01 February 2010

Purdue University

7 Aug 2009. Purdue is perfectly innocuous, like Canada or bread. (Who could hate Canada or bread? asks Matt Harding at the 5 minute mark.) So, of course, no better place for some mild kleptomania and sociopathy.

In an office in now-deserted Lilly Hall, where academic flyers fluttered along the tile floor, Otter looked at Professor J.B. Lee. The Professor was looking down, explaining his fundraising project. Otter was uninterested, supremely more so after a day of politely touring other people’s exhibits. He turned his attention to Prof. Lee himself, who promised not to waste too much of his time. Looking down from his natural born bird’s-eye view, Otter sniffed and got a noseful of pomade perfume.

Poor guy. He would have a wife by now if he got rid of the coke-bottle glasses and the two quarts of industrial sludge in his hair.

“Prof. Lee, where’s Chelsea? Isn’t she one of your students assisting with this project?”

“Oh, yes, one of my best. I suppose she is out with her friends, like young people will do. You know undergraduates.”

Yeah, I know them. I know plenty. And I could be knowing another one right now.

“All right, so how can I help you specifically?”

“Your trek across Montana was so inspiring. It set off a fire in my brain, like BOOM! I would like to ask about your best methods for getting out the word. Publicity and such is not my specialty.”

“It’s easy! Step one is tell all your friends.”

Prof. Lee blanked out then looked at the ground.

“Ah, yes, of course. Of course.”

Otter recognized the downcast gaze of a friendless man. But he didn’t feel like crushing spirits of a nonalcoholic variety right now.

“After that, talk to all of your faculty mates. All of them. Not just the ones in genetic engineering. Not just biology. The whole building.” Otter started outlining his ideas in a rough timeline.

“The whole building? Okay…” Prof. Lee was listening better now, still a little hesitant.

“And since this is an official university event, the most important asset in spreading the word to other media is the Office of Public Relations. They will take to your idea much quicker if you’ve already drafted a press release.”

“I have never written a press release.”

“Neither had I! That doesn’t matter! I had never driven a tractor sober either! There’s plenty of examples online, maybe even in your word processor. Don’t worry about it, when you’re done, I’ll spread the word back to the bio department in Bozeman. We’re not the biggest fish in the tank but every bit helps. You’ll do fine, Professor. Good luck!”

Otter slapped Prof. Lee on the back and got up to put on his coat. Next to Prof. Lee’s computer speaker were several decorative shotglasses. In one quick seamless motion, Otter stretched one arm through his jacket and grabbed one with a giant gold P and one with a beefy cartoon railworker and dropped them silently into his inner left pocket.

One for Chelsea, one for a backup girl.

Otter put his hand on the door handle to let himself out, but Prof. Lee called out. “Wait, Mr. Otterberg, a final issue. What about the God problem? I have encountered that many times.”

“…God problem?”

“You are aware there is a lot of resistance to the genetic engineering field. People say we are playing God.”

“Playing God, huh?” Otter removed his hand from the handle and turned back as the Professor continued.

“I try to inform them of the many merits of our work. That we save lives and increase food production! Some will not hear of it. It is very discouraging.”

Otter sat back down. “Prof. Lee, you cannot please everyone. So many people are kneejerk and shortsighted. Tell me, is there something wrong with striving to be better, more Godlike? Now, please, lay it on me about this whole ‘playing God’.”

Purdue: The Birthplace of Evil, Since 1874.

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