“I come from a parallel universe,” says Mr. Brown, “where it’s all right to jaywalk.”
The reporters raise their hands. Ms. Petunia is the first he calls upon.
“Yes, Ms. Petunia?”
“What do you mean, ‘all right’?”
“A scientific mind can observe the moral laws of a universe by examining the effects of transgression upon the transgressor,” says Mr. Brown. “In my cosmos, in the universe that gave me birth, when a man jaywalks, his mind isn’t troubled. There’s no rebuke from karma. There’s no sense of guilt and no real offense. It’s dangerous and procedurally incorrect but not immoral.”
“But a sociopath,” says Ms. Petunia keenly, “would not feel guilt—and there is still the ironic end.”
“Yes,” says Mr. Brown. “I have heard the logic; I have seen how it irreducibly follows from basic propositions that a jaywalker should suffer—how his own proclivity for defiance and his failure to strictly observe traffic laws leads with the inevitability of a Nazi’s goosestep to his ironic end—yet in my world this is not so.”
“An entire universe of jaywalkers,” marvels Ms. Petunia, and goes quiet.
“Ms. Duck,” says Mr. Brown. He indicates her.
“Mr. Brown,” says Ms. Duck. “Have you yourself committed jaywalking?”
“How else?” says Mr. Brown. “There are no legal crossings between the universes.”
Ms. Duck tastes that. It seems unsavory. “Have you considered,” she says, “the effects on others that you publicize your journey and the immorality of your home world? The children who might be led by you into a life of corruption and dissipation?”
“I am an envoy.”
Ms. Duck purses her lips.
“Mr. Peduncle,” says Mr. Brown.
But Mr. Peduncle doesn’t have a question. He has a gun. He guns Mr. Brown down.
“Well!” gasps Ms. Petunia.
“Indeed,” lectures Ms. Duck.
“On public property, no less,” says Ms. Petunia. “I hope you’re ready for your fine.”
Mr. Peduncle puts the gun away.
“Filthy jaywalker,” he says, and turns, and walks with measured steps away.
“It’s just too bad,” Ms. Petunia frets. “He seemed a nice enough man.”