Thursday, April 17, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! pt 14

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13

"I'm not. Often he can fix a watch with his bare hands. He's got such control of his fingertips that he can unscrew a tiny screw with his index finger, and screw it back in with his finger when he's done. When a screw was too tight to use his hands, he used the blade of a folding pocket-knife. Besides that knife, he kept a pair of tweezers in his workspace in his father's pub, and I believe that may've been all of the tools he was using before we met. We've given him proper loupes and tools and lamps he can use at home now, in addition to his work desk at the plant. And of course having decent tools has just fired him off like a rocket, in terms of what he can do, and how fast."

"So does he have any interesting designs for new watches?" Brown asked.

"Um, no. We were very hopeful about that at first, but the idea of designing something new doesn't seem to interest him at all. He wants to fix things. He sees a watch and as if he immediately imagines a Platonic ideal of the perfect version of that watch, and he wants the watch to be as close to that imaginary perfection as it can be. And that's how he expresses it, too: as approaching perfection. He's quite clear that he doesn't consider any existing thing to be perfect, and that everything is just a matter of trying to come close to perfection. If it's close enough to perfection it gives him pleasure. If it's not it can distress him quite a bit. And we're not just talking about watches here, he wants to fix everything he possibly can: he'll move a fork a tenth of an inch to make a table place-setting more symmetrical. He'll insist on walking a certain route because it'll shave ten paces off of a half-mile walk. He'll complain that there are too few pigeons sitting on a statue to make a pleasing arrangement. He'll notice if an animal is injured. He's very concerned about animals. He might see that a pigeon has a sore foot, and he can't do anything about that, and it upsets him greatly. He'll see that a shoe on a horse pulling a hansom cab is loose, or too thick or too thin, and he'll try to tell the driver about it. Some drivers actually listen to him about such things, because, ...Hmm. Well, because they've learned that he's always right. He's simply a genius."

"That's extraordinary," Brown said. "I'd only heard about the watch repair, I hadn't realized his talents extended to those other things. But I gather that he's also, oh... Forgive me..."

"Yes, in addition to his unusual abilities he also has unusual weaknesses. He doesn't understand people very well. He can be quite awkward socially. And so at first many people assume that he's quite simpleminded, when in fact the opposite is the case. Let me put it this way: he's very sharply focused on some things, such as watch repair, while he has great difficulty focusing on some other things which most people understand, and take for granted that others will understand them too. For example, if a group of people are walking and conversing, it will be clear to most people that whatever it is they're talking about is likely to be much more important than whether the route they take to their destination gets them there a few seconds sooner. Crowds generally are difficult for him. He doesn't seem to lie, as far as I can tell, nor do I think he can tell when others are lying. Not right away. Sometimes he'll figure out after the fact that things which have been said don't all add up. That can sometimes distress him quite a bit. In some respects he's innocent in the extreme."

"You said that crowds generally are difficult for him. Generally, but not always?"

"That's right, not always. Depends very much on the particular crowd," Latham said. "What are you getting at?"

"Well. He's obviously an extraordinary man. I thought it might be nice to introduce him to society."

"You want to show him off as a freak at one of your parties." Latham knew this wasn't quite accurate and he blushed as soon as he'd said it.

