The Defective Mr. Thurbin
Mr. Thurbin on the Road to Utopia
Mr. Thurbin stared at Mr. Brown, the ancient, white-haired representative of His Majesty who had called him away from his work in the Royal Society archives, with a mixed sense of speculation and fear. Speculation: in a Utopian State, in which all men were equal except for those men not fit to live, would Mr. Brown be considered equal or not fit to live? Fear: despite his beliefs, as fervently and honestly held as they were, Mr. Thurbin knew into which category he belonged, and it was not equal. The trouble was that this shouting fool knew it too.
And so he turned his bowler ’round and ’round in his hands, feeling the felted wool with the tips of his fingers — as though the nearly-smooth surface were written in code — and pressing the label (Hammer & Sons, est. 1663) as it passed in cycles under his thumbs. He was trapped and he knew it.
“Discretion, Mr. Thurbin! You must be the soul of discretion!”
Mr. Thurbin winced at the loudness of the man’s voice. “Yes, sir.”
“And completely without mercy! This Dr. Panacea, you may trust, is without it himself! You will not be the first man I’ve sent into the shadows to exterminate him! Nor, I wager, will you be the last! But it is the only way for you, a mellitus, to exculpate the burden under which your ill health places us all!”
“And you’re known to be a man of science! And therefore a man of inordinate curiosity! If you see other men of science — or women, you may not believe it, but there are a few — they must be reported! Even if you should lose your life!”
“This is the road to Utopia, man! Show some enthusiasm!”