“You’ve met my friend, Miss Valerie Fontaine, haven’t you?” Amelia asked. “She works across the street. According to her, Mr. Montclair fired all but one of his dishwashers.”
“Well, I’m sorry about that, but it’s Mr. Montclair’s restaurant. He paid for the machine. I can’t tell him what to do with it.”
“Miss Fontaine went on to say that the Olde Towne Diner next door and Frisco’s Saloon across the street have both fired all their dishwashers. They are paying Mr. Montclair to wash their dishes.”
“I’m sorry for them too. The blame belongs to the men who did the firing. They could have moved them to other jobs or done something different.”
They walked for a few paces in silence.
“Did you also invent Mrs. Juniper’s purse?” she asked. “Or, rather, a secret compartment for her purse?”
“Well, yes,” he said, finding himself at the wrong end of a pistol, but unsure of its exact target. “She wanted to protect her valuables from street thugs.”
“Unless your definition of street thugs is shop clerks and cashiers, I’d say your faith in Mrs. Juniper is misplaced. Store inventory seems to disappear at an alarming rate when Mrs. Juniper is around. She has been barred from every store in town while wearing your purse.”
“And lest we forget about Mr. Clifton, we should also discuss how he borrowed your automatic hole digger from Mrs. Peterson. The next morning Colonel Rotan, you know, the retired army sharpshooter, found his lawn full of holes. Mr. Clifton apparently wanted to best him in the annual lawn care competition,” she said, then added, almost to herself, “Why you’d anger a sharpshooter, I sure don’t know.”
“If-if-if,” Jeremiah spluttered, finally finding the bull’s-eye on his chest. “If I were to try and anticipate all the terrible ways my inventions could be used, I wouldn’t have time to invent anything else. The problem is people. People need to be responsible for their own actions.”
“Inventors included,” she said with satisfaction. For her this was mostly an academic exercise, more about winning an argument than assigning blame. She wanted the injustice ended, but she didn’t place the blame on Jeremiah. That did not stop him from pulling it onto his shoulders.
Irritation and anger sent his voice up an octave. “Well, I can’t just hand out a conscience with every invention.”
Amelia laughed. She walked on a few paces until she realized Jeremiah was no longer beside her. She looked back. Jeremiah had stopped walking. His anger had clicked off in the wake of the endless possibilities that rushed through his mind.
“Is something the matter?” Amelia asked.
“People are the problem,” he said.
“What are you talking about?”
Jeremiah’s eyes brightened. He spluttered something incoherent and took off the way they had come.
To Be Continued…