Washed by a Wave of Wind
M. Shayne Bell, editor
[p.217]A Mormon once thought of using alcohol for something good. It was at my dad’s wedding to his boyfriend James. The Mormon was me. The something good was Snooze.
By now everyone knows about Snooze. Seems you can’t have a baby today without first picking up a dispenser or two. Revolutionized parents’ lives, I’m happy to say.
I was researching at that time theta endorphins at the University of Utah. I suspected that these endorphins were part of the brain’s sleep mechanism. Professor David Webber of Stanford put me onto the subject. He’d wanted to do the work himself but was too deeply involved in a project of his own on human cycadic rhythms.
Like most scientists about to make a major discovery, I wasn’t aware of anything unusual. My dad’s wedding was the biggest concern in my life that week. I suppose I could have left things to my dad to handle, but I was worried about him. I just wasn’t sure if Dad should marry again so soon after Mom’s passing away. He also had commitments at work. I wanted him to take some time off. Go somewhere.
Not Dad. He said that love strikes when it will and now it had. So I gave him the only thing I could: time by himself so he could think things through before the ceremony. So he could be sure. And I would handle the wedding.
That’s why I hadn’t spent a lot of time at the lab those last few days. I left Robyn Moody, my grad assistant, supervising most of the experimental work. I was certain nothing was going to happen with the sample reactions I put her in charge of. They were part of a baseline study on [p.218]the effects of theta endorphins on pigs. Regular doses. Doses subjected to enough heat to simulate fevers. Doses mixed with common proteins. That sort of thing. No surprises. Robyn could handle it.
In the meantime, I was anxious for the wedding. A spring wedding in Salt Lake City seemed romantic, and I wanted it to be perfect. I had expected to have to handle the decorations myself along with everything else. I hadn’t expected James to do such a wonderful job decorating the McCune Mansion for the ceremony. Turned out he had taste. It wasn’t that I disliked James. It was just his timing. And maybe that there just isn’t anyone good enough for my father. Maybe that’s why I wanted to take charge of things at the wedding. So I could keep busy and get over my jitters.
When Saturday came the mansion was crowded with guests. Someone called it the city’s social event of the year. (Okay, so I was the one who said it.) Even the mayor showed up. The minister finally called the house to order with a “Brothers and Sisters, let us begin.”
Mary Beth, who worked for Dad in the mayor’s office, and the little knot of people with her moved into their seats with a swish of taffeta and lace.
Dad and James moved down the aisle. They had settled on traditional white tuxes. James’s fit better over his husky build than my father’s over his lanky frame. They were both handsome.
No sooner had I gotten comfortable in the wooden seat than I felt the vibration of my purse phone. I eased myself out and found a vestibule.
“Kim? It’s Robyn.”
“Robyn? What are you doing calling me now? You know I’m in the middle of my dad’s wedding.”
“I’m sorry. But I knew you would want me to call. I wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t worried.”
“I came in after lunch and found one of the endorphin experiments running a little hot. I’m not sure who set it, but it’s at eighty-five degrees.”
“Eighty-five? How long has it been that high?”
“About two hours. I had to take care of the specimens, so lunch took a little longer.”
[p.219]“Well, I don’t think we can do anything now. Lowering the temperature won’t help. The compounds must have broken down by now.”
“Sorry. I’m not sure how the thermostat got reset.”
“Don’t worry about it for now. I’ve got to get back. Just keep the rest of the dishes down to forty.”
“Hope your dad’s having a good time.”
I got back in time to hear most of the ceremony. When I heard “You may now kiss … “I looked straight at my dad. He never looked happier. I could see now that he wanted to be married again.
I ducked out to the pavilion where the caterer was setting up. She was putting the finishing touches on the luncheon. I overheard a couple of helpers discussing the punch. One suggested that a bit of alcohol might calm the crowd down and liven things up. I told him that he ought to take his liquor and calm himself down.
Otherwise, I was happy. By then the guests were moving out of the house and onto the lawn. I saw Dad coming my way. I wasn’t sure what to say to him. Should I just be polite and tell him I’m happy for him? Or should I tell him I wished he’d waited?
My dad didn’t reach me. My phone vibrated again. I walked behind the pavilion.
“Robyn again. I’m sorry. But the overheated endorphin solution is unstable.”
“So what? Look, if we have to rerun this test, we’ll rerun the test.”
“I’m sorry. I know I’m just the grad student, but you insisted that we account for every drop of this solution.”
“Okay, then, why don’t you calm it down with a little alcohol?”
“I’ve got to get back to the reception. Bye.”
I don’t know why I said that about the alcohol. I hardly expected Robyn to go through with it, but she did. Chalk it up to faithful grad student instincts. Not only that, she also followed through diligently administering the unstable samples to lab animals.
We soon realized that the solution which produced the most profound effect was the one that overheated. The alcohol acted as a catalyst to alter the theta endorphins’ structure. They now induced a [p.220]mild sleep in the test subjects within a few moments of application. We found few side effects.
The first use of theta endorphins was as an aid to relaxing overactive infants. One whiff and they slept for several hours. I don’t suppose it would surprise you that Snooze proved to be a big seller for moviegoers around the world.
My dad got a divorce three years later. He thanked me for not gloating. He said he was proud of me. So I didn’t have the heart to tell him that if I had followed my instincts I wouldn’t have been at a wedding to come up with the idea for Snooze in the first place. He promised me that if he ever thought of marrying again, he would ask me. I think Dad’s the greatest.