The Domain of Reason

The evil peony thrashes in its rage.

“It’s horrible,” says Shannon. “Bruce, it’s horrible.”

Bruce shakes his head. He clicks his tongue. “Tsk, tsk, my adorable partner. Remember that if you don’t respect nature, nature won’t respect you!”

“It’s a giant mutant peony! And I think it’s evil!”

Bruce stares down at the evil peony. He thinks. Finally, he snaps his fingers. “It’s the radioactive meteor, Shannon! It’s got to be!”

“The radioacti—what radioactive meteor?”

“The one that crashed to the earth last night—right here! In our garden!”

Bruce and Shannon stand on the balcony. They look out at the garden of the historic Winders Estate. Below them the evil peony writhes in mindless mutant malevolence.

“Bruce, we have to talk about this.”

Bruce grabs Shannon’s shoulders. His voice is low and intense. “A mutant plant that’s starved for basic nutrients inevitably comes to hunger for human flesh. And once its mutant genes escape into the general population it’ll hybridize with other plants to create an unstoppable mutant army!”

Shannon looks pained.

“Bruce,” she says, and her voice is low and sad. “Has it ever occurred to you that you might be bringing these problems down on our heads with your sloppy reasoning?”

Bruce looks blank.

“I mean,” Shannon says, “well, I mean, do you remember the bee-men?”

“Ha ha!” says Bruce. “The terrible bee-men . . . defeated with ordinary table salt!”

“Yes,” says Shannon. “Those. Bruce, why were there bee-men in our house?”

“That’s a good question,” says Bruce. He lets go of Shannon’s shoulders so that he can rub his chin meaningfully. “In the end, aren’t bees our greatest enemy?”

“It’s because you do this!” Shannon shouts. “It’s because you do this and you don’t make sense and the world still follows your ideas instead of mine!”

She pushes him, in sudden fury. Bruce falls, quite surprised, off the balcony and into the flower.

“Help!” he says, struggling. “It’s trying to eat my brain!”

“Bruce!” Shannon says.

“Shannon! Quickly! The Flower-Redeeming Bazooka!”

Shannon turns towards the Flower-Redeeming Bazooka mounted on the wall. She starts to pull it loose from the mounting. Then she shakes herself and snaps out of it.

“Bruce, there is no reason why we’d have a flower-redeeming bazooka!”

“It’s the kind of thing I’d make.”

“You need a causal explanation,” Shannon whimpers.

Bruce hesitates.

Shannon firms up the line of her jaw. “You do. You’re supposed to. I don’t know if I can live with you any more, Bruce. I don’t know if I can stay married to someone who isn’t bound by the domain of reason. I got captured by bee-men because bees have an incredible sense of smell before you defeated them with table salt.

Bruce looks blank. “It has the structural form of a reasonable statement,” he says. “I don’t see what the problem is.”

The evil peony writhes. Its petals wrap around Bruce’s limbs. Its pistils probe viciously at Bruce’s earwax. Bruce shouts in horror and kicks a petal away.

“It’s not fair,” says Shannon. “It’s 2005, Bruce. You have your marvelous flying chair and the rest of us don’t even have our flying cars. You have your marvelous anti-depression serum and the rest of us are dealing with Dark Ages psychiatry. I used to look at the Space Needle and ask myself where our glorious future went, and you took it, Bruce! That’s got to be the reason! You can’t have science if there are people to whom it doesn’t apply!”

Bruce bites down on a petal and spits it out so that he can speak. “That’s ridiculous, Shannon! Science and technobabble coexist in nature—it’s only man’s arrogance that forces us to choose between them!”

Shannon is crying now. She is stripping off her wedding band.

“Shannon,” Bruce says. “Now isn’t the time. You can’t walk out on me while I’m being eaten by a giant evil peony! . . . it’s the radiation affecting your mind!”

“The radiation?” Shannon asks, hesitantly.

“Please,” Bruce says. “If it eats my brain this peony also gets all my scientific genius! All my knowledge! My priceless legacy! It will use it to kill us all!”

The petals fold over him. He kicks one out. He kicks out another. Petals flutter slowly to the ground.

“He loves me,” whispers Shannon. “He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not.”

“Shannon,” Bruce says, “don’t you see that your cold and mechanical reason can still construct hypotheses regarding the nature of the domain in which it does not apply?”

Shannon freezes.

“He loves me!” she says.

Then the bazooka is in her hands and firing. The evil peony screams and burns in a great flare of light as it becomes a good peony.

“Ha ha,” says Bruce, as he stands and dusts himself off. “It’s nature’s perfect creation—the benevolent mutant man-eating peony.”

“I will not eat you at this juncture,” hums the peony. “My morality argues against such an action.”

“I get to run tests on you,” says Shannon. “I mean, real tests. Not just the Test-O-Meter.”

Bruce makes a face.

“Not my fault you don’t have flying cars,” he says. But it’s a sulk and a concession all in one.

2 thoughts on “The Domain of Reason

  1. Very good. “Bruce, there is no reason why we’d have a flower-redeeming bazooka!” Like that PKD novel where ordinary, reasonable objects keep turning into slips of paper with their names written on them, but reversed in every way.

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