A Twinkle in My Eye

by George Gauthier

Chapter 5


Karens aren't the worst sort you can run across. Crazies and crackpots are far worse. Here are several vignettes about a few of them.

First up was the young lady on the borderline between a Karen and a crackpot who mistook me for a child molester on parole.

"You there, Blondie. Get up from that bench and get out of my park. And go that way, down the hill, not past the playground."

Oh, oh. More trouble. Where do these idiots keep coming from? And what draws them to me, Mr. Nice Guy that I am? And why are so many of them women? Did my diminutive stature suggest that I at least, was one male whom almost any woman could physically intimidate?

To be on the safe side I engaged the Just Press Record app on my smart watch and waited her out as she spoke in a loud voice charging me with being a sex offender, a convicted pedophile now on parole.

I shook my head in disbelief. That lead her to hold out her phone to show me a photo.

"See, that's you. So I do know who you are. Don't bother to deny it, you pervert.

"That's not my picture lady. It's someone else."

"Nonsense. Clear out or else."

She held a pepper spray dispenser at the ready.


"Miss, what you don't seem to realize is that by brandishing that pepper spray you are committing the criminal offense of menacing. Using it would constitute another crime, assault with a dangerous weapon."

"The cops will take my side. I am protecting children."

"Not from me you aren't. Anyway if you are so all-fired certain that I am that guy why haven't you call the police yourself. This side of the park is on a traffic artery so the cops could be here in a couple of minutes. They could verify my ID and ease your misplaced fears for the kids. Or, if I really were who you think I am, then they could violate me and send me back to prison. So there never was any need for a dramatic confrontation. Use that spray on me, and things get complicated."

"You don't fool me!"

"No, I didn't have to. You've done that to yourself already."

OK, so that remark was deliberately dismissive, but she had it coming.

"What's going on here?"

Enter the knight in shining armor, a powerfully built guy about thirty.

My tormentor did not let me get a word in before she spewed her venom, how she was certain I was the guy whose picture she found on some sex offender website.

"Don't let him get away!" She ordered him.

"Lady, does this park bench look like a getaway vehicle? I ask again why all the melodrama? Why didn't you just call the cops a while ago and wait for them to show up. I had my nose in this book and did not even know you were standing there."

Actually I had noticed her. I would never be so careless about maintaining situational awareness in any public place.

"Hmm. He does have a point, ma'am. Why didn't you call the cops?"

"Maybe she wants to get on TV, to be the heroine who thwarted a dangerous pedophile."

All right, that was just a wild guess on my part, but if she can sling mud, then so can I.

"Lies! You there, you're twice the size of that squirt. Grab him and hold him for the police!" She demanded of the other guy.

"No, I don't think so. He doesn't look like he is going anywhere. Better I call the cops myself and let them sort things out."

"Coward!" she yelled and cut loose at both of us with her pepper spray.

Not for the first time I wished for a magical power. Oh, nothing drastic. But wouldn't it be fun to put the whammy on a crackpot and loosen their bladder and bowels. Yes, that would be messy and stinky, but it would give them something else to obsess about.

Without magic I simply charged and bowled her over, wrested the pepper spray from her, and gave her a taste of her own medicine, making sure to spray her hair to make the effect last longer. All right, that was a bit cruel, but she started it.

The cops did show up, alerted by on-lookers. They soon sorted things out and complemented the other guy for his level-headedness in not letting himself be stampeded by a know it all busybody. We used my water bottle to flush our eyes so we were OK that way though we did need a shower and a change of clothes.

Just recently I attracted the attention of a screamer, one of those crazies you might run into on the streets of our bigger cities. I made the mistake of looking over at her and making eye contact, only briefly, but enough for her to zero in on me. She launched into a tirade about a child which I supposedly had fathered on her fifteen years earlier, after which I had abandoned her and her daughter both. So it was my fault when Child Protective Services later took the kid away from her as an unfit mother.

This was the one time I actually got through to a crazy person. I told her:

"Look at me! Do I seem old enough to have fathered a child fifteen years ago? And if you cannot see that I am gay there must be something wrong with your eyesight. I am a living breathing stereotype. So believe me when I tell you that I have never had carnal knowledge of the female of the species."

In a brief moment of sanity she blinked, shook her head, then turned and walked away. I'll put that one in the Win column.

The next incident involved someone who was genuinely certifiable. Maybe she was off her medication or not yet diagnosed, or maybe escaped from custody. Who knows?

