Bert was a proud mad scientist. He even managed to find a minion. Well, a paid employee anyway. His employee, John, was a graduate student who hadn’t been able to find any other internship offers. He wasn’t a hunchback, but he was a lot taller than Bert and had to stoop over to avoid smashing his face into low-hanging light fixtures. It was close enough.
One day Bert was still cooking his lunch when John came in from his lunch break. John shook the rain off his umbrella and left it in the bucket by the door. Bert decided not to tell him it was a trashcan. The banana peels at the bottom wouldn’t really harm the umbrella after all.
“Why does it always rain just around your house?” John asked.
“It doesn’t always rain. Just at meal times,” Bert said.
“Do you have some sort of weather machine?” John asked.
“Of course I do, how else would the storms be so regular? What did they teach you at that school you went to?”
John slapped his hands on the kitchen table and leaned forward. “Really? Did you really invent a weather machine?”
“I just told you I did.”
John leaned back and bounced a little on his heels. “That’s amazing! You could take over the world!”
Bert snorted. “That’s ridiculous.”
“No it’s not. You could threaten countries with droughts or floods or the next ice age. You could take over everything,” John said. “Isn’t that what mad scientists want?”
“You don’t know many mad scientists, do you?” Bert asked. He hummed and flipped the brussel sprouts. Nearly done.
“Well, no. But I’ve seen some on TV,” John said.
“Mad scientists are generally scientists first and want more time to work on their favorite projects. Who wants to do paperwork or meet with politicians or deal with all those people and their uninteresting problems?” Bert said. “No thank you.”
John shifted from foot to foot. “Well, could I borrow it and take over the world?”
Bert sighed. “Sorry, it has a secret government patent. And I developed a wide range signal blocker to counter it for them too. How do you think I had the money to pay for an intern?”
“Oh,” John said. He sat on one of the kitchen chairs with a thump. “That’s disappointing. So why do you need the storms?”
“I cook with lightning. Another good burst and my sprouts will be done.” Bert pulled a plate out of the cupboard. “It’s been a little slow today.”
“Why cook with lightning? Wouldn’t the stovetop be more precise?” John asked.
“There. Now you’re thinking like a scientist!” Bert said. “You would be correct. However, you are overlooking the benefits of this cooking method.”
“What benefits? Is it healthier?”
“Not that I know of,” Bert said. Just then, there was a bang and the house rattled. The cooker glowed and a bolt of light shot out and hit the brussel sprouts. One of them started shaking, and then sprouted little tendrils. It lifted itself on four of the tendrils and began to wobble around the stovetop.
“What is that?” John asked.
“The benefit,” Bert said. “Sometimes, the vegetables come to life.”
“So, are you building an army of living vegetables?” John asked.
Bert sighed. “What did I tell you about taking over the world?”
“You don’t want to?”
“I don’t want to,” Bert said. “Mostly they work outside in the garden. It makes them happy and gives me a steady supply of vegetables to eat.”
“Do they mind you eating them?” John asked.
“Not as long as they don’t see it.” Bert carefully scooped up the little sprout and took it out the back door. He came back in a few minutes later and tipped the rest of the sprouts onto a plate. He opened a drawer and grabbed a fork. “I’m eating a late lunch, but your lunch break is over. Back to the paperwork, John. It’s why I’m paying you.”
John trudged off the living room. “Why is there so much more paperwork on my desk?” he asked loudly.
“I got a lot of work done while I was waiting for the storm machine to heat up. So, more work for you.” Bert cackled.
“That sounds more like a mad scientist from TV. Are you sure you don’t want to take over the world?”
“Oh, hush,” Bert said.