Fortunately, the days of just one puter in the house are long past, and desktop machine here has an internet connection, a DVD burner, and even a legal copy of Nero. And as it turns out, a lot of people who bought a new laptop have found that they don't come with installation disks (where's the profit on a $1,000 laptop if you give away a 50c installation disk for free?) and so someone has made bootable recovery disks available as ISO images via torrents. A quick search located a blank CD (another endangered species) and soon I had a bootable CD.
Of course, it still wouldn't boot from it. Had to fiddle with the BIOS. I guess I figured that any disc left in the media machine was probably a video DVD filled with crapware and should not be booted from. Once that was overcome, a variant ofc Windows started up and asked if I wanted to reinstall or repair Windows. Selected "repair" and it said "ok" and all was well again.