Foundation (Isaac Asimov)

I was sitting in my car at a traffic light visualizing whirled peas when Bertie opened the door and jumped into the passenger seat.

"Bertie! Don't do that!"

"Do what?" Bertie opened the glove compartment. "Do you have any bars?"

"Yeah, I can hear you fine."

Bertie gave me a disgusted look, so I jerked my thumb at the back seat. He scrambled back and came up with an oatmeal bar. He was disappointed.

"Aw, it's low fat."

"It's always low fat. Stop whinging and tell me why you're jumping into cars in the middle of traffic."

Bertie carefully unwrapped the cereal bar, peeling the foil down in strips like a banana. He broke a bit off with his fingers and examined it closely. Then he sniffed it and sighed. He broke the piece into smaller bits and repeated the performance. I felt my knuckles grow white on the steering wheel. (How do you feel a color?)

"Just eat the thing already!" I shouted. "Don't play with your food."

"You're grumpy."

"So you've just appeared out of nowhere to tell me something I already know? Thanks. Now go away."

"I think it'd help your grumpiness if you pulled up and gave that car there a little nudge."

"You want me to ram another car?"

"I think it'll just take a little bump. Just enough to get the driver to jump out of the car and start screaming at us."

"And that's supposed to make me less grumpy, how?"

"See that bumpersticker? 'I follow GPS (God's Positioning System)' There's a believer in that there car."

I was appalled. "You want me to go around running into religious people? What is wrong with you?"

"Not hard enough to hurt anybody. Picture it: he jumps out all screaming and stuff and you just calmly shake your head -- maybe you're a little sad -- and say, 'You know, I was thinking about giving my life over to Jesus today' -- here is where you indicate the marvelous marketing he has provided on his bumper -- 'I was feeling inspired, don't you know, but now I think I'll skip it. Guess I'm going to hell now. And you'll just have to live with knowing it's all your fault.' Then he'll walk back to his car all dejected at ruining his mission, and (worried about his souls saved tally) he'll be so much nicer the rest of the day."

"There is something seriously wrong with you, Bertie."

"It's the best way for an atheist to have fun."

"Ok, look: one. No it is not. two. I am not an atheist, I'm a possibilian."

"Well, Asimov says it's not worth wasting time thinking about things that don't exist."

"What? The writer of a gazillion science fiction books says not to worry about things that don't exist? I think you got it wrong."

"Well, I -- "

"Look at that book of his about the triumph of psychohistory or whatever it is. This big old universe where everything is logical and predictable and whatever. But what do they do? They turn to religion."

"Only to control the masses."

"Well, that's a little elitist, don't you think?"

"I have no problem with meritocracy."

"Oh, geez, Bertie. Forget about the religion the scientists created out of whole cloth just to control the plebes. All of the major movers have a deep abiding belief in a religion of their own: Hari Seldon."

"It's science."

"It's not science when you prevent anyone from studying the same field even if it's out of fear that they'll learn something that will undermine the experiment. Hari Seldon is playing God."

"Most of the time, he's dead."

"Exactly, and what do his faithful do? They wait for some significant event that is out of their control, where they'll have no choice but to follow the plan set out (secretly) by Seldon, and then wait for him to return with a message from beyond the grave. And the message is, 'I'm not going to help you, but you should feel good that I have a secret plan.' What use is that?"

Bertie interrupted my tirade. "The light is green."

I hit the gas, but he had lied. The light was still red. And so I had to quickly brake, but I was not quick enough. I tapped the rear bumper of the car in front of me, and the driver sprang out of the car and onto the pavement. He stalked back toward us with grim determination. He was at least six foot five, with muscles and tattoos and everything. A bright jagged scar curved along his left jawline. He was not looking like my new best friend.

I started to wonder if maybe it wasn't his grandmother's car.

"You're going to feel better soon," Bertie said.

"Next time I'm grumpy," I said as I locked the door. "What I want is a hug, OK?"

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