ABSTINENCE - Or Just Say No To Sex
“Excellent, Dan! See you today for your first class,”
Dr. Richard Coburn told the university’s star football player, who had just called to sign up for the doctor’s controversial course in abstinence, which was based on his hot new book, Just Say No To Sex. Since Dan Fox, like many a star athlete, was much beloved by the girls, his call had surprised even the ebulliently confident doctor.
Just as Dr. Coburn hung up, his lovely and voluptuous daughter, who was also his prize student, returned from class, pausing just long enough to wave good-bye to the latest throng of male admirers who hooted from a passing convertible.
“Hi, bye!” she called, and closed the door, a bit exhausted by another day of fending off the romantic wiles of ever-hopeful young men.
“Hi, Daddy!” she said, and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“Hello there, Mel,” he replied. “The usual crop of overheated admirers?”
“I'm sorry,” she told him, “but I just can’t seem to make them give up.” Then she crossed the traditionally furnished living room and handed him a bag from the bookstore. “Here’s a present, Daddy.”
“What is it?”
“A copy of your new book.”
“But, child, I’ve got copies of it by the boxful, all ready for the rush of students I anticipate will be knocking down the door.”
“But this one’s different,” she said. “Look inside.”
He opened the cover, and she pointed. “See, I wrote you a note.”
“Why, thank you, Melanie,” he said, and read aloud, “To Daddy. Thanks to you and your wonderful method, I will never procreate or contract a sexually transmitted disease. Love, Mel."
He became tearful. “Ah, my dear, sweet, Melanie – I'm touched. I know your entire life will shine forth like a beacon of hope to all who know the transcendent value of my abstinence-building program. That reminds me. I must autograph a copy, too. I want to give it to Dr. Ernst. She'll be here any minute.”
“Dr. Ernst? What’s she visiting you for? She’s always ridiculing your work?”
“Oh, she’s just a bit piqued that the answer to the population time-bomb and the AIDS epidemic has come, not from her much touted medical school, but from the sociology department.”
“I don’t think there’s any excuse to talk the way she does about your method.”
“Oh, don’t trouble yourself about it. One finally
grows used to such competitive behavior. The human race still knows no cure for professional jealousy. But, forgive me – I can't help gloating,” he continued, holding his book high. “Given the way Just Say No To Sex has already started to fly off the bookstore shelves, what harm can anything she says do? Who knows? Perhaps she’s even come to offer her congratulations.”
“Whatever,” Melanie sighed. “I’m sure more and more people will realize how important your work is, no matter what she says. Then they’ll be just like me and won’t have a clue why people do the thing they seem to do and do and do.”
“I haven't got a clue why they do and do it, either, Melanie. Oh, guess what happened while you were in class?”
“Reader’s Digest called.”
“Yes! They’re considering doing an excerpt!”
“That’s awesome! Congratulations!”
“Thank you, dear. It seems that, with the popular media starting to pay attention to my achievement, I may finally transcend the confines of academic chitchat. I expect that soon we’ll see major reviews of the book and, as a result, I'll be busy on the lecture circuit and making appearances on a variety of talk shows. And, once my method is widely known, in what locale won’t you find a Coburn Club for Sexual Abstinence?”
“It's so great! I can’t wait!”
“Frankly, neither can I. As you well know, I have put the wise, conservative position of just saying no to sex on a solid and irresistible foundation. At last, the supremely ethical remedy is at hand for rampant overpopulation – and the resultant ecological depredation – teenage pregnancy, the heartbreak of abortion, and the scourge of AIDS and other STDs – all thanks to my brilliant new method. And what a magnificent turning point it will be for the highly over-sexed human race. At last, mankind and womankind will have the willpower required to work their way back from the brink of self-inflicted annihilation.”
“Oh, Daddy, I'm so proud of you!” Melanie exclaimed and bent forward to hug him with propriety.
“Thank you, Mel,” he replied, and orated, “So I ask you, with my approach, can sex survive? Oh, I doubt it very, very much, I truly do.”
Just then the doorbell rang.
“Ah,” he said, “that must be Dr. Ernst now.”
“I'll get the door for you,” Melanie volunteered.
“Thank you, sweetheart.”
She crossed to the living room, as he struck a grand pose with his book underarm.
“Hi, Dr. Ernst,” she said, making a special effort to be cordial. “My dad's expecting you.”
“Thank you, Melanie,” the doctor replied, and stepped in.
“Good afternoon, Dr. Ernst,” Dr. Coburn said.
“Hello, Richard,” she responded, rather coldly.
“Would you like a cup of tea or anything?” Melanie asked her.
“No, thank you. I had lunch in the university cafeteria. And, as you know, a meal there does more than satisfy one's appetite. It destroys it.”
“How about you, Daddy?”
“Thank you, Mel. Nothing right now.”
“Excuse me, then. I want to do some abstinence mental training.”
“Good girl. Today, I suggest you concentrate on verbal disassociation.”
“Yes, Daddy,” she agreed, and walked off, reminding herself, “Remember, when anybody mentions sex, quickly think of Texaco or Mexico.”
“Ah, she’s quite a girl,” Doctor Coburn enthused. “I'm extraordinarily proud of her. She has not, like many a young person, fled from her distinguished father’s imposing presence to seek her own ego distinction at a comfortable distance. Quite the contrary. She has wholeheartedly embraced my method. May I offer you a seat?”
They sat on the two leather chairs that graced the living room.
“I have a present for you,” he said. “An autographed copy of my new book.”
“Thank you,” she said.
He handed it to her, and she put it on her lap.
“Aren’t you going to read it?”
“I already have,” she said.
“I mean, the inscription.”
“Oh,” she said, and opened the cover. She noted what he had written. “Very nice of you, Richard.”
Then she closed the book and placed it on the coffee table.
“Well, what do you think of it?” he asked tentatively.
“Well, I must say it has aroused –“
“’– Aroused,’ Priscilla? Careful with your choice of words,” he advised her, wagging his finger somewhat playfully. “Don't want to key off, as my book cautions, any untoward associations.”
“Oh, Richard, don’t be so persnickety. If we were to exclude every word in the English language that can be construed to have a sexual undercurrent, we would hardly be able to talk.”
“A patent exaggeration!” he replied. “Verbal rectitude is at the very foundation of my method. And quite understandably when you realize what even the smallest intimation can lead to.”
“Of course, Richard. Please, excuse my linguistic ineptitude. Let me say, instead, that your book has precipitated very serious concern at the medical school.”
“Concern, Prissy? I should think in would evoke, at long last, a chorus of undiluted praise!”
“It has, I’m afraid, evoked just the opposite: undiluted consternation.”
“Professional jealousy, pure and simple,” he replied. “There can be no other excuse for such a reaction, when the very survival of the human race may well depend on my method.”
“Oh, please, Richard. Overwrought people with one agenda or another have been invoking Armageddon for millennia, unusually in an attempt to foist some specious belief on the more gullible members of society. Today's challenge for blind and blighted humanity is to imagine, not the end, but the beginning of the human race, well-adjusted to life and the requirements of its responsible stewardship.”
“And the opinion of the medical faculty is that my method offers no hope toward such a laudable goal?”
“Richard, of course, there is some merit in advising abstinence. But to present it as a cure-all offers, we are certain, a very false and ultimately pernicious hope.”
“Oh, Priscilla, I can’t bear it. Out of the illimitable depth of my compassion for humanity and its self-defeating foibles, I have wrought this majestic fountain of immediately applicable wisdom – and you and your colleagues dare to label it as ‘pernicious?’ ‘Pernicious’ when I expect that I shall even find myself being mentioned for the Nobel Prize?”
“I should think, rather, for the dumbbell prize!”
“How heartless of you to hurl such a flat-footed insult my way,” he informed her, and, raising his voice, continued, “There are certain minimum standards of civilized intercourse that I demand we adhere to if this conversation is to continue.”
“Richard, did I just hear you mention the word ‘intercourse’?” she half kidded him. “Don’t want to key off any inadvertent associations.”
“My faux pas,” he admitted, “but you've upset me terribly. You know I admire you and even feel a certain collegial affection for you. So I find your derogations especially upsetting.”
“As I find your overly confident pontification. It fries my nerves. Like most sensitive and educated people, I do not usually even require a direct statement. A hint generally suffices to convey a meaning.”
“I’m sorry if I became too vocal – but to cast aspersions on an intellectual breakthrough so vital –
"– At the medical school we have taken to calling it Coburn's Folly.”
“Not invariably. At other times, I've heard it simply referred to as idiotic.”
“How incomprehensibly wrongheaded! Do you suppose I created my method without establishing it on a firm empirical basis? The entire construct grows out of my own remorseful experiences as a young idealist in the city’s Department of Social Services. Oh, Prissy, how hopeless I became as I witnessed the toll undisciplined copulation takes on the downtrodden – excessive and often unwanted pregnancies and the undisciplined spread of STDs. Why, I even had the personal tragedy of seeing a colleague contract the AIDS virus from a tainted needle and waste away unto death. But now, after years of tumultuous creative gestation, I have synthesized the remedy this wretched and over-populous world is crying out for. And I shall not be deterred by the ill-considered quips of you and your colleagues.”
“Richard, I understand the depth of your care – I truly do – and I respect your commendable intentions. There is, nevertheless, good cause for the concern your work has elicited. We at the medical school are worried that the sudden attention being paid to your approach may provide a springboard for conservatives to succeed in securing cutbacks in funding for the sort of programs in which we believe true hope lies, such as genuine sex education and medical research.”
“But my Just Say No To Sex program
" – a welter of nothing more than ineffectual persiflage!”
“No, no! On the contrary, it offers something you and your colleagues simply refuse to acknowledge – the entirely natural and indubitably ethical panacea. The persistently neglected cure for humanity’s most daunting problems that is built right into every human persona – a splendidly cost-effective remedy requiring only expert reinforcement. I speak of willpower, Dr. Ernst. Willpower, strengthened by my inarguable axioms of sexual abstinence, so that willpower alone may function as an impenetrable bulwark against willy-nilly copulation and its lamentable consequences. I might add that both I and my own daughter are living proof of the efficacy of my method.”
“Richard, have I not known you since childhood? Don’t you recall your overheated youth? Are you even certain, as an adult, of your own capacity for consistent self-denial?”
“I admit I may have strayed in my salad days. But at the time there was no readily available remedy. Now, my resistance is unassailable.”
“Tell me, how long has it been now since your wife fled with the gardener?”
“Three years, during which – “
“– You have never once felt the desire –“
“– Desire is irrelevant. What matters is that my axioms have prevailed absolutely.”
“I suppose you have made yourself into quite the cold potato,” she replied, and then reflected, “I'm afraid I can't say the years have left me as tepid.”
“You, Priscilla, still subject to the idiotic perturbations of desire?”
“Let me rather say that, having reached the age of thirty-nine, with only one brief and inexplicably stupid marriage – oh, how could I have married icy, indifferent Alex – I've found myself feeling deeply saddened when I return to the solitude of my apartment, resentful even, at what I have missed.” Then she snapped herself out of her reverie, and concluded, “But never mind. You wouldn’t understand.”
“Of course, I understand. But I simply have no place for such susceptibilities. Nor does my infinitely admirable Gibraltar of unassailability, Melanie.”
“The poor dear. How you’ve crippled her!”
“Crippled her? On the contrary, I’ve enabled her! Enabled her to be in control of the usual youthful volcano of hormonal activity and its potentially explosive consequences.”
