Cradles the Brain: A Book of Short Tales

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Conductivity Episode One (Pt. 1)

“Rebecca, look at this ad I found,” Stewart said as he gazed into the paper he was holding. He laid it on the table and pointed to an ad about four inches square. Rebecca looked over Stewart’s shoulder and read the advertisement.

Lawson’s Pool Co.

Our new pool filtration system, the SCRUBMATIC 5000, will rid your pool of pesky insects, bacteria, and debris! The SCRUBMATIC 5000 instantly shocks any living matter and safely disposes it through our patented filtration system at the press of a button or a simple timer setting! User friendly and safe for kids and pets as the SCRUBMATIC is only powerful enough for the most stubborn insects and bacteria! Contact our company at 555-9801 or come to your local Lawson’s Pool Store to get yours now!

Rebecca hmmphed at the idea of such a thing, but Stewart stared at the ad for a few minutes.

“I think I’ll go down to Lawson’s and see if Ted can get me a discount on one of those things. Our pool is always so filthy, and I’m sure they’ll have someone install it for us.” He looked at Rebecca with hope and she nodded, silently approving the purchase. “Great, but don’t tell the kids yet. I want it to be a surprise. No more cleaning for them!” Steward laughed and Rebecca went back to doing the dishes.

Footsteps thundered down the staircase. Three children, a blonde, a brunette, and a red head with the same face, stood at the dining room table. They each sat down and poured themselves some cereal. Their grey uniforms were pressed and pleated neatly, and they ate their cereal with discipline. The boy spoke up first.

“Good morning, Father,” he said, a spoonful of flakes midway to his mouth, his short, blonde hair glittered in the morning sun that shone through the window.

Two young female voices chased after his in unison, “Good morning, Dad.”

“Good morning, kids. Ready for school?”

“Yes,” one voice from three bodies responded. At the same time, they each got up and surrendered their bowls of tainted milk to the kitchen sink where their mother cleaned them one by one. They each filed out of the room and, soon after, returned with grey sling over bags. They each gave their mother a kiss on the cheek and hugged their father. They said their goodbyes and left the house.

Outside, kids in pressed grey uniforms with grey sling over bags filed to their bus stop. Where, after a short time, a grey bus came and picked them up. On the bus each child sat in their seat—previously assigned— hands in their lap, eyes forward, mouths shut.

Eventually they arrived at their bleak school, grey on the exterior and grey in the interior. The children walked through the halls in single file and entered their classrooms. Inside those classrooms, the children were taught discipline along with the usual curriculum. The school was eerily silent all except the teachers’ voices during lectures.

Back at the Canin’s house, Stewart finished up his breakfast. Rebecca cleaned his plate and replaced it into the cabinet. He got up, grabbed his car keys, and gave her a quick peck on the lips.

“I’m gonna head out to Lawson’s and see what Ted thinks about that SCRUBMATIC 5000,” he called from the front entranceway as he slipped on his loafers.

“Alright, but be back for dinner! We have reservations at that new Chinese place downtown,” Rebecca hollered from the laundry room.

“Okay!” Stewart exited his house and hustled to his car, a navy blue 1978 Plymouth Fury. He started Furry—the car got its nickname from the kids thinking that the Fury was in fact a Furry when they were little—and backed out of his driveway. He waved to a man mowing his lawn at the corner lot and a woman walking her Great Dane down the street.

Five minutes after Stewart had left he was at Lawson’s Pool Company: a large brick building that smelled of chemicals and plastic. A boy of about seventeen greeted him once he entered and Stewart asked if he knew where Ted was. The young man directed him to the back of the store where a group of men were standing in a circle laughing. A bald man of about forty turned around and saw the two.

“Stewart! Good to see you!” Ted left the group and gave Stewart a bear hug. “How’ve you been, my good man?”

“Fantastic actually. And yourself?” Stewart asked with a smile plastered on his face.

“Oh, great, great. How’s the family?”

