Chapter 3

Sharp park part 3

By GREG MAFFETT | Published: August 21, 2010


He had relocated his web higher and an accommodating fly had recently obliged him by taking up residence, much to its chagrin. He ambled over and bundled it nicely in silk. It was a mayfly. They were best aged 24-36 hours, so he would let it cure.


The Triplets

It was practice test day. Every Wednesday one of the three boys sat down to take the weekly IQ test that their parents administered. The boys had been doing this all their lives, so while it was annoying to bite an hour out of their day, at least for one them, it did not seem all that abnormal a thing to do. None of them ever actually asked the other kids at school if this is how they spent their Wednesday nights. Family rituals still existed in some families, this just happened to be theirs. In many ways, it beat sitting around the dinner table rehashing the foibles that filled most of their days.

Today, Bronze was in the barrel. The ‘rents had taken to giving the test online. The real test given monthly were still paper tests. They went to Sacramento to take those. But this was the low overhead version.


“Yeah Dad?”

“Ready to set a new family record?

“Uh, me? I’m still waiting for the kitten to wake up and knock itself out again.”

“Life is more than just an amusement parlor.”

“So I’ve heard. Ok, sure why not, I’m seeing we are due to break 215 soon. Why not tonight?”

Why not indeed the other two boys thought in unison.

Bronze grinned his best short bus grin. “Sure Dad, a new record coming right up!”

Bronze followed Dad into his study. The room was covered with printouts from the latest project that Dave and Dad were working on. Graphs everywhere. But the PC keyboard was clear. Bronze sat down, logged on and began the Wednesday night ritual.

Gold and Sliver spent the first half hour trying to invent a game that was better than Sudoku. They had a couple ideas involving spirals, but nothing that they were ready to publish. At the end of the half hour, they had to refocus if there was to be a new record. Both of them focused their energy on the exam in the other room.

Bronze finished the remainder of the test in less than five minutes, but hitting the finish button that soon would have overshot the mark considerably. None of the children wore watches as they could all had perfect time sense, but they had to calculate the exact time to hit send to get a 215 score on the test.

At exactly 52:17 into the test, each of them said “Now” as Bronze hit send.

The 215 score was displayed on the screen and texted to Mom and Dad, both of whom were pleased, but neither of whom were surprised.

Bronze went back to family room and added his ideas to the spiraldoku project while waiting for Spiffy’s 8 o clock show.


The Squirrel had been outside the study, watching bronze take the exam. He thought staring into a luminescent screen to be a puzzling thing to do with one’s time. But he never understood anything these people did, other than picnicking, which he considered to be the sole redemption of mankind.


The Dean of Economics was everything you would expect of a man with his title. He was palest of the pale. Blue and green blood vessels clearly visible under any skin unfortunate enough to be exposed. He was gray and had those pinchy eyeglasses which he alternately balanced on his nose or the top of his head as his eyes flitted back and forth between his oversized computer monitor and his iPhone.

Terry had been working for days to verify Dave’s Sea Turtle Perturbation theory. Verifying the math was easy enough, Dave was always spot on. His K factors proved out in each market. Terry’s only problem was the marketing. STP theory had a natural co-branding opportunity with the gas additive, but did he really want to bring in industry at this point? Especially with the spill in the Gulf and the effect that may have on marine creatures, i.e Sea Turtles. Seemed like it was more trouble than it was worth. So he looked at STPT, Estey Peaty. Sounded like an earthy Pixar character. Well, he really wasn’t interested in the money and Dave sure wasn’t. He was happy living on a park bench for the rest of his days. But while this wasn’t about money per se, the University and their lawyers...well, forget it. This was a solid piece of work that would get them both back in the journals...and back on the University Faculty.

Terry walked into the Dean’s office with his paper in a leather bound folio.

“Annette Benning” the dean said without looking up.

“No, I’m Terry” Terry offered.

“Oh, not you. Beta testing a new program and I just tested it for Annette Benninng/”

“You know her?”

