Experiment #317

The Cleverest Contraption of Jeremiah Brown Part 4

Jeremiah went straight to his workshop and began to build. When customers showed up the next morning, he hadn’t stopped. Francis made some excuses for his employer and scheduled the customers for a week from Thursday. Jeremiah sometimes got into these building moods and, within a week, Francis was sure, he’d have gotten it out of his system. But a week from Thursday came and went without the display of any prototype or blueprint or sketch that might hint at what Jeremiah had in mind. Francis began scheduling things a month out. But the month came and went, and Jeremiah had not turned from his project.

With customers frantic for solutions to their problems, Francis began taking orders himself. He was by age several years Jeremiah’s senior, but in creativity and inventiveness he remained, by several degrees, Jeremiah’s junior. His inventions somehow lacked imagination. But convenience often wins over quality, and Francis’s schedule overflowed.

Before long, the entire town was gossiping about what Jeremiah’s invention might be. They wondered what sort of thorny problem could require such energies from someone so brilliant. Townsfolk sprinkled “world peace,” “ending hunger,” and “cold fusion” over conversations like salt over popcorn. Each fished for information from the other, and the hype grew to inconceivable proportions.

***

Somewhat to her surprise, Amelia missed Jeremiah terribly. She missed sitting next to him in church, the long walks they would take on Sunday afternoons, and the verbal sparring over ideas and philosophies. One Sunday, rather than walk by herself among the azalea bushes, she walked over to Jeremiah’s workshop and knocked on the door.

“Miss Tibbits,” Francis said with a grin as he opened the door, “how nice of you to stop by and see us. I have some inventions I’d love to show you.”

“Thank you, Mr. Garmen, but I came to see Mr. Brown,” Amelia said. She looked past his wandering eye and down the hall.

“I’ll see if he’s available,” Francis said. He took a step away then turned back to her. “If you don’t mind my saying, Miss Tibbits, any man who can’t stop his work to take you out is a fool and unworthy of the pleasure.”

“Thank you kindly, Mr. Garmen, but I do mind. I think I’ll find Mr. Brown myself.”

Francis pointed down the hallway and slunk away to his unimaginative inventing.

Amelia followed Francis’s directions. Near the end of the hallway, light flickered and waved at her from a half-open doorway.

She knocked. When she received no answer, she pushed the door open. She saw Jeremiah sitting with his back to her. All around him lay a garden of gadgets and gizmos and a sea of books on everything from mechanics to psychology.

“Mr. Brown!” she called. “Oh, Mr. Brown!”

Jeremiah did not respond.

“Mr. Brown,” she called louder.

Jeremiah still did not respond.

“Jeremiah!” she shouted.

When he turned and saw Amelia, his face spread into a wide smile. “Amelia!” he said.

“Well, hello, Mr. Brown,” she said holding her arms out as he wrapped her in a firm embrace.

“I’ve missed you,” he said, his voice hovering above a whisper.

She stepped back out of the embrace and smoothed out her dress. “I—I—I have wished to see you too, Mr. Brown,” she said. Her voice held a nervous trill and she seemed flustered.

“Come, Amelia. I have something to show you.”

He guided her through the tools and implements to the focus of his efforts for the last two months.

“Look,” he said and pointed to his workbench.

Amelia scanned the workbench.

“Oh,” she said. “What is it?” In fact she saw nothing on the bench. The focal point of the workbench seemed to her eyes empty, bare of all gadgets, gizmos, and inventions.

“It’s my finest invention yet,” he said.

“Why, Mr. Brown,” she said. “I’m not—I’m not certain I understand.”

“There’s no need to. This will be great!”

“Mr. Brown, what are you talking about?”

Jeremiah pointed at a spot on the workbench where Amelia could see nothing but thin air.

“Look,” he said. “It’s an automatic conscience.” He smiled. “I can hand them out with every invention.”

“Jeremiah, there’s nothing there.”

“Just wait, Amelia,” he said. “Just wait. You’ll see.”

To Be Continued…

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