Have you ever been through a multi-million divorce replete with excoriations, extortions, and aggressive cold shouldering by your children? Nor have I, but James Hock was entering into one, and from his frustration with obtuse lawyers and outdated feminist ideologies that would have him believe women are tender flowers that need extra special care—even if they are self-indulgent adulteresses with a career—an equation was born:

(T+JW1959+KW)HOW = S

Where T is Tiffany, JW1959 is a 1959 Jeep Willy, KW is Kentucky Wilderness, HOW is Hatred Of Wife, and S is Satisfaction.

You can see here that, just as in most divorce cases, the children are not considered. Despite their value as guilt-inducing levers, they are ultimately allotted the same consideration as vacation homes and antique cars.

The author of this equation, James Hock, oncologist extraordinaire, was piloting his antique Jeep through the Kentucky wilderness to the theme song generated by Tiffany’s “Woo Hoos” and the squeaks and complaints of the Jeep as it careened down a barely discernible road. The Jeep’s top and Tiffany’s top were both down and somehow flipping the Jeep and killing both occupants was not a serious consideration because James hadn’t had this much fun since high school.

Tiffany’s current state of undress was an understandable distraction, so it was completely reasonable that James did not see the three-foot wide by one-and-a-half-foot deep rut that crossed the “road” at a 45-degree angle. The Jeep had been lovingly restored, but somehow, the tie rods were not given the same attention.

As the Jeep slammed into the rut, it was clear that something of note had taken place in the undercarriage of the Willy. It wasn’t until after the rut had hijacked the Jeep, steered it into some dense foliage, the Jeep stopped making noise, and the steering wheel spun freely without changing the direction of the wheels that James realized that this was a serious problem. The high school fantasy was playing out completely; they never seemed to end well either.

“What happened?” asked Tiffany.

“…I think one or more of the tie rods snapped,” said James.

“Can you fix that?”

“No; broken tie rods are the sort of thing that have to be replaced.”

“Do you have any of those things?” Tiffany knew this was bad and she knew where this conversation was going to go and she couldn’t have cared less about anyone’s feelings other than her own. She was upset and every woodland creature within earshot was going to know about it.


“Why the fuck not?”

“Tiffany, tie rods are not the sort of things people drive around with. I have a hundred or so Cliff bars, lots of bottled water, some water purifying tablets, hi-tech flashlights, three high-quality weapons with enough ammo to turn the tide at Little Big Horn, and a really good first aid kit. But no tie rods.”

There would have been plenty of day time to drive back to the main road, but walking back to the main road, which was still in the middle of nowhere, meant walking in the dark. James was an oncologist, not Daniel Boone.

“Well, good job, Jimmy! You drive like an idiot and then crash the car into the forest where we’ll be eaten by bears or sodomized by hillbillies. How the fuck are we supposed to get out of here?”

Tiffany reached back behind her seat and retrieved her tank top. Other than changing the color of her torso, the shirt did little to conceal her prodigious and well-cantilevered charms.

James, in order to make it look like he might be up to something useful, hoisted his now only slightly paunched physique out of the Jeep and went to see what he could see. He’d lost 30 pounds of fat since meeting Tiffany a month ago and had been on an equally desperate search for a reliable product to halt the growth of his burgeoning bald spot. Getting around was quite a bit easier than it had been and he hoped Tiffany appreciated his efforts, but his waistline and bald spot were pretty low priorities as far as she was concerned.

James went to retrieve a flashlight from the back. He briefly considered employing the jack, realizing that things were not nearly as bad as they could be, but if the ground under the jack gave way and the Jeep fell on him, that would be a decided turn for the worse. The jack stayed put.

As he was going around to the front of the Jeep, the inevitable “What’re you doing now” was sounded.

“I’m going to check the tie rods.”

“You said they were broken.”

“I said I think they are broken. I’m a doctor, not a clairvoyant.”

The irritating, non-stop, unfocused, profane whining that was pouring forth from Tiffany was every bit the annoyance that James felt as though his family heaped upon him. He was beginning to think his next foray into the world of free-range women should involve someone more mousey than his last six conquests. Or maybe he should have stopped at just one wife and four really close friends. But what fun would that be?

