The Secret Experiment of Doctor Brusch

On his sixty first birthday, Dr. Reinhold Brusch received a surprise.

After attending the alumni association's annual awards dinner, he stepped into his lecture hall to find twenty of his colleagues waiting for him, all clapping and cheering.

Dr. Brusch, still in his tuxedo, kissed his wife and turned to the room to give a short speech. Giving speeches came naturally to him. Being in front of so many people drew the words right out of him. For Dr. Brusch, speechifying was a reflex. Many in that room were accustomed to it. They looked upon him expectantly as a brotherhood of ale-making monks might look upon their inebriated Abbott.

"As you know, this year has been busy for all of us. I appreciate your support and patience while I push through the research that has taken up so much of your time. I am glad you have all stuck by the department. I am convinced we have made bold progress; I am convinced it is only a matter of time before that progress sees fruit."

He paused, running a finger over his fishy lips. His round face went red. He looked down from his raised dais at everyone.

"I know that some of you have found the process... execrable. I know that some of feel left out, and that you have found me... excruciating to work with. In science, there are no hard feelings... just hard facts." He grimaced.

The gatherers didn't flinch. Dr. Brusch had a long history of cranky eccentricities, but they were outmatched by his vision.

The Doctor disliked being addressed by name. He demanded that anyone addressing him, either orally or in writing, state 'Dear Sir,' or "Sir." Brusch felt that over his long career, he had earned the right to rise above the paperwork that accumulates around the base of lofty achievements.

On the other hand, Dr. Brusch did not wish to be addressed as 'Sir' in the Academic Journals. There, in bold letters, he insisted on his full name, printed to his specification: "Doctor Reinhold Ludwig Brusch, Ph.D." for all to see. Nobody, he felt, builds a legacy by filling out paperwork. It's that final signature that counts.

No one in the room possessed any rancor for Dr. Brusch. Everyone admired him and forgave him his iconoclastic ways. If not a genius, he exuded the impression of genius. Nobody in the world had contributed more to advancements in physics and in medical devices than he.

He rarely shared his thoughts with anybody, except for when crafting schematics and conducting the arduous experimentation with his most important theories and devices. Even then, he kept to himself most of the time, sharing a smile for the cameras during awards dinners, sharing a kiss for his children when they came to visit, giving his dog a quick fur ruffle from time to time. To stranger, he came across as a bit thickheaded and simple, but in reality, he possessed vast insight and knowledge.

The gatherers all listened intently as he continued his short speech.

"It is a birthday today," he continued, haltingly. "But it is not an important day. Not for me, not for you. This morning, my most important patent was filed..."

Wide grins erupted all around him. He held up his hand.

"But there is more to do. That is all. Thank you for coming."

He stepped down off the dais and whispered something to his wife. Her face fell. He shook hands with a few of the important people in the front, then hurried off. The colleagues assembled there all began to co-mingle with one another, seemingly unaware that the man of honor had already left their midst.

Mrs. Brusch quietly gathered up the unused party favors and thanked the guests for coming. Deep distress etched her face, but nobody noticed. The guests soon dissipated. Mrs. Brusch locked up, leaving an empty lecture hall. Midnight loomed.

Just when the silence grew impermeable, the door lock clicked open and in slid a giant wheeled contraption covered by an old blanket, followed by Dr. Brusch. He wheeled it all the way in the door, closed and locked the door behind him, and drew the blanket off to reveal a box in gunmetal gray. He sat directly next to it. His shoulders slumped. He reached across and switched it on. A great whirring noise consumed the room.

Dr. Brusch hated memories, but it was easy to forget all that, in those, the fat old doctor's final moments.

He recalled things long forgotten. He felt himself propelled forward, as if he was a passenger on an open air tour coach stuck in overdrive. The lecture room dimmed.

He sat back while his entire life unfolded before him. The thoughts flooding his mind took him back to his boyhood in post war Berlin, sitting on the floor of at the gemutlich listening to his father and brother tell stories. There was very little food; the streets and buildings still bore heavy scars. The withered light from their antique lamp flickered on the wall like candles.

Brusch's uncle Werner worked in a rail yard before the war, where he tracked medical testing devices being shipped to the various Konzentrationslagers in the mid thirties. Werner told countless stories to his nephew about all the items they logged in, stories that convinced young Reinhold to later convert these human horrors for the betterment - rather than the destruction - of humankind. Brusch's later decision to advance medical techniques in the realm of physics was not arbitrary. It was not pushed on him by his family or his peers. He was a truly self made man.

He attended the University of Tubingen in the late 60s, a college known for its medical program. He studied with the premiere biologists, chemists and surgeons of that time. The tree lined streets and austere grey buildings with fountains and columns in the township of Tubingen reminded Brusch of a Germany that was, once.

He could even see Professor Ratzinger - Tubingen's eminent Theology professor and future Pope Benedict - thrusting a finger in the air and surveying his classroom like an eagle with prey. Brusch hotly debated old Joe at Tubingen. Young Brusch, deeply disturbed by the horrors in his parents' pasts, saw any kind of religious fundamentalism as tantamount to fascism, and he had no problem letting his thoughts be known in class.

Reinhold Brusch was also a participant in the 68er Bewegung, a student movement inciting calls for reform in Germany and around the world. He met his wife there, in fact, during an anti-war Demonstration in the large field south of the college. They protested, especially after the infamous Ohnesorg/STASI murder, for as long as they could, but eventually, Government forces reigned in the movement and slapped them all back. That sting from being swatted back down into Academia never faded, but it squeezed young Brusch back into his research, where he thrived. It was the only place he felt he could change the world. No more protests, only research.

So here he was, decades later, caught in American Academia like a mummified fly in a spider web. His manners had grown harsh and petulant. Over the years, he'd grown obsessed with his own importance. And every one of his projects, experiments, devices, and theories were not close to as important as this one, the one he had kept from everybody except his wife.

As he sat in harsh light, his rigid consciousness began raking over his whole life like a still path through a stone meditation garden again and again, and his very atoms quaked at the metamorphosis. The words he breathed to himself in his final moments as Doctor Reinhold Brusch, Ph.D, were the same he whispered to his wife earlier that night.

'Bis nachher...'

Ms. Brusch kept mostly to herself following her husband's closed casket wake the following week. There were a few carefully contained whispers around campus about a young gentleman in a baggy tux who was seen the morning after the awards ceremony, driving the doctor's car from the faculty lot with a covered box. There were cries to investigate the suspicious matter, and it forced Mrs. Brusch to explain that her husband's nephew was in town that week moving items for his uncle.

The nephew was not seen again, but Dr. Brusch's headstone arrived from places unknown, soon afterwards. It read, "Reinhold.'


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