The Man Who Broke Richard Feynman's Toothbrush

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Chris Morris writes:

'I tried saving this as an article, but it contains a word that rings alarm bells1   – or possibly the machinery has Oxford literary intentions.

I was inspired by your brave Publish And Be Damned stance (or perhaps it was Write Or Be Damned). Anyway, I thought you might like it as some sort of Post-modern Cultural Quiz.'

Enjoy your symptoms.

The Man Who Broke Richard Feynman's Toothbrush

Simon Jones as Arthur Dent in 'The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy', a sci-fi comedy series written by Douglas Adams

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Wearing a dressing gown and with only a towel for protection, I contemplated the three broken pieces of toothbrush in my hand.

"That was my toothbrush!" His New York accent giving an extra quark of menace to the words, Richard Feynman looked in to my eyes. I felt uncertainty. Should I go? Should I stay? Should I do both?

Be polite, I thought. "Surely you're joking, Mr Feynman?" I said, formally. He relaxed, his energy dropped a level and he radiated some particles. The gravity of the situation warned me that it was time to leave but entropy was confusing me, I couldn't understand why it was going that way. I imagined that I chose to go in the opposite direction and found myself standing in the street.

It was raining in black and white so I pulled up the collar of my famous blue raincoat, pulled my fedora down over my eyes and walked into a lamppost. I checked the reflection of my face in a shop window but it was OK, I still had one eye to be private with. Before all this started, I'd been thinking about changing the name of my agency. A friend of mine, when he wasn't fishing for trout in rivers that no one's ever heard of, said to me, "C. Card? What sort of name is that for a P.I.? No, you've got to be called Smith Smith, that's the only proper name for a detective agency in Babylon."

That was worth thinking about, I thought. Then I thought, "Why does he think I'm in Babylon?" It was a thought too far, so I let it go and turned left instead, finding myself in a graveyard. "I told you I was ill!" one of the gravestones told me. I hurried on but not before I heard a faint, "…and give my love to Woy Woy!"

It was getting busy now and, if you've ever seen an it being busy, you'll need your medication adjusted. There was a rush along the Fulham Road heading to the passion play so I turned towards the river where I saw a crowd flowing over London Bridge. Some of them looked as if they probably counted out their lives in Starbucks. Ah! Starbucks! The new virtually virtual currency; a microscopic fragment of green incandescence that burns a hole in your pocket if you don't spend it quickly enough. Further down the road, Sir Henry Rawlinson's Rolls Royce swept past driven by Scr0tum, Sir Henry's wrinkled retainer. As it drew alongside a suspicious-looking vicar, Keith Moon jumped out and launched a ferocious assault. The ferocious assault sailed off into the sunset and Moon and the vicar fell to the floor, laughing hysterically.

The city around me shivered and blurred, buildings lost confidence in their form and a sign appeared: "You are now in Bellona," it announced. An elderly African-American gentleman with an enormous white beard strolled towards me, chatting to Raskolnikov about cognitive estrangement. He stopped near me to look in to a large mirror decorated with a delicate chain of tiny prisms, mirrors and lenses. Shockingly, what he saw was not his own reflection but a white man, old, bald and bespectacled, looking so cognitively estranged that he was obviously the product of their conversation. The white man turned away from the mirror and went back to watching the sparrows in his back garden. One of them, a young female, had unusual, prominent white wing tips, apparently the sparrow equivalent of looking like Lauren Bacall judging from her ability to whistle by putting her beak together and blowing. She watched the man through the rear window but then got bored. "I must go down to the sea again," she chirped, "To the lonely sea and the sky. I left my vest and socks there. I wonder if they're dry?"

She took off, rising up above the earth, moving in to the universe, drifting this way and that, not touching ground at all, up above the yard and she could see a nearby factory. But this was one of those notorious knowledge factories, its singular product churned out from a gigantic mincing machine. Inside, Susan sat reading the poetry that was hand-scrawled on yellowing scraps of paper; the poet watched her with such fierce intensity that one felt he may blow the bloody doors off at any moment. Finally, she looked up, smiling. "This is wonderful. The allusions add so many layers of meaning." He snorted. "No!" He shouted, "It's just worthless pastiche!" Flying past, the sparrow scoffed. "Come off it!" She tweeted. "We're in a post-modern world now, everything's got to be self-referential. It's all the fault of that damned reflexivity."

The mention of reflexivity caused George Soros to appear in a downtown bar. "Cheers!" he said as Plato handed him a drink. Next to them, R. A. Lafferty was holding forth on his belief that you should never trust a man whose philosophy doesn't pay. George smiled and raised his glass to him but Plato looked puzzled. The last thing he could remember was being stuck in a cave. He studied his drink and wondered what Socrates would've done.

Further down the bar, a conversation was growing in volume until they heard a voice insistently demanding, "But I bet you never did the Kenosha Kid!" At this point a V2 rocket hit the bar and, of course, because nature does not know extinction, only transformation, it became Wernher von Braun.

I felt dizzy, hot water was being sprayed on me from above. I opened my eyes and realised I was in the shower. "Oh! What a relief! Thank you!" I said, to any god that happened to be passing. I find that, usually, three exclamation marks are sufficient to placate even the most pedantic gods. So, there you are. It was all just a bad dream. I reached for my dressing gown and towel as I stepped out of the shower, just in time to see John Wayne climbing out of the window. A toothbrush, broken in three pieces was lying on the floor. I picked them up as Richard Feynman walked in.

It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.

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Chris Morris

09.10.17 Front Page

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1I figured it out, and outsmarted the filther, as usual. – DG

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