James emerged from the underside of the Jeep a little dirtier and just as dejected as he had been before he started the investigation. He walked to the back of the Jeep while Tiffany fulminated. He found the cooler with the four bottles of sangria. He hadn’t tested Tiffany’s tolerance for alcohol, but was pretty sure that the better part of four bottles would do the trick considering her body mass. He decided that he would use the sangria and hope that it might mute some of the verbal abuse. The occasional “Mmm hmmm,” “Yes, gorgeous,” “Of course I’m listening,” and “You are so right” between modest slugs of sangria kept him engaged enough in the conversation that Tiffany could not accurately accuse him of not listening.

After about a half an hour and a full bottle of sangria later, they both heard a vehicle approach. Since it might have been possible to hear a butterfly fart on this windless day in the Kentucky wilds, it was just about impossible to tell how far off the vehicle was.

“Oh fuck!! It’s the hillbillies. I think I can hear the banjos. Quick, Jimmy, get your guns out.” This was the first relatively cogent thing Tiffany had said in quite some time.

“Relax, everything will be fine.”

When Tiffany turned around, James quietly retrieved his .44 Magnum, making sure the safety was on before attempting to holster it in his pants. He concealed it as best he could by pulling his shirt down over the top of his pants.

As the vehicle drew nearer, Tiffany became an agent for calm. Her nearly hysterical call to arms was reminiscent of Burt Lahr exclaiming, “I do believe in spooks, I do, I do, I do…” on the way to Oz. It reminded James that the worst thing he could probably do was to panic.

A ramshackle 1983 Ford pick-up happily bounced and squeaked its way down the “road” towards our two city slickers. It stopped an unthreatening distance from them as Nicky Chitwood exited from the cab and said, “Broken tie rod, huh?”

“’Fraid so,” said James, trying to sound unthreatening as possible. “Name’s James, that’s Tiffany.”

“Damn Tiff, you got it goin’ on,” said Nicky.

“See Jimmy, he knew what was wrong with the Jeep right away,” said Tiffany.

“Yeah Jimmy, and I’m just some dumb ass bumpkin livin’ out here in the trees; what the hell’s wrong with you? Say, is zat a .44 in yer pants or ya just glad ta see me?”

“…Well, yeah. Just a precaution; ya never know.”

“S’okay, Jimbo. Cletus and I are armed to the teeth. Ya know whut thay say: an armed society is a polite society. Cletus ain’t all that smart, but damn is he strong and he’s a real good shot.”

“Who says an armed society is a polite society?” asked Tiffany. It looked as though someone was holding well-used sweat socks under her nose.

“Robert Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, 1965, or so,” said Nicky.

James raised his eyebrows in surprise.

“Who’s Robert Heinlein?” The look on Tiffany’s face made it look as though limburger cheese had replaced the socks.

“He’s a dead author, Tiff. Stranger in a Strange Land, Starship Troopers, Have Space Suit—Will Travel…” James was interrupted.

“Ya know, that last one’s a nice little book, but it never gets talked about. So Jimbo, lemme guess: ya got money, but I’m thinking politician ain’t yer gig. Lawyer? Nah, not seein’ a lawyer in there. There’s a coldness behind all that faux compassion. Doctor?”

James was beginning to wonder if anyone liked him at this point. “Yeah, doctor. Oncologist.”

“Holy shit! Yer kiddin’ me.”

“I’m funnier than this when I’m kidding,” said James.

“Yeah, well, we’ll see. Jimbopaloolop, I gots a tremendous gift fer ya back at our little town.”

“Back at your town? I thought you’d get us out of here.” Tiffany was genuinely panicked.

“Ma’am, we do have some banjo players, but none of us would touch you or Ned Beatty with a ten-foot pole. Yewl be safe. ‘Sides, yer man got himself a big old gun. Like I said, an armed society is a polite society.”

Nicky knew exactly what Tiffany was going to say and cut her off at the pass. “The nearest town is like 50 miles from here. It’s getting late; to get the Jeep fixed in town, we’d have to tow it there, and the local constabulary ain’t gonna like the way we’d tow it. We could fix it up here, but the place likely to sell the tie rods is closin’ up shop in 43 minutes and ya ain’t getting’ any kinda signal out here for yer dumb ass phones. Ya can stay here with the wolves and bears if ya like, or come back to town with us and stay the evening.”

For Tiffany, this was like the worst trip ever.