“You’ve trained her totally away from the normal development of her – “
“– most counterproductive urges. Melanie is a beacon that shines forth with the resplendent benefits of my method – a method destined to illuminate the world with the attainability and rewards of sexual abstinence.”
“You’ve had the poor child under you canny thumb since she was an infant. I can’t wait until you try your method on some lifelong libertines.”
“Would you like to see the list of students who've signed up for my crash course?"
“What, since the publication of your book?”
“Yes, I’m virtually undergoing a spring rush – and in balmy August. Just wait until the fall semester begins.”
“Are you sure they haven’t signed up just for the fun of it?”
"They all seem impressively genuine in their intentions," Dr. Coburn replied. "As young people are prone to do, they actually want to do their part to help save the world – and now they see a practical way to proceed.”
“We shall see. But, even if you are able to inculcate your linguistic nonsense, how long do you expect they'll abstain before their fulminating libidos overwhelm your flimsy barricades?”
“Until they are comfortably and safely married. I also assume that the most diligent students will continue to maintain a commendable degree of procreative moderation in wedlock.”
“Please, they’d all be much safer simply using condoms.”
“Condoms? Oh, don't even mention the word. How unnatural, how risky, how–“
“– About waiting for time to reveal the answer?” she interrupted, and then, sighing, said, “Dear me, the greatest liability a bright person can have today is the lack of a solid scientific background. Your well-intentioned mind simply does not have the knowledge required to innovate credibly in the field you have chosen. It is infested with so many cobwebs you simply can’t extricate yourself from them.”
“Cobwebs to you, Prissy. Compassionate conservatism to me!”
“Yes, out with the new, in with the old! Let us champion antiquated ideas, trotted out as innovations. Luddites of the world, unite!”
“I admit it proudly! Antiquated ideas are my favorite kind. They have withstood the test of time and, therefore, their merit is self-evident.” Then he leaned forward and issued, what was to her, a particularly disheartening admonition. “Prepare yourself, Priscilla. The worldwide adoption of my method will actually make the need for your misguided educational programs and medical research superfluous.”
“Doctor Coburn, you are – in the field in which you are dabbling – a most ignorant, insensitive, and dangerous man.”
“Ignorant! Insensitive! And dangerous? Ah, now I know well the ridicule innovators have had to deal with from time immemorial. I can, at this juncture, even sympathize with the early plight of my arch-nemesis, Freud. What courage he had to persist against the Victorian tide. I shall borrow a page from him, however, not in terms of his erroneous unearthing of the sex drive, but in admirable doggedness.”
“Please, don’t confound yourself with Freud. Your approach is not only unrealistic; it’s the most cockamamie – “
“– Dr. Ernst, if you please. One of my all-time least favorite words is ‘cockamamie.’ What a regrettable morass of mortifying associations.”
“Excuse me, Richard. Sometimes your prudery is revelatory. I shall simply call it runaway ignorance.”
“I think I have now endured enough of the slings of professional jealousy. Do you think I don’t know the medical school is beside itself because this historic advance in sexual behavior-modification has come from the sociology department?”
“Not at all, Doctor. The truth, like it or not, is that at the medical school we must be entirely realistic every moment. Lives depend on the pragmatic orderliness of our procedures. Above all, we know we must deal with humanity as we find it – fragile and excitable humanity. We also know that at this particular time in history, due to the plethora of unwanted pregnancies, burgeoning overpopulation, and widespread STDs, Mother Nature has us, like it or not, by the balls!”
“Shame on you, Priscilla! What language – and for a woman of your distinction.”
“Oh, fiddlesticks! Would you be happier if I said it has us by the ovaries?”
“Don’t make light of the dire situation we find ourselves in. You have forgotten one very important aspect of my method. It is a new reality, not a method of contraception that has proved inadequate to our overheated desires or the gleam in a frantic researcher’s eye. No, no, mine is a pragmatic approach that is available for immediate implementation.”
“Oh, Dickie – “
“– Priscilla, please. You know how I feel about that alternate appellation.”
“Yes, dear,” she replied with a trace of sympathy. “Sorry.”
“Calling you ‘dear.’”
“Oh. I didn’t notice.”
“Of course,” she said, resigning herself to his hurtful indifference and moving forward with her argument. “But somewhere beneath your self-assured surface, certainly you suspect the eternal inclinations of man and woman. How can you possibly think that your so-called method can moderate the tidal wave of sexual desire that sweeps through the world at every moment? How can it restrain the young, whose entire physical being throbs with sexual eagerness? Or the poor, who have precious few other pleasures? Or the wealthy, who perpetually court indulgence?”
“My dear Dr. Ernst, what you obviously fail to understand is that I don't merely ask people just to say no to sex. I provide, in a series of one hundred compelling and self-evidently true axioms the resources the human will requires to be victorious – axioms that will one day no doubt be viewed as the Euclidean geometry of sexual resistance.”
“Sorry, I remain unimpressed.”
“Why? Because you’ve been dethroned. While you and your realistic colleagues have trusted to sexual propriety in the heat of desire and the far horizon of medical research, I have had the insight to see the gold at my feet.”
“Fool's gold, I'm afraid!”
“On the contrary, a solid gold chain every link of which consists of irrefutable logic – a step-by-step approach in which every statement follows the other as relentlessly as one moment follows its antecedent! Take, for example, Coburn's First Axiom of Abstinence. I dare you to find a flaw in it,” he challenged, and took the book from the coffee table. He opened it and held it toward her, as he recited, ‘Sex leads to pregnancy. Pregnancy leads to overpopulation. Therefore, sex must be avoided.’ Argue with that, if you dare!”
“Richard, the argument is not with your self-evident nonsense but with your hopes for compliance. How on earth do you expect such a flimsy train of premises and conclusions to compel the world’s billions to adhere to sexual abstinence?”
“Mock me if you must, Priscilla! Nevertheless, my hopes are being confirmed as more and more conscientious students sign up for my truly enlightened method.”
“To learn what? To say no to sex, despite every natural proclivity and temptation, say no despite drunkenness or drugs? Sorry, Richard. I much prefer condoms to Coburn.”
“Oh, Dr. Ernst, the effrontery even to mention my name in apposition to that sine qua non of imperfect prophylaxis.”
At that moment, the doorbell rang. Doctor Coburn looked at his watch.
“Ah, ha,” he announced, “that must be my new star applicant, Dan Fox.”
“Fox? He wants to sign up?”
“Correct. He called to apply right before you arrived. Naturally, I invited him to come over right away, lest the legendary stud have second thoughts.”
“I can't believe his interest is at all genuine.”
“Then it’s a fine fortuity that he has arrived while you’re still here.”
“If by some chance you are able to exert even modest restraints on him, how many young girls’ hopes you’ll shatter. It’s preposterous to think you can control him, given the number of girls who’d tear their own clothes off to hop into the sack with him.”
Just then Melanie entered the room, and said, “Didn't I hear the doorbell ring?”
“Yes, dear. I think it's Dan Fox.”
Melanie seemed unusually upset. “Dan Fox? What's he doing here?”
“He wants to enroll in my course.”
“Daddy, come on. He's the last guy in the
“– Now, now, Mel, don’t prejudge him.” He noticed her hesitation. “Please, just get the door.”
“Sure,” she consented, with a bit of teeth grinding.
He stood proudly while Melanie walked there.
She took a deep breath and pulled it open.
“What are you doing here?” she asked the handsome athlete.
“Hi, Melanie,” he replied. “I want to sign up for you dad’s course.”
“Sure, you do,” she said, indicating she suspected him of harboring an unspoken motive.
“Let him in, Mel,” Doctor Coburn called.
“All right,” she agreed, and stood aside.
“Thanks,” he told her.
“Dan, my boy, come right in,” Coburn called.
“Thank you!” he replied, with as much transparent enthusiasm as he could muster.
Melanie closed the door and observed as her father put out his hand.
“Glad to be here,” he said, glancing at the skeptical observer beside his new-found mentor.
“You know Dr. Ernst?” Coburn asked.
“Yes, I do,” Dan said. “Hi, Dr. Ernst.”
“Hello, Mr. Fox,” she replied distantly.
“I'm delighted you made the big decision to study with me, Dan,” Dr. Coburn said.
“Thanks,” he replied. “I'm convinced it's the responsible thing to do – I mean, with all the problems sex can cause.”
“Good, Dan!” Dr. Coburn exclaimed. “I see that, besides brawn, you've got brains.”
“Thank you, sir. My ideal is, like the ancient Greeks said, ‘a sound mind in a sound body.’”
“In a very sound body,” Dr. Ernst commented. “The girls tell me you're quite irresistible.”
“Thanks. But it’s not my fault. I was born this way.”
“But you can rise above it, I assure you,” Dr. Coburn advised him.
“That’s my goal,” Dan said. “I need to save my energy for football.”
“Tell me, Dan,” Dr. Ernst inquired, “what makes you believe Doctor Coburn’s method can work for you? Have you read his new book?”
“Not yet,” Dan admitted, “but I've heard a lot
about it. From what I can tell, it appeals to the mind – and I like that. Mind over body – the same thing you need in the fourth quarter when you're behind and you have to do a lot more than you think you can.”
Dr. Coburn turned to Dr. Ernst, and told her, “I have great faith in this young man.”
Then he eyed Dan critically. “My hope is that you’ll become one of my star pupils.”
Somehow, this comment cut Melanie to the quick, and she said, “Dad, I need to speak with you.”
“Later, dear. In the meantime, please, escort Mr. Fox to my study and get him signed up.”
She looked at Dan with condescension. “I cannot believe this! Come on.”
“Thanks, Melanie,” he said, and followed her.
“What do you think?” Dr. Coburn asked.
“Me? Oh, I also have great faith in him,” she replied wryly. “Did you notice the way he looked at your daughter?”
“No, I didn’t. It all seemed rather usual to me.”
“Really?” she asked. “And why do you think Melanie seemed so uneasy? Could she by any chance be infatuated with him?”
“Mel? Oh, please, she’s far too well trained for such an indiscretion.”
“Richard, sometimes you are a blind ass. Fox obviously has something on his mind other than learning how to say no to sex.”
“You suspect he's only here because he’s interested in Melanie? Little Melanie, with all the voluptuous women who are at his beck and call?”
“I have a proposition.”
“You mean, a proposal?”
“Whatever. You teach him your method as best you can. Then you arrange for him and Melanie to be alone for an evening.”
“Yes, and Melanie must be given instructions that she is to try every wile she can manage to break down his willpower. If he maintains his indifference to her advances, I will leave you to proselytize as extensively as you can. On the other hand, if by some chance he cannot resist her charms and succumbs, you will admit defeat and cease to promulgate your method.”
“But poor Melanie – to subject her to such an excruciating experience.”
“Don’t tell me you suspect she might be in any sort of danger? Richard, if your method is half as good as you say it is, she’ll be faced with an insurmountable, and therefore an entirely risk-free, task.”
“But to ask her to do something so contrary to her lifelong training–“
“Yes, but think of the possible benefits if you succeed with Dan. Your triumph will resonate throughout the campus. I’ll withdraw all my objections and recommend that the medical school withdraw its. Then you'll have a free hand on campus and on to the welcoming arms of a desperate world!”
“Do you I have your word on that?”
“Absolutely. Now, how long do you need to indoctrinate Mr. Fox?”
“That depends on how much time he’s willing to give me. But in no event will I require more than one month.”
“Then you've got a deal,” she said, and put out her hand.
“Deal, Priscilla!” he affirmed, and gave her hand a hearty shake. “Now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to do.”
