Spank Rearend sulked before the mirror, wishing he could find some way to turn off his Great Mind. He put so much into wishing it that it did in fact happen quite easily - but he was too preoccupied on thinking about not thinking to notice.
Tonight, he faced the long-dreaded anniversary party with his wife Lily. Accursed woman! How could she expect him to be concerned with her after so many long days of watching other people work? He already bought her things and... well, bought her things. Now she expected he ignore his own Greatness for a whole evening just because they'd sworn to have and hold each other until death and stuff.
She could be so selfish sometimes...
But Rearend was used to such disregards of his Greatness. At least he told himself as much - that he understood how lesser minds looked up to him in envy, how the whole world wanted him to be ashamed for making a fortune with his Great Ideas - especially his own "family," whatever that was. His mother would yell at him for pausing in the middle of a conversation to think about his stock options or Lily would interrupt his thoughts on shiny metals to ask if he "like" what she did with the furniture over here or Bill would pester him again with what he "promised" to do nearly a year ago. Couldn't they all leave him alone in his Greatness while also politely appreciating it and praising him?
It's not that he had anything but his Great Ideas... and heaps of money... and invitations to all the best parties... and ridiculous influence in Washington thanks to politicians who fell over each other to coddle his business... but none of that got to the important thing - Spank Rearend's inherent Greatness, driven by the great Ideas he paid other people to carry out.
And now they - the big scary They of jealously not-Great types - wanted to limit it! He'd briefly glanced at some newspaper article going over new industrial regulations being mulled over by Congress. Loads of lazy, non-Great nonsense like "limiting environmental damage" and "preventing worker dismemberment" - as if a Great Man such as Rearend could still be Great under such restrictions. It's like they didn't even want his shiny new Spankmeum! Like they couldn't appreciate its shinyness! Like they -
Spank jumped up, almost striking his head on the fancy, low-hanging light fixtures above the mirror - pure spankmeum of course! - "Miguel! Why are you interrupting me!?"
Miguel, one of the many lowly non-Greats to whom Spank granted the privilege of upkeep in his home, replied, "Your wife asked me to check on you. She's worried 'cause you still haven't come down for the party."
With Great solemnity, Rearend brushed past the lesser creature, saying, "Oh Miguel, I don't expect a simple Mexican to understand what is being asked of me."
Miguel waited until his employer was safely out of earshot before muttering, "I'm Honduran you stupid culero..."
At the foot of the stairs stood Lily, smiling in that sweetly submissive way of hers. Spank was disappointed to see she wasn't wearing the chain but then again, probably better to keep such things private. For now.
She wordlessly lead him back to the party where a throng had gathered around some pencil-neck - "...To measure space coordinates and instants of time, rigid measuring rods and clocks are required. On the other hand, to measure momenta and energies, devices are necessary with movable parts to absorb the impact of the test object and to indicate the size of its momentum..."
Dammit! Lily had gone and invited another insufferable know-it-all!
"But then how do we know what's true?" someone asked the know-it-all.
"Well, that all depends on what you mean by 'true,'" he explained. "How concrete an explanation are you looking for? Because there's only so much that can be said with certainty. And that's still just observation - if you mean 'true' in the more nebulous sense of 'Truth' then that's more a subject for philosophy than quantum mechanics."
It was that awful Professor Pritchard. Spank never could understand why Lily liked having him around - he always looked so shabby, always munched away on the horse derv's like they were there to be eaten, always had some fancy flim-flam full of math he was trying to push on people.
"It sounds like you're saying nothing can be known," someone said to Pritchard. "Like it's all relative."
Pritchard politely finished chewing a canape before answering, "Sort of. But I'd only say so in regards to particles - and then only because our understanding of such things is still in it's infancy. That was the whole point of Schrodinger's thought experiment with the cat being dead and not-dead simultaneously. It's supposed to sound counterintuitve because our models are still incomplete. Kind of like missing links in evolution, which is still a big 'T' Theory because so much evidence exists in support. Funny thing - evolution is the harder to observe but is better understood than gravity!" And to illustrate, Pritchard tossed a grape into the air and caught it in his mouth. "Hey, that finally worked!"