“Jim, I’m tellin’ ya, there is something back there that can change the world. Come see our library.”

James Hock did not have breasts, a minimal waistline, or seductive hips as a bargaining tool. He didn’t own a tank top and he’d seen more than his fair share of libraries. He understood the need for Nicky’s help and would not sleight his benefactor. He hoped that Tiffany could keep a lid on things well enough not to piss anyone off.

“I’d love to.”

“You won’t be sorry,” said an unaccented Nicky.

Cletus got to show off his strength by carrying a solid metal brace designed to fit under almost any make of truck frame.

“You must get a fair number of visitors to be so well prepared to tow vehicles,” said James.

“Practically no one. We just have moments where our vehicles need towing.”

“Vehicles?” asked James.

“Plural, yup.”

It took quite some time to get the old Jeep hooked up so that it wouldn’t suffer irreparable harm on the way back to town. The sun was slipping down into the surrounding mountains and all the men had no trouble staying warm as they wrestled with chains, a 200-pound brace, and an assortment of nuts and bolts. It was very obvious Tiffany was getting chilled. There was a palpable feeling of disappointment when she found a jacket.

“That’s it,” said Nicky. “We are ready to roll.”

Tiffany stayed in the Jeep and James went to join her.

“Ya know, that’s anuther 340 lbs or so in that Jeep and I’m about 96 percent sure that the rig can handle this. I’d sure hate to have a four percent intervention occur and leave ya’ll in the weeds…in the dark…with all the creepy crawlies. I think it’s best if you ride in the truck,” said Nick.

Tiffany flounced out of the Jeep and headed for the cab of the truck.

“Whoa now, Miss. You believe in equal rights for women?” asked Nick.


“No surprise there. We believe in equal rights for women and since we are the ones assisting you, I don’t see any good reason for Cletus to be inconvenienced. You, however, are gonna ride in style. You’ll have a beautiful view of the stars, the fresh Kentucky night breeze, a concert by the tree frogs, locusts, crickets, and such and a good bit of cuddlin’ to keep that mostly tiny little body of yours warm.”

Cletus took up a position between Tiffany and the door to the truck. As big as he was in the fading daylight, he seemed even bigger at night. The asymmetrical face could no longer be seen, but the blank spot in the sky created by the six foot four, 280-pound Cletus Jackson was intimidating.

“My seat” was all that needed to be said by Cletus to clear up any confusion regarding seating arrangements. James did all he could to get Tiffany in the back of the truck safely to mitigate the possibility of injury and subsequent complaints.

When they arrived at the town, James was impressed by the fact that Nick and Cletus could even find the place. The only apparent industry seemed to be photosynthesis and the homes and the small buildings were completely hidden by the night. A few people were out and about, but mostly everyone was well on their way to sleep.

“Oh my God, it’s dark here,” said Tiffany.

“Just a word of warning, Tiff. We regard that type of talk as taking the Lord’s name in vain. We just want everyone to get along,” said Nicky.

“…?” Tiffany asked.

James could feel the question being asked, “It’s the…third or fourth of the ten commandments.”

“Not too bad, Jimbalaya; it’s number three. Four is…” Nicky was cueing James up for the answer.

“Ahhhh…keeping the Sabbath holy.”

“Good job. Now all you need is some adherence. Tiffany, you are right; it is darker than the inside of a cow. Cletus, go find Edison and turn all the lights on.”

“All da lights?” asked Cletus.

“Yup, every danged one of ‘um. We needs to put on a show for our esteemed and steamed guests.”

Cletus lumbered off in search of Edison.

“Now, Jimster, I promised you something miraculous and I try my darndest not to lie to people. Let’s make our way to the lieberry so you can get a look at sumpin’.”

“It’s still dark,” said Tiffany.

“…Good thing she’s pretty, Jimareeno.”

As they gently made their way to the library, James noticed a flashlight illuminating a breaker panel in the distance. He heard the familiar clicks of breakers being opened to allow the flow of electricity. A loud thunk followed; the floodgates of electrons were loosed and the whole town sprang to life with a blaze of light that hurt the eyes. Actually, it was a modest flood of light, but the sudden change from pitch black to any degree of illumination was a shock.

“We don’t turn all the lights on very often cos there’s usually some dumb ass that thinks there’s aliens, or Jesus, or a coven of naked witches down here. We work hard to stay under the radar.”