"Latham! What do you take me for?" Latham had begun to breathe heavily and to become dizzy. He felt the need to rock and forth or moan, to do something to soothe himself. Something or other which he always did after he had gone off by himself and hidden. He felt that whenever the conversation was about Charlie, people perceived that he was unusual like Charlie, although they never admitted this to Latham's face. He imagined them laughing at him and Charlie behind his back. He was fairly sure that it didn't happen quite as often as he imagined, that these anxieties were irrational. But it was hard to control them, and the fear that he would be exposed as a lunatic, and sent to some torture-chamber of an asylum, never to be released. This fear of awful asylums was even more irrational than the concern that people could see that he shared Charlie's characteristics, and that they regarded both of them as imbeciles, but it was hard to banish the fear even as he recognized it as irrational. Latham was upset with himself for confiding in Inspector Raymond about autism. Raymond simply didn't understand. He'd been the wrong one to confide in. Or perhaps, on the other hand, it was the secrecy which had been ill-advised all along, and he ought to have been perfectly open about his condition all along, never made the slightest attempt to conceal the ways in which he was unusual. Various scenarios of alternate pasts, if he had done or not done this or that, and imaginings of various possible consequences for each choice he might have made differently, began to race faster and faster through his mind, and the need to get away, to rock, to clutch his head and wring his hands and moan, became ever more desperate. Brown was saying, "Latham! My God, what's wrong? Do you need some water, some brandy? Do you need a doctor?" Obviously, Brown was a much better one to confide in than Raymond. But he had to open up generally. Let people think what they would. As with anything, the more intelligent would understand and the stupid ones would draw stupid conclusions. No one was gone to put him into an asylum. Get it out, get it out. Tell the truth at last.

"Water," he said to Brown. "Water, please." Brown went running out of the office and soon was back with a glass of water. In the meantime Latham had begun to rock and moan and wring his hands, and this time when he was no longer alone he didn't attempt to hide these behaviors. He took the glass from Brown, drank down half of it at a gulp. It was icy and good. He put the glass down on Brown's desk, Brown raised a hand as if to lay it comfortingly on his shoulder, he gestured for Brown to please keep his distance, Brown understood the gesture and and stayed back. Latham took another gulp of water and nodded toward Brown's desk. Again, Brown understood the wordless request, and he went back and sat behind his desk again.

And then Latham told him, in detail, about how he shared many of Charlie's characteristics, with the major differences that neither his genius nor his social awkwardness was as pronounced as Charlie's, and that since early childhood, sensing much better than Charlie did how some people reacted to others who were different, he was in the deeply-ingrained habit of hiding the ways in which he was atypical. About the effort it took him to attempt to blend in. How things like the rocking and moaning and hand-wringing, which he usually did in secret, helped calm him down when his mind began to race uncomfortably. Clutching his head also, and striking the tendons below his knees and under his feet to set off his reflexes, how these and other things also helped. Things like a drink or two, for instance, or the company of some pretty girl or other with whom he managed to get along. How he had instantly known that he had many of these things in common with Charlie, the moment he'd first seen Charlie in agony, being held down by two constables on a crowded Waterloo station platform while an inexpert doctor methodically made things worse. About his anxieties about being confined in an asylum, and how he realized that those fears were irrational. Each big secret he gave up to Brown was like a heavy stone lifted off of his chest. He could breathe easily again. "I know you would never want to show anyone off as a freak," he said the Brown, "I know you're not like that at all. I lashed out because I was panicking. I'm sorry."

"My dear fellow," Brown said. "My dear Albert."

"I really prefer being called Latham. Sorry."

"Not a problem at all, Latham. Well, I must honestly say, as far as I was ever able to tell, you always fit in quite convincingly. Only thing a bit unusual about you has been how little eye contact you make. Just a split-second here and there to sort of ground things, and otherwise you're staring off somewhere. But even that isn't terribly unusual. I had no idea at all. My god, the strain it must have cost you."

"So, yes, by all means, let's let you have a party and introduce Charlie to some nice sensible people. You're quite right, it's time to introduce him to the wider world. What sort of event did you have in mind?"

"I was thinking of my uncle's place, actually. Does Charlie like the countryside?"

"I've no idea. I'll ask. And of course you've got to invite Charlie's Dad as well. I'm not sure how often he leaves the pub to someone else, or for how long."

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! pt 13

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12

The next Monday, the 21st of May, at around 10:01 AM, Brown, the man with whom the Latham concern generally dealt at Harrods, was exclaiming over some watches Latham had brought to show him. They custom-built some individual watches to order, and then they made watches like these, in moodels. Latham's grandfather had been the first in the first to put a number to a group of similar watches, dubbing them Model 1 in 1854. They had reached Model 100. Unlike the other models, which they had built until demand petered out and/or a newer and better model had replaced them, they had decided to make exactly one hundred Model 100 watches. They were all done now, and Latham had brought ten of them to show to Brown. There were in an office away from the main ground-level floor at Harrods. Latham had chosen 10 pieces which he felt well-represented the variety of cases and faces in the Model 100 series.

