The Newton Enigma.  A novel by Linton Herbert

Chapter 4 a


Tampa, Cave of Ishtar Lounge, Frontage Road, October 21, 7 PM


Jon pulled the dainty car up to the front of the adult entertainment club.  Ivan said, “Before we meet anybody, there’s something I have to tell you.”  He was obviously weighing his words carefully, choosing just what to say.


“Sure, anything, Ivan.”


“Jon, you won’t like this.  But I’m gay.”


“No, I don’t like it much.  But I’m not surprised.  Terra Lane was gay, too.  It never seemed like a problem.”


“It was a problem for him, for Terra.”


“That’s sad.  He was a good fellow.  But I guess he made his choice for whatever reason.  He never pestered me about it.  I never quizzed him.”


“So you think it’s a choice.”


“Sure.  Color me old fashioned if you like.  But what you do is a choice.  Even if somebody has a gun to your head, you still have a choice.  Maybe not a good one.”


Terra Lane didn’t think it was a choice.  He hated it.  Nothing would have please him more than starting a flock of little Montgomery’s.  But he had no stomach for women.  He said it wasn’t a choice.  But you wouldn’t understand.”


“Why not?”


“You’re so straight it’s ridiculous.  I’ll bet girls don’t like you much.  Never did.”


“Why not?”


“You’re so different.  You scare them.  Look, women like men, but women like women, too.  A man who is totally immune to men is a threat.  Women prefer men with a bit of softness to them, a bit more tolerance.  And they want you to love them for themselves, not just because they are women.” 


“Hey.  I’m tolerant.”


“No you’re not.  You’re just intolerant of intolerance.  That’s different.”


“I guess I’ll have to take your word on it.  So Terra Lane thought it wasn’t a choice.  What did you think?”


“I thought it was an insult.”


“An insult to you?”


“Yes.  I mean if he was gay because his genes were screwed up, where did that put me?  He didn’t love me because he chose to.  He was forced into it.  I was like taking advantage of his weakness.  That made me feel like crap and feel like he didn’t care.”


“Now you’re thinking like a woman.  No offence of course.”


“Of course.  For a woman it’s all about me.  Any outside world that doesn’t revolve around me is some sort of mechanical, empty horror.”


“Well, I guess that about sums the world up.  All right them.  You’re gay and I’m not.  If you don’t crimp my style I won’t crimp yours.  It’s no big deal.”


“But it was a big deal for him, Jon.  A very big deal.”


“For me, I mean.  I’m sure it’s important to you.”


“Jon do you ever have dreams about women?”


“Do I ever dream about anything else?”


“I mean real dreams at night.”


“Sure.  Everybody has those.”


“With women, right?  There are women in your dreams, and you want them, maybe even get them.”




“Well I have dreams like that about men.”


“Yuk.  I mean I’m sorry.  I’m just glad I don’t.”


“And I wish I didn’t.  But I do.  I always have.  It’s like wired into me.” 


“All right.  I understand.  But begging your pardon it really is not a problem for me.”


Jon, how many gay friends did you have as a boy?”


“A couple, maybe.”


“Out of how many boys you knew?”


“A couple hundred I guess.” 


“And adults in your town?”


“Well there was this one strange guy with a reputation.”


“And how much time did you spend thinking about gay guys?  Or excluding them because they were gay?”


“None at all.”


“So they weren’t pretending to be straight.  They would have had to learn to pretend, to be forced into it.  And if you weren’t forcing them to pretend to be straight, then nobody else was.”


“Their parents, maybe.”




“Right.  Yes, it would be their peers who would set the standards on things like that.  And we didn’t do it because by and large it wasn’t there to be done.”


“So you reckon there was one percent gay in your generation and maybe one in the whole town for your parents’ generation.”


“Put that way, sure.”


“Do you have any idea how many gay men there are now?”


“Ten percent?”


“At least.  Probably a lot more.”


“Styles sure change.”


“It isn’t a style.  I tell you it’s wired in.”


“So you are reckoning we have our genes all screwed up.”


Terra Lane thought so.  He said there’s a book called Y that says in a hundred years in the Western World the total sperm count will be zero.”




“That’s what he says.  The man’s talking extinction.”


“All right,” said Jon, “Sperm counts go to zero in a hundred years, and a hundred years after that the West has gone extinct.”


“Terra says no, extinct long before that.  He said it’s all the same process.  Falling birth rate, falling sperm count, more gays.  Long before the sperm count is zero the birth rate will be zero.  And you don’t read a lot of stories about people remarking that it had been years since a baby was born, I mean in ancient history; so long before the birth rate is zero the civilization falls.  And it’s notorious that the most capable people have the fewest children, so our civilization will fall long before that.  He was talking fifty or sixty years, Jon.  Fifty or sixty years before Western civilization tanks and the few survivors go extinct with no children.”


“The rest of the world will start to get kind of hungry without the kind of agriculture the West can maintain,” Jon conceded. 


“He said it wouldn’t make any difference in the long run.  The world birth rate is already falling.  They’re only about fifty years behind us anyway.”


“And so he said that the human race is going extinct, and you took it as a personal insult.”


“You don’t know how bad I feel.”


“Well don’t.  Look.  You didn’t do any of this.  Nothing you did or failed to do is going to make us extinct.  Ready to go in now and meet women?”


“This is where Tracy works?”


“There’s the card her grandmother gave us.”


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