“Uh, no I ran her numbers, so far she has the lowest time.”


“Sex on a dessert island.”

“And this is related to economics...” Terry trailed off.

“Oh, no, new program from the EE department. They were doing some pattern recognition work and ran out of funding, so they repackaged the code to something they might sell. The idea is that they can figure how long it would take for you to have sex with anyone on a dessert island based on some profile information. I remembered that everyone in Being Julia was trying to sleep with Annette, so I thought she might do well on the test. “


“Looks like every man woman and a few other creatures would surrender in under 24 hours to her charms.”

“How do you validate this?”

“Don’t have to, its the EE department. They never make mistakes. Perfect reason, always. Of course that is what gets them writing stuff like this.”


“Of course, women hate that. They want an occasional flaw, that grain of sand they can turn into a pearl.”

“So EE’s never?”

“Nah they never get any, unless...”

“They are on a desert island. Nice.” Terry grinned

Just then a ding emitted from the Dean’s iPhone . The Dean pushed up his glasses and checked his phone.


“What? Stock market move?”

“No this is my intellimometer app. Bay Area mean IQ jumped 2.87 points overnight. State is up .12 points. Negligible national rise. Lemme check the map.”

He dropped his glasses and flipped to the big screen.

“Oakland! It’s Oakland, come see.”

Dave stepped behind the Dean’s desk to take a gander. The Bay area was shown as a display of red and green dots.

“Red dots are sub 100 IQ area’s...”

“Got it, Oakland used to be red, now it’s...blank?”

“Mass Exodus?”

“Let me check the news outlets....oh, oh my...BART is only running on this side of the Bay. All freeway exits to Oakland are closed...Berkeley and Alameda residents are being advised to stay indoors. Hmm. “

“So they didn’t exodus, this was more...”

“Sodom and Gomorrah, yeah. Oakland was a HUBZone to start.”


“Historically Undercapitalized Brainwise-”

“C’mon, I’m am economist too, I know what a HUBzone is!‘

“Oh right, you just look like a football coach. Ok, here is another one. Remember the rapper from Oakland, that Hammer guy/”


“Right, Moron Cluster!”

“Ok, ok you have a million Oakland jokes, I get it!”

“Yeah, what is the point of living here if you can’t look down at people there. Did you know anyone there?”

“Not a soul, my people are Yankees.”

“Huh? Oh, me either. “

“Well looks like roughly 400,000 people bit it last night over there. In biblical times this would be “the angel of death” but now we have terrorists we can spin this on to. Though we have never had terrorists weed out our bottom feeders before. Well, the political science and philosophy departments can grapple with that. You said you and Dave have a ground breaker to show me?”

Terry handed over the folio. The dean was a self taught speed reader and finished the 90 page report in under 2 minutes.

“You really want to publish this?”

“Sure. It gets us our chairs back, no?”

“Of course, you knew that walking in. But you also know how much money-”

“We aren’t in it for the money. We just like pissing off the Dean of Academics. This will be worse than a prostate exam when he sees we are back. Right up there with a colonoscopy, actually.”

“You guys could make hundreds of know only 100 guys in the world will even understand this and they will split the millions. 3,000 other guys will think they understand it and bungle the application. And-”

“And the markets will become more efficient. And we never see that as a bad thing, do we?”

“No, you are right there. Well, welcome back. You want two offices or...”

“You know Dave will never set foot inside, but I think a nameplate on a door would help piss off the DOA.”

“Done, we can still have a couple grad students in that one. Your corner office will be cleaned up by the end of the day. Move in first thing tomorrow.”

“Cheers, boss.”

“Like either of us believes that....”


The spider never got far from the park. Neither did that guy on the bench. The spider felt like his size was his excuse for not traveling as far and wide like the bird and the squirrel. But he didn’t understand why the guy on the bench didn’t leave like the others. He decided to keep a close eye on that one.



“Tragic, just tragic. Can you imagine, almost half a million people...”