“My pleasure, Richard.”
“Don’t forget your gift,” he told her, and picked up the autographed copy of his book from the coffee table.
She accepted it.
As he walked her to the door, she said, “Good luck. You'll need it.”
“Thank you, Priscilla,” he replied, “but not nearly as much luck as you’ll need.”
She gave him a peck on the cheek, and his face flushed to a degree that slightly embarrassed him. “Till then,” she said, and went out the door.
He closed it, thought for a moment, and recomposed himself. Then he walked to the bookshelf, took down another copy of his work, autographed it, and headed for the den with it.
“All signed up?” he asked.
“Yes, sir,” Dan replied. “She took care of everything. Even gave me a copy of your book.”
“Good,” he said. “But I have a special inspiration for you.” He held out the copy of the book he had signed. “An autographed copy.”
“Gee, thanks, Doctor Coburn,” Dan said, and took it. He read the inscription aloud. "’To Dan Fox: I know you can do it, kid. Abstinently yours, Dr. Coburn.’ “Wow, dynamite!” Dan exclaimed. “I really appreciate this.”
“My pleasure,” Doctor Coburn told him. “In the beginning, you and I will work one on one. Got it?”
“Yes, sir. Sounds great.”
“Good. Then, as you make progress, Melanie can lend a hand.”
“But, Daddy!” she objected.
“Please, dear. You’re my most accomplished pupil and, due to the volume of students I expect, I need an assistant. Are you OK with that?”
“I suppose,” she conceded.
“Good.” He turned his attention back to Dan. “Now, let's get started.”
“I’m ready,” his new student said.
“Can I leave now?” Melanie asked.
“Of course, dear. Dan and I need to spend a lot of time together.”
“Have fun,” she told the star athlete, and then she walked out with a bit more swagger in her hips than she usually allowed herself.
Dr. Coburn turned to Dan. “During the first week, you’ll require almost total immersion.”
“Let’s go for it.”
He looked sternly at Dan. “Don't mind if I get ‘sexplicit,’ do you?”
“I guess you have to,” his willing acolyte replied.
“That’s exactly right. If we don't take the bull by the balls, we can’t hope to wrestle it to the ground. Have a seat.”
He indicated the couch and Dan plopped down.
“First things first. You must understand the transcendent importance of the lifestyle adjustment you’re about to commit to. Question: why must you learn how to say no to sex? Think before you answer.”
“Well, sir – “ Dan pondered with indecision.
“– I'll tell you why. Because, my son, you carry within your loins the potential destruction of the human race."
“Of course. Therein lie the sperm that can continue to overpopulate the world and the compulsions that could lead you to become infected with the AIDS virus or another STD. Get my meaning?”
“Yes, sir. But can I say something?”
“Go right ahead.”
“I practice safe sex.”
“My boy, you can practice all you want. But you'll never perfect it. There is no such thing as safe sex. It is, in fact, an outright contradiction in terms.”
“I mean, I use condoms,” Dan told him.
“Not safe by any stretch of the imagination! The only safe thing to do is, as the saying goes, to keep your pecker in your pants. Got it?”
“Yes, sir. But can I say something else?”
“What?” Doctor Coburn asked.
“I don't call it names like that.”
“What don’t you call names like what?”
"My pecker. I guess I just have too much respect for it.”
“Oh. Well, then, what do you call it?”
“My love maker,” Dan confided.
“Really? Where did you learn to call it that?”
“Well, I thought about it for a long time and what I use it for. The name came to me and just stuck.”
“I see. Well, it’s irrelevant. Call it whatever you want to. Just remember: the goal is to keep it in your pants. OK?”
“Excellent. Now, let's move on. When I say the word ‘sex,’ tell me what you think of.”
“You really want to know?” Dan asked.
“I think of women.”
“Ah, ha! And there we have it. The very root of the problem – and the fundamental association we must redefine.”
“What am I supposed to think of?”
“I'll demonstrate.” He walked to the door and called, “Melanie, can you come in here for a moment?”
He headed back to Dan. “I think you’ll find this demonstration helpful.”
Melanie poked her head in, a bit uneasily. “What is it, Daddy?”
“I want to demonstrate something for Mr. Fox. When I say the word ‘sex,’ what do you think of?”
"Very good. And if that fails to take your mind completely off the usual meaning of the word, what do you think of as a reinforcement?”
“Excellent, Mel.” He turned to Dan. “See how the method works? Soon, you'll think like that, too.”
“I can't wait.” He looked at her. “How do you do it, Melanie?”
“Daddy will explain.”
“Pure sound association,” he informed Dan, and went on with great fervor. “Once you’ve been properly trained, the word ‘sex’ will key off the word ‘Rex’ or the syllable ‘Tex.’”
“You mean, like ‘sex-Tex?’”
“Exactly! And that counter-association will, of course, immediately distract you from thinking about the word ‘sex.’ Notice also that there is no equally resonant association in the potentially disastrous conjunction of ‘sex-woman.’ Or, in Melanie's case, for the conjunction of ‘sex-man?’”
“’Sex-man?’" Dan queried, glancing at Melanie.
“Right,” Dr. Coburn assured him. And, since the sound association of ‘sex-Tex’ is much more resonant, she has virtually nothing to worry about.”
“Oh, I see,” Dan said, catching on. “Sex-Rex, sex-Tex. Hey, it works for me.”
“Great, Dan.” Dr. Coburn turned to Melanie. “See how quickly he’s catching on?”
“Oh, he’s really brilliant,” she slightly scoffed.
“But, doctor, what happens if someone goes on and on, really trying to break down your resistance?” Dan wanted to know. “Do you just keep saying the same two things to yourself?”
“As long as your willpower remains unassailable. The moment you feel that your resistance may be weakening, you must turn to your tertiary line of defense.”
“You mean, like ‘sex-Mex?’”
“Precisely. That is, in those very rare situations where you may require more than Tyrannosaurus Rex and Texaco. Got it?”
“Good. Now, once you've got these interruptive associations working, you can resist nearly any activity that the word ‘sex’ keys off.”
“Yes. Permit me to explain why. It’s a matter of having the enemy outnumbered. Here’s this person, making every effort to seduce you, but what does she have to work with in this elemental area of sound disassociation? One word: sex. Meanwhile, what do you have to work with? Three words. You’ve got her outnumbered three to one. So how can she defeat you?”
“Say, that's good,” Dan admitted, and looked at Melanie out of the corner of his eye. “So let me get this straight. A girl says to me, ‘Let's have sex.’ And I
“– Come on, come on, you can do it, kid!”
“Right! And then, if she persists?”
“I switch to ‘Texaco.’"
“Extraordinary. And then, should the occasion arise?”
“I pull out Mexico!”
“Come on! Come on!”
“You switch back and forth between the words, creating an impenetrable array of counter-associations, until finally the temptress abandons all hope.”
“Great! I've got it now! ‘Tyrannosaurus Rex! Texaco! Mexico! Tyrannosaurus Rex! Texaco! Mexico!’ And so forth."
“Perfect, Dan. You’ll have my course knocked in no time. Right, Mel?”
“I'm overwhelmed,” she said.
“So am I,” Dan admitted. “Gee, I never thought learning how to say no could be so easy.”
“Stick with me, son. We’ve only just begun your no-sex education.”
“Daddy, can I speak with you a minute?” Melanie asked.
“Of course, dear.”
“Excuse me a moment, Dan.”
He followed Melanie out of the den, while Dan stretched out on the couch, beaming with a curiously triumphant smile.
“Daddy,” Melanie told her father, “he's not sincere at all.”
“What on earth do you mean, Mel?”
“I didn’t want to tell you this, but he's been chasing me all year.”
“Yes. I think it’s all about his ego. He wants to prove he can get me to have Tyrannosaurus Rex.”
“Really? Glad you told me, dear. Now, don’t you worry your pretty little head. Soon, he'll be a changed man, and he won’t care a hoot about seducing you. I promise.”
“If you say so,” Melanie said, with what perhaps might be described as marginal conviction.
“Leave it to me, dear. Soon, he’ll be about as interested in sex as a castrated lion.”
“Can I leave now? I have to continue with my own studies.”
“Run right along, dear.”
She headed up the stairs, and Dr. Coburn returned to his study.
“Anything wrong?” Dan asked.
“The craziest thing. She doesn't think you're sincere.”
“Really? What makes her think that?”
“She says you’ve been pursuing her?” Dr. Coburn dared to give voice to.
“Really? Where did she ever get an idea like that?”
“Then it’s not true?”
“No way. I’d never try to do anything with her. I have too much respect for her and for your method. That’s why I’m here.”
“Spoken like a true gentleman. Now, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. So let's keep going.”
“Go for it,” Dan encouraged him.
"But before I move on to the next section," Dr. Coburn told Dan, "let me point out that you actually have, not just three, but an entire armory of defensive words you can turn to.”
“How do you figure?”
“Consider all the things that you immediately associate with the words I gave you. For example, take Tyrannosaurus Rex. What comes to mind?”
“Fossils," Dan replied tentatively.
“Very good,” Dr. Coburn commended him. “Now try Texaco.”
“Taco?” Dan wondered.
“Oh, I get it,” he said. “Taco, burrito, old bones, gasoline, self-service!"
“Right! And what’s the principle behind what we’ve just discovered? The core words of your defensive system have ancillary associations that you can hurl against an encroaching enemy when and if the need should arise.”
“Wow, talk about empowerment! I can think of associations all night.”
“Good. But these words only constitute your first line of defense. Now that you’ve mastered them, it's time to move deeper into the Coburn Method, which brings us to my rock-solid Axioms of Abstinence. How are you holding up?”
“I'm ready to go on.”
“Good, good! Then let’s dive right in and begin with one of my most charming and self-evident axioms. Number ten.”
“Ten?” Dan wanted to know. “Why don't you begin with one?”
“Excellent question!” Dr. Coburn ejaculated. “I thought you might ask. Do you expect to be tempted in numerical order? No! You must be able to think of any axiom at any moment. Therefore, I teach them is as chaotic a manner as the tumult of desire itself. Got it?”
“Wow, you thought of everything.”
“And so I have,” Dr. Coburn conceded, proudly heaping the laudation on himself. Now, here is axiom ten. Listen carefully. ‘Winking leads to interest. Interest leads to intimacy. Therefore, winking must be avoided.’ Please, repeat that.”
“Right,” Dan said, concentrating. "’Winking leads to interest. Interest leads to intimacy. Therefore, winking must be avoided!’"
“Very good! Got it the first time! I'm extremely satisfied with your progress!”
“Thank you, sir. You don't know how grateful I am. But can I ask a question?”
“Go right ahead.”
“Are there ever exceptions to your axioms?”
“Dan, an axiom is just what it says it is. Axiomatic! I wouldn’t call it an axiom if there were exceptions to it. The wonderful truth is, all of Coburn's Axioms of Abstinence are as definite as a railroad track. You follow them and you’ll get where you’re going. And the sooner the human race says, ‘All aboard,’ Coburn’s train, the sooner we may all travel to a land of incremental bliss, where, in moderate and healthy numbers, we shall cultivate a rejuvenated and resplendent earth, at least, for as long as the dynamics of the universe permit us to continue on it, which, we trust, will be so many eons the possible terminus is the least of our worries.”
“But don't you think some people might jump the track?”
