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Guest Post: Inventions, by Michael Schultz

May 17, 2011

Edwin spotted them the moment he stepped off the train. Theodor stood in the back of the crowd, craning his neck. How had he followed him here?

Edwin had met Theodor at the supermarket. He had been testing out one of his new inventions, a barcode scanner that checked other stores in the area to see if he was getting the best price. Edwin loved making inventions. They made his life more fun, or at least more convenient. He liked having time to himself while he worked. Theodor took an immediate interest in Edwin’s contraption.

“Holy smokes, what is that thing?” he shouted from down the aisle. Edwin wasn’t fazed at first. He never assumed people were talking to him. Spending most of his time underground with his toys made him forget about other people sometimes. He finally realized he was being talked at when Theodor walked up to him.

“Did you make that?” Theodor asked. “A combination price scanner-inventory checker—brilliant!”

Edwin didn’t know what to say. He looked at Theodor for a second before he said, “Thank you” and quickly went back to scanning the shelves.

“That’s some real fine craftsmanship right there. You know, it’s not too often you find a fellow tinkerer around here. I used to really think I was the only one.”

Edwin just stared at him again, confused. Theodor slapped him on the back and laughed warmly.

“Ha! Cheer up, buddy. I know what you’re thinking: I’m some nut, what’s going on, why am I talking to you? Well, here.” He took at a pen and scribbled his address on a sheet of paper. “My name is Theodor, and I’m an inventor. I have this meeting of inventors at my house every other Thursday at 7. Why don’t you come by, have a few beers and meet some other people that like to make new things? Trust me, it’ll be fun. A night out’ll do you good anyway.”

Edwin took the sheet of paper from Theodor and just looked at it for a while. He didn’t know what he wanted to do. It had been a long while since he went out at all. He didn’t know if he could manage the first meetings, the awkward hellos, the conversations about the weather. He liked spending time with his things. People made him uncomfortable.

“I don’t drive,” he told Theodor. This was true.

“That’s okay, actually. There’s a train station not far from my house. I’ll pick you up. Take the blue line east and get off at the Brentwood stop. It’ll be there at 6:30.”

Edwin pondered whether or not he felt like going. It seemed like a good enough idea. Maybe Theodor was right: maybe a night out would do him good.

He took a cab to the train station the next night. Sure enough, he got off at the Brentwood stop and found Theodor waiting for him near a silver Accord. The two drove back to Theodor’s house, talking mostly about sports and the weather. Edwin didn’t particularly care for sports. He didn’t even have a television in his house, so he mostly listened .

Once the party started, Edwin found himself having a good time. He met many other people that preferred spending time with things. Somehow, their lonesome tendencies made them closer. He talked, he nodded his head to the music, he drank. It felt good to talk to other people again. He and Theodor had some good conversation about what they had been working on and what they wanted to spend time on next.

“Let me show you my playground,” offered Theodor. The party was winding down. It was late.

The two walked down the stairs in Theodor’s lab, lights illuminating themselves with each step. Edwin’s jaw dropped. He had never seen anything like it. There were entire walls covered in tools, benches of spare parts, half-stripped machines strewn about. It was a paradise.

“Impressive, isn’t it?” asked Theodor. Edwin’s mouth hung open in shock.

“I’ve built just about everything I could ever want down here. Anything you can think of, I probably have the parts. Sometimes I’ll build one thing but then have another idea and immediately turn it into something else.

“Lately, though, I’ve been bored of machinery. I wanted to play with something more… complex.” He pressed a button which pulled some of the tool-covered walls up into the ceiling to reveal huge glass cases full of what looked to be mounted dead animals. Edwin was confused and now a little frightened. He wondered why he left his house. He didn’t want to be with Theodor anymore.

Theodor explained how he had been experimenting with genetic mutations, with hybridizing two animals into one. He showed him his giraffe-squirrel, his sloth-panda, his praying mantis-piranha. They were grotesque. They looked like horrible inventions made of sinew and meat.

Edwin excused himself and called a cab. He said he had a headache; that he had had a great time but he had to get home. Theodor insisted he stay. Edwin backed up the stairs slowly, saying no, no, it really was time for bed. Theodor seemed upset.

He went to the train station and bought a ticket straight home. He needed a cold shower and a cup of coffee.

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