“Yes dear, it was tragic but not without a silver lining.”


“Yes, I was in the Dean’s office and he mentioned that the Bay Area IQ went up 2.87 points after that singularity.”

“Still the human tragedy. All those corpses. Thank goodness we still have a lot of German immigrants around. They have experience with this sort of thing.”

“I guess that is one way to look at it. So what are the kids up to tonight, still working on spiraldoku?”

“You really have been in your office too long. That was so last week. This week it is Pop-Nuts.”


“Uh, they get a half eaten pint of Ben and Jerry’s and pour some grape nuts in it, then they eat it out of the container. Whenever they get some ice cream to break loose, there is a shower of grape nuts over the kitchen floor. They walk around barefoot and pick up the nuts as they embed into their feet. Then they toss them into one side of the double sink. Whoever loses sits out the next round and is the referee.”

“There are penalties?”

“There have been allegations of illegal substances on the bottom of some feet.”

“So what happened to the spiraldoku?”

“Too cerebral, this involves all five senses.”


“Apparently there is some whining when they step on a particularly sharp one...”

“Well, they should knock it off soon. Doing the paper test tomorrow. Oh did you ever get through to Fastrak.”

“No, never did. But the Governor announced that all toll bridges will be free bridges from here on out and Fastrak is being disestablished.”


“Something about all their workforce coming from Oakland...I didn’t get all the details, hon.”



Most people don’t get squirrels, the squirrel thought. They think we are cute or energetic or flea infested. Maybe true, maybe not. That is something of a case by case question. The big overarching issue we face, every one of us, is to not jump. We are 40 to 50 feet off the ground, the higher we go the worse it gets, the urge to jump, suicide out. Some days, I have no idea how I make it. No idea at all,

Old Yeller

Old Yeller was the family car. It was a gold Mercedes that Terry liked to tell people was the launching pad for his three boys, hence he held on to it for sentimental reasons. Facts didn’t support any of this, but most legends suffer the same fate under a bright light. And no one really cared to shine a light on this one, so it stood as part of the Lore of Terry.

The fact that the car was gold and that he was driving his son Gold to Gold Country for this exam could also add to the lore, if his program came together today and his eldest punched through the 300 barrier. That plus getting his old job back in one week...that would almost be as good as if Jane were to...well, she wouldn’t.

Lots of other guys had wives that really were excellent cardio machines. Terry was one of the forlorn ones who had to use the machines at the gym. Women using those machines was no surprise, a few lassies who overindulged trying to rejoin the game. But guys on cardio machines meant only one thing. And all the guys there knew it.

The drive really was flying by. Nice that they toll plazas were now a free pass. That saved 15 minutes times tens of thousands of drivers. Terry was calculating the likely increase to the GNP of the local economy when he remembered that Gold was in the car and this was his much treasured father-son time.

He interrupted his GNP calculations to try to come up with something to discuss, but really, he had nothing interesting to say and saying that to a genius about to take an IQ test seemed like about the stupidest thing he could do, so he drove on in cherished silence until they arrived at the testing facility.

“How you feeling today, Gold.”


“So you think today might be the day?”

“Nope, not thinking, am sure of it.”

“Well go get ‘em tiger! I’m off to Starbucks for a red eye.”

Gold shook his head.

“You’ll barely have time for a double espresso.”

“But you have three hours for the exam”

“Only way to break three hundred is to fly through it. I’m shooting for under 15 minutes.”

No way to knock a test out that fast, Terry was sure of it. Well no way he knew of anyway.

Terry blinked and hustled over the Starbucks, just in case there was a way.

Gold tapped his pocket protector and the five freshly sharpened number 2 pencils therein as he entered the exam room. Oh, we was ready.


The Bird had been waiting for this day. She was perched outside the exam room, balanced on her left leg with her right wing raised casting what looked like a cockeyed grin at Gold as he walked in. Was that bird really doing yoga, or was she just airing out a wing? Trying to draw attention, perhaps?

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