It all went down in the Conservatory Garden, Central Park's only formal garden. You enter through the wrought iron Vanderbilt Gate, a remnant of the grandest of the mansions of the Gilded Age. To the left on the south side, is the Secret Garden with a water lily pool in the middle, Large shrubs like tree lilac and magnolias cast shade over half the benches. The others would be in sun light.

The seating area around the water lily pool is my favorite outdoor setting in the city. Plus it is convenient to the Museum of the City of New York just across the street. Farther south, along Fifth Avenue, are the other institutions on the Museum Mile. The Museum of Natural History and the New-York Historical Society lies across the park on Central Park West. [And yes they do spell New York with a hyphen, but don't ask me why.]

Into this ideal setting came a woman of about thirty-five who looked around suspiciously before sitting two benches away from me in another patch of shade.

I paid little attention to her until she started writing the old fashioned way with a ball-point pen on a lined tablet, the paper kind. Here we were in the twenty-first century and she is putting her thoughts to paper with pen and ink.

Hello. Once the words are on paper you cannot edit them or move words or phrases or passages around. True you can line through to delete and insert a word over a caret, or use an arrow to show where to insert a short passage scribbled in the margin. But why bother?

In the 1970s I read an article by Isaac Asimov where he praised his brand new word processor as far superior to his old typewriter. In those days a word processor was not a software application but a piece of hardware, a machine about the size of a clothes washer with a digital screen which displayed only text: numbers, letters, punctuation, diacritical marks. Nothing else, but for a professional writer it was a dream come true.

Asimov particularly loved global search and replace. If he were halfway through a manuscript and needed to change the name of a character or location or an invention, why the word processor could do it in seconds like magic. It could also check his spelling.

Gosh did I ever want one of those for myself. Unfortunately such a device did not fit into my lifestyle at the time, but when personal computers came onto the market, I was pre-sold. True my first PC had a measly 640K with dual floppy disks, the early 5.25 inch size. Compare that to the machine on my desk which today has more computing power than all of NASA had during the moon flights. Hell my cell phone could beat all of the NASA of the day.

Anyway, the woman saw me glance her way and challenged:

"What are you looking at?"

"Sorry, I was not prying. I was just astonished to see someone writing a passage longhand with pen and ink. I mean, that is so twentieth century, isn't it?. Wouldn't a laptop or notebook serve you better? We are in the twenty-first century aren't we?"

She ignored and kept at it. After she was done with a page she placed it on the pavement. In time she had eight such pages at her feet. Luckily for her, there was not much wind and the hedges sheltered us from what breeze there was.

Suddenly the woman turned toward me.

"You're a spy, aren't you? You're trying to see what I am writing. Who sent you to spy on me? Don't try to deny it.

Good grief. Not another crazy. What did I do to deserve this?

"Lady, I don't have the least interest in your scribbles. I was only mildly interested in how you were writing, not in what you were writing, Anyway, I was here first. You sat next to me, remember?"

"No. I come here twice a week. You knew that, which is why you were waiting for me to show up."

These crazies always find a rationale for their suspicions. They never consider that they just might be wrong. Maybe because otherwise, they would not be the center of the universe, in their minds at least. So my presence had to be about her, not about me at all.

"Admit it. You were stationed here to get a preview of the contents of my report to the UN. Well I won't have you spying on me."

I shook my head.

"Lady, no one at the UN is going to pay the least attention to a screed written in longhand with pen and paper. You would need to write the text out in a word processor and send it electronically. Better still, include a PowerPoint presentation and Executive Summary. You may not be living in the twenty-first century, but the folks at the UN Secretariat sure are."

Before she could say anything else, I put my book reader away, stood up, and walked away, leaving this parting shot.

"OK, I will admit that there actually was a reason I got here today before you." Pointing at the trees I told her: "Smile for the cameras!"

I heard a frustrated screech behind me but kept going. I knew she would not run after me and abandon those pages laid on the pavement. Once I got into the park proper, I took off at run and did not stop till I reached the Lough all the way on the other side of the park. Yikes!

I know that nuttiness is not contagious, but the insane make me afraid. I don't know how to deal with them. They are not rational. Help!

All right, we are all irrational with respect to our emotions and tastes, and far too many in our religious beliefs, but such things are rational in their own way. But outright nuttiness, no.


It was the wily Odysseus whose suggested to the Olympians that they upgrade all the humans and demigods in the Olympian community with an emerging technology. Odysseus was a fan of modern science fiction which is where he had first read about nanites. These were tiny machines only one nanometer or one-billionth of a meter in size which work on a molecular level diagnosing and treating disease and traumatic injuries. Odysseus became even more intrigued when he became aware of speculation about nanites in the medical literature. So maybe coming soon to a clinic near you.

