Political Fiction
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Chapter Excerpts

 GateKEEPERS is technically fiction; however, what is not fiction is the architect's experience, nor his long struggle to see to it that no others in his profession would have to endure anything comparable.


Chapter V


Rubin, April, 2005

 Page 79

“And could you bring another couple of slices of lemon?” Gerald gave her one of his patented smiles.

“Certainly, sir,” the waitress said cheerfully, returning his smile. She was obviously delighted by him. “You old rascal,” Rubin said enviously, “you may be in your dotage but you still got your mojo working.”

“I wish,” Gerald said. “But don’t get off the subject. What murder?”


Chapter XVII


Nathan, 1978-1979

 Page 378

“But the statute we have just cited,” Leighburg continued, “4743.02, mandates that you hold all examination papers for a minimum of ninety days, and here only twenty-five days had elapsed when you told Mr. Goldstein that you had destroyed his examination papers. How do you explain that, Mr. Wheeler?”

“I–I was not aware,” Wheeler stuttered, “of that part of the statute, about the minimum of ninety days--” he stopped speaking and looked pleadingly first at Richards and then at Charnesky. Leighburg  let the pause linger on, fixing Wheeler with an unremitting stare. Damn it, Nathan thought, Frank is enjoying this too much. It’s a show for him, but it’s my career we’re talking about.

      “Did you destroy Mr. Goldstein’s examination papers on your own volition or were you instructed to do so by someone else?” Leighburg asked, glaring at Wheeler.


Chapter I


Nathan, September, 1979

Page 1-5

The room was pretentious, high-ceilinged, semi-paneled, somehow reminding Nathan that he was a visitor to power, the grandson of immigrants, one of the first in his family to go to college, one of the first to mingle with people in charge of things. People like these whose nameplates on the dais at the front of the room identified them, whether they were there or not, without any kind of indication of who they really were. Just a name:  Mr. Schwartz. They were Congressmen, mostly from places of which Nathan had never heard, elected by people Nathan knew nothing about, fellow citizens with whom he had nothing in common, probably, except this system of the apportionment of power.  Nathan had  some recollections, mostly from the eighth grade, of  how the system was supposed  to work.  Mrs. McMurtree  had  been quite clear in her presentations, and so had  the textbook. The  people chose  their representatives in a  republic.  The representatives  arranged  themselves in groups like this Subcommittee to consider legislation about  how people were to  behave, how much  they should  pay  for what, who should  monitor  their behavior, and what penalties would  be exacted  were  there to be infractions.  Something like that. Of  course the President had  to agree  to the legislation  the Representatives and Senators passed, and  so did  the courts, but much of  what  happened  started here, with hearings like this, instigated  by somebody  on somebody’s staff, whether officially or  not.  Mrs. McMurtree  had  not explained  that part so clearly. But  it hadn’t  mattered, because Nathan and  his eighth-grade classmates had  known even then that what she had explained  was not how things worked but what  they were supposed  to believe,  just  like  religious instructions. If  you kept your mouth shut  and just repeated what they told  you,  you wouldn’t get into any trouble.

 The Congressmen–there seemed  to be only three or four, to Nathan’s surprise, with an equal number of young staff members dripping solicitude and servility–were taking their chairs behind their name plates, muttering to the staff, shuffling papers, joking with each other sotto voce. A few people were sitting in what  seemed to be the section for  the audience. Nathan saw a man who looked vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t place him, and the man looked away rather hurriedly.  A young woman asked Nathan if he was there to give testimony.  When he assented, she gave him a thick stack of paper and directed  him to find a seat at  a  long table below the dais.  He  made his way toward one of  the few remaining empty chairs, nodding to the men already sitting at the table.  They did not respond. Perhaps, he thought, it was too solemn an occasion for good manners.

 He looked at the top sheet of the stack the young woman had given him.


The Truth in Testing Act of 1979;

 The Educational Testing Act of 1979

Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education of the Committee on Education and Labor – United States House of Representatives –Ninety-Sixth Congress – Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education and Labor, Washington. D.C.

  First Session On: H.R. 3564 - To require all educational admissions testing conducted through interstate commerce, and all occupational admissions testing (which affects commerce) to be conducted with sufficient notice of test subject matter and test results, and other purposes, and H.R. 4949 - To require certain information to be provided to individuals who take standardized educational admissions tests, and for other purposes.


Lawyer language, of course.  How could  whoever  had drafted  this  be expected to talk about  fairness and  justice and transparency, especially of  clear and  reasonable  criteria  determining what score was needed to pass these damned things?  No, “sufficient notice of test subject matter” and “certain information” were as close as Congress intended to get to specificity. The  meaning  was to be determined  first by whatever agency  might  be told to enforce this legislation, if  it ever got  to that point, and second by  the judge who surely would have to hear all the counterarguments  presented  by accrediting agencies and  professional organizations and  the rest of the enormous bureaucracy with vested interests in The Way Things Were.  Nathan sighed.

His mind reverted to his awakening next to Cheryl in Jack Greenstein’s apartment that morning, in the sleeping bag on the floor, while Jack’s dad, Nathan’s friend Sid, was still snoring on the sofa. It wasn’t the most desirable arrangement, but hotel rooms weren’t cheap in Washington. Sid had come to visit Jack. Cheryl had come, she had said, to be with Nathan and give him her support or at least a smile at the hearing. Well, she’d changed her mind. Sitting through a Congressional subcommittee’s hearing on a beautiful, warm September morning when the stores were open in a big city she’d  never visited  before just lacked  appeal to a  twenty-two-year-old  girl from Cleveland  who knew how to dress herself to advantage. Nathan, staring at the papers in front of him, was uncomfortably aware of how his mind was drifting. Not for the first time, he wondered whether he and Cheryl had anything going besides physical attraction. She certainly hadn’t seemed to pay attention when he had tried to explain how important this day was to him.

