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A Filbert Is a Nut   By: (1919-1994)

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Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from Astounding Science Fiction November 1959. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.



That the gentleman in question was a nut was beyond question. He was an institutionalized psychotic. He was nutty enough to think he could make an atom bomb out of modeling clay!

Illustrated by Freas

Miss Abercrombie, the manual therapist patted the old man on the shoulder. "You're doing just fine, Mr. Lieberman. Show it to me when you have finished."

The oldster in the stained convalescent suit gave her a quick, shy smile and went back to his aimless smearing in the finger paints.

Miss Abercrombie smoothed her smock down over trim hips and surveyed the other patients working at the long tables in the hospital's arts and crafts shop. Two muscular and bored attendants in spotless whites, lounged beside the locked door and chatted idly about the Dodgers' prospects for the pennant.

Through the barred windows of the workshop, rolling green hills were seen, their tree studded flanks making a pleasant setting for the mental institution. The crafts building was a good mile away from the main buildings of the hospital and the hills blocked the view of the austere complex of buildings that housed the main wards.

The therapist strolled down the line of tables, pausing to give a word of advice here, and a suggestion there.

She stopped behind a frowning, intense patient, rapidly shaping blobs of clay into odd sized strips and forms. As he finished each piece, he carefully placed it into a hollow shell hemisphere of clay.

"And what are we making today, Mr. Funston?" Miss Abercrombie asked.

The flying fingers continued to whip out the bits of shaped clay as the patient ignored the question. He hunched closer to his table as if to draw away from the woman.

"We mustn't be antisocial, Mr. Funston," Miss Abercrombie said lightly, but firmly. "You've been coming along famously and you must remember to answer when someone talks to you. Now what are you making? It looks very complicated." She stared professionally at the maze of clay parts.

Thaddeus Funston continued to mold the clay bits and put them in place.

Without looking up from his bench he muttered a reply.

"Atom bomb."

A puzzled look crossed the therapist's face. "Pardon me, Mr. Funston. I thought you said an 'atom bomb.'"

"Did," Funston murmured.

Safely behind the patient's back, Miss Abercrombie smiled ever so slightly. "Why that's very good, Mr. Funston. That shows real creative thought. I'm very pleased."

She patted him on the shoulder and moved down the line of patients.

A few minutes later, one of the attendants glanced at his watch, stood up and stretched.

"All right, fellows," he called out, "time to go back. Put up your things."

There was a rustle of paint boxes and papers being shuffled and chairs being moved back. A tall, blond patient with a flowing mustache, put one more dab of paint on his canvas and stood back to survey the meaningless smears. He sighed happily and laid down his palette.

At the clay table, Funston feverishly fabricated the last odd shaped bit of clay and slapped it into place. With a furtive glance around him, he clapped the other half of the clay sphere over the filled hemisphere and then stood up. The patients lined up at the door, waiting for the walk back across the green hills to the main hospital. The attendants made a quick count and then unlocked the door. The group shuffled out into the warm, afternoon sunlight and the door closed behind them.

Miss Abercrombie gazed around the cluttered room and picked up her chart book of patient progress. Moving slowly down the line of benches, she made short, precise notes on the day's work accomplished by each patient.

At the clay table, she carefully lifted the top half of the clay ball and stared thoughtfully at the jumbled maze of clay strips laced through the lower hemisphere... Continue reading book >>

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