“Oh, no doubt about it, Dan. But one cannot be dissuaded by the inevitable handful of weak-willed fornicators. One must keep his eye on the far horizon, the shining ideal, and then whatever is within reach becomes attainable. I can assure you that, despite these occasional exceptions, Coburn's Method will have its day. And why? Necessity, my boy! The great, silent force that adjudicates all of our tough decision-making. My approach will be victorious or else we are doomed to a world where the reckless billions will be squeezed shoulder to shoulder, breathing the unbreathable, drinking the undrinkable, and dying like flies from disease and hunger, while even then no doubt some utterly uncontrollable lunatic will attempt to slip in an orgasm. And that dire comeuppance does not even take into account the regrettable tragedy that we will have by then left precious little room for the other creatures of the earth. Moreover, how long can we expect that nature will be patient with our burdensome and plagued numbers? We might, in fact, be surprised at any time by a sudden environmental collapse, in which we could all die off like the dinosaurs.”
“Yes! I’m talking here about no less than a sex-inflicted mass extinction!” Then the doctor grew calm for a moment. “I will give you an example, on a miniature scale, to prove that such an extinction may well happen. It is the tale of a rustic tragedy that befell me some years ago when I owned a summer place with a small trout pound. In spring, when the water was cool and rich in dissolved oxygen, the lovely trout leapt and fed at every bug that fell upon the water. Then the heat of summer came and much of the oxygen evanesced from the water. The trout, feeling listless, seemed to disappear. The lake was as still as a watery grave. I, the uncomprehending owner, mistakenly concluded from the inactivity of the finny creatures that there were no longer enough of them in the pond. Perhaps, I thought, the muskrats, otters, and birds of prey had eaten many of them. I was, in fact, so inexperienced in the ways of the wild I imagined each time I stocked the pond that the observant land creatures were sitting on the hillside, clapping at the bountiful feast that had just arrived. And what did I, the amateur aquaculturist, do? I decided to order more trout from the hatchery. And what happened? The next morning I awoke to find every last trout in the pond belly up. There were simply too many of them for the amount of oxygen in the water – and they had all suffocated overnight!”
“That's really sad.”
“Immensely! And that morning I learned the greatest lesson of my life!”
“What, Dr. Coburn?”
“That the adaptability of the environment and nature's seemingly irrepressible will to live have their limits, which, once trespassed, lead on to inevitable ruin. I realized the potential fragility of the biosphere and how overpopulation might precipitate its sudden and irremediable collapse. It was, in fact, at this time that I began my quest for a workable, ethically unimpeachable restraint on the self-defeating human proclivity to overbear children and, along with the activity required for such fecundity, to communicate HIV and other STDs.”
“I’m glad you shared that story with me. Wow, talk about an experience. Let me just say, I hope someday your method works for everybody.”
“Thank you, Dan. I appreciate that. Frankly, I’ll settle for almost everybody. The fact is, there is simply no available alternative with equal potential. I ask you, can we expect adequate success in population control and disease prevention with condoms? If so, why are the problems still with us, while in these fearful and sorrowful times condoms sprinkle down upon the earth like perpetual autumn leaves? And can we hope for the universal availability of any sort of artificial contraception in the most desperate voids of the world? No! I tell you, the only answer resides in the human mind, a solution needing only to be reinforced by my method. Just think of it, Dan! No further scientific breakthrough is necessary. All that is required is the power to say, ‘No!’ ‘No!’ to every occasion that may lead to arousal! And we're all aware of what arousal can lead to, aren’t we?”
“What, Dr. Coburn?”
“I refer you to Coburn's Fifth Axiom of Abstinence,” he told Dan, and went on to quote it. “’Arousal leads to contact. Contact leads to sex. Therefore, arousal must be avoided.’"
“Boy, you really know the material. But how can I avoid arousal? I mean, I'm not responsible for the way I've been designed. I see a cute girl, and – bingo! – there I am, aroused. I'm just trying to live with the setup.”
“Yes, and quite a challenge it is, Dan. Which is precisely why I devised Coburn's Forty-Seventh Axiom.”
At that moment, Melanie entered, as if to check on the progress of Dan’s tutelage.
“Ah, just in time, Melanie. Darling, tell Dan one of the ways to avoid the snare of arousal.”
“I just came in to say I’m going out.”
“But before you leave, give him my forty-seventh axiom. Nothing inspires like a good example.”
“Do I have to?”
“Please, for Daddy.”
“Oh, all right,” she said, and stared off to prepare her recital. "’Attraction leads to familiarity. Familiarity leads to arousal. Therefore, attraction must be avoided.’"
“Excellent, as always, Mel!” Dr. Coburn effused.
“Hey, Melanie, good job,” Dan told her. “I can't wait to know the material as well as you do.”
“You've got to be kidding,” she said.
“Now, now, Mel. Give Mr. Fox a chance.”
“That's all I ask,” Dan told her.
“And that's all you need, my boy,” Dr. Coburn assured him. “Soon you, too, will know exactly how to say no – no to winking, no to attraction, no to arousal, no to touching and kissing, no the whole gamut of sexual enchantment!” he concluded. “Now, I think we’ve covered enough for today. See you back here tomorrow, same time, OK?”
“Tomorrow?” Dan asked.
“As I said when we began, in the early stages, we need to get you as close as we can to total immersion.”
“OK, I’ll be here. I want to move ahead as fast as possible.”
“Mel, if you want me to, I can walk with you,” Dan volunteered.
“No, no, Dan,” Dr. Coburn interjected. “I’m afraid it’s too early for ‘walking together,’ considering what it can lead to. Wait here with me for a few minutes, while Melanie goes her way.”
“I don’t get it. What does walking together lead to?” Dan wanted to know.
“Touching, you idiot!” Melanie told him, and turned to depart.
Dan made good on his word. He came to study with Dr. Coburn promptly at the times appointed for his lessons.
From the day of his arrival onward, Melanie just didn’t seem to be herself. There was a persistent, unfamiliar unease about her demeanor. Then one day, when the bell rang at his lesson time, she could no longer repress her turmoil.
“Daddy, please, don't let him in!” she pleaded.
“But why, child?” Dr. Coburn asked, puzzled at her sudden anxiety. “You aren't, by some remote chance, feeling that old bugaboo attraction, are you?”
“For him? No way!”
“Then, please, just consider him another right-minded pupil of mine.”
“How can I do that – when everyone is making fun of me?”
“Fun of you? In what way, Mel?”
“Do I have to go into it?” she asked.
“I don’t know how else I can make an acute evaluation of your situation.”
With visible perturbations, she said, “They're saying I can't possibly be a virgin anymore.”
“How on earth could they arrive at that inconceivable conclusion?”
“Because he's here every day, that's why!”
“And those fools have concluded that, as a result, he has seduced you? You, my most dependable adherent? Why, their comments aren’t anymore substantial than the breath they’ve expended to express them. And the proof is easy to ascertain. Now that Dan has been studying with me, all your friends have to do is talk to him. They'll quickly realize he couldn’t possibly be interested in having sex with you or, I dare say, with anyone else. He has made remarkable progress.”
“Sure, he has,” she sighed sarcastically. “They think he’s only here for one reason.”
“Time will soon dispel that illusion.”
“Melanie, don't tell me you’ve come to doubt the efficacy of my tutelage?”
“I'm sorry, Daddy. But he's got such a reputation for, for – “
“– No need to get sexplicit, dear. I understand completely. I’ll tell you what. Let me demonstrate to you how far he has come in the welcome remediation of his behavior. After I've finished with his lesson, you can give him some advanced training.”
“Daddy, please, I can’t.”
“Sure, you can. Believe me, I wouldn't suggest the tactic if I wasn’t convinced he's at the stage where he can control his previous derelictions.”
“You really think he won’t try anything?”
“If he does, I’ll boot him out permanently.”
“Unconditionally. The experience will shore up the slight wavering you may be experiencing in your faith in my method. And it will give you plenty of ammunition to dispel the illusions of your errant friends.”
“All right, Daddy. I'll be in my room, studying.”
“Call you when I’m ready,” he told her, and gave her a one-armed hug.
Then he headed for the door, as Melanie went upstairs.
He drew it open, and said, “Dan, my boy, come in.”
“Thank you, Dr. Coburn.”
“How are things going?”
“Great! Just great!”
“Excellent,” Dr. Coburn exclaimed. “Tell me, how are you dealing with the numerous opportunities that seem to come your way?"
“Haven't by any chance succumbed to any, have you?”
“Not even once?”
“No, not once, sir,” he said, but his voice broke and he seemed remorseful.
“What’s wrong, Dan?”
“I only told you half the truth, sir.”
“I’m sorry. Help me! I need help!”
Dr. Coburn closed the door to his den, and said consolingly, “Tell me all about it, son.”
“I can’t believe it but it happened. I had a lapse.”
“You did? How?”
“Temptation, sir! Just too much temptation!”
“It was able to penetrate your every defense?”
“I admit it. Yes, sir.”
“How is that possible? You should have been temptation-proof by now.”
“I thought I was, but then – “
“The worst possible thing. I mean, you won't believe it.”
“Confide in me, Dan. I can’t help you fortify yourself unless I understand what befell you.”
“How can I even say it? Not one –“
“– Not one? Go on.”
“But two –“
“– Two what?”
“Yes, sir. Two really sexy ones – “
“ – Yes?”
“Double teamed me,” Dan confessed.
“They did? In what way?”
“Incredible. Let me just say they were incredible.”
“Dan, I need specifics.”
“Yes, sir. But, just to protect them, I won’t mention their names, OK?”
“Of course. It’s the matter we want to discuss. Names are irrelevant.”
“Good. Well, we rode home on the bus together after last night’s away game, which, by the way, I won with a last-minute dive across the goal line.”
“Good. Go on.”
“Well, one of them asked if she could sit down beside me. I was really tired and, without thinking of your axiom about what closeness can lead to, I just said, ‘OK.’”
“Your first mistake.”
“I know, sir. It just didn’t occur to me at the time.”
“Well, as the ride went along, I felt her hip against mine.”
“She had moved closer?”
“Yes, sir, while I had my eyes shut.”
“I’ve told you often, you’ve got to be eternally vigilant. A woman with amorous intentions can be fretfully wily.”
“You can say that again.”
“Anyway, I must have taken a nap, because when I woke up, I noticed my arm was around her and somehow her breast was in my hand.”
“You bet. And somehow her best friend, another cheerleader, with a body that never stops saying wow, had squeezed in next to her. Things were kind of crowded, so the first cheerleader said, ‘Mind if I sit on your lap?’”
“What did you say?”
“Well, the thought that occurred to me right away is, Texaco. I mean, I guess I thought of sex and, thanks to your training, it keyed off my first line of defense.”
“So far, so good.”
“Like I said, I tried.”
“When did the breakdown occur?”
“Not until after the bus dropped us all back at the dorm.”
“You lasted that long?” Dr. Coburn wished to ascertain.
“Not bad. But, apparently, there was trouble ahead.”
“You have no idea.”
“Anyway, when the bus pulled up, it was time to remove her breast from my hand.”
“She still had it there?”
“Yes, sir. Actually, I had kind of forgotten about it.”
“I see,” Dr. Coburn replied, apparently not entirely convinced. “Please, continue.”
“We got off the bus and started to walk toward the dorm. We were all feeling kind of good, because we won the game, and the two cheerleaders kept saying how great it was that I had scored the winning touchdown.”
“They were both still with you?”
“Yes, sir. They wanted to walk with me. Then it happened.”
“The girl whose breast had ended up in my hand said, ‘We were talking and we want to give you a present, that is, if you’re not too tired.’”
