I was riding down the street one day, minding my own business. If you have read many stories, you should know by now that this is never a safe thing to do. I had read plenty of stories. I should have known better.
I needed to turn onto Fifth Avenue to get to the Y. I was almost there. That’s when I noticed them. There were two men in hoodies with sunglasses walking behind me. They didn’t seem to be doing a very good job at minding their own business. They seemed to be minding mine. I guess they were smart that way. One of them was talking on a handheld radio. I thought they were looking at me, though I couldn’t be sure with the sunglasses. I twisted my head to see if I there were anything unusual on the back of my t-shirt, but I couldn’t get a good look. “Oh, well,” I thought.
I had just turned at the corner of Benson and Pike when it hit me. Actually, two things hit me. The first thing was that I had missed my turn onto Fifth Avenue. Bummer. The second was a baseball bat.
It took me a full hour before I woke up, or so they told me. I’m not sure whether to believe them though since they also told me that my bike would be restored and that I must know why I had been kidnapped. Both those statements were obviously false, so I don’t know why they made them, but I guess that’s just the type of people they were. The scoundrels! It took a full week for that bump on my head to heal.
Anyway, I found myself in a brightly lit cubical shaped room with very little artistic touch — just a few chairs, a table, a coffee maker, some large windows, and a couple other basic things. The men in the room were wearing everyday clothes except that their faces were all closely hidden behind dark masks. None of this helped. For all I knew I could be anywhere, even China! … anywhere except a business meeting that is. I figured that businessmen would probably be wearing suits and wouldn’t have masks on.
“Jerry,” one of the men said, “We need your help. If you co-operate, our business may become the most powerful company in the world, and you would be a very wealthy man. You could buy any car you want, whenever you want, as many times as you want. You wouldn’t have to ride that bike everywhere. You could buy anything.”
Never mind I thought. They are business men. I couldn’t see why I would want to get a car. Cars needed repair. Cars were expensive. Cars didn’t give you that same thrill to ride. You didn’t propel them. I figured these men must not have taken logic in college like I did. That was probably my favorite class. Maybe I’ll take it again someday.
I could see that the man who had been talking to me (he seemed to be the leader of the group) was looking for a reply. I stated my opinion clearly. “That sounds like a pretty good idea, only I think I’d rather spend my money on a new bike, and about three hundred raspberry plants. You see I eat a lot of raspberries every year and …”
The man who had been speaking glanced up at another man. The other guy rolled his eyes and looked away. That seemed to upset the first guy, though I don’t know why. He looked at me and his voice rose. “Now look here. Let’s get down to the point. Your dad’s a pretty smart guy. We hear he’s created this invention.”
I got down to the point. After all, he had asked me. It was only respectful. “Yep. It’s the world’s most efficient water powered generator. Pretty cool if I might say so. When every home in America has one, the cost of living will go down and electric power will be completely decentralized.”
The man I was talking with bit his lip. He seemed to have a hard time dealing with me. I thought that was good because I didn’t have a hard time dealing with him, which meant I was the master of the situation. He continued. His voice was slow and forceful. “You forgot one thing, Jerry. Those generators won’t be purchased by the American people. They won’t be purchased by anyone.”
I looked inquisitively at him. He went on. “Nobody will buy them because they will never be produced in the first place. Mass production of the generator will cost millions. That’s money your dad doesn’t have and nobody is willing to fund him. Some investors think it won’t sell. Most think it’s a hoax. Nobody believes him. Nobody except us.
“Jerry, do you remember when you and your dad were working in your garage and you thought you heard a noise in the bushes?”
I said I did.
“That,” he told me, “was one of our spies.” He looked behind him at one of the men. “A rather clumsy one.”
I thought the fellow’s face turned a little pink, but with the mask, I couldn’t be sure. The speaker turned back to me and finished his speech. “He saw the generator in action. He saw it working. We know that your dad’s generator can change the world, but it won’t without a massive investment.”
“So you’re planning to invest? Cool.”
