by Alejandro Fernandez
As the mayor of the quaint Villaescanciada, Otilio had numerous responsibilities. He laid back in his armchair and scratched the battered survivors of his once wild mane. He stared at Marcial, the young engineer recently re-assigned to be his Economics and Science advisor.
Otilio thought about the thriving village with its crowded bar, the Renaissance church, warehouses, orchards and the primary school. Their inhabitants worked hard on making the most of the land, the village and each other. Energy oozed, such as in the fierce political debates between Otilio, Celestino and the councilors that crowded the village hall for forty odd years. Such enthusiasm was once described as being like a bunch of maggots feeding on a rotting limb.
This heritage and activity had made Villaescanciada eligible for a developmental national grant (or a tribute, for some Councilors) that populated Otilio’s thoughts for two weeks. It was why he was consulting with Marcial, his agitation contrasting with the younger man’s amusement.
“So, according to this condom theory…” Otilio said
“quantum… this paperweight would be here,” Otilio pointed to the left corner of his desk. “And at the same time, here.” He indicated the right side.
“Not quite but that’s close to reality. So long as it moves at sufficient speed, the paperweight is considered to exist in two places at once. If nobody measures it.”
“So…” Otilio added “if the grant moves fast enough… and nobody is looking… and we consider the possibility of parallel universes…”
While Otilio designed his critical application of quantum theory, in a decrepit medical consultation elsewhere, two steeled-eye figures gazed at each other. The elder one dressed in a white coat with locked hands on top of the table. His name was Manrique, the village doctor, and the main reason for everybody to be healthy: nobody wanted to submit to his saw.
In front of him was Heriberto, the priest, who was rumored to have learned the office from Torquemada and the old inquisition.
They were sanguinous enemies, the proud heirs of an ancient feud between science and religion that nobody else in Villaescanciada remembered.
Manrique started, with a blank expression. “I didn’t see any letter from the County council on Otilio’s desk.”
“I don’t know what letter you are talking about. Otilio doesn’t have a two-page letter half hidden there.” The priest stopped corroborating, looking at some point behind his listener’s left ear.
A few seconds of uncomfortable silence brought the lack of information into each other’s thoughts.
“Indeed. It would be disloyal to suspect that Otilio would hide a six-digit grant. There isn’t a mayor vile enough to do such thing.”
“Otilio could take it personally if we doubted his morals.”
Some more staring before the conversation continued:
“Did you see the amount that wasn’t there in any letter?” Manrique asked.
“I did. And you, did you notice that there wasn’t any concept as to where that disbursement should go?”
“Of course not,” Manrique twisted his face in contempt. “It didn’t say anything in any letter.”
“We should then check with Otilio and ask, how come he hasn’t received any grant yet.”
“For the first time in your wretched life, you are right. What about the rest of the councilors? This is a big issue, should they know?”
A commanding knock threatened to break Otilio’s office door.
“Wait” he replied, hiding the papers littering his table in a drawer. “You can come in now.”
“Hello, Mayor” Manrique greeted him as the two conspirers entered.
“What brings you here?” Otilio replied coldly.
“You see Mayor,” said Heriberto, smiling wolfishly. “We have been talking and we were stricken that even though we in Villaescanciada are honest, hard-working people with exemplary behavior, we haven’t received any economical help from the County Council. It would be so handy to patch some problems in the village!”
Otilio gazed at them. He calibrated his chances and understood the looming certainty in those four confronting eyes. “The only time religion and science join forces is to screw me” he thought.
“You, hyenas…” he thought but he said. “You, dear citizens, know we are simple, yet proud people who don’t accept charity. We are self-sufficient…”, Seeing his speech wouldn’t lead anywhere, his demeanor changed to a defeated stare. “Did you tell anybody?”
“So, there was a grant!” Heriberto exploded, his eyes fixed on the wall. “What ignominy, keeping it from us, your trusted Councilors…!”
As Heriberto ranted, Manrique answered“Nobody else knows. Yet.” Otilio added. “There wasn’t any grant, however. None. What you think you saw was different, so stop trying to account for it it. However… since you are here, I will tell you about a concept that will boost your political careers.”
“What is it?” Manrique asked.
“Do you know about quantum fiscality?”
“A birth control plan?”
“Quantum, Heriberto. Q-U-A-N-T-U-M.” Otilio spelled.
Their expressions were answer enough.
“It is a novel, yet intriguing concept with plenty of practical applications; I will explain it slowly.” Otilio pulled a stash of bank notes from a drawer, letting them rest on top of the table. “Here are six thousand Euro. They exist at once in the Town Hall treasury and in your pockets, but only if they move fast enough and you don’t look at them. Now, shut your mouths and enjoy.”
Although the theoretical explanation didn’t find a welcoming neuron in the intruder’s brains, the practical aspect in the shape of bank notes cut an eight-lane highway to their pockets. Both men left the office, forgetting they had been there and any discussions about grants. The velvet night descended on Villaescanciada, clothing its neighbors in the placid dream of a day like any other.
Alejandro Fernandez is a Spanish writer looking forward to building a writing career. His first short story, “The Blackened Emerald”, will be published in the “Down in the Dirt” magazine in March 2024.