GNU's Not Eunuchs

by Tim Chevalier, 2005

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

"Raymond says he knew Stallman not just seven years before he started the GNU project but before he had acquired his trademark mane and beard. As Raymond explains, 'I have occasionally stood beside him, and said to people, yes, I knew Richard before he had long hair and a Jesus complex. To his credit, Richard laughs when I say this.'"

-- Glyn Moody, _Rebel Code_

The short, bearded figure stood on the stage, gesturing furiously as he declaimed on the evils of the RIAA and occasionally pacing around a bit.

"Richard, you've changed," murmured the balding, nondescript-looking man in the audience to himself.

After the talk, the bearded man strolled up the stairs, unconcerned by the train of scruffy-looking undergraduates following after. He was headed for the cookie table. As he began to shovel handfuls of madeleines and pecan brownies into his mouth, the bald, mustachioed man approached.

"Eric," the bearded man gasped, nearly dropping a handful of shortbread cookies (but not quite.)

"Richard," the bald man said firmly.

"What brings you here?" asked the bearded man. The undergraduates merely stared wide-eyed, knowing something special was happening, but not knowing quite what. At least, the ones who weren't also going for the cookie table.

"Well, Richard, you'll remember how we knew each other, seven years before you started the GNU project," said Eric.

"Yes..." Richard began to say, when he was interrupted by a particularly young-looking undergraduate.

"In the *biblical* sense?" taunted the undergraduate, as she adjusted her baseball cap and pulled on her red hair.

There was silence.

"Yes, young ladies and gentlemen, in the biblical sense," said Eric.

"I think we need to go upstairs, to my office," said Richard.

"But you don't have an office here."

"Oh, I'm sorry, I mean the office of the faculty member who sponsored my talk here, Professor *mumble *mumble*," Richard said, as the last words of his sentence were obscured by a mouthful of fudge wafers.


Together, they headed for the elevator as the crowd of undergraduates, graduate students, and administrators who had gathered (no faculty members, since they wouldn't have wanted to be seen at a gathering where students would be present) gaped speechlessly. They got off at the seventh floor and Richard directed them towards a corner office.

"Don't worry, Professor *mumble mumble* won't be here for the rest of the afternoon," said Richard, who still had managed to make those fudge wafers last for four floors.

As they settled at opposite ends of the black leather couch that occupied a small portion of the office, Eric looked at Richard.

"You looked better with short hair," he said.

"Well, you looked better before you gained that 30 pounds," said Richard.

"It's all muscle," he said, and they both laughed. Then they were silent.

Eric broke the silence. "Open-source software, free software, why did we let such distinctions of terminology divide us so? Linux has been such a huge success and we've both contributed to that. We have more similarities than differences."

"That's *GNU/Linux*, Eric, and you ought to know why as well as anybody. Why, the Linux operating system would be completely nonfunctional without the many software utilities contributed by volunteers for the GNU project, including--"

"Richard, Richard. You're not talking to a journalist. You're talking to me. The only man you ever loved."

Eric's arm extended across the back of the couch. Richard inched ever so slightly closer.

"Well, you have no idea what it's like to live alone in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with only my four honorary doctorates to keep me company while you and your open-source friends get all the glory. It's just so hard, Eric."

Eric's eyes sparkled, "Just so hard, eh?"

Richard squirmed. "Well..."

"It's been so long."

"Well, yes, that is how I remembered it..."

"So, you said that Professor *cough* *cough* wasn't going to be back this afternoon, right? Because if you wanted to, we could go find a place to stay for the evening..." (The professor's name was once again obscured when Eric had a brief dryness in his throat.)

"No, let's just make good use of the place we have for now. It's free, after all."

"Free as in freedom?"

"No, free as in love."

They embraced. Richard's shirt came off, knocking loose the halo made from a disk platter that was still attached to his head. Before too long, the two men's back hair became an indistinguishable thatch of dark curls as Eric's cathedral entered Richard's bazaar.

"Sometimes being open to the point of promiscuity can have its advantages," breathed Richard.

"And you know I've always believed that there *were* some situations where tight control over the development process was necessary," sighed Eric.

Afterward, they lay together on the couch as the afternoon sun shone on them, stroking each other's beards. "You're even better now that you have a Jesus complex," said Eric.

"You certainly seemed to think that it wasn't just a complex!"

"That was five minutes ago, this is now."

"Oh." They cuddled some more. "I guess we'll always have the AI Lab."

"So, I have a date later on to play the recorder for some birds. Would you like to... come along?"

"Whenever I hear about you doing that kind of thing, I reach for my gun," said Eric.

"Ha! Ha" they both laughed.

"Actually, I wasn't kidding."