The Soupster Visits A Mad Scientist.
Old Steve Parks lived in a dilapidated wooden structure facing a road that was a logging trail not long before (as opposed to New Steve Parks who lived in town). Folks wondered what went on, not so much in Old Steve’s house, as in the equally-dilapidated accessory building he called his shop.
The Soupster rolled up on the long gravel driveway, gave his bike’s kickstand a boot and knocked on the door. “Old Steve!” he called.
“Soupster!” called Old Steve from inside the shop. “Come on over!”
Old Steve met the Soupster at the shop door, wearing goggles and leather gloves. “I’m glad you’re here,” Steve said, “I need a hand.”
Steve’s request gave the Soupster a start – but in a good way. Old Steve, old irascible Steve, was brilliant and anyone who talked to him for even a moment knew it. Word was that Steve had a PhD in aeronautical engineering and electronics. Word was he had worked for NASA. Word was he had flamed out, took the proceeds from his patents, and moved out the road in Our Town.
Old Steve knocked his goggles onto his forehead and showed the Soupster deep into the spacious shop, which looked like a combination metal shop and chemistry lab. An eight-foot tall, conically-shaped object covered by a tarp was next to a ladder that reached up to the ceiling.
“It’s a retractable roof,” said Old Steve, pointing to the area above the ladder. “I need your help to open it.”
He posted the Soupster next to a large metal hand crank, then climbed the ladder and starting banging with a hammer.
“Metal is so unyielding,” the Soupster said.
“Not as much as some people,” Old Steve called.
“How so?” the Soupster asked.
“Well,” Steve drew a long breath, “you can bang on metal and you can reroute electricity, but with people sometimes you’re stuck with what you have.”
“You’re on to something, Steve,” said the Soupster. “Scientists used to believe that it was tool-making or something technological that caused the brains of our far-ago ancestors to grow big. Now, a lot of them theorize that it was navigating complicated social relationships in those ancient groups that caused our ancestors’ brains to grow.”
With a last slap of the hammer, Steve forced the mechanism loose. “Now turn the crank,” he called, which opened a four-foot square in the shop roof.
Old Steve clambered excitedly down the ladder and grabbed the tarp. He pulled it off to reveal an eight-foot tall silver cylinder.
“You going to space, Steve?” the Soupster asked.
“Not in this,” said Steve. “This is a model for testing. I’m having a problem modulating the temperature of my liquid oxygen fuel, and the pitch-and-yaw controls are all screwy. Any suggestions?”
The Soupster looked blank.
“But don’t let me waste your time, Soupster,” said Old Steve. “You save your big brain for those social situations. I can handle this.” He lifted a screwdriver and started opening a panel. “After all, it’s just rocket science!”