"But the movements are all the same?" Brown asked.

"Identical."

"Beautiful," Brown said. Latham had come to the puzzling realization lately that many, perhaps most of their customers actually knew little and cared less about watches, and bought them mostly to impress other people who also knew practically nothing about how watches worked, or even which ones were more accurate or reliable than others, but had remarkably accurate knowledge about how much the customers had paid for them -- unlike most of the people who ended up wearing their watches, the shops who bought them wholesale tended to have a pretty exact idea of what they were buying. And Brown here was a true connoisseur. He had unscrewed the back case of one of the Model 100's, removed the cover and was looking at the whirling movement through a loupe. Brown was one of the few people Latham would allow to take apart a Latham watch which he hadn't yet purchased. Latham would disassemble a watch for some others, and watch closely to make sure they didn't damage it. But Brown here was okay.

"There's the same price for each watch," Latham said, "although, as you can see, of course, some of the cases and faces were more expensive for us to build than others." Latham winced a bit, but said exactly what his father and his brother William had asked him to say: "Our prices for series watches have always been negotiable in the past, and especially for good customers such as Harrods, but for the Model 100 I'm afraid it's take it or leave it. Thirteen hundred pounds apiece."

Latham had expected Brown to pretend that he was outraged at such a price, and to have to go through some back-and-forth before Brown either took it or left it, but instead Brown just said, "I'm not even going to pretend that that isn't a bargain."

Latham smiled. He really did like Brown. With him, there was very little of the bargaining nonsense Latham encountered with many buyers, and which he also observed in William. They seemed to enjoy that sort of thing, which to Latham was like pulling teeth. Perhaps Brown was bargainer too, most of the time? And sensed that Latham didn't care for it? He continued, again, exactly as his father and William had asked him to: "There's one exception to this firm price: if Harrods buys all of the available Model 100's, the price will be eleven hundred pounds apiece."

"All one hundred, eh?"

"I'm sorry, no, three are already off the market," one in a display case at the plant, one to be auctioned off and the proceeds given to the Salvation Army, and the other, at Latham's insistence, was now in Charlie's pocket. "It's felt that -- Ehh! Excuse me for speaking to you that way -- my brother feels that there could be some considerable marketing cache both for our firm and for Harrods if we make this an exclusive deal with you. He's even speculated about the deal making headlines."

"I daresay it will. This is news, my good man. Ah, I should say, it would make news. I'd like to go ahead and say yes, but with... Ah... Eleven hundred times -- "

"One hundred and six thousand and seven hundred pounds."

"Thanks, old chap. You really do such sums in your head, don't you?" Brown seemed honestly surprised. Latham was surprised that Brown hadn't been able to do the math in his head. But this was apparently another example of how people like him and Charlie were unusual. "With an amount as high as a hundred and six thousand and seven hundred pounds, I can't say yes or no on my own. Afraid I'm not quite that far along in my career yet. Don't want to make you a promise about something that's not done yet, but I'm pretty sure they'll say yes." Brown was putting the watch back together again. "There's been a lot of excitement about this around here."

"That's gratifying."

"So," Brown said, "I've heard about your prodigy. Your young man Charlie Evans."

Latham was quite startled. He felt his heart pound in his chest. Who'd been talking about Charlie? Then he reflected that customers came and went in the plant all the time, and that they'd seen Charlie at work and exclaimed about him, and that it certainly wasn't his place to expect them not to talk about it to others. He cleared his throat and said, "'Prodigy.' Yes, that's exactly right. Happened to run into him when I was consulting on a police investigation, and Charlie was a witness."

"They say he's an amazing repairman."

"Better than I am. Miles better."

"You're exaggerating," Brown said.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! pt 12

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11

"Oy!" somebody called.

Charlie looked in the direction of the voice and saw two men walking toward him, looking at him. He looked back at the sky and replied, "Oy."