Beyond the darkness, there was the sound of a waterfall. James had noticed it some time ago and was now able to make a connection.

“Water-driven turbines?”

“Yessir. I may or may not be a genius but I know one thing that I am and that’s literate. I spent a lot of time every year at the library from fall to early spring and I happened upon this guy named Nikola. There was a book of all his inventions and other books that explained about water driven turbines. I then learned about doing favors for the right people. We didn’t have the money to buy the materials needed to make them, but we had the man power to do things for people who could supply us the materials and know-how. There’s several tons of people to whom I am indebted and who in turn are indebted to me.”

“What happened to your accent?” asked Tiffany.

“I only use it when I want people to think I’m stupid. Sad, ain’t it? Now, ya’ll come on in to the lieberry here and take a gander.”

The lieberry had a surprising number of books considering the surroundings. Shakespeare, John Milton, the Berenstain Bears, Thomas Swift, Rowling, and Dr. Seuss were the ones James saw right away. There were stacks and rows and shelves of books that left little room for anything else in the relatively sizable building.

“The textbooks are in the back. I keep ‘em back there and hope that the kids find something interesting along the way, but this!! This is what I’d like you to see, Mr. Oncologist.”

Nick tossed a magazine on the desk.

“A 1999 issue of Discover Magazine?”

“Right you are, Jim…Jim…shit, I’m outta Jim stuff. Right you are, Jimclass!”

“That’s a stretch, Nick,” said James. ”Why the magazine?”

“There’s something in it that should interest you from a professional point of view,” said Nick.

It didn’t take long before James found what he was supposed to find. He read the short article quickly. He wasn’t impressed.

Nick stuck his head out the door and spoke in a conversational volume to the men responsible for lighting the little town. “Cletus, Edison, ya’ll done real good. Anybody need the lights on?”

A chorus of “no’s” from the townsfolk sounded.

“Just leave the lights on in the lieberry, but you can turn everything else out. Got it?”

“Okay, boss.”

“It’s pronounced library,” said Tiffany.

“Ya don’t say. Can you spell that for me?” asked Nick.


“Nick, I appreciate this, but in an era of all of these targeted cures and high-tech treatments we have now…”

“James, I cure cancer here two or three times a year. I get people to a doc, he or she confirms the cancer, I know a very smart nurse that we built an addition for, she comes up with a way to apply the HAMLET protein complex, and the cancer cells dismantle themselves. Apoptosis is our friend. No side effects, no loss of hair, no chemo brain, no loss of energy, and the medicine is just about free, breast milk and cooking oil. I then take the person back to the same doc and he or she pronounces the person cancer free or sees that the patient’s condition is greatly improved. This dumb old country boy cures cancer, Jimosaurus.”

“What is it you want me to do?”

“Spread the word, Jim. I am not in a position to do that. I will be disparaged as some kind of backwoods hick who doesn’t have the good sense to come in out of the rain. It won’t take much for the Great Industrial Medical Complex to shut me down. What is cancer, Jim? Is it a dreadful scourge or a jobs program?” Nick had thrown his accent to the curb.

“You seem very different,” note Tiffany.

“Tiffany, ya seem to be a real nice lady and are the most bewtiful creature on God’s green Earth, and I hate to see such beauty fall just short of perfect. Now, I been takin’ some careful notice of them incredible titties of yours and seen sumpin ain’t quite right. They are not quite symmetrical and at 24 years or so old, they are startin’ to sag just a little. Jimcrecious, ya’ll prolly know some doc that can fix her up. There’s a mirror in the bathroom. Yeah, I figgerred out indoor plumming too. Why don’t you go back there and make up a wishlist for Doctor Titmonger so youse can tell him zactly what you want done. Take your time, gorgeous. You make Helen of Troy look like a mud fence.”

When Tiffany was out of earshot, James asked, “Who on Earth are you?”

“Inbreeding creates some weird stuff. It’s usually pretty tragic, but sometimes the results are genius. I guess I’m just the luckiest son of a bitch on the planet. Look, Jim, I called Hamlet Protein up. It’s run by Anders Hakansson.”

“One of the original researchers on the project?” asked James.