Everyone had a good chuckle at the good professor's antics - except Spank Rearend. He couldn't get into the jovial social mood, couldn't see what was so cute about Pritchard's relativism, couldn't relate to anyone as a person really but only as an intrusion on or reflector of his own Greatness. He was a solipsistic moron like that.
Rearend turned away from the sickening display - all those people happy and enjoying themselves with something not directly involving him - and went out to the veranda. He liked that little spot because it was outside the house, Lily's house. She picked it out and did all the decorating. Spank would've been happy with just a shiny little fort to play in. Or an office, since he had a pathological fixation on the drudgery of administrative work.
Jesus this is bad... Okay, enough scene setting. He bumps into Daffy Braggart.
"Whoa! Hi there!"
"Where did I come from?"
"I guess my wife invited you."
"Why would she do that? And where exactly are our respective homes in relation to one another?"
"That's a very good question but I'm getting word from the author that we're displaying too much self-awareness and lucidity so MY METAL IS AWESOME!"
"Ooh, me love you long time!"
Anyway, back to the party.
Daffy was there with her brother Tim - whom Lily did invite. Tim would've liked to avoid the whole fiasco but felt it necessary to at least get a look at the man he'd been forced into business with. So far, Mrs. Rearend was pleasant and engaging.
"Where is your husband?" asked Tim. "I've been dying to meet him."
Lily's smile became a little strained. "He was here just a moment ago -"
And he was back, feeling refreshed after a good ego-stroking.
No, not like that! That comes later...
"Mister Rearend, on behalf of Braggart Big Damn Rail allow me to wish you and your wife a happy anniversary."
"Is that what this is all about?" asked Spank, genuinely perplexed because he could never remember anything not having to do with his shiny spankmeum for more than five minutes like an autistic man-child.
"Yes dear," Lily explained with the patience of a saint. "We've been over this..."
"Spank!" shouted a drunken voice, causing all in attendance to wince - especially Lily.
Bursting into the previous awkward conversation was Ralph Banks, a third-string journo who'd once written a book on the American metal industry. Spank always remembered that - with spite - because Banks had so little to say about Rearend Metals. Why, it only got a measly chapter!
"Great party, you two!" Ralph said. "Here's to the both of ya, and many happy -"
"Excuse me," Spank cut in icily. "But what about me?"
"You're toasting the two of us, but Lily's never done anything. Why aren't you just toasting me?"
Lily stared at the floor, flush with embarrassment. Tim Braggart stared on in shock and disgust - and also wondering how he would ever rescue his company from this narcissistic blowhard. That "spankmeum" crap was probably made of butter!
"Y'know what? Just get out!" Spank had devolved into full tantrum mode. "Get out of my house!"
Because now he considered it his house. Because it was convenient.
Ralph staggered away. Some other guests had taken note of Spank's outburst but were now politely - and pointedly - ignoring the couple. All save for one guest who was all too amused at the proceedings...
Francisco Domingo Carlo Banana Fana bo Binko d'Ano The Third! And no, I never get tired of that name.
Franky meandered into the clutch of people still surrounding Professor Pritchard. "So what's his superposition?" he asked. He thought it was clever.
"Oh, that all depends on the variables," Pritchard said. Raising his glass, "Namely booze!" and laughed good naturedly. Because genuinely smart people are gregarious and well-adjusted. Awkward loners just have overly-complicated masturbation rituals.
And yes, that was directed at you.
Franky laughed along with everyone, in a sneeringly superior way. "I couldn't help overhearing you earlier - you really believe nothing can be determined?"
"Well, like I said, as relating to quantu -"
"'Cause I happen to be an alum of your current employer and I was taught something awfully different. I was taught that things can be determined with certainty."
"And how is that?"
"Lookin'." And d'Ano smiled with palpable smugness.
"Exactly right," Pritchard replied, unruffled. "But how are you observing?"
"Well, I can certainly look at you and say, 'This is Franky d'Ano,' but I can't say anything about your wave function. It's not like I can see subatomic particles with just my eyeballs."
"Well then how do you know they're even there?" asked d'Ano snootily.
"Good question," Pritchard said. "And it sure is fun finding out!"
Franky scoffed, excusing himself haughtily and sashaying up to the Rearends and Braggarts. "Honestly, I don't know why you invite such gauche folks," he said to no one in particular.
