Experiment #314

The Cleverest Contraption of Jeremiah Brown Part 1

The famed young inventor, Jeremiah Brown, got up on stage at Stapleton’s theatre to display his newest invention: an automatic conscience. A breathless moment followed where the standing-room-only crowd stared at what seemed to be an empty table. One confused little boy in the crowd called out, “There’s nothing there, Mommy!”

The crowd burst into laughter.

***

As problems came up among the various people in his town, a teenaged Jeremiah Brown began to invent solutions. As he grew toward manhood the problems also grew, but so did his inventions and thereby his fame.

Early in Jeremiah’s career, Mrs. Elspeth Peterson’s dog, Scrappy—whose previous owner had somehow given him a taste for burying mail—buried her inheritance check along with her house keys. Jeremiah invented a machine that dug a hole and sifted the dirt. Nearly two weeks and a ton of sifted dirt later, they found the keys and the check. But they also found a large supply of mail that Mrs. Peterson’s neighbor, a Mr. Samuel Blivins, had never received. The cache included twelve love letters from what had, up until then, been an unrequited love affair a decade prior.

Some time later, Mr. Clive Stapleton, the owner of the old theatre in town, came to Jeremiah. The traveling show, Dowdy & Furlong Sing the Hits, wanted to have a show there on their way through the county. The show, however, required a mid-performance lighting change that the old theatre was ill-equipped to handle. Mr. Stapleton feared they’d skip the town altogether if he couldn’t find a solution. Jeremiah did not disappoint. He built a series of pulleys, counterweights, and control levers that allowed a stagehand to switch configurations at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, an overzealous technician switched too quickly between configurations during Dowdy’s rousing opening number. The precisely timed gears fell out of sync, interlocked, and ripped each other from their moorings. The ceiling split down the middle, nearly bringing the house down and causing a general evacuation of the theatre.

Mr. Stapleton stood in the aisle and wept as the ceiling and his dreams fell around him. But the crack revealed a long-forgotten attic and a hoard of antique costumes, sealed away from the tyranny of time and moths. The auction of the items provided enough money for a complete restoration of the theatre. And, notably for Jeremiah, it also provided a small monthly stipend for Jeremiah to continue his work.

If these two clever contraptions had not elevated him above the average tinkerer, the contraption he made for Mayor Billy “Bluster” Brewins—and its public spectacle—solidified his position as the best inventor in the state. Mayor Brewins had gotten himself into quite a pickle. He triple-booked the town square during the annual town fair.

Mrs. Petunia Fairchild, as the chair of the Daughters of the Republic, believed her claim to be the most salient. The Daughters had “always”held their pie-eating contest during the town fair, and they “always”held it in the town square, and “everyonein town” would expect them to be there.

But Mr. James Hodges of the Knights of Kildaire had completed his group’s paperwork first. He refused to allow any encroachment on the Knights’ annual chili competition, particularly since he had the location “fair and square.”

Mrs. Virginia Lord, representing the Silver Key Club and its annual Miss Silver Key competition, however, took issue with the “fair” portion of that statement. She accused the Knights of bribing the mayor’s secretary with chocolates and flowers. Mr. Hodges claimed it to be a natural matrimonial gift, as he had been married to the mayor’s secretary for the better part of two decades. “Should the corruption be eradicated,” Mrs. Lord told Mayor Brewins in harsh and holy tones, “my claim and my paperwork are the strongest.”

To Be Continued…

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