Schrödinger was welcoming Oppenheimer. He had invited several colleagues of his, some close friends, others just acquaintances, to his home.
‘Hello Robert, come in.’
‘Hi, Schrödinger. So, what’s all the fuss about?’
‘I think I’ve made a huge breakthrough.’
‘Hope it’s legal, this time.’
They both laughed loudly.
‘I missed your humour, Robert. Do come in, the others have already arrived.’
Schrödinger led Oppenheimer to the dining room. Three gentlemen were already seated and drinking and they were all so focused on what the grey-haired man was saying that they didn’t see the two men entering the room.
Not until Oppenheimer said, ‘Hello, my good friends, I hope you haven’t emptied Schrödinger’s alcohol cabinet.’
‘Almost, almost, my friend Robert,’ said Fermi, still seated with his back towards Schrödinger and Oppenheimer. Einstein chuckled.
‘Vee vere just talkink about zat, Robert.’
‘Yes, vee were,’ said Bohr.
‘Don’t make fun of him, Niels.’
‘I vasn’t,’ replied Bohrs, giving Einstein a pat on the back. All five men were now laughing. A woman came into the room.
‘Hello, my beautiful Annemarie, how are you?’ said Oppenheimer, giving her a kiss on the cheek.
‘Very well, thank you. Let me take that for you,’ and she held out her hand for his grey overcoat, which he was still wearing.
‘Zilly man, shtill vearing his coat,’ Einstein said while raising his glass for a toast with Fermi.
The two men still standing sat down and Schrödinger asked his wife what was for dinner.
‘Just a simple roast. I didn’t have time to make anything fancier,’ she said looking accusingly at Schrödinger.
‘Most excellent, my dear.’
‘Vonderful,’ said Einstein.
‘Indeed, Albert, on this I can agree with you,’ replied Bohr.
Annemarie left the room and Fermi quickly added, ‘Just hope it isn’t roasted cat, for in a Schrödinger’s home, one can never know whether it is truly cooked or not. At least, not until one opens the oven.’
The remaining gentlemen in the room laughed and he continued, ‘But what was the urgency, Schrödinger? What is so important we needed to get here so quickly?’
‘My dear friends and esteemed colleagues, I have proof of the wave collapse.’
A general gasp rippled around the room.
‘Oh, not this again,’ said Fermi, incredulous of his colleague’s statement.
‘Now, don’t be like that Fermi, old boy, let’s listen to what he has to say,’ said Bohr.
‘Thank you, Niels, for the vote of confidence.’
‘Well, not a vote of confidence per se, more like morbid curiosity.’
‘Ja, ja. Vee vant to see zis silly idea of yours.’
After a very brief moment of pouting, Schrödinger continued, ‘I have found my cat and it’s truly magnificent…I recently hired a personal assistant to deal with the minor tasks and he is remarkable.’
‘So, your assistant discovered it?’ interrupted Oppenheimer.
‘Shtealing is fery wrong, my dear friend.’
‘No, no, no! On the contrary, my personal assistant, Mr. Al, is quite an oaf, if there ever was one. He’s a very curious fellow. Always wears the same thing, a kind of uniform, white pants and a white shirt and he has this nasty habit of rubbing himself in alcohol every time he finishes a chore. Almost caught fire once.’
‘So, you have a bad assistant, haven’t we all?’ asked Fermi, laughing.
‘Yes. Yes, we have,’ said Bohr.
‘It was a rhetorical question, sir.’
‘I know and I just gave a rhetorical answer,’ said Bohr, sipping a bit of sherry.
‘I’m sorry, I’m just excited with all of this and I digress, but the truth is that Mr. Al is so bad, wait…depending on the observer, he can be quite good…’
‘Schrödinger, don’t lose it again,’ cautioned Oppenheimer.
‘Yes, yes, sorry. He’s so bad at his job that at any given time he’s working and not working. It’s incredible!’
‘Sorry, vhat do you mean?’ asked Einstein.
‘If I give him a task, he only does it when he’s being observed, honest to God.’