Pages 17 - 18

“Gentlemen,” Dr. Jamison said, sweeping the Subcommittee, which indeed included no women, with a glance from left  to right–Nathan noticed, however,  that a lady had  taken a seat at the witness table–“we all know that another possibility is all too likely. The young man’s revolutionary ideas would certainly be welcomed by consumers. The company that succeeded in obtaining his services would surely benefit substantially. Eventually, stimulated by his ideas, other engineers at other companies in the state would  very likely  enhance the designs of their own products and  heighten the competition. If  there were to be losers, they would  most  likely be foreign competitors, the very firms in Germany and Japan  now competing more and more successfully with our own American companies. But in the short run, there is no question that all but one of the American companies, the one that hired the brilliant young engineer, would  be at a serious disadvantage. And even that company would have to make massive new investments to take advantage of the young man’s ideas. All the companies would be required to rebuild their engines, retool their cars, and change their strategic marketing plans. In the short run, costs would rise and stockholders would not be happy. And when stockholders are unhappy, it is unlikely that corporate executives will be comfortable, whether they are in temporary positions in industry or in temporary positions in government. I do not know the outcome of my hypothetical example, but I do know what happens in real life.  Ideas have to be implemented in practice to see if they will work. If practice is limited to only approved  practitioners, it is not difficult to avert the threat of innovation.”  Dr. Jamison paused again, but this time he ignored his glass to fix the Subcommittee with a stare. Then he raised his finger, pointing not at the Congressmen but at the ceiling, as if an invisible but powerful Presence were there, listening. Nathan was delighted by  the theatrics.  This was a gesture that nobody could repeat without diminishing its effect.

Jamison had reached his peroration. “Gentlemen,” he declared, “it is the position of the National Association of Occupational Licensing Reform that far too many governmental agencies entrusted with the machinery as well as the authority involved in the granting of licenses required to practice a host of professions and trades are unduly influenced by special interest groups whose short-term as well as long-term financial motivations do not serve the long-range interests of the American professional, the American worker, or the American public as a whole. The facts are unmistakable. State agencies are restricting entry to the professions and trades through the licensing procedures imposed on applicants for the licenses they must have, and they are doing so to prevent the competition and  the innovations that they fear will endanger their own privileged positions. Thank you very much.”  Jamison sat back. For a moment, while the roomful of silence was a gauge of his impact, Nathan wanted to start clapping. The extent to which Jamison had anticipated his own remarks was almost uncanny. Nathan wished that he could be next, and almost raised his hand to volunteer, as if he were in school. But he wasn’t and he didn’t.

Chapter XIV

Rubin, May, 2005

 Page 307

The drive back to Rubin’s condo was quiet, after Gerald’s explanation of the last time he had belted somebody in the mouth. It was well past lunch time, but Rubin wasn’t at all hungry after all the excitement at the park, and he couldn’t imagine that Gerald was either.  They had had a good breakfast. He pulled the Chrysler into the garage and they went into the condo. Gerald went straight into the downstairs bathroom to wash his hand.

“Do you have any iodine or disinfectant, Walter?” he called. “I cut my knuckles on that little punk’s teeth.”

“Yes, of course,” Rubin said. “Is it a bad cut?”

“No, I just don’t want to get his AIDS bugs into my blood stream–that would be hard to explain to Laura,” Gerald said. “She goes to Nashville to tend  her sick mother and I  run off to Ann Arbor, whoring around with Good Time Walter, getting into fights and--”

“Here’s the iodine,” Rubin said.


Chapter I


Nathan, September, 1979

Page 21 - 22

       Nathan thought he had a very strong case, and he thought he had prepared it well.  He hoped for questions and discussion, because then he could go into more detail, and refer more fully to the documents he had brought with him.  But what he really wanted to tell them about, what had happened to him at Ohio State when he had  worked on his master’s thesis–how  his research had been inexplicably stopped while he was in the middle of collecting his data, and how, nevertheless, he had been given his degree as if it had been a reward for his silence rather than recognition of his accomplishments–that he couldn’t do. That wasn’t a story that they could investigate. That was something that he would either have to live with and resent and wonder about for the rest of his life, or, just maybe, look into on his own.


 Chapter XVII

Nathan, 1978-1979

Page 405

“Are you planning to testify at the House hearing tonight?” Prescott asked.

“Yes, I am,” Nathan said, “as I told you on the phone. You didn’t think it was a good idea.”

Arnold, we have to finish typing the specifications,” Betty said.

“I know,” Prescott said to her, but with his eyes on Nathan. “Nathan, I’m going to be blunt. No, I don’t think it’s a good idea. I don’t want to go into details, but I do want you to consider other options You have two degrees in business. There are sure to be attractive opportunities in that area for you. You need to consider leaving the architectural profession, Nathan.”

Nathan was too astounded to respond.




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GateKEEPERS Copyright © 2008 by Sheldon Robert Stone & Rudolf B. Schmerl. Cover art copyright © 2008 by Sheldon Robert Stone.

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