"You the one fixes watches?"

"Yes, I am."

"You think you could fix this one?" Charlie looked at them again and saw that one of them had taken an old watch made by Thomas Fuller out of his pocket. The case was badly dented and most of its silver plating was gone, and the brass underneath was dull. All three of the hands were still there, but Charlie could see that the second hand was not seated, was almost about to fall off, and wouldn't turn anymore if the watch were running. The minute hand was bent.

"You have to talk to my Dad first." Charlie pointed to the front door of the pub. "He runs the pub. First you talk to him. If you make a deal, then I look at the watch."

"Your Dad have another name, besides 'Dad'?"

"Aa... aa... Yeah. His name's Pete. He runs the pub."

"You charge anything for taking the watch apart and looking at it, even if you can't fix it?"

"My Dad... My Dad handles the money." Charlie couldn't understand money. Money had to do with the way people behaved. "But no," Charlie added: "if I don't fix anything, you don't pay anything."

"Awright, cheers," and the two men went behind him and into the pub as Charlie continued to look at the sky. The two pigeons had disappeared from that rooftop. Charlie's father had tried and tried to explain money to him, and Charlie had tried hard to understand, but over and over his mind went numb as he tried to listen, and his father's words made no sense to him. With money there were always deals and discounts and bonuses and such, and Charlie had made no progress in understanding those things. You had to "read people," as his Dad put it, in order to be able to make deals well.

The lovely purple was fading into dark blue in the sky and it was getting colder. He went into the pub just as his father and the two men were walking toward the front door. "Ah, Charlie," his Dad said. "I was just telling these two gents I thought they'd be better off just buying another watch. Gave them the names of some places to look for one. And I said maybe you might have one for sale as well -- ?"

"Not at the moment, Dad."

"Ah, well."

"I don't mind lookin' at it, Dad?"

"You sure?"

"Yeah. Nothin else planned at the moment, and I'm curious what I'll see."

Charlie's Dad said to the men, "I don't want to get your hopes up here. We're talking about five minutes, maybe more."

"Maybe less," Charlie said.

"What do you think?" one of the men said. There was a pause. Charlie was looking at the floor. He wondered whether the men were communicating by looking at each other. Charlie couldn't communicate that way. "Alright," said one of the men. "I could do with a half-pint of that IPA, I think."

Charlie took the watch into his little workshop just off of the pub's main room. Mr Latham had given him a lamp and loupes and tools and parts to bring back home, in addition to those things which he said were now Charlie's at the Latham plant. Mr Latham encouraged Charlie always to use the loupes and to keep whatever he was working on well-lit, whether by sunlight through a window or by a lamp. The loupes and lamps made a huge difference in the ease of working on watches.

Charlie checked the time when he started to work. Ninety seconds later he had many of the Fuller's parts spread across his desk top, and he called for his father. After his Dad had closed the workshop door behind him Charlie said, "It's gonna need seven new parts. I have three of them."

"Right. Hang on." Charlie's Dad popped back out, then very soon he was back and saying, "All right then, Son, put it back together for them. Very polite of you to offer to look at it, but they're going to get another watch."

"Dad, do you want to see if they'll sell it to us?"

"No, Charlie, I do not."

Charlie was disappointed at that, but he put the Fuller back together, seating the second hand so that it would turn properly when the watch was running again, and straightening the bent minute hand.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

People Who Doubt The Authenticity Of The Gospel Of Jesus' Wife Seem To Be Grasping At Straws

(Before I begin here, let me try to be as clear as possible: "authenticity" means that the famous postcard-sized piece of papyrus containing the so-called Gospel of Jesus' Wife is ancient, that is: more than 1000 years old, and perhaps over 1600 years old, and not a 19th-or 20th-century forgery. No serious academics are saying that this text records the actual words of Jesus, talking about his wife. None of them are saying this proves that Jesus was married. What Prof King has said all along, consistently, is that this document may perhaps show that one group of early Christians thought of Jesus as having been married. It's a real shame that so many people are somehow managing not to hear her.)

