* Mad Science! *

Quite A Short Story

By Jocelynn Peters

What Nigel really needed was a brain.

He didn't set out at 1:36 a.m. in his mother's tan Corolla with the specific intention of killing anyone; he merely intended on letting off some steam about the whole Brain Quandary. But he did end up killing someone.

Two of Nigel's long, spindly white fingers were desperately jammed into the man's neck, searching for a nonexistent pulse. The man's balding head was twisted at an unnatural angle, eyes staring off down the street as if expecting the arrival of the police or paramedics, neither of which had been called. The tan Corolla, motor still running and soft rock hits still playing quietly over the gagging sounds of Nigel's hyperventilation, was parked partially over and partially on top of the man's body.

"Shit," he whispered. "Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit!"

Standing up abruptly, he reached back into the open driver's side door and flicked off Celine Dion. He ran one white hand through his dark hair – little good that did to smooth its unruliness.

The chances that the one person jogging past his driveway at 1:36 a.m. on a Thursday would be his biology teacher were exactly 162, 030 to 1, out of all the people in Granville. Of course it couldn't have been his mother, or Tommy "the Terror" Robbins from down the street. He wouldn't have minded hitting either of them.

"Shit. Oh shit."

His hands were sweating profusely and he wiped them off onto the front of his cargo pants. They were shaking violently. He hadn't thought to bring his inhaler; he hadn't really thought he'd be needing it. In all honesty, he hadn't been thinking about much. The dark stain spreading across Mr. Sylvester's jogging suit showed maroon in the buttery light of the streetlamp.

It was sitting upstairs, in his sock drawer, and he might have ventured to get it if he hadn't only moments prior been awakened by the return of his intoxicated mother, half-clothed and spouting profanities at him about his lack of a social life and/or poor personal grooming habits. She then proceeded to vomit up a pulpy mixture of tequila and seafood onto his quilt. Somewhere in the house, she was still stumbling around in search of the Porcelain Throne.

In lieu of a good puff, Nigel crossed his long fingers and held them over his mouth as he stood there under the streetlamp, beside the twisted corpse, processing all that had just occurred.

The first thought that came to him was My driving instructor would be so disappointed. I can't believe I forgot to double-check the rearview. The second thought was Fuck. I just killed a man.

Looking down onto his biology teacher's lifeless corpse, he was struck by the thought that this accident had been partially brought about by its victim. Only that afternoon, Mr. Sylvester had exacerbated what had already been a horrible day by refusing to grant Nigel's simple request for a human brain.

"Sir," he started, tentatively approaching the desk at the front of the room with the air of one approaching a sacred shrine. "I know that you are planning on ordering some kidneys from an organ supplier." He chose to ignore the half-curious, half-disgusted expression on Mr. Sylvester's face and continued. "And… I was wondering if it was possible for you to order me a human brain. I'll pay for it!" he added hastily.

"Well, Buckaroo," Mr. Sylvester said affectionately. ("Buckaroo" was what Mr. Sylvester called all of his male students. He called all of his female students by their respective names.) "You know I can't do that!"

"But you can!" Nigel spread his long, white fingers out over the desk and leaned in closer. "You can order whatever you want!"

"Not a human brain, I can't," Mr. Sylvester laughed. "I mean, I could, hypothetically, with good reason, but I don't have one, so I won't. So I can't. Understand, Buckaroo?"

Nigel looked at him, nonplussed by this terribly illogical logic. There was a reason, it seemed, as to why this man taught biology and not physics or math.

"But… sir, there's only so much you can do with FoodLand lamb brains. Frankly, only so much isn't a whole lot, and I'm really not interested in gourmet cuisine." The tone of his voice grew slightly desperate. "This is my life's work. It's extremely important that I complete this project. All I need is a human brain."

Mr. Sylvester gave him a strange, sideways look that told Nigel he was beginning to sound like Doctor Frankenstein. "You're life's work? How old are you, Buckaroo? Fourteen?"

"Eighteen," Nigel said darkly.

The tall, balding man waved one hand dismissively, and continued as though Nigel had never spoken. "Yes. Fourteen. Think of all the time you'll have in the next three years of highschool! You might not even be interested in brains by the time it's over."

"I graduate this June."

"Skipped a few grades? That's not so unusual. In fact, my daughter Phoebe – do you know Phoebe?" He then looked at Nigel as though he was expecting an answer, but he did not wait for one. "Phoebe should be in eleven right now. But she was always bright as a lightbulb. Skipped right over grade five."

"But, sir," Nigel interrupted. Did this man have the cranial capacity of a goldfish? Was this man's own train of thought too fast for him to follow? His rubbery, slimy brain was slipping right through Nigel's fingers. He had never wished for Jedi mind powers quite as hard as he did just then. "What I mean to say is, I need this brain now. I'm entering a national science fair and I need the money if I want to - "

"Oh yes, yes," said Mr. Sylvester, waving one hand as if to clear the air of some sudden stench. "The brain. Why don't you go to FoodLand? They have a section for sheep's brains."

Nigel, who at this point wanted to do nothing more than gouge out his own eyes with a fork from sheer frustration, merely nodded, said "Yes, sir, it seems like a good idea," gathered up his meager belongings, and left the classroom.

He went home and ate a whole box of Wagon Wheels. Then he played some Rachmaninov for The Contraption, polishing it lovingly throughout Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Exhausted by his failure, he fell asleep beneath his Justice League comforter, only to be awakened at 1:32 a.m. when his mother vomited tequila and seafood onto it.

Nigel took a good look at his biology teacher. From the angle and positioning of his head, it would appear that his neck had snapped – instantaneous death. Bending down beside him, Nigel lifted the head from the concrete. It weighed about as much as the average cantaloupe, and there was a small gash on the back. Blood had stiffened Mr. Sylvester's sparse hair, and they porcupined up as if in mockery of Nigel's own.

If it hadn't been for this man's insistence, Nigel could have had his brain by now. His science fair project could have been complete, his scholarship won, his future as a genius astrophysicist/neuro-surgeon assured. And so it was that the third thought that entered Nigel's head as he considered the situation before him was Well? You asked for a brain.

He wrapped his fingers wrapped securely around Mr. Sylvester's ankles, just above his white-and-orange ShapeUps, and he heaved at the body with all of his meager strength. Hauling the body free from its place under the car he began dragging it up towards the garage, leaving a streak of maroon behind him on the driveway.

No longer concerned with the practicalities of disguising vehicular manslaughter, he comforted himself with the thought that it would surely be the wish of any devout lover of the sciences, as Mr. Sylvester had surely claimed to be, to have their bodies donated for the purpose of furthering scientific research. He could really think of no nobler purpose after death.

A/N: Well, this was done a couple of weeks ago for my creative writing course - which I am now done! Thanks be! We spent far too long on the post secrets...