“Let me get this straight. She said, the plural, ‘we,’ not the singular, ‘I?’”
“Yes, sir. Right away I realized what was on their minds.”
“One might from that, yes. Continue.”
“I looked at them and – you have to forgive me, I’m only a man – I imagined them both naked.”
“Well, given what she had proposed, I can understand how you might have extrapolated that unfortunate vision. Go on.”
“What can I tell you? My willpower just went.”
“Just like that?”
“Yeah. I’m so sorry.”
“Now, it’s time for me to admit something.
“You? What, doctor?”
“It’s my fault.”
“Yes, I’m afraid so. You see, we’ve entered new territory here, thanks to you, Dan, and the extraordinary degree to which you seem to arouse the untoward inclinations of the female species. It actually never occurred to me that I need an axiom to enable my students to say no to double teaming.”
“Oh, thanks. I can’t tell you how relieved I am. I was beginning to doubt my abilities.”
“Don’t ever do that. What we need is a new axiom. Let me think about it.”
“You’re going to think it up right now?”
“I should be able to. As you know, I’m very practiced in the area,” Dr. Coburn advised him, and, no sooner did he boast of his particular creative expertise than he exclaimed, “I've got it!”
“What?” Dan asked.
“My new axiom.”
“Already? Boy, you've got a real talent for this stuff.”
“I know. And believe me, talent is what makes all the difference between just plodding along and creating something remarkable.” Then he pointed to his head, and said, “You know the general topography of the human brain – gray matter, with various concentrations of neurons. I always say your talent is where you have the highest concentration of neurons. I call it your gray lump. Unfortunately, not all people have one.”
“I wonder where mine is.”
“You’ll discover that as you use your brain. Just be attentive to its subtle promptings and to what comes easy to you,” Dr. Coburn advised him. “But back to our new axiom. I say ‘our’ new axiom, because I've decided to share credit for it with you.”
“Yes, Dan. In your honor, I’m going to call it The Coburn-Fox Addendum.”
“You don’t have to do that, but thank you.”
“You’re welcome, Dan.”
“I can’t wait to know what it is.”
“Then let’s get to it. Here is the addendum. I think you’ll see it addresses the issue: ‘Two simultaneous sexual objects can prove twice as tempting. To resist, you need twice as much willpower. Therefore, you must study twice as hard.’"
“Twice as what?”
“Excuse me, Dan. I got carried away. Let me rephrase that. ‘Therefore, you must study twice as much.’"
“That makes sense.”
“Thank you. Now that we’ve got that in place, let's move on.”
Until now, the excitement had been proceeding at such a high level that Dan had not taken his usual, deferential place on the couch.
“Have a seat,” Dr. Coburn told him.
“Yes, sir,” he replied, and plunked himself down.
“You’ve got two weeks of study under your belt now.”
“Under my belt?”
“My, my, see how much progress you’re making? You’ve even catching me when I make one of those unfortunate associations we inherit from our chaotic past. Let me rephrase that. You’ve got a week of study behind you. Yes, I think that will do. No exceedingly unfortunate associations in the phrase ‘behind you.’ Now, today we're going to move into some pretty advanced territory.”
“As a result, we’re going to get significantly more sexplicit.”
“Ready when you are.”
“I need a teaching tool,” he said, and went to his bookshelf. He looked it over and removed a magazine. It was Playboy. He held it up, and asked, “You’re familiar with this entrapment?”
“Every masturbated to it?”
“When I was a kid.”
“It happens to the best of us – that is, before we grow up and learn our responsibilities.”
“You did it, too?”
“We were all youngsters once, Dan. When desire first awakens, we are especially susceptible. Now, tell me,” he went on, opening the magazine to the centerfold, “what do you do think of when I open it thus.”
He held the lusciously retouched photograph of The Playmate of the Month toward him.
“You really want to know?”
“Why else would I be asking?”
“I think, wow, what a great-looking piece of ass.”
“Don’t feel bad. Many a man would. Thankfully, he would be mistaken. And do you know why?”
“Because this is not actually a naked woman.”
“Of course, not.”
“Then what is it?”
“It’s merely a photograph of a naked woman. Which brings us to the first axiom in the second half of the book, number fifty-one: ‘Pornographic pictures lead to masturbation. Masturbation leads to the desire for sex with a real person. Therefore, pornographic pictures must be seen as mere ink.’ Got it?"
“Yes, sir. Mere ink.”
“Good. Now, focus on that thought for a moment. Are you focused?”
“All right, now when I hold the centerfold up again, what do you think of?”
“I think, wow, what great-looking ink.”
“No, no, no! There’s nothing ‘great-looking’ about it. It is ‘mere ink’ and nothing more. OK?”
“Excellent!” Dr. Coburn responded, and gave Dan’s shoulder a squeeze. “You’re getting there.”
“Thank you, Dr. Coburn.”
“You’re most welcome, Dan. It’s a pleasure to teach you.” He looked at his watch. “Oh, my, four o’clock already. I’m sorry to say this, Dan, but today I have to leave you a bit early. I’ve scheduled a field trip to the adult bookshop. If one is to thwart temptation, one must keep up with the latest incarnations of it.”
“You are so dedicated – I mean, to go to a place like that for the sake of your students.”
“Thank you. Just doing a bit of unavoidable research.”
“Does that mean my lesson is over?”
“No, no. Thinking ahead is half the secret of successful adaptation and defense. We’ve got to press on – and I’ve decided that, despite your double-teaming downfall, you're at a point when Melanie can pitch in.”
“Of course. She’s as able an assistant as a father could hope for. What do you think?”
“I think, whatever you think, sir.”
"Good. You won’t be sorry. She knows the material very nearly as well as I do.” With that, he handed Dan the issue of Playboy, and said, “Review the material while I get her.”
“Yes, doctor,” Dan replied, and accepted his assignment.
He looked over the centerfold, while Dr. Coburn went to get his guest instructor.
“I like this course!” Dan exclaimed to himself.
Then, glancing around to make sure he was all alone, he took out his cell phone and made a call. In hushed tones, he said, “Hey, Eddie, baby, guess what?” And then he intentionally mispronounced the doctor’s name. “Today, ‘Cockburn’ is gonna have Melanie give me a private lesson .... I kid you not .... Come on, double or nothing. Fifty bucks says I make it with her .... Deal!... Well, maybe not today, but you can kiss your fifty smackers good-bye.” Just then Melanie tapped on the door. “Gotta go now,” he said, and concluded the conversation. He resumed looking over the magazine.
When Melanie entered, he said, “Hi, there.”
She noticed his intent involvement with the illusory ink and sarcastically inferred the frequent masculine result. “Studying hard?”
“Very hard,” he replied, and then went past the inference to the dutiful nature of his activity. “Your dad gave me the assignment. Then he put the magazine aside, commenting, “Ah, the consolations of ‘mere ink.’”
“Oh, this is such a joke!” she exclaimed.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Yeah, right. Who are you kidding, Dan? You could care less about how to say no to sex.”
“You still think that, after I’ve taken lessons for two whole weeks?”
“What else? The truth is, you're only here because you're like all the rest of the guys. You only want –“
“Oh, you mean Texaco?”
She gritted her teeth. “Tyrannosaurus Rex.”
“Melanie, it can’t hurt just to say it. I think you mean sex?”
“You would come right out with it. Of course, that's what I mean.”
“Sorry, babes. Your dad said you're gonna give me a lesson?”
“You should be so lucky.”
“Melanie, you know you always listen to what he says. So let’s get going.”
“This is so ridiculous!” she lamented. Then she relented. “All right, as long as you stay right where you are.”
“On the couch?”
“Are you going to sit beside me?”
“No way. Don’t you even remember that much?” she asked, and quoted, “‘Closeness must be avoided.’”
“You’re right. That axiom just slipped my mind for a moment.”
“Well, then, don’t let it happen again, all right?”
“You have my word.”
“OK, are you ready?”
“Ready,” he said, and shifted his body a bit.
“I’m telling you, Dan, you stand up just once, and the lesson ends. Got it?”
“All right. First, I need to see how far you’ve progressed. So we’ll review the materials. Let's start with axiom one,” she said, and could not help asking, “Do you even know that much?”
“Sure, I do,” he replied, and recited, “’Sex leads to pregnancy. Pregnancy leads to overpopulation. Therefore, sex must be avoided.’ Well, what do you think?”
“As if you believe it. What's axiom two?”
"Hey, no problem, Mel. ‘Sex can lead to STDs. STDs can lead to death. Therefore, sex must be avoided."
“And how much sex have you avoided lately?”
“As much as possible.”
“What does that mean? I want a number. How about during the last week? Come on, how many girls have you made love with in the last seven days?”
“If you want to know the truth, I haven't touched a woman since I started to study with your dad,” he said as convincingly as he could manage. “What's wrong, don't you believe me?”
“What’s the wild rumor going around campus about you and two oversexed cheerleaders?”
“I don’t know how that got started.”
“Is it true or not?”
“Of course, it’s not true. Do you think I would do something like that, especially with what I’ve learned in the last week?”
“I asked my dad if you told him about them.”
“You did? What did he say?”
“He said, ’Don’t be ridiculous.’ But I’m not sure what he meant. Sometimes, he has a hard time talking about certain things.” Then she cast a skeptical eye on him. “You must think my dad’s a real jerk.”
“How can you possibly say that, after I’ve come here day after day to learn his method.”
“And what do you think of me?”
“I think you’re wonderful. A little reserved, but a wonderful woman.”
“’A little reserved?’” she replied. “I know exactly what that really means. It’s code for what all the guys think: Melanie’s a jerk because she won’t do what other people like to do and do and do. Well, screw it. I don’t care. How’s that?”
“Whatever you say, Melanie. You know as well as I do that you’re sort of the official campus virgin. And guess what. I think it's great that you're like that.”
“Oh, sure, you do. Well, it’s not as easy as you think.”
“No – with guys like you always hitting on me,” she said, and then softened her tone a bit. “After all, I’m only human.” Then, regretting her brief lapse into sentiment, she renewed her resolve. “Which makes me even prouder of my reluctance.”
“Reluctance? Does that mean you may actually be willing at some point?”
“That’s none of your business. What matters is that I don’t feel like a jerk at all. I feel proud of who I am. And, if you believe a single thing my father has taught you, you'd know why.”
“I think I do, but tell me in your own words.”
“Sure,” she said, and then went on as if reciting from her father’s teachings. “I’m proud because I know I am the natural remedy for overpopulation and the resultant ecological depredation, the heartbreak of abortion, the scourge of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as a moderating influence on the human race's historic obsession with, with–“
“– Come on, Mel, you can do it. What do you think of when I say Mexico, Texaco, and Tyrannosaurus Rex?”
She continued to be trammeled with guilt, so he enumerated the letters of the word. “S-E-X. What does that spell?”
“Sex,” she managed to utter.
“Very good,” he told her. “Let’s go on. Now, why do people like sex?”
“Because they’re terribly misguided.”
“No, because it gives them pleasure.”
“Pl-, pl-, pleasure!”
“Excellent, Melanie! I see there’s hope.”
“That’s enough,” she said. “I have to leave.”
“But you’re supposed to give me a lesson,” he reminded her.
“Then behave yourself, OK? I’m who I am, and I will always be this way. Got it?”
“Yep. And I admire you for what you are.”
“You are such a liar.”
“You're wrong. In fact, my intention is to be as great an example of your dad's method as you are.”
“I’ll believe it when I see it.”