“Catharina Svanborg and Anders Hakansson should replace whatever pedestal Watson and Crick are currently occupying. Among a shit ton of other things, she has an explanation of HAMLET on YouTube that Tiffany can understand. When I called HAMLET on Hamlet Drive in Findlay, Ohio, the millennial who was probably wearing skinny jeans and has a “Stop Manbearpig” bumper sticker on his car answered the phone. I asked what the deal was with HAMLET and how could I get access to it for my cancer patients. He told me he had no idea what I was talking about. Do you know what they are doing with HAMLET, Jim? They are feeding it to piglets. The Great Medical Industrial Complex thinks so little of us that they are literally throwing pearls before swine.”

A familiar voice came from the back of the lieberry.

“Jimmy, Nicky was right,” Tiffany was topless. “You see how the right one is just a little different than the left one? Once you lift them a little you can see there’s a difference, can’t you? And when I turn to the side, I hate to say it, but they are a little saggier than I’d like. Do you know a doctor that can fix me up?”

“Sure Tiff…why are you topless?”

“Well, Jimmy, you’ve done everything to them imaginable and Nick has such a discerning eye and is so clever I felt like he was looking right through my shirt, so there wasn’t any real surprise to be had.”

An awkward pause ensued.

“Tiffany, how would you like to be a bazilionnaire?”

“Nick, I know you think I’m really stupid, but I know there’s no such value as a bazillion. You put that accent on to make people feel comfortable around you; I do the same thing. I can spell library. If I speak as an airhead would, men will find me more approachable, and then I can make choices about who I want to spend time with.”

“Huh?…Tiff, this magazine the Jim is holding in his hands right now has the answer to curing a lot of different forms of cancer.”

“I know, I read the same article when I was ten or so. Found a copy of it in with a bunch of dirty magazines my Dad didn’t want me to know about. Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made to LEthal to Tumors. I never knew what to do about it.”

“Holy fucked-up acronyms, Batgirl, you are just one surprise after another.”

“Ya gaht that rite, Nickelodeon.”

“Ha! You are one awesome woman. I’ll bet you know who Ray Kroch is, don’t you?”

“He bought McDonald’s from the McDonald brothers,” said Tiffany.

“Tiffany, what do you think a HAMLET center should look like?”

“It should be a happy place, and instead of golden arches we use rainbows. And quiet, fun classical music should play in the background. And the colors should be comforting like light blues and just the right shade of green and the ceiling should look like clouds, just like the Venetian in Vegas. And it should be open 24/7 and we won’t take insurance so we can keep the cost down but we should do some pro bono things. And our hiring policy will be something more stringent than hiring people just because they can for a mirror. And commercials: lots and lots of commercials. ‘Cancer is Obsolete’ should be our slogan. And…”

“Tiffany, you sound like the vice-president of “To Be or Not to Be Enterprises,” said Nick. “C’mon, Jimlcurus, you know what they say: behind every great man is a woman badgering the shit out of him. You got connections, and whatever connections you can’t make, I’ll bet Tiffany could coax more than a few people to come along for the ride. This toothpaste is out of the tube and the GIMC looks like they are tryin’ to cover up the biggest breakthrough in medicine since Jonas Salk. Don’t let ‘em put HAMLET back in the tube.”

At 53, James Hock wasn’t sure he had enough left in the tank to turn his back on the reasonably comfortable professional life he’d established. The Ghostbusters would have more professional credulity than he should he step out into the world of fast food medicine.

“Let me think about it.”

James and Nick headed to the door of the library. Nick called out into the gloom, “Cletus, you out there?”

“Yeah, boss.”

“Show these nice people a place to sleep, please?”

“Sure thing.”

Then back to Tiffany who was still inside the library, “No sex until he says ‘yes.’ Lotsa tease but no jackpot.”

“I’ve played this game more than once.”

Nick smiled. “And uhhh, much as it pains me, you’d better get your shirt and jacket. Cletus is a little unpredictable with things like this. You had him playin’ with himself all the way back to town, and when he gets riled, NOBODY can reason with him. It might be best to avoid even a handshake.”

“Thanks, Doctor Nick; lotsa tease and a whole lotta long, hot, soapy showers for me. Can I give you a hug?”

“Wouldn’t have it any other way.” Sometime later: “At this point, I could use a shower like that myself right about now. We’ll see where all this takes us.”