected, there were some jabs and he had to withdraw his paper from the symposium. But it was going to be alright. Wasn't it Albert Camus who said "An intellectual is someone whose mind watches himself" ?


My challenge this week was from Sir.

"An intellectual is someone whose mind watches himself" - Alber Camus. What does this mean to you.

I hope I have answered your question. I think the quote means intelligence without ethics does not make a man an intellectual. A sharp mind should watch itself and prevent it from going down the wrong path

I challenged Headant with "And then there were none" and she has a moving piece up here.


Stefan said...

I read this and got totally in sunc with the feelings of the main character.

I liked the way it flowed to as well as the anxiety you poured on at key moments!

Good stuff m'dear!

Head Ant said...

So sad!

That kind of thing would happen to me.

You can call me, 'Sir' said...

You nailed it. Having been knee-deep in research for the last six years, and expecting to probably end up about thigh deep in the future, the scenario you wrote about happens more frequently than people realize. The time and effort required to become a successful researcher also demands an ability to resist this kind of temptation. Great job!

Jo Bryant said...

This really let me into the researcher's head - not sure whether I felt sorry or not for him, which is a sign of great characterization. People being neither all good or all bad.