“How about this?” he told her. “I've been telling the rest of the guys on the football team about what I’m learning, and pretty soon the whole team is going to study with your dad.”
She sat down beside him. “You’re kidding?”
“No, I’m not. You just don’t know how devoted I am to this new way of thinking about sex. Imagine how much publicity that will create for your dad’s method. I can see the headline in the school paper now.” He held forth his hands to illustrate the magnitude of the type. “Entire Football Team Swears Off Sex.”
“I can't imagine something that would be more helpful,” she said, and then modified her frequent childlike tone so that now it intimated a vastly different need. “Do you find me attractive?”
“You?” he said, a bit flustered by what appeared to be her sudden availability. He decided the best thing he could do was to restrain himself. “Well, Melanie, to tell you the truth, I used to find you very attractive – so attractive I had dreams about you. But not anymore.”
She moved a bit closer to him. “You had dreams about me?”
“You have no idea. I couldn’t help myself. Later in the course, will I learn how to avoid wet dreams?”
“They were that hot?”
“Yeah. What can I say, I’m a normal guy.”
“That depends on what you call normal. All the girls think you’re a real hunk.”
“What do you think?”
She backed away from the emotional precipice that she sensed she might have approached. “I think you’re very handsome.”
“Un-huh. But then all the girls do.”
“Oh, come on.”
“It’s true,” she said, “and you know it.” Then she managed to relocate her legendary resistance. “But I know all too well what handsome men can lead to."
“Hey, I know that axiom, too. It leads to ‘feminine arousal.’” Then he dared to venture a parallel. “And what do beautiful women lead to?”
Melanie swallowed hard. “’Masculine arousal.’”
“Yeah,” he almost panted, and turned to her. “I confess, Melanie. I'm still attracted to you.”
“I knew it!”
“Does that upset you?”
“No,” she replied, “but it does remind me that I must be especially careful when you’re around.”
“Ditto, when I’m around you.”
“I think you should leave,” she said, and stood up.
“No, please, Melanie. I know a better answer.”
“What? That you never come back?”
“Don’t even say such a thing. I mean, I just need more education.”
“Oh, sure, as if that will make a difference.”
“It will, I promise. Come on, Melanie. Teach me. I'm all yours.”
“What’s the point?”
“I can learn. I’ll prove it. Let’s try something really advanced.”
“What do you mean?” she asked, and sat down again.
“Try to get me excited.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Just so I can prove you can’t do it. Come on, I promise you, my resistance is up.”
“Skip it. I'm here to learn,” he said, and held up the copy of Playboy. “Take me beyond mere ink to the real thing.”
“You’re getting carried away.”
“Then give me the next rule. I yearn for advanced study.”
He looked directly into her eyes, and it must be said that at that moment the entire edifice of the Coburn method seemed to teeter.
“The next rule?” she replied, breathing the words back at him.
“Please, I yearn to learn! Give it to me.”
“What about sixty-nine?”
"There is none. We skip from sixty-eight to seventy.”
“Why, tell me why?”
“The unfortunate associations that that number evokes.”
“OK, I’ll take seventy. Quick! I need all the axioms I can get.”
"Yes, Dan,” she whispered. “’Kissing leads to arousal.’”
“More, tell me more! I need it when I’m near you.”
“Need it badly. Need it so much I want to earn a graduate degree in your father’s method. A Ph. D.!”
“You do?” she breathed warmly. “How badly do you want to earn it?”
“So badly that – “
At that moment, he lost whatever cool he had managed to retain, threw his arms around her, and gave her an enormous kiss.
Melanie allowed herself the luxury of enjoying it for a few moments, but then her extensive tutelage asserted itself.
“We should stop,” she said. “We’re losing it.”
“No, no, don’t say that. We’re gaining each other.”
“Please, Dan. Control yourself,” she told him.
He sensed her need to take a breather and let her push him away.
“Sorry, Mel. But you can't give me a test like that this early. I'm still a sexual undergraduate. And I'm wild for you.”
“Maybe I’ll never get past it. When it comes to you, I could fail the entire course.”
She stood up and recomposed herself.
“You better leave.”
“You mean that?”
“Please,” she said, with a trace of desperate need.
“I’ll tell you what. If you only give me a little more time, I know I can learn not to be attracted to you. I want to learn. And, if you give up on me, think how much sex I’ll be in danger of having. I’m helpless without you.”
“I’ll tell you what. If you promise to control yourself, I’ll give you one more chance.”
“Good. I’m ready.”
“Now, you really have to concentrate on everything I say. No more fooling around.”
“You have my word.”
“I think we should review axiom twenty-nine.”
“Is that the one about sitting close together?”
“Yes. ‘Sitting close together leads to touching. Touching leads…’”
At this point, he joined in and the finished the axiom with her: “’… to kissing. Therefore, sitting close together must be avoided.’”
“That was very good,” she said.
Just then, Dr. Coburn returned. He tapped on the den door, and called, “Class in progress?”
“Yes, Daddy,” Melanie replied.
“Keep up the good work,” he told her. “I want to review the material I picked up at the bookstore.”
“OK,” she said, and continued to drill Dan on the axioms, while he did his best to be a devoted student.
As the days passed, the trouble with conducting the pretense became increasingly evident to Dan. Since he had to avoid making overt attempts to overcome Melanie’s resistance, he was coming dangerously close to losing his bet.
“No, Eddie, not yet!” he said into his cell phone, as he waited for Dr. Coburn to begin another lesson. “I didn’t lose. I just haven’t made my move yet …. Yeah, I’ll let you know …. See ya.”
He got up and walked around the den. He saw the big photograph of Melanie that Dr. Coburn kept on his desk and picked it up. He looked at it just as Dr. Coburn entered, accompanied by Dr. Ernst.
“Nice photo of Melanie, isn’t it?” Dr. Coburn asked.
“Yeah,” Dan said.
“Took it myself,” he replied, and referred to his companion.
“You remember Dr. Ernst?”
“Hi, there,” he said.
“Hello, Mr. Fox. Dr. Coburn tells me you've become an excellent student of his method?”
“Right. I like a lot of things about it.”
“I see,” she said. “It’s all a conundrum to me.”
“The proof is in the progress,” Dr. Coburn advised her. Then he turned to Dan and asked, “Do you mind if Dr. Ernst observes one of our sessions?”
“I want her to see for herself how much you’ve learned.”
“Take your usual place,” he said, and suggested that Dr. Ernst have a seat. Then he launched into the lesson. “Let’s start from the beginning.”
“Fire away,” Dan told him.
“OK, here goes. Now, what do you think of when I say the word ‘sex?’"
“What else? Mexico.”
“And if that fails?”
“And last but not least?”
Dr. Coburn turned to Dr. Ernst. “What do you think?”
“Remarkable,” she replied.
“You see the power of my method before you. Now, observe this! Dan, quickly, give me Coburn's ninety-second axiom of abstinence.”
Without hesitation, he recited, “’Nudity leads to reckless endangerment. Reckless endangerment leads to copulation. Therefore, nudity must be avoided.’”
“Right you are, Danny boy!” Dr. Coburn exclaimed, and turned to Dr. Ernst, “And in less than three weeks. What do you think?”
“I think I’d like to ask Mr. Fox a question.”
“Go right ahead.”
“Without his feeling inhibited by your distinguished presence, if that’s possible?” she requested.
“Of course. I shall step out until recalled.”
“Remember your training, even in my absence,” Dr. Coburn advised him.
“Will you please leave us alone for a moment?” she asked again.
“I was just going, Priscilla.”
He winked at Dan and then made for the door.
When he had closed it behind him, Dr. Ernst turned to Dan.
“Mr. Fox, I want you to be candid with me. There’s more at stake than you know? And what I mean by that is, the more his malarkey catches on, the more it could add to the chorus of conservative sentiment that hopes to curtail authentic sex education and safe sex.”
“Yes, Dr. Ernst.”
“So what do you really think of all this nonsense?”
“I think it has a place, I mean, for the people it helps out.”
“It works for me.”
“Really? Then may I ask, when was the last time you had sex?”
“About two weeks ago.”
“But you’ve been studying here for almost three weeks.”
“I lapsed once, I mean, before Dr. Coburn created a new axiom to get me through twice as much temptation as I could stand.”
“Twice as much?”
“Two girls, hitting on me at the same time.”
“Oh. Well, I suppose such an invitation would be somewhere in the mix of your legendary sexual prowess. But let me ask you. You haven’t succumbed since then?”
“And you're convinced his method can preserve you from sexual delight even after you’re on your own?”
“I know it’ll be tough. But not after I complete the course.”
“You don’t mind if I remain a bit skeptical, do you?” Dr. Ernst asked.
“Hey, I can hardly blame you. I mean, who can know anything for certain? But can’t you say the same thing for the results you get with the things you probably stand for? I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I just didn’t have time to stop and put on a condom.”
“Nevertheless, if you always did moderate your sexual exigencies for a moment, you could take the one step that would very nearly always let you enjoy safe sex. It is teaching you the importance of that precaution that I will continue to advocate, despite your miraculous response to his verbal hokum.”
“I understand,” Dan said, “I mean, whoever heard of an argument that only had one side?”
“All truth is one, Mr. Fox. When it is evident, everyone should champion it,” she advised him, and then called toward the door. “You can come back in, Dickey.”
Dr. Coburn reentered promptly, apparently having lurked within inches of the door. He was so eager to hear her evaluation of Dan’s progress that he even forwent giving her the usual reprimand he reserved for the particular form of his first name that she had just accosted him with.
“Well, what do you think?” he asked Dr. Ernst.
“He seems to have become at least a quasi adherent.”
“You still suspect his genuineness?”
“And ever will,” she confirmed.
“Don’t be too sure of that, Priscilla. I expect, in fact, that in time you’ll be telling the medical school that my method is cause for celebration. But first he must complete his studies.”
“I expect he will continue his specious tutelage. Let me know when he graduates.” Then she turned to Dan. “Good luck with your education.”
“Thanks,” he replied.
“Let me walk you to the door,” Dr. Coburn suggested.
“Oh, don’t let me take away from his class time. I can let myself out.”
“As you wish,” he agreed.
She gave Dan one last skeptical glance and made her exit. As she was crossing the living room, Melanie was coming down the stairs.
“Hi, Dr. Ernst,” Melanie said.
“Tell me, Melanie, what do you think of Dan's progress?”
“I’m honestly not sure.”
“At first I thought he was a total liar and just wished he’d go away. But now I’m not 100% sure.”
“You haven’t by any chance grown fond of him?”
“Well, it’s not for nothing that half the girls on campus would die to be with him. I suppose he is, in his simple-minded way, unusually attractive.”
“So they say,” Melanie replied.
“But he’s not your type?”
“I’ve been trained not to think that way.”
“And your training is holding up?”
Dr. Ernst smiled.
“You said that a bit tentatively.”
“Yes.” Then she looked at Melanie in a confidential manner. “May nature take its course.”
“I’m not allowed to let that happen.”
“That’s right. But you are, after all, only human. And therein, my dear, I find cause for hope, despite your ludicrous indoctrination.”
“It’s not ludicrous.”
“We shall see, shan’t we?” Dr. Ernst said, and departed.
He looked at him critically. “Now, I realize that you know more than most of my students about the snares of evening – evening, when the human race seems to be most susceptible to lust, generally disguised as moonlight and romance, love, as the euphemism goes.”
“I kind of remember.”