It took considerable effort for Tim Braggart to keep himself in control. After the report on d'Ano's mine came out, Tim had been preparing legal action against the reckless fop to salvage a little of what Braggart Big Damn Rail had sunk into that fraud. He didn't care to give d'Ano any ammunition for when it all went to trial.
"Aw, what's the matter, darling?" d'Ano asked Tim. "Not happy to see me?"
"Not particularly, no." And to Lily, "If you'll excuse me..." He stalked off to the clutch of people surrounding Pritchard.
Franky pouted, "He just can't take a joke."
"He does have reason though," Lily said timidly. "I mean, your actions... that is..."
"Sweety, if I bothered to think about how my actions affect people I'd never have any fun," Franky said flippantly.
Meanwhiles, Daffy had been idling on the wings of the action wondering just why she was in this scene. So I passed her the cue card - To see Spank, you idiot!
"Of course! I'm here to Spank!"
No, for Spank. This time.
Daffy couldn't help admiring Rearend's heroic disregard for others. Truly it was a Great man who could fuss around about only himself like some myopic toddler. Daffy could see so much of herself in Spank, which was of course the only metric by which she cared to measure other people. But that's all the plot she gets - back to Franky and Spanky!
Because Spank was having a similar reaction to d'Ano. He felt his heart - and other parts of his anatomy - swell with affection for the swishy Mexican as he nattered on -
"...just can't be bothered with it. I mean, like, I have enough to do just taking care of myself so why should anyone else matter? What makes them so much more special than me?"
It was a philosophy Rearend could get behind, since he assumed himself to be very special.
There was more, something about the "wip hand" that made Spank smile more and Lily look very nervous but that's the jist of it - yay me, boo you. The guiding ethic of a four-year-old, dressed up in fancy rationalizations thanks to an expensive education paid for by family wealth.
As Franky took his fabulousness elsewhere and Spank waddled off to do some more self-indulgent navel-gazing, Daffy came stumbling up to him, babbling, "That Pritchard sure is an ass. He talks like a looter."
She wasn't sure why she said this but fortunately for her it flattered Spank to hear someone else repeat his own thoughts - even if "looter" had never occurred to him in the narrative but fuck it, let's go with it. "Yes, he does. But Lily invited him, not me."
"Oh, I would never assume you would make such a mistake!"
"Good. Because I totally wouldn't make a mistake."
And they stared vacantly into each other's eyes while the guests were talking about pirates. Yes, pirates!
"I heard another food shipment was attacked."
"It was that guy, what's his name..."
"Rancor. Rancor Dumassjerk."
"It's an appropriate name. Can you imagine? Sinking ships carrying food?"
"Does he think people want to suffer? That it's good for them?"
"Maybe he's really that Jon Gort fellow?"
That name got Daffy to look away from Spank's dreamy eyes. "What was that!?"
The guest, an old woman, turned to Daffy. "Gort? Oh, some rich fool. Claimed he was going off to find Atlantis on his yacht and just disappeared."
"Now that's just silly," said Pritchard. "Mythology isn't my discipline and even I know the Greeks never thought of Atlantis as an actual place. It was a thought experiment, just like Schrodinger's Cat."
"Well, not just like it. Schrodinger was illustrating existing unknowns while I believe the point of Atlantis was as a hypothetical perfect polity tha -"
"Aw that tears it!" bellowed Rearend. Storming up to Pritchard, he let loose a volley. "I've been listening to you flip-flop all night and I've got some things to say! For starters, I know where things are 'cause I can see them and existence totally exists! A is A, jerkface!"
"And a tautology is a tautology," Pritchard replied calmly.
Daffy was all a tingle at seeing Spank yell at someone - and at the story of this Jon Gort. Just pretend he's been mentioned before in the narrative.
She thought only a Great man would have the Greatness to go seeking something as Great as Atlantis. Especially if it involved the total disregard for such collectivist nonsense as "history" and "scientific reality." She remembered a cartoon from childhood that said Atlantis was the home of hero-spirits and as the thought filled her with the comforting warmth of nostalgia she reasoned it had to be absolutely true. It might be worth it to find this Gort...
But she could settle for Spank in the meantime. He'd walked back across the room from telling Pritchard what was. "Say, you wanna get together and bang sometime?"