Working in tandem with our supercharged immune systems and healing abilities, networked nanites would make us completely immune to all infectious and degenerative disease. Working with our blood clotting mechanisms, they would also stem any major loss of blood from wounds or injuries. In a pinch they might even manufacture trace elements lacking in the diet.

Now we upgraded humans already recover completely from injuries which would kill mortals or at least leave permanent scars. In case of an injury by blade or bullet or blunt force trauma, nanites would work even faster, swarming to the site of the injury and controlling blood loss. After stabilizing the situation the nanites would use the nutrients in our digestive systems as raw materials to rebuild or replace destroyed tissues or even whole organs. Cosmetic reconstruction would take longer lest the rapid healing make doctors or nurses suspicious.

Networked together the trillions of nanites in a single body constitute an artificial intelligence something like the digital assistants on our human computers but far more advanced. Nanites would also be on the alert 24/7 for toxins and poisons ingested by mouth or by artificial or natural weapons, whether a poisoned dagger or the fangs of a viper.

For the Olympians the tiny machines were an almost forgotten technology dating back millions of years to when they were still biological organisms. Nevertheless, thanks to eidetic memory, it was easy enough to replicate. So it wasn't long before we had appointments for our upgrades with Old Doc Asclepius who actually travelled to the Western Hemisphere for the first time in half a century.

Odysseus had left the best for last:

"A network of nanites could generate radio signals to tap into cell phone networks to send and receive both voice calls and text messages. Understand the signals would be faint, likely not strong enough to ping a cell tower but could easily piggy back on any cell phone within range.

"Also, when in close proximity to fellow Olympians, we could skip the cell network entirely and communicate directly with each other via the technological equivalent of telepathy."

"That's amazing, but I have to wonder how the nanites know what we want to say or send as a text? They cannot read our thoughts, can they?"

"No, the nanites rely on subvocalization which means the tiny subconscious movements of the larynx and other muscles involved in the articulation of speech which me make when we read or just think about saying something. Nanites can interpret these movements and render them as a voice or a text message. That is why subvocalization is also called silent speech."

"Wow! This is a real game changer."

Indeed it was. We always knew that someday the CIA or another shadowy agency of some government might tumble to the existence of Olympian agents. They might even capture one of us to make us talk or try to. With nanites in the bloodstream even shackled and stark naked we could call for help from those in our Olympian community.

That would work even if the bad guys were smart enough to lock one of us inside a Faraday cage which blocks broadcast RF energy. As long as a captive could touch the metal of the cage with a finger, he could turn what would normally block an RF signal into a broadcast antenna.

As luck would have it, just recently we did have a small crisis along those lines when the Albanian mob snatched lovely Hyacinth, the least combative and warlike of us all. The poor kid was very much a lover and not a fighter.

It seems that surveillance video outside a bar controlled by the Albanian mob caught him running faster than was humanly possible, darting away from the giant fireball created by a collision between a gasoline tanker and a garbage truck.

The proprietor caught the incident while reviewing the tape for possible sale to news outlets and called his mob contact. Thugs working for the Albanian mob tracked Hyacinth down and grabbed him off the street.

They worked him over pretty good, though to no avail. He just would not talk. Though they would hardly have believed him had he told them the truth that he Hyacinth was a teenager born nearly thirty centuries ago. The kid has grit, you had to give him that.

Meanwhile, through other means the Olympians tracked Hyacinth's location and sent Perseus and Ajax to liberate him, in the process disintegrating everyone involved and destroying all copies of the tape and any forensic evidence. This was the hard lesson the Olympians taught to all their enemies down the ages. Don't mess with us.

That incident and my own recent kidnapping by would-be murderers was enough to convince the Olympians of the benefit of Odysseus' suggestion about upgrades with nanites.

The gods also thanked Odysseus for his astute counsel about another problem when he suggested moderation with the punishment of the builders of their ultra expensive but carelessly built apartments in the skinny skyscrapers on Billionaire's Row which leaked and creaked and were drafty. Angry at being bilked, as they saw it, the Olympians wanted to strike out at someone.

Instead of arranging accidents like car and plane crashes for everyone involved in the construction and sale of the faulty dwellings, Odysseus cautioned the Olympians to wait for the courts to identify the actual culprits, the people directly responsible, not just the heads of the corporations they worked for. Only then should they set Doc Asclepius on them.

So if one of the responsible parties was proud of his skills at the piano keyboard, his fingers would develop a really bad case of rheumatoid arthritis. Athletic types would develop osteoarthritis in both knees or rotator cuff tears in both shoulders. Musical types would go tone deaf. Others might develop maddening tinnitus or unending lumbago. You get the idea: condign punishment without killing anyone.