Fermi and Bohr both laughed hard. Oppenheimer didn’t say a word, he thought his good friend was losing his marbles.
‘That’s just bad service, nothing more,’ added Fermi, after he stopped laughing, which was longer than one usually considers to be polite.
‘No, but it isn’t. It’s like he’s in two places at the same time. In the study, playing solitaire with his deck of cards and in the lab, tidying up…well…at least when he remembers to clean after me.’
‘I don’t believe zat,’ Einstein immediately replied.
‘Lest we see this for ourselves, I think I have to agree with Albert on this,’ said Bohr, ‘but just this once, old pal,’ and patted Einstein on the back, smiling.
‘Ja, vee vouldn’t vant zat, me and you agreeink on eferyzing.’
‘But of course, that’s why I asked Mr. Al to do some random things in my lab.’
By the time Schrödinger said this, they had already finished their meal and proceeded, some enthusiastic, others very sceptical or should I say ‘fery sceptical’, but as soon as they entered the laboratory, they saw the man they knew as Mr. Al picking up some boxes. At first, they didn’t see anything odd, but when Schrödinger asked them to shut the door and open the door behind them, where the studio with the playing cards was, repeating this action numerous times, it was like seeing a movie, frame by frame, of both the solitaire game being played and the work being done, even if poorly done, very poorly.
‘Shpooky action at a distance,’ Einstein mumbled to himself.
They were all astonished and returned to the dining room in silence. Fermi set aside the bottle of sherry, for he thought he was drunk. Oppenheimer grabbed it and starting pouring and drinking it. Bohr was as pale as a ghost and Schrödinger had a victorious grin on his face. Einstein was the first to speak.
‘Zis cannot be. God does not throw dice…’
And as they were about to discuss that, a voice said, ‘But I do.’
Next to them, was a white bearded man, in a white tuxedo. They couldn’t believe it.
‘Is everything alright, dear? Annemarie called from the kitchen.
Her husband, eyes wide open, replied. ‘Everything’s fine, dear, just some boring physics discussions.’
‘Dear Gods, zis cannot be.’
‘Just God, please.’
From another corner of the room came another voice, a silky, glamorous voice. ‘But it can and in fact it is. Actually my… err… my colleague, does in fact have a gambling problem,’ the man, dressed in a black tuxedo, with a red tie said.
Oppenheimer rubbed his eyes, this had been the weirdest night ever or at least since he graduated university and so he went for another bottle of sherry.
‘Seeing that you have just proven one of your theories, thus unravelling one of the universe’s greatest mysteries, I thought I could pop by, just briefly of course, to congratulate you.’
‘Yes, just briefly, The Price Is Right is about to start,’ added the man in the black tuxedo.
‘The vhat now?’ asked Einstein, who was still the only man capable of speech at the present time.
‘Oh, yes, yes, well, congratulations and all on this. Ciao.’ God left just as quickly as he had appeared.
‘Never mind him,’ said the devil, ‘but I do want to talk to you, Mr. Albert. My name’s Erik Macintyre Colbert…the Second.’ He smiled.
‘I tought you vere the devil.’
‘Oh, the devil is such a bad name, the truth is that my name is actually Erik, Erik Macintyre Colbert the Second, never forget it.’ He handed a business card to Einstein with is initials, ‘E.M.C II’.
‘Bye now and go easy on that sherry, Mr Oppenheimer,’ and the devil…err…Erik disappeared.
The rest of the night was spent in silence and self-reflection. Albert kept looking at the card that was given to him. Schrödinger kept leaving and returning to the room. Fermi kept testing his breath for alcohol. Bohr was just gazing through the window and the only one interrupting the silence was Oppenheimer every now and then, repeating the same phrase in a very sluggish voice.
‘Now am I become Drunk, the Destroyer of Words.’
© Donovan Sotam 2012
All rights reserved
Donovan Sotam is a Portuguese author that think he’s British. Lover of nosense and science, he mainly write short stories in the categories of humour and SF. My biggest achievement thus far was putting the word ‘booger’ in my upcoming novel.