(Extended spoof, presented In 10 installments of 4 pages each. This is the first installment; previous installments will also be on this site , in case you miss one.)
“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 offers – “
“ – 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?”