Bert returned from his shopping trip clutching a shopping bag and grinning madly. Who knew that department stores could be so inspirational? He was going to recommend a visit to all his other mad scientist friends.
“John,” he said. “I know what we’re going to do today.”
John the intern came running in. “Are we finally going to take over the world?”
Bert rolled his eyes. “What have I told you about trying to take over the world?”
John’s shoulders slumped. “You don’t want to.”
“Of course not. Real mad scientists would always choose science over politics. That’s why you’re still an intern.” Bert set his shopping bags down. “Would you like to see what we’ll be doing instead?”
John leaned forward. “Mind control? Cloning? A zombie army?”
Bert pulled a pair of slippers out of his bag. “Nope. We’ll be fixing this faulty sports equipment.”
“That’s not sports equipment,” John said.
“Well, not when it doesn’t work right,” Bert said. “But I’ll fix that.”
“But there’s nothing wrong with them,” John said. “Slippers are supposed to be like that.”
Bert took his shoes off and tossed them over his shoulder. The shoe rack by the front door caught them and arranged them neatly side by side. Bert put the slippers on and shuffled across the floor. “Look,” he said. “They don’t slip at all.”
John laughed. “I think they’re called slippers because you slip them on.”
Bert shook his head. “John, John, John. You slip on many different kinds of shoes. Shoes are named for function. You loaf around in loafers and ice skate in ice skates and flip in flippers.”
“That’s not what flippers are for,” John said. “And loafers are for dressing up.”
“Now I understand why you are still so loud when you’re wearing sneakers,” Bert said. “But that’s all right, you’re an intern. You’re supposed to still be learning.”
“I’m not loud.”
“John said loudly,” Bert said.
John frowned. “But what sport would need slippery shoes?”
“Who knows what new sport the kids have thought up,” Bert said. “I saw kids throwing around plastic plates and calling it Frisbee.”
“That’s not new,” John said.
“You’re so contrary,” Bert said. He picked up his shopping bags. “Just for that, you get to fill out the paperwork today.” He marched off in his slippers.
John groaned. “That’s not fair. You always make me do the paperwork.”
He filled out paperwork all afternoon. Just before it was time to go home, Bert returned, carrying his new slippers in one hand and a stack of papers in the other. He dumped the stack of papers into the inbox. John sighed.
“Here’s some more paperwork for you to fill out tomorrow,” Bert said. He held up the slippers. “Now guaranteed to slip,” he said.
“It worked?” John asked. “Wow. Maybe you could adapt the technology into some kind of ray that you could shoot at the ground. Your enemies would fall at your feet, literally.” John cackled evilly.
Bert shook his head. “I’m starting to worry about you,” he said.
“I’m just getting into the spirit of being a good mad scientist,” John said.
“Science first, John,” Bert said.
“Right, right. I keep forgetting that,” John said. “So if you made a slipper ray, could I borrow it?”
“I don’t think so,” Bert said.
Jean drove up to the ticket booth. “That will be eight dollars,” the lady running the booth said with a smile.
“Do you have change for a twenty?” Jean asked, after fishing her wallet out of her purse.
“Of course,” the lady said. “There you go. Put the ticket in the front window on the driver’s side, please. It will be good for one year.”
“That’s quite a deal,” Jean said. The lady just smiled.
Jean found a parking spot near the stairs and went up to see the dinosaur exhibit. It was amazing that there was a museum like this in the middle of nowhere.
The guidebook said to plan on spending a lot of time here due to the maze, but Jean planned on skipping that. She was presenting a paper at the archeology conference two hundred miles away, and the conference was tomorrow. She just couldn’t resist a chance to see more dinosaurs on her way there, because dinosaurs were amazing.
After an hour or two, Jean went back out to the parking garage. It was time to leave. She backed out of the parking space and followed the arrows. Well, she tried to follow the arrows anyways. It quickly became confusing. At one point, the arrows pointing towards the exit were right next to a wrong way do not enter sign.
And then the underground road widened out into a large parking lot again. But, this was larger than the other levels of the parking garage. The roof was higher, and the lights were brighter, and there was music coming from the right. Was that a fair?
Jean parked and got out to ask for directions. She stopped at the ticket booth at the entrance to the fair. “Pardon me,” she said. “How do I get out of the parking garage?”
The ticket seller squinted. “Are you new here?” he asked.
“Yes, I came to visit the museum, but now I’d like to leave,” Jean said.
The old man chuckled. “Yep, you’re new. I bet this is your first day here.”
“Unfortunately, it’s my only day here. I need to be somewhere else by this evening,” Jean said.
“Oh, you can’t leave that quickly,” the man said.
“I just don’t have time to stay,” Jean said.
“That’s what they all think. But you really can’t go. I’m not even sure there’s a way out. I’ve been here twenty years, and I never found it. Most people end up settling down here, and getting a nice job from the company. It’s not such a bad life, you know,” the old man said. “Are you married yet? I bet I could find you someone.”
Jean panicked for a moment and then narrowed her eyes. “That doesn’t make any sense. You’d have all starved to death by now.”