Professor Karen L King, who came under heavy criticism in 2012 when she presented the so-called Gospel of Jesus' Wife to the public in 2012, when critics said it was a modern forgery, and not a 4th-century Coptic translation of a 2nd-century Greek text, seems to have been at least partially vindicated.

But some experts are still skeptical:

"Brown University Egyptology professor Leo Depuydt [...] points to grammatical mistakes that he says a native Coptic writer would not make"

If Depuydt is right about that: so what? King says this is a 4th-century translation of a 2nd-century Greek text. There's no reason why a native speaker of Greek in the 4th century couldn't have translated something into Coptic, making mistakes no native Coptic speaker would have made. Ideally translations are made by native speakers of the language being translated into. Ideally, but certainly not always, as countless people of many different natives languages have discovered when they've had great difficulty trying to decipher texts in their own native languages in owner's manuals for appliances.

Depuydt says, "the text … is a patchwork of words and phrases from the [...] Coptic Gospel of Thomas."

And again I say: if Depuydt is right, so what? A 4th-century translator could've been familiar with the Gospel of Thomas, which was not officially condemned by the Orthodox authorities until the 4th century. If his or her native language was Greek, it would be only natural for him or her to depend on words and phrases which he or she knew from a Coptic text, such as, for example, the Gospel of Thomas.

Depuydt is not convincing me at all that the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is a modern forgery. If this is the best that the skeptics have, then I say, forget 'em, and consider the artifact to be authentic. (And forgive me for being a broken record, but please be sure you understand what is meant here by "authentic," as explained in italics and bold print at the beginning of this blog post.)

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! pt 11

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10

At about 7:51 PM on the same day, Charlie was standing outside his father's pub looking at two pigeons silhouetted against the sky as they perched on a roof across the street. Charlie loved the violet of a twilight sky before sunset on a clear day, and often went outside to look at it. Pigeons carried diseases which potentially could hurt people. Charlie didn't know whether pigeons ever got into the pub's trash bins, in the alley behind the pub. The bins were covered, but the covers didn't fit flush, there were gaps. Charlie didn't know what animals could squeeze through those gaps. He wasn't particularly worried about pigeons at the moment. His father told him that no-one could possibly worry about everything even if he wanted to, and so you had to concentrate on important things. If there were ever a lull in Charlie's conversation with his Dad, he had a list of topics he could bring up. But Charlie and his Dad usually didn't run out of things to talk about, and the pigeons and the trash were pretty far down the list.

Most of the potential danger came from other people. Charlie knew that most people understood each other much better than he could, and even they worried about each other a lot. Charlie understood animals much better than most people did. He was never to touch a pigeon, or any dead animal he found lying somewhere. If he saw a dead animal he was to tell his father. Charlie was only supposed to touch animals if his father had said it was okay. He had petted some horses on their noses and necks and given them carrots and apples to eat. He liked horses and dogs and cats. Touching animals didn't hurt like touching people did. Also, Charlie could figure animals out mostly, want they wanted and how they felt, and he mostly couldn't figure people out. You couldn't even always go by what people said, because sometimes people lied. Animals never did.

There were two dogs which were often brought to the pub by their owners, which Charlie's Dad had said he could play with. Charlie especially liked one of them, a large golden Labrador. There were things that most people did better than Charlie, and then there were things that Charlie did better than most people. He was unusually good with animals. Cats which were usually very shy would come running from their hiding places to rub against his ankles and purr, or jump into his lap if he was sitting. With cats you had to be very still and let them start things up, and always be very gentle.