“Good. Kids are doing great in school and Rebecca is happier than ever. I got her one of those talking reading machines for Christmas and she loves it! Although, the automatic dishwasher broke down last week so she’s been stuck washing the dishes by hand, but otherwise she’s great. How’s Clara been?”

“Oh, we broke up about two weeks ago,” Ted admitted.

“Oh,” Stewart said as he walked with Ted out of earshot of the group of men. “Well, if you don’t mind me asking, what happened?”

“We didn’t see eye to eye on this product we just brought in. The SCRUBMASTER 5000. I told her ’bout it about three weeks ago and she said she didn’t feel comfortable with me installing ’em or even having ’em in the store and I told her that it was a corporate thing that I can’t do anything about. And I want to keep my job. We kept arguing about it so she finally just left. Said she had some ‘vision’ or something. I don’t know.”

“Why didn’t she feel comfortable with them? And what kind of ’vision’?” Stewart asked, concerned.

“Well, she said she didn’t believe that they were safe for people to be around. She always flipped out about the machines in the house. She got real jumpy anytime she had to be around one. You shoulda seen her face when I brought home the automatic mower from Phil’s store,” Ted laughed and slapped his knee. His face went slack for second and he said, “But, anyway, yeah, we’re Splitsville. But it’s okay, she didn’t want kids and that’s something I’ve always wanted. No harm, no foul.” He shrugged his shoulders.

“Hmm,” Stewart said.

“So, Stew, what can I getchya?” Ted asked earnestly.

“Oh, well, uh, I’m here to get information about the product you were just talking about,” Stewart said, embarrassed.

“Oh, no problem. Gets me commission anyway!” Ted laughed. He walked over a few aisles while Stewart followed. They arrived at an aisle full of big boxes of different cleaning contraptions. Ted slapped a box that said, ‘SCRUBMASTER 5000,’ in big block letters. Stewart was taken aback at the size of the box. Ted laughed and began his pitch for the ScrubMaster 5000. “This baby’ll clean your pool in no time. With an external electrical supply, it lightly shocks the water, killing all insects or bacteria that have entered your pool. Larger creatures like frogs and snakes will be stunned a bit but unharmed. The pulse has been tested on humans and it has been found that it is not strong enough to even be felt! Crazy, eh? Kills bugs but we can’t feel it. Amazing! Then the finest net created—so small that a gnat can’t even escape!—scoops up all the dead bugs and debris and puts it into a disposal container. That container is easy to access. All you have to do is pick it up and dump it in the trash!” Ted stopped, thinking for a minute. “Although, there is one thing, this system can only be installed on in-ground pools. And it takes a crew and about a week to install.”

“A week?” Stewart asked, stunned.

“Yeah, well, they have to drain your pool, tunnel down next to your pool, cut into your pool, and make all these changes to it in order to install it. I’m actually going on my first install this afternoon, can’t wait! But, if you don’t want it done, Stewie, then I guess the kids’ll be stuck cleaning it with that flimsy little net.” Ted made a tsk-tsk sound and shook his head. He looked at Stewart, who was deep in thought.

“Cost. What does it cost? How much?”

“Well, five hundred for the system—”

Five hundred?!” Stewart asked. That was almost his full paycheck.

“Well, yeah. It’s a fancy system, buddy. Plus, install is about the same. So, it’ll be about a thousand when you get down to it.”

“Jeezuz.” Stewart thought for a moment. “Well, it’s for the family.” He told Ted to ring him up one of the SCRUBMASTERs and while they got it all ready, he would go to the bank and take out some cash.

“Thanks, Stew!” Ted waved as he loaded the box onto a forklift. Stewart waved back and headed out the door. The fresh air pleased his lungs as he had grown weary of the toxic smell of the warehouse.

Stewart got in his car and started the engine. He sat in the parking spot for a moment, rethinking the purchase. The pros seemed to outweigh the cons, so he drove off to the bank.

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