Dim Sum 2- Haiku
a prequel to my previous story "Dim Sum"
"Gil Grissom, Sara. She'll be your lab assistant. If that's okay, sir?" The department director waited for their guest lecturer to respond, while the young woman standing at his side regarded their guest with undisguised interest.
"That was a haiku," Dr. Grissom noted. At the man's blank stare, he amended, "Yes, that will be fine."
"Well, good. Sara, Dr. Grissom," the director completed the introductions and left, counting syllables on his fingers.
"Do you always make those kind of calculations, Doctor?" The young woman was watching him in bemused appraisal. "Or am I a special case?"
"Actually," confided Grissom as the lecture hall began to fill, "Dean Warren had me so bored that analyzing his speech patterns was a matter of self-preservation. The man has all the charm and joi de vie of a turnip."
Sara laughed, and began helping Grissom unpack the gear for his demonstration: mallet, baseball bat, meat cleaver, ponchos and eye protectors, plus a selection of cantaloupes and watermelons. This was either going to be a complicated practical demonstration of forensic techniques, or a performance by noted prop comic Gallagher.
"Thank you, Miss-" Grissom stopped, a UV lamp in one hand and a stick of zinc-oxide sun block in the other. "I'm sorry, I didn't get your name, Miss?"
"Warren," Sara replied, unpacking the tripod for the UV lamp. "I'm sorry Dad bothered you, Doctor Grissom."
Grissom stood, dumbstruck, regarding the lean young woman with the lopsided smile. "Miss Warren, I have to apologize for my- I'm certain that your, um, your father- it's a great honor to be asked to- "
"Relax," she said, laughing at his obvious discomfiture. "I'm kidding. I'm Sara Sidle, graduate assistant for Doctor Cummings. I actually requested that you come. I read your paper on entomological modalities in determining T-o-D's. It was a barnburner, Doctor Grissom. I guess I'm a bit of a fan."
He blinked owlishly at her for a moment, and then favored her with a broad grin. "Okay, you had me there. That was actually quite devious. And please, call me Gil. If you can't manage that, just call me Grissom, all my friends do. Well, to be honest, both of my friends do."
She took out the remaining samples, while he readied some sort of beetles in a display case with a tiny shred of lettuce and a sadly wilted radish. She noted the UV lamps and goggles and asked him, "Is that lamp going to be on long enough for us to need zinc-oxide?"
"No, but doing the lecture here, plus San Francisco State tomorrow afternoon, I need it for my hands. They'll be right under the lamps when I heat the samples to simulate prolonged UV-A exposure." He finished the setup, and looked briefly over the crowd.
"Miss Sidle, is that man naked?" he asked calmly. He might have been asking the weather or the price of tea. She searched the rapidly filling lecture hall.
"Oh, yeah," she nodded. "That's Naked Guy. You see, Berkley attracts all sorts. One of my undergrads last semester wore nothing but a different color body stocking to each class, always with matching earrings and a really swank Dior handbag. But I figured, as long as his work was in on time…"
He looked at her again, frowning.
"I have no idea if you're teasing me or not, Miss Sidle."
She winked at him.
"Well, Doctor Grissom, ask me to dinner after the lecture, maybe you'll figure me out."
He thought about it. She was attractive in a lean, spare way, with a strong jaw and high cheekbones, an expressive mouth. He shook his head sadly after a moment.
"I'm sorry, Sara," he said, tasting her name, "I'm sorry, but I'm just in town for the one night."
"I know," she told him frankly, "so I don't have time to play coy, even if I could do it worth a damn. Tell you what: let's do this demonstration. I'll be your lovely assistant, and afterwards you let me know if you'd rather spend tonight alone in your hotel room, or out with me getting the most authentic dim sum in Chinatown."
"When you put it like that, it is a tough decision." He pondered for a minute. "Room service or pizza delivery, or dinner with a beautiful woman in a vibrant and fascinating ethnic community. I'll have to think about that."
She had been clearing the podium for his notes, but she stopped at his comment. She looked back at him.
"You really think I'm beautiful?"
"Did I say beautiful?" He scratched his stubbly chin. One of these days he'd just give up on shaving altogether and grow a beard, if only to avoid 5 o'clock shadow. "How unusual. I was thinking 'dinner with an intelligent and charming woman' or go back to my hotel alone. How very unusual indeed."
She indicated the crowded hall. "Well, Grissom, we better get this started. The natives are restless and I don't know about you, but I've suddenly become very interested in finding out what happens after the lecture is over. Haven't you?"
He coughed nervously and placed his notes on the lectern.
"Good evening," he began after turning on the microphone at the podium. "We have a lot to cover tonight, but I think we're going to try to get through it all as quickly as possible. I know you'll have questions, and some of you have dinner plans."
He thought about his life, his relationships and the very complicated process of being who he was, and having the sorts of feelings that he had. Suddenly the thought of being alone in that bland cube of a hotel room was simply too depressing to be borne.
"Have dinner with me," he implored her in an aside, while ostensibly adjusting the microphone stand. "I don't want to be alone, and I like dim sum."
"That, Grissom, was also a haiku," she noted blandly, stepping back to give him the floor.