It is better to be explicit and wrong than to be vague

One of my favourite quotes from Strunk and White is, “Don’t compound ignorance with inaudibility.” While it is wise to not say anything if you’ve got nothing nice to say, at least in some circumstances, remaining silent just because you don’t know what you’re talking about benefits no one. You need to be open to correction, and if you don’t ask questions or share your views, you’ll never be able to grow.

We need to get over our fear of being wrong. If we don’t, we’ll never learn enough to be right.

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Herbert the Trillionaire – Chapter 4.1

The Committee waited anxiously, crowded into a small room with too few chairs and too many magazines at a psychiatrist’s office. From the yellow pages they had selected a man named Zed on the grounds that his name sounded suitably evil, and the dark hardwoods and lack of beverages at this office convinced them that they were correct. In each knick-knack and wall hanging they saw signs of rage and frustration at an ignorant world that didn’t have time for misunderstood genius. They sighed sympathetically.

After hours and with what seemed like great reluctance, the door to Zed the Psychiatrist’s office opened. Herbert smiled and waved back at the bespectacled man and wished him a good afternoon. The Committee looked at Herbert with curiosity as they shuffled past him and he claimed one of the waiting room chairs. Hands on his knees, Herbert hummed idly to himself and looked around the room with wonder as the Committee entered the psychiatrist’s office and closed the door behind them.

The double chinned man’s voice rolled into the office.

“Well, doctor? Will he have to be… committed?”

Zed stroked his goatee, a white triangle that complimented his round glasses and added to his presumed evilness. The Committee felt they had chosen well.

“To a pzychiatric vard?” Zed asked, his accent unmistakably German based on movies The Committee had seen.

“No no no,” Zed went on. “Certainly, Mister Hervert haz lost hiz memory, but he is no more inzane ‘zan you or I!” Zed laughed in what The Committee would later characterize as a cackle. “He iz happy, und he iz  kind und generous, but he iz not a danger to himself or others.”

“But what of his business, Mr… Zed? Surely he is unfit to perform his duties?”

“Vell…” drawled Zed the Psychiatrist with a presumably evil gleam in his eyes, “zat is, I suppose, for you to decide, hmm? You will have to decide what the purpose of your business is, yes? Mister Hervert seems to have some int-eresting ideas about zat…”

Zed the Psychiatrist just smiled at The Committee who, sensing their meeting was concluded, shuffled back to the door, opened it quietly, shuffled out, and closed it behind themselves as they thought about what to do next.

Herbert noticed that they were not always shuffling in the same direction, and he smiled.

Herbert the Trillionaire – Chapter 3

The committee had returned to the board room, though all the blinds were drawn down. Light leaked around the edges, drawing lines on the far wall that touched and then were absorbed into the deep obsidian. No one could clearly see each other, but no one turned on a light. It was better this way.

“What are we doing to do about this?” a man asked in a deep, rolling voice. It was the sort of voice that implied a double chin, and it originated from near the foot of the table, opposite the windows. His customary position was off-kilter slightly where he had scooted to the left, avoiding the blade of sunlight and crowding his neighbour.

“If we let him keep on like this, we’ll be bankrupt in no time!” a woman cried out, though her voice was faint. The committee always found it difficult to be heard in this room, as if it had been built to favour the currently vacant seat at the head of the table. That seat was always heard clearly, but everyone else’s voice faded before it reached all of the walls.

“Maybe…” the questioning man began. He swallowed audibly, and the next words jumped out as if his Adam’s Apple had kicked them into the open, “maybe we can claim it as a PR stunt, the company investing in the city, helping locals, building business, keeping money at home, strategic diversification…”

His voice faded away.

The first man sighed–even his sigh was deep–placed his hand over his eyes, leaned his elbow on the table, and replied, “Herbert just paid a hot dog man Seven. Hundred. Thousand. dollars for his hot dog stand.”

“Well,” the questioning man replied after a long pause, “at least… at least he’s the majority stockholder, ha ha… ha.”

The committee all turned to stare at the man. If the blinds hadn’t been closed, he felt like they would have thrown him out the window.

“We will have to have him” the double chinned man stated, drawing all attention back to himself as he stood, “psychiatrically evaluated.” He walked to the head of the table and placed his hands on the back of the empty chair. Staring down at Herbert’s vacant chair so forcefully that a few other members of the committee felt compelled to glance at it hesitantly, he continued.

“He has clearly gone insane. We will make sure the good doctor says so, and then we will make sure that the company is relinquished to us.”

He grinned, his eyes casting around the shadowed faces of those he would lead.

“For safe keeping,” he concluded maliciously.

Herbert the Trillionaire – Chapter 2.03

“They’ve told me a bit about who I am,” Herbert replied, gesturing at the committee all around who looked rather aghast. “How much money would it take to find a cure?” he asked.

“I… I don’t know,” the doctor replied.

“Here, there’s a checkbook in my pants over there,” Herbert said, gesturing impatiently at the contents of a chair, where a suit that cost more than most people make in a month had been dumped unceremoniously.

A startled committee member, a brunette woman with a navy blue skirt and matching jacket, found herself the center of attention. She was nearest the chair, and anxiously met the gazes of her committee members, some of whom seemed to be suggesting she ignore the request and others who were urging her to hurry with their eyes. She nervously picked up the pair of pants and, with two fingers gripping them by a belt loop, passed them to Herbert.