The first time Charlie had seen the large golden retriever he said, "Aw, Dad, he's beautiful! Can I pet him, please, please?!" Charlie's Dad smiled and told him to ask the dog's owner, and the dog's owner had said it was alright, and Charlie bent over and put his arms around the dog's neck and his head against the dog's head and said, "That's a good doggy. Yes that's a very good doggy. Ooooohhhh, doggy doggy doggy! Yes! Yes! good doggy!" and so forth. Charlie knew how to talk to dogs, it just came naturally to him. It was mostly in the tone of the voice, and also noticing the dog's reaction to your voice and reacting in turn. It didn't matter what words you said. Lots of people said that their dogs knew their own names, that when their owner called their name they came running, but Charlie believed they were wrong. He thought it was the tone of the owner's voice that the dog recognized and not the word being said. Same with dogs understanding commands: without even realizing it, people always said a certain command in a certain tone, and then they became convinced that their dogs understood English. If a dog was barking and the noise was bothering Charlie, he could make the dog be quiet just by pointing a finger in its direction. That first time he petted the golden retriever, he could feel its big wagging tail thumping against his back the whole time. Finally he let go and sighed and stood up again, and the dog's owner said to Charlie, "You made his day!" and Charlie's father had said, "Are you talking to my son or to your dog?" And Charlie and his father and the dog's owner had all laughed, and the dog had looked from one laughing face to another with his tail going to beat anything. That was years ago but Charlie laughed again now thinking about it.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! pt 10

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9

At about 2:31 PM the next day, Friday, Latham, walking across the bridge toward Westminster, was able to determine that the large policeman shambling toward him was, in fact, Inspector Raymond. He hadn't seen Raymond since the incident at Waterloo station. Not very many paces later, Latham began to suspect that the large-linked watch chain protruding from Raymond's waistcoat pocket was platinum; when they were within twenty paces of each other he was sure it was. Then they were face to face, and stopped and stood there, neither one saying Hello or anything else for the nonce. Finally Latham said, "That's an extraordinary watch-chain, Inspector. D'ya have a rich aunt die on you lately?" The two of them weren't in the habit of laying hands upon one another, but Latham unceremoniously pulled the watch from Raymond's pocket, a Waltham 1883, yes, it was the very same watch Charlie had described to him, the same in every detail down to the unusual, deep scratch next to the stem. Latham unfastened the chain from Raymond's vest, looked around to make sure no other pedestrians were near them on the bridge, and tossed the watch and chain into the Thames. "Don't worry," he told Raymond, "I'll get you a new one, you know I will, you just have to ask. You like that sort of heavy chain, no problem. I'll give you a beautiful heavy platinum watch to match it."

They just stood there for a while, neither one knowing what to say. Finally Latham asked Raymond, "So, what are you up to?"

Raymond shrugged several times before he spoke: "To tell you the truth, I'm wandering around aimlessly."

"You look terrible. Pardon my saying so, I say it out of concern."

"I know. I know you do. I know I do."

Latham looked around again to be sure that they were out of anyone's hearing, and asked, "How long were you wearing that watch and chain?"

"A week, a day and a few hours."

"Good."

"Good?"

"It's clear that you're very upset about something. And that's bad. What I meant is that it's good that, apparently at least, you're not so upset that you've lost all sense of time. Good Lord, has it been a week since you've changed your clothes? Never mind, answer me this instead: have you got fresh clothes at home?"

Raymond nodded: "Yup."

"Right." Latham whistled loudly, an empty hansom cab stopped, Latham herded Raymond into. "Oh," he said, "I don't know your address." Raymond gave the driver his address in Lambeth. They were silent for the several minutes it took the cab to get there. Once Latham got Raymond into a hot bath in his flat, he said, "Look, I understand how sometimes you can't tell someone something. It may hurt my feelings when that someone is me, but I understand that there are more important things in the world than my hurt feelings. The thing is, Charlie, ahhh... I don't think Charlie understands the concept of secrecy."

"Charlie? Ah, you mean that imbecile back at Waterloo Station?"

"He's not an imbecile!"

"You sure?" Raymond asked. "The way you say that, sounds like you've said it several times already."

"He's not an imbecile. Without him you never would've identified that watch and chain."

"No?"

"No. And he would've spotted the chain several times further away than I did. A football field away. At dusk."

"Would he have now?"

"You remember the drawing of the watch, in the packet I sent you?"

"Yeah."

"You know Charlie made that drawing?"

"Oh. Actually, I hadn't realized that. Thought you drew that."