The old man laughed. “You got me. I can’t fool you. If you’re in a hurry, you can buy a map to the parking garage, but I think it’s cheating. A smart girl like you could probably figure her own way out in a week or two.”
Jean didn’t want to admit how relieved she was that there was a map. “I’d like the map, please,” she said.
“Sure, that’ll be ten dollars,” the old man said.
“Are you serious? That costs more than the year-long parking pass,” she said.
“Well, it’s your choice. You could stay and enjoy the fair for a bit. I really like the bumper cars, myself. There’s cotton candy, too. Then you could stay in the nice travel lodge two floors up and buy dinner at the café next door. Tomorrow, you can wake up all ready to spend the morning trying to figure out the maze…”
Jean sighed. “Here you go, ten dollars,” she said.
“Here’s your map. I hope to see you here again sometime,” the old man said.
“Don’t count on it,” Jean said, as she started to unfold the map. Wow. This was more complicated than she’d guessed. It was going to take a while.
A few hours later, she was finally driving out of a concealed exit miles away from the museum. That detour had taken much longer than planned. It had been worth it to see the dinosaurs, but all that mental work figuring out the map was exhausting. It was a good thing she wasn’t presenting her paper until after lunch. She was going to sleep in tomorrow. And stop at the museum again on the way home.
Clyde was tired of paperwork. Everything required paperwork. Well, he had filled out his last form in triplicate. He was going to make a stand.
As long as he was staging a protest, he might as well enlist some helpful minions. Clyde put an ad in the paper, and prepared to conduct interviews. Half of the responses were spam. He deleted them and scowled.
Most of the other half insisted on benefits like health insurance and dental care and being paid. Good minions weren’t paid. That was paperwork. Finally, he found a response from a college student looking for an internship. Perfect.
Kevin was early to his first day of work. Too early. Clyde opened his front door to get the morning paper and Kevin was standing on the front steps waiting. He was wearing a suit and tie and grinning. “Hello, sir,” he said.
“Gah!” Clyde said. “It’s six in the morning, what are you doing here?”
“You told me to come in the morning,” Kevin said. “It’s morning.”
Clyde sighed. “Come in and sit on the couch and don’t touch anything. I’m going to change out of my pajamas and eat breakfast.”
“Okay,” Kevin said. “I could make you cocoa. I’m good at making cocoa.”
“Fine,” Clyde said. He went upstairs and changed. He came back down, ignored Kevin, and ate breakfast and read the paper. He forgot all about the cocoa.
He remembered the cocoa soon after he sat down to tinker with his doomsday device. The device wasn’t really meant to be used, of course, but it would keep people from showing up asking for donations or survey information or back taxes. He figured the best defense against all those paperwork pushers was a good offence after all. Unfortunately, Kevin had left the mug of cocoa on the shelf right above the device.
So, when Clyde was reaching for the screwdriver without really looking up, he knocked over the mug of cold cocoa and it splashed all over the doomsday device. There was a flash and a fizzling sound and a puff of smoke.
“Kevin!” he yelled.
“Yes, sir?” Kevin asked, appearing at his elbow.
“Eek!” Clyde yelled. “Where did you come from?”
“I was taking out the recycling,” Kevin said. “It’s Wednesday, you know.”
“Kevin, why did you leave the cocoa over here?” Clyde asked.
“I thought you could drink it while you were working,” Kevin said.
“No more thinking and no more cocoa,” Clyde said.
“Yes, sir,” Kevin said.
“Now I’m going to have to start over,” Clyde said. He stomped over to the table and stopped. The pile of blueprints and master plans was gone. “Kevin. Where are my blueprints?” he asked.
“It’s Wednesday,” Kevin said.
“Argh! The recycling. You didn’t! Go get it all back now,” Clyde said.
“It’s gone already,” Kevin said. “But I got you a nice surprise.”
“I don’t want to hear about it. I’m going to see what I can retrieve from my computer. I think I scanned some of it,” Clyde said. Was Kevin really his only option? Maybe he didn’t need a minion after all.
He opened the door to his office. There was a white fluffy cat walking on the keyboard. “Ack! Kevin!”
“Did you find the surprise?” Kevin asked.
“There is a cat on my computer,” Clyde said. He shooed the cat away and began to type and press buttons. “It erased everything! Why did you bring a cat here?”
“I thought supervillians liked cats?” Kevin said.
“I’m allergic to cats. At this point, I’d rather do paperwork than deal with this any longer. I’m going to call the lab and see if I can have my job back. Go home, Kevin, you’re fired.” Clyde sneezed.
“But sir,” Kevin said.
“Go home,” Clyde said. He picked up his phone and started to dial.
Kevin picked up the cat and left, closing the door behind him. He started walking home. Two blocks away, his phone rang. “Hello, this is Kevin,” he said.
“Good work, Agent K. One less potential threat to the safety of humanity. I have the details for your next assignment, are you ready?” a whispery voice said.
“Yes, sir” Kevin said. The cat meowed.