I thank the nominating committee of ISER for proposing me as a candidate for Vice President of the organization. I am sorry to be tardy in accepting, but I have been much exercised by your request for a statement of my qualifications in the form of a dialogue. After considering several literary models, I concluded that my 'area of interest and present affiliation' could most expeditiously be dealt with in the style of Joyce, but only Dickens could deal with my 'past involvement in ISER functions'.
I hope the enclosed is satisfactory.
At this pint he was aroused by a strange figure, like that of an old man, physically perfect in all respects except that one could sense that there was an empty space where the organ of memory should have been placed. This apparition was garbed in the program covers from old Scientific Meetings.
"Who, and what, are you?" Maurice demanded.
"I am the Ghost of Meetings Past."
The Spirit conducted him out of his laboratory, across oceans, to a sordid restaurant where two conspiratorial figures were hunched over dishes of congealed curry.
"Good Heavens," said Maurice, "that is Bandi Balazs, and his dark-haired companion is me as I used to be."
As he listened, Balazs is speaking, "David, I wanted to discuss with you a plan I have to form a new organization to alleviate the need of eye research people throughout the world to discuss science with each other. For this purpose they will be transported to warm and exotic places. Tony Pirie has agreed to join ---"
"Bandi," the other interrupts, "are there no journals? Are not the Association for Eye Research and the Association for Research in Ophthalmology in full operation? Pray, do no bother me with such fancies." With these words he sweeps out of the "New Taj-Mahal" into the sleet and walks firmly towards his house in Camden Town, Leaving Balazs sobbing into a plate of crumbled jellabies.
"Sprit," Maurice exclaimed, "torture me no longer with this sight! Remove me to my home!"
Then they were in another place, a small and untidy laboratory near Kings Cross. A neat sign on the door reads 'D. Maurice, Ph.D., Counsellor to ICER.' "Why that is my desk," cried Maurice, "and that is the bench under which my assistant, Stuart Hodson, used to sleep at night. Tell me Spirit, what is the meaning of this?"
The Ghost only pointed at a fresh scene, where a grim-faced group of scientists are gathered in a hall in Charleston. On the podium Maurice is muttering incoherently about the conjunctiva. The group look on in amazement and shake their heads.
As the scene faded, the Spirit pointed again. This time a sunny corner in Capri is revealed. A group of casually dressed Argentinians are engaged in cheerful discourse. One, plumper and more jovial than his companions, says, "I hear he is speaking about the corneal endothelium. Are you going to attend?" "Only if some intellectual refreshment is provided, which I doubt," another replied. "But I'll offer to go if no one else will."
The Spirit silently indicated a new scene. This time it is s modern congress hall in Kyoto. Maurice enters carrying an envelope full of loose slides and approaches two pretty girls clad in kimonos. "Doko the Corneal Session deska?" he pleads. They giggle and move away as a Japanese doctor photographs the scene. Darkness obscures the view.
The Spectre's bony finger draws his companion's attention. Now it is a bleak plain in the Netherlands. Rain is falling. A restless group of scientists in white coats is being harangued by a tall bearded person with piercing eyes. "I know that man. He is Laszlo Bito," Maurice exclaimed. As the Ghost continued to point, they could catch some of the speakers impassioned words. "There is no good reason why he couldn't attend; he has obviously sold out to the clinicians." The group mutters and looks around hopelessly for a drink.
Maurice gripped his strange companion by the arm and looked at him despairingly for an explanation. "Tell me, Spirit," he demanded hoarsely, "will ISER live?"