"Wish I could draw like that. Charlie banged that out in two minutes. I'm not exaggerating. Two minutes. He's a genius." He looked up to meet Raymond's eyes after saying this, saw Raymond's skeptical expression. "He's a genius in some areas, not in others. Alright?"

"Well, he seems to be a draftsman, alright."

"The drawing's nothing compared to what he can do with watches. What he can do with a watch with his bare hands. He's spending some time over at the Latham plant now, with proper tools and so forth. But I don't know. I don't know if he shouldn't better be some place like the British Museum. Or Cambridge."

"Alright, alright, I apologize for insulting your talented friend. But I believe how we started talking about him was that you said, ahh, you said that he... doesn't understand the concept of secrecy."

"I suspect he doesn't. And he's got eyes like a hawk. So you've been wearing that watch and chain for a week now. Maybe sort of halfway hoping someone would notice it and it'd get you in trouble, eh?"

"Mm. Maybe so."

"Well, if you've got a guilty conscience about something. Or if there's some shady business in the police, or somewhere else, and you sort of halfway want to expose it, because you think it's rotten -- or whatever's upsetting you, you're a grown-up and it's your business. But imagine if it hadn't been just me on the Westminster bridge. Imagine if Charlie'd been walking along beside me, and a hundred yards away from you he starts pointing at you and shouting excitedly about the watch and the chain and the man running through Waterloo Station with all the police looking for him. Charlie's as harmless as a baby, you saw that yourself. Can't even defend himself. You hurt him, all he can do is scream in pain. And just as easy as that you could've gotten him tangled up in -- God knows what, in something too horrible for you to talk about it with me, just because you're being melodramatic and wearing that watch and chain because -- I don't know why, because you're angry, or sad, or you feel guilty, I don't know. could've turned Charlie's whole life upside-down because of some melodramatic play-acting on your part."

"Alright, alright, Latham, you've made your point. And you're right. You and me and our friends, we've chosen to carry a lot of secrets around, and we accept the risks. But Charlie hasn't asked for any of that."

"Exactly."

"So he's a wizard with watches, Charlie is."

"Oy. Only person I've ever seen who's better at fixing a watch than I am. And he's miles better."

"And you and he are both... autistic."

"Yep."

"You said you understand Charlie much better than you understand me or most people. That was disturbing."

Latham was taken aback. "Sorry, Inspector, didn't mean to disturb you, but there it is."

"But that would mean that you're..."

"Imbecilic? Try to look at it the other way round: it means Charlie isn't nearly as much an imbecile as he seems to you," Latham said, and raised his glance to see Raymond laying back in the tub and staring at the ceiling with an expression of great puzzlement, as if he were having a great deal of trouble looking at Charlie another way around. Latham was exasperated. What more did Raymond have to know in order to revise his preconceived categories of people?

PS My dear readers, please consider clicking on some of the ads while you're here. It would be a great help to me. And as always, thank you very much for visiting my blog!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! (novel about autism in London in 1900) pt 9

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

On Thursday the next week, the 17th of May, at about 10:24 AM, Latham and Charlie and Spilman were approaching a side entrance of the Latham plant. It was Charlie's 2nd visit here. He was so excited that he was jumping up and and down. As Latham unlocked the side door, Charlie shouted, "It's nice in there!" and he ran in ahead of the other two. Latham closed the door behind Charlie.

"He going to to be alright in there by himself?" Spilman asked.

"He's not by himself. Everybody in there knows him, and almost all of them like him very much or are pretending to. And this time we've got his own work table and tools waiting for him. Believe me, he'll be just fine. Won't miss the two of us a bit."

Spilman said, "Freddy tells me the drive to overturn Factory & Workshop is... dead. Deader than dead. They're worse off than when they started."

