Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Mind and Body Shop by Frank Parkin (Atheneum 1986)

Hedda Hagstrom picked up a soggy black banana and flung it angrily across the room. It landed with a soft smack at the feet of Herbert Spencer who picked it up, sniffed it, and tossed it back.

'The whole experiment is completely ruined,' she shouted. 'Six weeks' work and thousands of pounds down the drain.' She paced about the room like a caged animal. Darwin and Huxley cowered together in the corner as far from her wrath as possible.

'It was just to break the monotony,' Baxi said defensively. 'Everyone was fed up with playing the same old game, especially with Herbert Spencer winning all the time.'

The unblemished skin on Hedda Hagstrom's face tightened visibly over the fine bone structure beneath. 'It was not merely an innocent variation on the rules of play,' she hissed. 'It was a deliberate subversion of their basic principles.' She pointed to the video camera above the door. 'I've been studying the tapes. They show that you openly encouraged Darwin to requisition all Herbert Spencer's hotels without compensation. You also made everyone pay Capital Gains Tax whenever they passed Go. And, what's more, you taught them all to respect squatters' rights.' SDhe flung her arms in the air in a gesture of incredulity. 'On top of everything, you even connived in Huxley's attempt to escape from Gaol.'

Baxi traced a circle in the damp straw with his redundant walking stick. Bits of straw were intertwined in his shoulder-length hair, the result of darwin's effort to make him look more presentable. Darwin now shuffled across and put a comforting arm around his waist.

'Worst of all, ' continued Hedda Hagstrom shrilly, 'you let them nationalize the railways and the bank. You've totally corrupted the. They're now sharing out their bananas on an egalitarian basis. Even Herbert Spencer's doing it.' Her pale blue eyes became two metallic points. You've failed Psychology 301. I'm giving you gamma triple minus, the lowest mark you can get. That means you can't retake the course unless you agree to become a Friend of the University.'

Baxi contemplated the holes in his shoes. Friends of the University had to endow a Chair or give their organs to the Medical School whenever they were needed. e took off his waterproof apron and handed it to Huxley who liked to use it as a hammock.

'You're a disgrace to Experimental Psychology, Mr Baxi. I never want to see you in or near my lab again. Is that understood?' She snatched the Maoist paper hat off Herbert Spencer's head, screwed it in a ball, and threw it at the Monopoly board. It struck one of the coloured matchboxes which had been painted to represent council flates placed on Mayfair and Park Lane. Matchstick pickets had been placed around the Gas Company and a sign on the Community Chest indicated that it had now been converted into a hardship fund for hotel kitchen staff. Hedda Hagstrom planted her feet on either side of the board as though about to trample it. 'What am I supposed to tell the Employers' Federation? she cried out in despair. 'That they've spent a small fortune to be told that even the apes are in favour of the peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism?'

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