“I’m sure. But now, thanks to your diligent studies, you’re armed against its manifold inducements to dereliction. That is why I do not hesitate to send you into battle, so you may wrest from it your greatest triumph – a triumph that will bring you far more distinction than all of your achievements in football. The clinical presents an absolutely stellar opportunity for you and Melanie to realize the potential of the blessed restraints I have provided you and to make us all magnificently proud.”
“I appreciate your confidence in me,” Dan told him, and dared to ask, “Are we going out on a date?”
“You can if you wish. But I suggest you enjoy a perfectly unromantic evening right here.”
“If you like. You see, Dr. Ernst has been kind enough to invite me out to dinner. I’ll be leaving any moment – I should add, without any concern whatsoever about your mutual capacity for sexual abstinence. Tell me, is my confidence in you justified?”
“Yes, sir. I can handle it.”
“Of course, you can,” he said, and stuck out his hand. “Here’s to an uneventful night.”
“Thank you for all you’ve taught me. I’m ready.”
The doorbell rang.
“Ah, that must be Dr. Ernst now. Be right back.”
He went to open the door, and Dan did his best to restrain his delight.
Soon, he reentered the den, accompanied by Dr. Ernst.
“Good evening, Dan,” she said, noticing his diploma.
“Hi, Dr. Ernst,” he replied.
“I see you graduated,” she commented mockingly.
“A well-earned achievement,” Dr. Coburn informed her. “He has, in fact, come so far that I’ve decided to let him spend the evening with Melanie.”
“You did mention that when we talked,” she acknowledged. Then she changed her tone. “Now, you’ve your month to train the young man. Let me help the evening along.”
“In what way?” Richard wanted to know.
“Well, first of all, I must ask, where is your vaunted ecological conscience?”
“What do you mean, Priscilla?”
“Do you always leave this much light on – when you know very well how much unnecessary pollution is created by excess electrical generation?”
Having made her point, she went to the dimmer switch near the door and dialed it down. Then she turned her attention to Dan and gestured into the newly mellow ambience. “Now, tell me, Mr. Fox, what does the soft light of evening bring to mind?”
He and Dr. Coburn exchanged confused glances.
She walked toward the stereo on the bookcase, saying, “Of course, accompanied by some rapturous music.” She selected a CD, inserted it, and turned it on. Soft music altered the mood of the room to a treacherous degree, and she asked Dan, “Feeling any latent stirrings?”
He yawned, and replied, “I think I’m getting sleepy.”
“Ha! Spoken like a true Coburnian!” Richard couldn’t resist effusing.
“He can’t possibly be that far gone,” Dr. Ernst retorted.
“You mean to say, that far advanced,” Dr. Coburn admonished her. Then he turned to Dan. “I’m sure you and Melanie will have a wonderfully redemptive evening.”
“Thanks,” Dan said.
“But it is a little stuffy in here,” Dr. Coburn observed. “Let me just open the window a tad before we leave. The fresh air will do you good.”
“Thanks” he replied. “Maybe that’s why I’m a little drowsy.”
“Let’s hope so,” Dr. Ernst interposed. “I would hate to think the flames of yesterday have been completely snuffed out.”
Dr. Coburn went to the window and slid it up a little. “Oh, good. There’s a bit of a summer breeze.” He walked back and put forth his arm. “Shall we, Priscilla?”
“Gladly,” she replied, and placed her arm around his.
“Have a nice dinner,” Dan told them, “and don’t worry about anything.”
“Thank you,” Dr. Coburn replied. “I'll let Melanie know we're leaving.”
They departed the den.
When they were walking across the living room, Dan heard him call, “Mel, dear, Dr. Ernst and I are leaving. Don't make Dan wait too long for his evening class.”
“I won’t, Daddy,” she called back.
Dan listened for the front door to close. When it did, he realized he was alone with Melanie. He considered his demeanor for a moment and opted to open his autographed copy of Dr. Coburn’s book and present the appearance of exceptional studiousness.
He heard Melanie coming down the steps, and soon she appeared at the doorway. He pretended that he did not sense her presence.
She cleared her throat. He turned to look and was astonished at what he saw – not the usual plan-Jane Melanie but a voluptuous young woman in a revealing black evening dress, made up to personify a seductress to the extent she could manage the transformation.
“Hi, there,” she breathed.
He felt desire move within him and out toward her, but he restrained himself, and said as calmly as he could, “Hi, Mel.”
“Ready for your clinical?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he said, and put down her father’s book on the coffee table.
She walked over to him, and his eyes could not help but follow her fluid desirability.
Meanwhile, Dr. Coburn and Dr. Ernst stealthily
took up their presence outside the open window. Their intention was to observe Dan’s evening class and, as agreed, decide the fate of Dr. Coburn’s method according to the outcome.
Melanie came to a stop disturbingly close to
Dan’s adoring eyes, and asked “What do you think?”
“Tyrannosaurus Rex,” he said, and with a lump in his throat, added, “What’s going on?”
“What’s a postgraduate clinical without a little temptation?” she replied in her best assumption of sultriness.
“Looks like advanced study to me,” he told her. “Good thing your dad taught me to see a beautiful woman as mere transient protoplasm.” Then he reconsidered his estimation of her. “Great-looking protoplasm, though.”
“Thank you. It’s the first time I made myself up since my mother left.”
“I feel honored,” he said. “I’ve never seen you look so ‘Texaco.’”
“I wanted you to see me this way.”
“Just to give me a hard time?”
“Naughty boy. What kind of time?”
“Sorry about that. A tough time.”
“Excellent replacement!” she said, and sat down beside him. “I want to look ravishing for you.”
“Really?” he replied, with his voice unavoidably rising an octave.
“Un-huh,” she intoned, and glanced at the coffee table. “Reading Daddy's book again?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I need all the knowledge I can get.”
“We all do,” she exhaled, and put her hand on his leg. “I think I like you.”
“Really?” he replied, and reached for his resources. “What about Coburn's sixty-third axiom? ’Touching leads to –‘“
She silenced him by kissing his lips delectably, and completed the premise of the axiom for him.
“’ – arousal.’”
“This is really advanced stuff,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m ready for it.”
“It’s not advanced,” she said.
“It isn’t?” he struggled to say.
“No, it’s for real.”
“I'm not in the mood for a postgraduate clinical,” she whispered, and twirled a lock of his hair.
“Well,” he queried, “if it's not a clinical, what is it?”
“Just me, myself, and I.”
“Oh,” he said. “You’re making living by the book a real challenge.”
“Yeah. I mean, part of me says, ‘Watch out!’ And the other part says, ‘Wow, this is hot!’"
“Which part are you going to listen to?” she asked, squeezing his leg.
“Mexico! The whole enchilada!"
“Very good,” she said, and gave one of his earlobes a tender bite.
“Texaco! High octane!"
“Silly boy. Do you really think you can resist me?”
“I’m throwing everything I have at it.”
“You're the first man who ever took my dad's training so seriously.”
“The very first.”
“You mean, all the others – “
“– only wanted one thing.”
“No, big boy. Sex, ” she uttered, and stroked his cheek with the back of her hand. “But you're different, aren't you?”
“You bet,” he avowed, and then sought to understand the truth of his plight. “Can I ask you something?”
“Go right ahead.”
“Are you really being yourself or are you just trying to break me down? I’d like to know.”
“Would it change how you behave?”
“I’m just being human.”
“Not just my downfall?”
“No, not tonight,” she whispered, and opened the top button of his shirt. “I think we deserve a night off, don’t you?”
“Wow,” he said, “this is getting hotter than a jalapeno pepper.”
“That’s because I adore you, Dan.”
“Yes. So much I want you to be the first man I have sex with.”
“You have no idea,” she said, and leaned over to kiss his bare chest.
“I didn’t know you could be this hot,” he commented.
“I don’t usually show my true emotions,” she said, and moved her hand higher up his thigh. “I want to be naked with you.”
“And make wild and crazy love with you.”
“Melanie, I’m not sure your father prepared me for this.”
“That makes two of us,” she told him, and reached for his now quite erect “love maker.”
“OK, Melanie,” he said, “that’s it. Cool it or I flunk my practical.”
“I want you to flunk.”
“What about your virginity?”
“I’m only human, after all.”
“Well, what about your dad? If he found out you had sex, it would kill him.”
“Are you going to tell him?”
“Why would I do that?” she replied, and cooed in his ear, “Please, make love to me.”
“I’m so crazy about you.”
“I can’t,” he managed to affirm, and tried to remove her hand, but she was determined to keep it where it was.
“Why not?” she wanted to know. “I think I might even love you.”
“Come on, you’re kidding?”
She sat back and looked at him with, what he decided was, totally disarming innocence. “No, Dan. I really have this deep, tender feeling that says I always want to be near you and, yes, make love with you.”
“OK, I’ve heard enough,” he said, “you’re breaking my heart.”
“Because I’m a rotten liar, that’s why,” he finally had to confess.
“I mean, I like you too much to go on.”
“You like me?”
“Yeah, a lot,” he said, and exhaled big time. “Boy, did I mess up.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You really want to know?”
He swallowed hard and bolstered his constitution. “I came here on a bet.”
“What do you mean?” she asked, and stood up.
“That I could make it with you.”
“Well, I always knew that’s what you were thinking, but I didn’t know you made a bet about it. That’s really low.”
“I know. But at the time I didn’t really know you. I just thought you were a ditz.”
“Well, you know, kind of weird. And I wanted to prove you’re human like the rest of us.”
“It was just an ego thing. I feel terrible about it.”
“Yeah,” he confided, “it wasn’t supposed to work out this way.”
“I just decided to lose the bet.”
“Yeah, I mean, here you are, this sweet, beautiful, intelligent girl, really devoted to your father and his whacky ideas, and all I can do is think what an ego trip it would be to make out with you.”
“Now I know I was way off base.”
“Yeah. I like you too much as a person now.”
“Oh,” she said.
“I even like your crazy dad.” He looked at her apologetically. “I mean, I can’t even imagine having sex with you now.”
“Are you kidding – with the way I like to make a girl come her guts out?”
“’Come her –’” she attempted to repeat but could not bring herself to complete the thought.
“– guts out,” he repeated, to help her along. “It’s a male thing.”
“You don’t just jump on her bones?”
“No. I pride myself on being a really thoughtful lover. I want both of us to have a great time.”
“It’s a point of pride with me. Don’t get me wrong. I can come five times a night, but when it’s over, I want us both to be lying there, completely satisfied. Wow, to me that’s really physical bliss. It makes me feel even better than scoring a touchdown.”
“Yeah. I live for it. But now I can’t even think of you, lying in my arms, naked and exhausted. I can only think of you as a person.” He looked at her pleadingly. “Can we still be friends?”
“That depends on how you feel when I make my confession.”
He sat back. “What confession?”
“The way I’m made up.”
“And the way I’m dressed?”
“And all those things I just said and did with you?”
“I was just trying to break you down.”
“Yeah. To prove who you really are. I didn’t feel anything else.”
“Not really. I was too upset.”
“Because I was convinced that you were here just to do the thing people like to do and do and do.”
“Wow, good thing I didn’t give in.”
“I wish you had.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet,” he said sarcastically.
“Because then I wouldn’t feel the way I do about you.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“I like that you decided to lose the bet.”
“You should. It cost me fifty bucks.”
“Just for me?”
She sat back down beside him, and said, “That’s so sweet.”
“Yeah, for Eddie. He gets the big bucks.”
“But you get something, too.”
She put her hand back on his leg. “Me.”
“What do you mean, babes?”
“I mean, now I think you’re wonderful.”