Who knows but one day, after the lawsuits are settled and the Russian mob or the dictators get their money back from the guilty parties, they might punish the culprits in their own stern way. Many of the apartments were bought as investments or to launder dirty money. Brutal men like them do not take kindly to malfeasance which reduces the value of their holdings.

I grumbled that while he was in New York anyway, Asclepius might have scotched the student protests at Columbia University by afflicting a bad case of diarrhea on the activists in those awful tent encampments. That would put paid to their outrageous demands, their anti-semitic chants and slogans, and their violent occupation of Hamilton Hall, of fond memory.

"And then what, Ganymede? Should we Olympians openly take a hand in this war and wipe out Hamas in one fell swoop? You must realize that we will not do so for the same reasons that we did not thwart the Nazis or Stalin or Mao or the Japanese militarists or the great butchers of earlier centuries like Attila, Genghis Khan, or Tamerlane. Humanity's future lies in its own hands, not in ours. We are only visitors."

"All right, sir. I understand why you will not act openly and just blow up their tunnels, but couldn't you make it look like an Act of God? How hard would that be?"

Asclepius sighed, genuine regret marking his features.

"Ah, dear, dear Ganymede. Despite more than three millennia you are still so very young and idealistic. It is quite refreshing actually and speaks well of your moral grounding. Yes it would not be very hard to wipe out Hamas. In fact it would be quite easy. We would just activate one of the seismic faults in the region to set off an earthquake along the shore, opening underground channels through which sea water would pour in to fill all those tunnels drowning everyone down there, though the would include any surviving hostages."

Thinking out loud, he added facetiously:

"Maybe we Olympians should sweeten the deal for the locals by letting our earthquake rip open the shore wide enough to provide the Gaza Strip with the deep water port and shipping channel it so desperately needs."

"OK, sir. You've made your point. But it is so frustrating watching gay guys and straight students support and cheer the genocidal policy of a terrorist organization all the while thinking that the terrorists are the good guys."

"We understand completely, but you really wouldn't want us running even this one planet much less the galaxy. I am quite certain that we are not up to the task. We don't have the temperament for governance."

Percy and I were first two users of nanites for communication. After some experimentation we realized that though ordinary speech would work for simple phone calls or text messages, in emergencies something else was required. So we patterned our emergency communications after the procedures of military radio telephony though using a shortened list of the procedural words used by NATO Armed Forces, things everyone has heard in the movies like Roger, Wilco, and Over OR Out -- never both at once.

To spell out unfamiliar words, especially proper names we would use the International Phonetic Alphabet, which is universal in aviation, as is English, as well as throughout the NATO alliance and beyond. So if I wanted to spell out the name of the Polish city of Wroclaw, which bizarrely is pronounced something like Vrotswaf, I would say its name then announce that I would spell it out and then do so.

It would go like this: "... we shall rendezvous at Wroclaw, I spell Whiskey, Romeo, Oscar, Charlie, Lima, Alpha, Whiskey, Wroclaw". Actually, in that example, with the pronunciation and spelling so different, I would expect the interlocutor to ask for a repeat by sending "Say Again All After Rendezvous At."

Telepathy via nanites would definitely improve our teamwork and coordinate our efforts in any kind of attack, defensive, or rescue scenario. No need to shout instructions or news to the others in our party. No we would be silent and deadly.

Then there are the possible applications of telepathy by nanite in romantic situations, which I will not describe here but leave to your lurid imagination.

Full disclosure:

I should explain my remark about Hamilton Hall, the building on the Morningside Heights campus of Columbia University which activists wearing kaffiyehs broke into and occupied briefly until expelled.

I have fond memories of the months in the mid-sixties which I spent in that building when I was taking a second year course in Modern Chinese and a later one in Japanese while enrolled in Columbia's School of General Studies.

The language lab in the basement was emblematic of Western complacency about energy costs in the halcyon days before the two oil shocks and twin embargoes of the Seventies which jolted the West out of its pipe dream of cheap oil forever.

In the middle of a sultry New York summer the language lab had to run the air conditioning full blast to counteract the old fashioned steam heating in the building which was also going full blast, but could not be turned off. Presumably in the decades since then the university had the old steam heat furnace and pipes ripped out and replaced with something up to date.

Only recently could I write about these things, choosing, out of caution, to cast them as fiction, a series of fanciful tales of an immortal youth written under a pseudonym. My secret is safe for no one in these days of modern science will believe it. In this tale, everything except the names is real. The events described really did happen just as I have written.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead