Copyright 2016 Mario V. Farina
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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He was weird all right! Jim Watkins and I had worked at the same company several years ago and we had stayed in touch. He was short, weighed about 145, had a long thin head topped with a patch of loosely combed short brown hair. He wore a huge glasses that looked almost like goggles; had big ears and a wide mouth. He liked to wear white turtle- neck sweaters. Once or twice a year we would have lunch together.
Why was he weird? Well, because of his crazy ideas. I would tell him that they were crazy, but he didn’t seem to mind. I think he was pleased that I would pay attention to him when others wouldn’t.
Take, for example, his idea of a metric clock. The 24 hour clock is old-fashioned, he contended. We need a modern clock based on the metric system where each day has 10 hours. In this clock, each hour would have 100 minutes, and each minute would have 100 seconds.
He pointed out that the length of the day wouldn’t change. It would just be divided into slightly smaller units. In conventional time, there are 86,400 seconds in a day. With the metric clock, there would be 100,000 slightly shorter seconds.
What would be the advantages of a metric clock? Jim mentioned some hazy benefits having to do with adding and subtracting time spans. I didn’t fully understand what he was saying.
In connection with measuring time, he also asserted that the calendar was all wrong. The calendar should be divided into thirteen months, each month having twenty-eight days. There would be a day at the end of the year for celebration. This day would be called Watkins day in honor of him. He had a funny way of saying Watkins. He bared his teeth and drool around the corners of his mouth. Then he’d roll his eyes and chuckle way down deep in his throat. This mannerism gave me the creeps.
Another time, Jim told me that he had invented a new diet. All one has to do to lose weight, he professed, was to eat ice. It was all based on the idea that it requires one calorie to raise the temperature of ice one degree Centigrade. He announced that if one eats ice, the body has to heat it to body temperature and this requires calories. Eating twenty-five pounds of ice a day would cause one to lose a pound a week.
Jim is thin, but has a bit of a pot around his midriff. I asked him if he had tried the diet. He admitted he hadn’t. He had meant to but had never gotten around to it. Besides, he argued, he was basically a big idea man. It was up to others to take advantage of his ingenuity.
Another time after that, he told me that all the world is a show. Almost nothing is real! They have put something over on us.
I asked Jim who he meant by they. He stared at me and responded there was some sort of secret group who had a plan and we were all its victims. In other words, everything is like in the movies. The buildings have fronts but there is nothing behind them. When we travel along the highway, the road is real but nothing is real just a few feet on either side. When in an airplane, we are really in an elaborate theater. Everything displayed outside the window is a movie.
And, of course, all space voyages had been fakes, he revealed. Someone had made a film of the rocket taking off and of men walking on the surface of the moon. There is a fantastic set somewhere where all these phony events were shot. Jim remarked that he had made a study of all this and could prove everything.
I asked him for some of this proof but the best he could do was to say that one time he had gotten out of his car unexpectedly and had run into the bushes along the side of the road. He had almost made it, he claimed. Unfortunately, they had seen him stop and had laid out some real stuff faster than he could run into the bushes. He knew the real staff had just been put there because the scrub felt cool even though it was a warm day. They had obviously obtained the underbrush from some sort of mobile refrigerator.
The man was mad. Feeling as I did, why did I continue to see him? I suppose it was because I wanted to see just how outrageous his remarks could be. There was a sort of hypnotic spell that his thoughts cast over me.
We had lunch again this afternoon, and he told me the wildest tail of all. Gone were the notions of clocks, diets, of a make-believe world. He told me he had discovered the secret used by successful people on getting ahead they had employed a principal called the Law of Reverse Action.
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, he pontificated. He had learned how to make use of this law.
“Did you ever hear of Isaac Newton?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied, “but he didn’t do anything with his law. I’ve actually begun applying it to everyday living. This is the way to be fully successful in whatever you do.”
He gave me examples. He related that when he travels to work, he make sure he takes exactly the same route back to his home. This way, he’s sure not to get into an accident because the road that is safe in the morning is bound to be safe in the evening. “You see,” he commented, “returning home is an example of taking a reverse action.”
I raise my eyebrows but remained silent.
He also affirmed that if he has ham and eggs for breakfast, then he has to have eggs and ham for dinner. For lunch, he may have a cheese sandwich made with two slices of cheese and one slice of bread. When eating out, dessert must be eaten before the main course. The tip for the server should be given before the food is delivered.
He told me that he goes to bed each night at six because he has to get up at that hour in the morning. He stated that he’s working on a new language where every word reads the same backwards and forwards. Using words that he made up himself, a request for food would sound something like: “Oolloo atramarta okiko anabana okiko atramarta oolloo.”
It’s important, he assured me, that the entire sentence must read the same backwards and forwards. Otherwise, people might be accused of using bad grammar. To date, he has invented only about two dozen words in his new language, but he assured me that it will eventually become universal throughout the world.
I recognized that what he was doing was creating palindromes, words and sentences that read the same backwards and forward. There are some famous ones. One involves Napoleon Bonaparte. He is reputed to have said, “Able was I ere I saw Elba.” Another has to do with Teddy Roosevelt and the Panama Canal. It reads, “A man, a plan, a canal, Panama! There are thousands more. I told Jim that I was well aware of palindromes.
He maintained that he was putting an entirely new dimension on the idea. He coined the word, palinilap, to replace the word palindrome because his new word is spelled the same backward and forward. Palinilap is a better word to describe a palindrome because the word, itself, is a palindrome.
We parted after we had been together fifty-five minutes. He insisted on this length of time because the digits in this number read the same in both directions.
What happened next confounded my mind. I’m sure there’s a logical explanation to it, but I don’t know what it is.
I got a call from Wilson Hospital earlier this evening. They told me that Jim was calling for me. I sped to the hospital and hastened to his bedside. “My doctor told me that I was dead for over two hours,” he whispered. “I had to take a detour after I left you this afternoon because they were repairing the road that I had used in the morning. While on that road I had a heart attack and was brought here where they pronounced me dead on arrival.”
“I was dead, for sure,” he continued. “There was no question of this because I found myself standing in front of an exquisite Golden gate on the planet Neptune. This is where Heaven is located, you know. The gates swung open and I drifted in. Everything around me was stunningly beautiful. I was surrounded by celestial music. I experienced a serenity impossible to express.”
“On Neptune, everything is the reverse of what it is here. For example, people are born old and, every day, they grow younger. They cease to exist when they are babies. Also, gravity pulls things up, not down. At night, people turn on the light to make it dark. I could talk for hours about what Heaven is like.”
He was speaking rapidly. His eyes took on a frenzied appearance. “My God,” I thought to myself, “this is the worst Jim has ever been. He’s lost touch with reality. His mind is gone!”
In a voice, vibrant with the emotion, he continued, “I wasn’t allowed to stay. They had heard about my Law of Reverse Action and were applying it in Heaven. At the very moment that I floated into heaven, they told me that I’d have to sail right back out.”
“Reluctantly, I did this. Since I didn’t want to go to the other place, I decided to come back to Earth. This whole experience used up exactly 2 hours and two minutes.”
He continued talking for a while, then gradually slowed his speech, and seemed to nod off. In a quandary, I walked out of the room. There was a doctor waiting outside the door.
“Do you know this man?” He asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “He just told me a most amazing story. He declared he had just come back from the dead.
“I, also, found it to be a remarkable story,” the doctor replied. “I’ll never understand how a man who appeared so completely dead could come back to life after so long a time. Something compelled me to try bringing him back. In trying to revive him, nothing worked at first, but then, in desperation, I tried some things that are the reverse of what is written in the textbooks. He came to at once and started breathing on his own.”
“Thank you for what you did, Doctor,” I said. “He’s not one of my best friends, but we do get together once in a while. Would you mind telling me your name, sir?”
“Not at all,” he replied. “I’m Doctor Rever.”
I noted that his name was spelled the same backward and forward. On a hunch I asked him for his full name. He peered at me in an amused manner.
“They call me Reverse Man,” he smiled. My full name is E. S. Rever. Backwards, this spells the word, reverse.”