Body of Work
a short story
part 1

At my age, a man comes to expect awards with titles referring to “lifetime” and “body of work” or “contribution to the field.” Academic societies present these to me in lieu of the awards I might have received as a younger man for specific discoveries. After passing me over for fifty years, the scientific community has finally begun to make amends. They tell me the totality of what I did in my career is greater than the sum of its parts. These are empty words. I prefer to think they have come to realize the error of their ways. If they haven’t yet, I know they will tonight.

First, though, I have some empty words for them: Better late than never. At least they didn’t try to satisfy themselves with something so tawdry as a gold watch.

Before me now is the task of writing a speech to thank my benefactors for the award I shall receive at a gala ball and fundraiser tonight. I should express myself as grateful but not fawning, appreciative without seeming feeble. It should be leavened with the touch of arrogance that confirms they were right to give me this award. At the same time, it should reassure them that if they had received the award, they would have shown more deference to their ostensible peers. After all, they give this award to me primarily in order to confirm their own superiority. I know these men and women. They are scientists, like me.

Tonight, once again, I shall disappoint and yet titillate my audience by repeating this fact: I did not discover the planet Theravant.

To be continued
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