"That's what I've been told as well," Latham replied. As Spilman had said last week, the money he and his associates were going to steal, money intended to bribe MP's, couldn't be reported as stolen, because it was off the books, unreported income, and reporting the theft would instigate an investigation. But something better than they could've hoped had happened: one of the bribers did report the theft of a satchel containing thirty-five thousand pounds, which had been intended to be divided into bribes for three MP's. (Instead, it had been divided into anonymous donations to various charities in London, Liverpool and Dublin.) The courier who'd been relieved of the satchel turned out not to have very steady nerves: in exchange for anonymity and immunity from prosecution, he'd named many names in the bribery campaign. Intentionally or not, news of the bribery investigation (as well as news of the by comparison much less sensational investigation into unreported income) was leaked to the press and had made headlines five days in a row now, counting today. Unknown to the press but known to Spilman and Latham and their friends, some of the MP's who'd already received bribes had given them back. These MP's, to a man, were now publicly, loudly, denouncing bribery and corruption and singing the praises of the poor exploited salt of the Earth.

"Do you realize what a genius Charlie is?" Latham said. "I met him to begin with because, last week, he saw less than a third of the face of an ordinary watch protruding from a pocket of man running past him at full speed on a crowded railroad platform, and he knew exactly what kind of watch it was. Even saw a distinctive scratch on the case. Also, he saw from that fleeting glimpse that the watch was attached to a platinum chain. If you saw a watch chain for half a second, could you tell if it was platinum or silver or nickel or steel? I certainly couldn't. He makes incredibly detailed and accurate drawings quicker than I can blow my nose. He can fix a watch with his bare hands in ten seconds, with no magnification, that'd take me ten minutes with a ten-power loupe and five different specialized tools. Now we're giving him the loupes and all the tools and the bright lamps and a proper workspace, and the benefit of all of our experience and advice. God knows what he'll be able to do. He's simply awesome."

"He's an idiot savant, then."

"I object to the term 'idiot' being applied to Charlie."

"Hey, hey," Spilman said, "no offense to Charlie. I love the little guy, and I'm not pretending. Drop the 'idiot,' then. He's a savant. He's focused onto certain things. He identified the fugitive's watch, but remembered nothing about his face or clothes. He'll fix man's watch with his bare hands, but forget the man's name."

"Yes, he does miss a lot that most of us notice, and that is because he's focused on other things. Still. You or I could focus and concentrate as hard as we wanted to, for years, and we'd still be very far from doing some things Charlie does. As a man who loves his work, and has concentrated very hard on watches since he was a small boy, trust me when I say this."

"Oh, I believe you, Al. I know Charlie has very rare talents. I've noticed. Oh, oh... It bothers you when I call you 'Al,' doesn't it? That's alright. I'll call you Latham. It's fine. Whatever makes you comfortable. If you want me to call you 'Shirley,' I shall."

"Thanks, Spilman. 'Latham,' for now. I know it's a bit quirky of me." Latham also knew that his sensitivity about what people called him -- his family called him "Albert" or "Al," and he preferred that no one else did -- he knew that this was an example of the symptoms of the condition he shared with Charlie, who didn't like to be called "Evans." But he still hadn't talked about autism to anyone except Inspector Raymond, and his father, and Eugen Bleuler, who'd coined the term "autistic," and with whom Latham corresponded in German.

"It's fine, Latham. It makes you more comfortable, and it's no more difficult for me. So, you think some of your people may only pretend to dote on Charlie? Think there may be some resentment of the Wunderkind?"

"I have no specific suspicions of something like that. It's just -- I can't read people's minds. And from Charlie's point of view, it makes no difference. We are what we pretend to be."

"'We are what we pretend to be!'" Spilman exclaimed. "There's a portentious statement. Are you a Nietzschean? That sounded somewhat Nietzschean. 'Wir sind das, was wir vorgeben zu sein.'"

"I like Nietzsche. And Shaw. And Freud. And Marx. And Heine. And many other authors. But I don't think of myself as an -an, or an -ist, or an -ean of any sort. In fact, I hope I'm not. If I were, I think that would mean I was missing a lot of the most important points those and other great writers were attempting to make. And you, Spilman?"

"What you just said. And very well-said. I try to be my own man."

"Oh, I don't think there's the slightest doubt in your case, Spilman. Well, shall we give you a tour of the plant, then?"

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