“Wrong. We know that we would earn a fortune if we did, but we are more ambitious than that. We want all the profits. We want to own the manufacturing ourselves. Your dad made a mistake, a terrible mistake. He sought investors before he patented his invention. We know that he’s planning to do it eventually, but if we can learn how the machine works, we can patent it before him. That’s why we need you. You are the only other person who knows how the generator works. I am making you an offer. Share that information, and I will make you a very rich man.”
So that was what this was all about. I was rather flabbergasted. Was this man asking me to be a turncoat? Well, yes that was exactly what he had said. I couldn’t allow myself to interpret those words any other way. I had majored in English, you see.
I didn’t have to think it through much. Not only did I know it was wrong, I felt it was wrong, and pretty strongly too. My mind drifted back to all the things my dad had done for me. He had taught me to ride my bike, he had saved my life two or three times, and he had taught me character. He even paid for my college. I’m not sure why he did that actually. An English major isn’t much help when you’re inventing things. I had a lot of fun though. Maybe it was all so I could study logic.
Thinking of logic, I decided to use some. “Here’s an argument for you Mr. If someone asks me to do something wrong, I shouldn’t do it. You are asking me to do something wrong. Therefore, I should not do it. Don’t try to deny it Mr. Its a modus ponens. You can’t argue with a modus ponens!”
That fellow wasn’t too smart. He tried to argue with the modus ponens. “Now listen here, Jerry. You’d be helping a lot of people. Americans, not just Americans, but the whole world needs this generator, and they are only going to get it if you work with me.”
I think I was kinda mad at him. He obviously didn’t have anything useful to say. He was wasting my time. My voice rose. “If you want that generator, you just go ahead and fund my dad, but I’m not working with you. I’m done with you, and I’m leaving.”
I punched him, and pretty hard too. I had been working out a lot at the Y recently. Exercise is a good thing to do in your spare time.
I think I knocked him out, but I didn’t stay to check. I ran straight to the other end of the room. I felt some object graze the side of my head. That was a close one. I dove out the only open window.
Those were two other things I had learned at college: self-defense and parkour, not from my professors of course. They weren’t into that stuff, but I liked them anyway. I learned that stuff from a roommate of mine. He was pretty amazing.
I fell two stories. I should have thought about that before I did it. I might have jumped off a skyscraper for all I knew. Oh well. I didn’t break any bones, so I guess it worked out. Practice makes perfect they say. I was in a scarcely populated part of town and nobody seemed to be about. That wasn’t good. They could have helped me. The only thing left to do was run.
It was a good thing I had run cross country in high school because I sure used it. I think I had run about a half mile at a solid pace when I heard engines roaring. I knew they must be following me, so I took a turn down a side street. At every intersection I would take a turn. I sprinted over peoples’ lawns — anything to foil my pursuers. Sometimes my pursuers sounded very near. Sometimes they were several streets off. Wherever they were though, they were always near enough to keep me running.
I darted past a small shopping center and onto a neighborhood road. I heard a screeching sound and turned to see a car come to a halt and a man spring out and bolt after me. I couldn’t run much longer. It was all over, I thought.
That’s when I saw a familiar car on the side of the road. Its owner was pouring a water bottle into the gas tank. “Dad” I shouted.
He turned and saw me. Then he saw my pursuer. With an agility that surprised me, he hurled himself into the driver’s seat. I opened the passenger’s door and leaped in. My pursuer slammed against the side of our car. My dad slammed on the gas. We left him in the dust — if there was dust. The road was pretty clean.
We were both too excited to speak for a few seconds. Then it hit me. No, not a baseball bat, a thought. “Wait a moment dad,” I felt a wave of shock, and looked at him with a dumbfounded expression,”Did I just see you pour water in the gas tank?”
“Yes Jerry, you did,” he replied. “It’s my newest adaption.”
He had never told me about that. I guess it was supposed to be a surprise. It was.
That is pretty much the end of my story. There are a few more things you should know though. First, I made sure my dad patented all his innovations pronto. Second, I got a new bike. It was better than my first one. It was blue too, which is my favorite color.
The best thing of all though was that my dad was filling up his car with water one day when this wealthy businessman just happened to notice him. It looks like those two are going to work together to get the generator on the market. I’m going to keep helping my dad, and if I can find the time, I want to read Paradise Lost. Things are going good.