“Yeah. And I think I like you.”
“A lot. How do you feel about that?”
“What do you think?” he said, and rubbed her hair tenderly. “But I still just want to be your friend.”
“Just my friend?” she asked, with disappointment.
“Got a problem with that?”
“It’s just that no man ever said that to me before and meant it.”
“Maybe even your long-time friend.”
“You like me enough for that?”
“Yeah,” he admitted. “You OK with that?”
“I guess. I was just hoping – “
“ – What?”
“That we could be even more than that.”
“Yeah. Like boyfriend and girlfriend.”
“You want to go with me,” he asked, “after what I did?”
“No, silly, because of what you didn’t do.”
“Oh,” he said.
“But what if one day I can’t resist and kiss you? Will you still like me?”
“I think so,” she replied, and moved closer to him.
“And if I hold you in my arms and tell you I love you, will we still be friends then?”
“More than friends,” she breathed.
“Much more,” she said, and kissed him. Then she exclaimed, “Oh, I can’t believe how I feel about you!”
“Not at all. For the first time in my entire life, I feel attraction!”
“Yes,” she said and kissed him tenderly. “Which has already led to arousal.”
“But, Melanie, you know what arousal can lead to?”
“Sex!” she said straight out, and threw her arms around him.
“Sweetheart, you’re getting carried away. Think of Mexico and Texaco.”
“Forget Mexico and Texaco! I’m wild for you,” she went on, and gave him the most passionate kiss he could have hoped for. “I may even love you.”
“Want you, need you – the entire forbidden language. Make love to me. I need you to make love to me.”
“Whoa,” he cautioned her, “hold it.”
“Yes, yes,” she said, and did.
“I didn’t mean that, Melanie," he commented, looking at her hand. "All my defenses are crumbling!”
“Mine, too,” she said. “I never felt this way about anyone. I want you to be the first man to make love to me.”
“I'm sick of being the campus virgin. I've been having my period since I was eleven, and tonight, ten years later, I want to do what my body says I’m ready to do and do and so!”
“I can’t Melanie.”
“Because I know tomorrow you'd regret it.”
“I wouldn't ever. Honest, Dan. I want you to be the first. My whole body is alive with desire for you!”
“Hey, Melanie, cool it!” he said, and fended her off as convincingly as he could.
“Come on, please, we can do it in my bed.”
“This is too much. I've got to go. You can't let your dad down like this. He loves you too much. And I don't want to let him down, either.”
“Oh, come on. Will you stop it? Think of it! After all my years of running away from guys, I want to be with you. I want you to make me a complete woman.”
“Wowser, Bowser,” he said rather childishly. “Talk about a tough practical exam. I’ve got to go, Mel.”
She held out her hand. “No, take my hand. Let’s go to my bedroom.”
“Not tonight, Mel. Maybe after we’re friends for a long time.”
“Please. I've waited all my life.”
“I can't take the responsibility.”
“What responsibility? I just want sex.”
“Don’t say that,” he told her, and earnestly continued, “I mean, what hope is there for your dad’s principles if even you relent? Down comes everything he stands for. And everything you’ve lived for. I can’t be responsible for that.”
“Forget it, Mel!” he insisted. “I’m sorry. I gotta get out of here.”
He headed for the door, and she went after him.
“Stay! Please, stay! I’m so crazy about you! I love you! I want to have sex with you. I want to come my guts out!”
“No way,” he said, as he continued across the living room. “I’m out of here.”
He drew open the door and, to his surprise, he was confronted with Dr. Coburn and Dr. Ernst.
“Bravo! Bravo!” Dr. Coburn exclaimed, and quoted a brief selection to Dr. Ernst from Dan’s last words. “’Forget it, Mel!’ Did you hear that, Prissy?” Then he gave a hearty laugh, and announced, “I won! Admit it – I won the bet!”
The mention of the word “bet” had an unexpected effect on Dan and even seemed to stun Melanie.
“I don’t get it,” Dan said. “What bet?”
Dr. Coburn stepped into the living room and motioned for Dr. Ernst to follow him.
As he closed the door, he continued to boast manfully, “The most telling bet in the history of sex education. Why, Dan, you’ve proved my method to Dr. Ernst – proved it in the heat of sexual combat and beyond even her capacity to doubt it! Why, if I had tonight’s scene between you and Melanie on videotape, I could change the world!”
“I thought you were going out to dinner, Daddy,” Mel said. “Were you spying on us?”
“Only for the greater good of the method, Mel.”
“What do you mean?” she wanted to know.
“I was just proving to doubting Priscilla the indubitable effectiveness of my method – to rescue it from the damaging criticism I continually receive from the medical school.” Then he turned to Dr. Ernst. “What do you say now, Prissy? Did I win or didn’t I?”
“I – I’m at a loss,” she admitted.
“Well, I’m not,” Dr. Coburn went on. “I’ll tell you what I feel. Vindicated! Thanks to you, Dan, and the way you distinguished yourself tonight! You did it, son! Won the greatest bet of my life for me!”
“Really?” Dan asked, with the wind still knocked out of him.
“Yes – and what perfect justice!” Dr. Coburn exuded. “Dr. Ernst simply could not believe that my method could work on a healthy hunk of manhood like you. So I wagered her that I could teach you to resist every wile and temptation of even a girl as potentially captivating as Mel. And, if I succeeded, Dr. Ernst agreed that she would recognize my method and stop the medical school from impeding my progress!”
Dan turned to Melanie. “You knew all about this, right?”
“No, Dan, not a thing. I promise,” she replied.
“What does it matter, Dan?” Dr. Coburn continued. “Don’t you see? Now, I have free rein on campus. At last, I can bring my method to as many of the world’s foolish procreators as I can. And all because of you, Danny boy – with, of course, a great debt of gratitude to Melanie for her, at times too convincing, performance.”
Dan looked at Melanie. “Was it all just a performance?”
She shook her head no, but was too mortified to give voice to her denial.
“And what a performance it was!” Dr. Coburn went on, clasping her shoulder. “Brilliant job, Melanie. Why, at more than one point, you almost had me rushing in to rescue you from what actually appeared to be the collapse of your prodigious defenses.”
“Wow,” Dan reflected, “am I a dork or what? You and your daughter were using me to win a bet! A lousy bet! Let me out of here. My student days here are over.”
“What do you mean, son?” Dr. Coburn wanted to know.
“I mean, you can take your cockamamie method and shove it.”
“Oh, how I do detest that word,” Dr. Coburn wailed, and then recouped. “Now see here, Dan, there’s no need whatever to be upset. Look at the big picture. What I did – “
“– was bullshit! Like your entire so-called method,” Dan actually shouted.
“Bravo! Bravo!” Dr. Ernst exclaimed, somewhat imitating Dr. Coburn’s effusiveness when he had employed that exclamation.
“I’ll tell you what your method has convinced me to do,” Dan told Dr. Coburn. “I’m going to call up the hottest woman I know and spend the night with her!”
“Oh, please, don't do that!” Melanie pleaded.
“Sorry, I consider myself a free man,” he told her. Then he slammed the door behind him.
Dr. Coburn sagged his shoulders.
“Daddy,” Mel said, and then braced herself, as if, at long last, to assert her adulthood. “I mean, Father, I love you very much and I would never want to hurt you.
“– What, sweetheart?”
“It wasn't all a performance,” she dared to admit.
Stunned again, Dr. Coburn asked, “It wasn't?
What on earth do you mean?”
“I'm sorry. At a certain point, it really did become me.”
“Yes, me as a normal human being, desiring sex.”
“Mel, stop talking such nonsense immediately!”
“I can’t. I may even love him!”
“Love him? Fiddlesticks, Melanie. After all your training, you know as well as I do that love is a quaint disguise for mere lust.”
“But I felt so alive when I was aroused, as if I was born to have sex with him!”
“Mel, recant at once. I taught you the right way to regard arousal.”
“If you’re right, why does it feel so natural and healthy?”
“My, my, it seems that even your daughter has, at long last, cast off the Coburn Method and awakened to her sexuality,” Dr. Ernst could not help noting, with relief and a trace of glee.
“What I feel is so much more than that. My heart could burst with longing for him. I love Dan.”
“Even better,” Dr. Ernst said.
“Impossible, Mel!” Dr. Coburn objected. “You love a man?”
She was actually stung by his doubt that she had the capacity to experience love.
“Yes, love!” she fired back. “Even if it’s, as you say, only desire, disguised as love, it’s still the most fantastic feeling I've ever had!”
“Melanie, please, think of your lifetime of training – and assert control over these reckless emotions!”
“But I like the way I feel! I’m in harmony with my whole being. And – I know it's terrible to say this – but someday I'd even like to have a baby with him.”
“A baby, Mel?” Dr. Coburn asked, aghast. “You'd heap another baby on this already vastly overburdened planet? Remember rule number one hundred. ‘Babies lead to overpopulation. Overpopulation leads to pollution. Therefore, babies must be avoided.’"
“Even if the baby is your grandchild?” Dr. Ernst asked.
“I hadn’t actually thought of that,” he acknowledged.
“Perhaps, you should,” Priscilla advised him.
“Do you think he’s really going to spend the night with another woman?” she asked Dr. Ernst.
“I think doubting it would require one to underrate his resources very significantly,” she replied.
“That’s it! I'm going after him!” Melanie announced, and ran for the door.
“Mel, come back here!” Dr. Coburn called after her. “Don’t violate my method!”
“I’m sorry, Daddy. I’ve simply outgrown it. And, whether you can believe it or not, I’m as hot as any girl he’ll ever meet.”
“When will you be back?” he demanded.
“Later,” she said, and fled out the door.
He sighed and dropped his shoulders, as if his whole being had just been sorrowfully diminished. “Ah, me, Priscilla, how quick a dream can die! Quick as opening one’s eyes! I see my hopes are dead – dead as a dream one awakes from, a memory left behind and soon dismissed as immaterial – an irrelevance, assumed forgettable.”
“I'm sorry, Richard. But there is still a hope.”
“And what is that, my dear, Prissy?” he said, and slumped onto the couch.
“What you have until now disdained, Richard. The mind empirical, real science, applied to life as we find it, with its pulsing exigencies – education as natural and courageous as the impulses of life itself, disease prevented as best we know how and ever better. A substantial hope from which we may finally make a world where humanity is well-proportioned to its resources and in good health. A world that, I hope, will be, once realized, forever kept that way by people who, knowing the ultimate value of life, demand that our best knowledge be put in its service.” She sat down beside him and allowed her leg to press against his. “Certainly now, you must admit, every other hope is a dangerous illusion.”
“But, Prissy, I built my entire life – “
“ – You did your best, darling. You don't mind if I call you darling, do you?”
“If you must,” he conceded, and put his hand on hers.
He noticed the stirring of long-dormant hormones suddenly enlivening his body.
“You may disagree,” she said, “but it appears to me that, contrary to the tenets of your method, abstinence makes the heart grow fonder.” She pointed to the distance. “Much fonder when love always seems to be just over yonder.”
“You know, Priscilla, this is the first time a woman has been close to me since my wife left me.”
“Yes,” he confirmed, and turned toward her. “And it appears that, much as it goes against my preachments, I must agree with your sentiment.”
He put his arms around her, and she looked into his eyes, as he told her with refreshing tenderness, “Abstinence makes the heart grow much, much fonder!”
He noticed a tear drop from her eyes and realized, as he leaned forward to kiss her, that while he had lost a method, he had gained a wife.
By Tom Attea