Here's a taste of Legs, from Chapter 5:
Her comment about the professor who received the grant for Japan was a gut punch. He knew that Jill viewed anyone who didn't earn his way through the maze of professional academia as a lightweight. “It's not what you know, it's who you know” infuriated her, and so he'd kept his mouth shut for months, applying for his grants to do overseas research without telling anyone that he had a secret weapon.
He couldn't tell her that his ex, Claudia, worked for a corporation that held critical archives for his research. A few emails and a phone call or two and he'd been able to get her help to do pre-dissertation research, documenting exactly which records he needed. When Seth and Jill had struggled through “grant season,” tweaking statements of purpose and getting letters of recommendation at the last minute--often sprinting to the post office to send a thick application out in overnight mail to barely meet a deadline--he'd stayed silent about his connections. She would view his work as less, his intellect as wanting, if she knew he used an old girlfriend to get ahead.
But there was more. Even his advisor was in awe at Seth's uncanny ability to find the exact records at the right moments as he navigated digital archives and handled research the old-fashioned way. When Seth needed a critical set of government ministry records he had picked up the phone, called the right official and spent an hour on the phone, guiding the young clerk through a maze of card catalogs, paper files and computerized databases to secure the location of a set of mining maps that perfectly illustrated a portion of Seth's project. When his advisor questioned him he had no honest answer. The records were laid out in his head like a mindmap, and as he'd sat down to write proposals and outlines he just knew the next step, as if it were programmed into him.
Deciding to apply for the Fulbright to spend a year in Chile had been a smart career move. He'd been destined to apply for it, just as he'd been inexplicably drawn to the exceptionally tedious topic of saltpeter mining interests. Even fellow social science and humanities grad students found his research interests a snorefest; compared to studying the bat shit fertilizer industry in 1880s Peru or frozen food technology and its impact of the 1940s ice industry, though, Seth's topic was Hollywood material.
He'd also handled the good-natured teasing that came with picking such an odd topic. Saltpeter was a fertilizer and food preservative, and a very popular export that propped up the Chilean economy in the early 1900s. It was also an anti-arousal agent that killed erections in men, the subject of urban legends and myths. G.I. during WWII claimed the U.S. Army laced their food with saltpeter to reduce sexual impulses during basic training and in combat. This was a myth, but most of his professors and fellow grad students knew only the myth and he was the butt of ongoing jokes.
When he'd first met Jill and told her he was studying the sodium nitrate industry in early 20th-century Chile, she got the same glazed-eye look he saw so many times. Miles had leaned in and stage whispered, “That's a soft topic there, Seth. I can't quite get it up for such a boring project,” the other grad students had laughed.
“Am I missing something?” Jill had asked, uncomfortable with being out of the loop.
“Sodium nitrate is a fertilizer and a food preservative commonly found in hot dogs,” Seth had started to explain.
Miles had interrupted him. “It turns hot dogs into cocktail wieners,” he chortled.
“It's known as saltpeter,” Seth had sighed, and Jill bit her lower lip, trying not to laugh, now getting the joke.
“Ah,” she said slowly. “Well, it sounds like an impotent–I mean, important topic.” She'd patted him on the back while the other students howled.
Seth had leaned in and whispered, “You know there's no scientific basis for the connection between saltpeter and impotence.”
Jill had shrugged. “Never let the facts get in the way of besting Miles at a joke.”
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