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The Tinkered Mind

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February 13th, 2022


Lucilius ducked out of the sunshine into the cool darkness. His eyes adjusted to the bar, dark as a cave. He needed to sit and think, and the place was empty. A bartender with rolled sleeves and designed skin was polishing an end of the bar and looked up. He nodded at Lucilius and Lucilius walked over and took his seat.


“Something to drink? Eat?”


“Just a drink?"

“What would you like?”


Lucilius shrugged. “You decide.”

“Sweet? Sour? Herbal? Bitter? Any combination? Anything off limits?”


Lucilius considered the fresh question. “Well I feel like I just had some bitter medicine, and -ha- I guess I’m feeling a little sour. Does that work for you?”

The bartender nodded, slowly turning away, surveying the ingredients he had to work with. Lucilius watched mindlessly as the barman exercised his slick techniques, the fine attention to detail, the precision and accuracy. Within a few moments, a chilled coupe was placed before Lucilius, filled as if with a liquid gold. Lucilius had never seen anything like it before. He took a sip.


“Well?” The barman asked.


“It’s fantastic, what is it?”

The barman shrugged. “Custom, on the spot.”


Lucilius was impressed. “Do you just remember all the custom drinks you whip up like this?”


The barman wore an uneasy look, tilting his head from side to side as he thought about it.

“Some of them, I should write more of them down to be honest.”


“Well you should definitely write this one down.” Lucilius took another sip. “I needed this.”


“You said something about bitter medicine?” The bartender prompted, curiously.


Lucilius sighed. “Yea, I don’t know. Not sure what to do. I guess you could say I have two mentors, and they both tell me completely opposite things.”


“Like advice?”


“Yea. I have a sense about what I want to do, and what I think I can accomplish, but I just spoke to one of these guys, and I simply hated all the advice he had to give.”


“And the other one?”


Lucilius shrugged. “More open-ended. Never any solid ‘do this’ or ‘do that’. More my style to be honest.”


“So this mentor who gave you bad advice: what didn’t you like?"

Lucilius puffed out his breath. “Yea, well I could go on and on about that. He wants me to specialize, and I see that as pigeon-holing myself. And all his advice is geared at an eventual outcome that I actually don’t even want.”


“Does he know that?”


“Nah, well, I don’t know. He doesn’t think what I want is realistic. He basically gives me advice to try and turn me into him.”


The barman laughed. “Let me ask you this: of these two mentors, which one is happier?”


Lucilius’ eyebrows shot up as he considered the question. “Well, that’s an interesting way of looking at it.”


He took another sip of his drink as the barman continued, “And of the two, has either been down the path you actually want to go down?”


Lucilius was even more impressed. He snorted a laugh.


“Same guy for both questions?” The barman asked.


Lucilius laughed. “Actually, yea.”


The barman smiled faintly and walked away to attend to someone else who had just sat at the bar. Lucilius meditated over the issue, newly lit by the barman’s questions, as he enjoyed the drink. He realized how strange it is that someone’s advice could be so disappointing to hear - that it could cause such discomfort and almost anger. Was it a sign of a reality that had to be faced? Or is such a genuine reaction a sign to avoid following such advice?


Lucilius pondered as he relaxed. The barman returned. “Another?”


“Sure,” Lucilius said confidently.  “Another one of - uh, what should we call it?”

The bartender looked off into space for a moment. “The Vice of Advice.”


Lucilius laughed. “Did you just think of that?”


The barman nodded with a faint but proud smile as he scooped up ice and began preparing another drink.


“Oh, one thing,” the barman said.


“What’s that?”


“Well, now I have to be guilty of this vice and offer some advice.”


“I’m all ears,” Lucilius said.


“The one who gave you bad advice?”




“Make sure you thank him for it.”


Lucilius gave the barman a quizzical look and the barman shrugged.


“No matter how much you don’t like what he said, he’s still trying to help.”


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