Slightly Mad Scientists: A Book of Short Stories, by Smith, J. F.
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- ISBN: 9781426929908 | 1426929900
- Cover: Paperback
- Copyright: 4/22/2010
It was a brisk autumn morning in a small Virginia suburb where the local tree-pruning company was cleaning up the neighborhood leaves and branches after a big storm. Pat Smith, the youngest member of the crew was feeding branches into the chipper, which ground them up into mulch. He was sleepy and not paying much attention when suddenly he felt a tremendous tug on his arm. A branch had caught his shirt sleeve and it was pulling him into the gaping maw of the chipper. Now Pat was fully awake; he fought the machine with all his might and was just able to hit the cut-off switch before being pulled inside. "What's the matter, something get stuck?" asked Tim, the crew chief. "Didn't you see what happened? It tried to pull me in. This thing is possessed just like Joe says; it tried to eat me," said Pat. "Not you too," said Tim. "It's just a machine kid; your sleeve got caught that's all. You've been listening to too many of Old Joe's stories about these things. He's got you spooked; just be more careful." "But Joe says his whole crew got chipped when he worked for Columbia Township?" argued Pat. "He said they had to bury sixteen bags of chips because they couldn't separate the people from the shrubbery." "You don't really believe that story do you? That's just Joe ranting. He's a paranoid; a burned out Vietnam vet who thinks everybody is out to get him," said Tim. "But you don't know the whole story," Pat continued. "He said he used to be a scientist or something working on a covert government project. The government is redesigning lots of ordinary machinery like this into lethal robotic mercenaries, for who knows what evil purpose." "That's ridiculous," said Tim looking at his watch. "Joe told you he was a scientist working on some Top Secret government project? And now he's on the run from the Feds cause he knows too much? Come on kid, can't you hear how crazy that sounds?" "Well, it sounded believable to me," said Pat. "When am I going to get a chance in the bucket? That's where I want to be, up there in the treetops like you." "You'll get your chance someday kid," said Tim. "Now get back to work." Later that evening, Pat climbed the fence to the maintenance yard where the chipper truck was kept, and started it up. Then he jumped into the bucket and raised it up as far as it would go. He practiced going back and forth getting a feel for the controls, and then he sat back and relaxed looking at the stars overhead, imagining the day when he'd be the tree trimmer and not just part of the clean-up crew. Suddenly the machine lurched; the bucket spun around and tipped over. Pat was just able to grab the safety bar. He watched in horror as the doors on the top of the chipper opened exposing the deadly chipper blades. The crane wouldn't allow the bucket to get any closer but now the crane began to bounce up and down trying to shake him loose. All Pat could do was hold on and stare down at the spinning blades of death. "Old Joe was right, this thing is alive," he thought. "They'll never find my body. I'll just be so much mulch in somebody's garden." "Grab my hand kid." A familiar voice came from above. Pat looked up to see Joe hanging from the roof of the control cab. "Joe, it's you. What are you doing here?" "I live in that shack over there," said Joe. "I've been keeping an eye on this contraption; making sure nobody gets chipped late at night, if you know what I mean." "Well no, actually I don't," said Pat. "Never mind kid, just grab my arm and jump." Pat jumped, his feet missing the swirling, demonic blades by mere inches. "Whew, that was close. Thanks man, I owe you my life." "Come on kid, we've got to go underground. They'll be looking for both of us now," said Joe. "Who are they?" "Haven't you been listening to me kid? They are the secret society that's behind everything that's evil in this country. They are the ones that get us into wars we have no reason to be in, they took out Jimmy Hoffa, probably with a machine like this one. They are the ones that make the traffic lights turn red even when there isn't anyone coming the other way." "Oh no, here he goes again," thought Pat as they hurried to Joe's hideout. Somewhere downtown: "Well, at least we got the old one to come out of hiding," said the federal agent. "Do you think the kid believes him?" "Probably not, but it doesn't matter, they both know too much. They'll have to be eliminated. We'll make our report later, now let's get some breakfast, I'm starved." They left their office in the basement of an inconspicuous federal building downtown. On the door was a small plaque that read: FBI – CHIPPER DIVISION