Shortly before I retired, Groat stumbled into my cube asking for help.
Yeah, there actually was a guy at work named Groat. It was his last name but we used it as his first – because, well, he was a strange duck
As a forensic scientist, Groat was a star, a real supernova.
But socially…. he was more of a black hole.
Which was hard on him.
It is difficult to be so good at one thing and so terribly bad at another, but he kept at it and not a week went by that he didn’t come up with some new scheme to crack the social code.
So he visited my cube often – but this time when he came by, he looked like he had just stuffed a tiger into a cage full of cranky lions – single-handed.
“I created a love potion,” he said, picking at a bandage, “but I can’t get it to work.”
“That much is obvious.”
I had no doubt what he said was true because Groat is a genius, clever enough to concoct a love potion and he is also the most honest person you could ever meet. If he says he did something, he did it.
“I tried it on Sally Driscoll,” he said.
I groaned. In many ways, Sally had it worse than Groat.
Oh, she was popular – mostly because of her stunning good looks. But Sally was, to put it gently, cursed by beauty. Beauty maybe something everyone yearns for but too much of anything is an affliction and the current manifestation of her affliction was a guy named Ralph McFadden.
Now…. what can be said about Ralph?
That he was a creep? No…. if Ralph could work his way up to being a creep, he would be a much better person.
“Groat, you are a nice guy but face it, Sally doesn’t go for nice guys.”
“That’s why I made the potion,” he said.
“Ah yes, the potion. The one that doesn’t work.”
“But it has to,” he said.
And there was the riddle. While Groat knows everything there is to know about human biology, he knows nothing about the human soul.
“How is it supposed to work?” I asked.
“Pheromones,” he said.
“Like the chemicals that bugs use to attract each other?”
“Yeah, it’s how perfume works too.”
“What perfume did you use?”
“Ralph McFadden’s,” he said, looking a little sheepish, “I derived it from his gym towel.”
“OH MY GOD!”
“But my theory was based on established science and I had the protocols down cold.”
“Let me guess,” I said, “you figured the bad-boy scent would arouse a primordial instinct in Sally?”
“She attacked me, ” he moaned.
“Again, that much is obvious.”
“She kicked me. She scratched me. She bit me. She punched me. It was horrible. I can’t understand it. The pheromones should work for me the same way they do for Ralph.”
“Have you considered that Sally is not attracted to Ralph at all? That she totally hates him?”
“Sally is gorgeous,” I said, “She gives the guys whiplash just by walking down the hall…but let me ask you this, who is the one guy who never drools over her?”
“Ralph?” he said.
“That’s right,” I said, “Ralph is a creep who has a sixth sense for people’s insecurities. Sally is so gorgeous that it upsets her when a guy, even someone like Ralph, does not find her attractive and that his why she is obsessed with him.”
“So if I could develop a potion to make her feel secure…”
“Give it up,” I told him. “The secret to love is not a potion, or something you wear, the secret is finding someone you need, not someone you want. Find a person who is good for you.”
“You are very wise,” Groat said.
“Yeah,” I joked, “and the closer I come to retirement, the wiser I feel.”
“You still drinking that tea I gave you?”
“You bet! The stuff is fabulous” I said…. then I caught myself. “GROAT! What was in that tea?”
“Wisdom,” he said, quite matter-of-factly.
“How can you distill……”
“It is rather simple,” he said, “I saw how philosophical you get after your second pitcher of beer and I figured if I could eliminate the deleterious effects of alcohol yet maintain the same level of dopamine…. that you could help me out with my love-life before you retired.”
“You have got to be kidding.”
“No, actually not at all…”