Herbert searched the pockets and pulled the checkbook out. Handing it to the doctor, he smiled.

“You know more about all this to me. Just make it out for something and I’ll sign it,” he said.

“You can’t… you can’t be serious,” the doctor replied, mouth open, adam’s apple moving like a piston.

“Why not?” Herbert asked. “She’s important to you, and she needs help. If research will help, and research takes money, well, maybe I can do something about that.” With a casual wave of his hand, Herbert gestured for the doctor to get on with it and hopped off the table. The committee averted its eyes.

“I think I feel quite well, actually,” Herbert asserted with a grin at the aversive committee, and began to get dressed.

Herbert the Trillionaire – Chapter 2.02

The doctor blinked rapidly, perplexed, and Herbert leaned forward to poke him in the shoulder, grinning.

“Not missing it, got it? I’m not missing it!” Herbert laughed, leaning back on the small table and bracing his hands on his thighs. The committee chuckled uncomfortably.

“When did this happen?” the doctor asked the spokesman, clicking open an ink pen he had drawn from his coat pocket.

“We were in the middle of a meeting when he sort of blanked out,” the spokesman replied, smoothing the front of his suit jacket. He swallowed nervously. “He knows his name, but he doesn’t seem to know who he is or what he does.”

“Who’s that?” Herbert asked.

“Hmm?” the doctor replied. Herbert was pointing at a picture hanging on the wall. The committee shuffled again, clearing out of the way and turning to look at the picture themselves. In it, the doctor was kneeling beside a wheelchair. A young girl was smiling, her right hand clasped by the doctor and her left resting in her lap. She was thin, unbelievably thin, and the enormous electric chair made her look smaller still.

“My daughter,” the doctor said through a sad smile. “She was born with multiple sclerosis and has to stay in a wheelchair.”

“Can anything be done?” Herbert asked quietly. The committee seemed to be holding their collective breaths, the room was so quiet.

Clearing his throat, the doctor turned back to Herbert. “I don’t know. There’s a lot of research going on for it, but there are always more ideas than there are researchers or money, so a lot of potential cures haven’t been explored yet.” Sighing, he laid the chart down on the table and picked up the flashlight tool for shining in a patient’s eyes.

“But we’re here to talk about your memory. Please focus on this light as I move it back and forth,” the doctor said.

“Can I help?” Herbert asked.

“What?” the doctor replied, clicking the light back off.

Herbert the Trillionaire – Chapter 2.01

The committee was crowded in the examination room with the fancy examination room lights and gadgets folded up near the ceiling and the walls to make room. There was a brief gap in their circle where the door would open, and a bit of space between the nearest members and the examination table. Herbert sat placidly, smiling at those around him while his hands rested in the lap of the paper gown he was wearing.

The door opened as the doctor flipped a page on his clipboard. He glanced up, then looked around in surprise.

“What are you all doing here?” he asked. “You should be in the waiting room! And why is the patient in a gown? This is supposed to be a routine checkup!”

The committee looked at the ground abashedly and the spokesman, as he was beginning to think of himself, raised his hand slightly.

The doctor glared at him for several seconds before realizing the man wasn’t going to speak without being called on. “Yes, well?!” he asked emphatically.

“We thought it was best, sir,” he replied lamely. “And we wanted to find out what’s wrong.”

The doctor frowned at the young man, then back at his clipboard. Looking up at Herbert, he took another step into the room and shut the door behind him. The committee shuffled a bit and closed the gap, giving each a few more inches of room.

“Herbert, is it? Can you tell me what seems to be the problem today?”

“No problems,” Herbert replied cheerfully, nodding at the doctor with a smile.

“Says here,” the doctor said, flipping a page on his clipboard again. “Says here you have lost your memory.”

“Oh no, sir,” said Herbert. “Or, if I have, I don’t seem to be missing it.”

Herbert the Trillionaire – Chapter 1.01

Herbert was having a nearly normal Monday morning. There was a delicious mocha resting on a stone coaster on the table in front of him. The table was smooth mahogany, highly polished and stretching widely away from him, down the length of an elaborately decorated room with a wall of windows to his right and a wall of obsidian to his left. His chair was leather and rocked slightly as he bounced his feet against the floor, feeling his toes dig into the soft inside of what were presumably quite nice shoes. Herbert smacked his lips as he looked at all the faces that lined both sides of the table, each wearing a similar expression of confusion as they stared at him.

“Sir?” one called out from halfway down the table. “You were saying?”

“What’s that?” Herbert replied.

“You haven’t finished your sentence, sir.”

The people to either side of the tremulous man scooted slightly away from him and made eye contact only with a spot on the table about two feet ahead of Herbert.

“Ah,” said Herbert. “And what was I talking about?”

The committee members cleared their throats nervously, adjusting ties or turning their coffee cups in place as they all sought different spots on the table to examine. The questioning man began to sweat.

“You were just telling us you had a new direction, sir. A new idea, you said. You, um… you haven’t told us what it is yet, sir.”

Herbert nodded absently, staring out the window. A cloud of birds had just swooped down between this building and the next, across the wide street, and he watched them dance for a moment before they flew out of sight.

“We should go outside,” Herbert said.