Howard and Robert are brothers. One is a smart, well educated young man who has become a success as an adult, much like his parents expected. The sons of two very bright parents, Howard had turned out to be just what every mother hope for. Dutiful, respectful, aspiring to greatness. His brother Robert is a bit different.
Robert was writing essays at two and speaking in complex sentences. At six, he built a plane that actually flew. At 9, he’s attending college classes at Georgetown University and excelling. Uncommonly intelligent, Robert soon turned his attention to more important things than personal success. You see, the troubles of the world bother Robert. He doesn’t understand why humans are so apt to fight and be violent. Shortly out of his preteen years, Robert takes a trip to another country and comes back determined to help civilization.
Complete with assistants, Robert goes to a small Texas town with a very low crime rate to study what it is that makes them so passive. He is gone for years on this quest. When he returns, it is to his smart but realistic brother, Howard. Upon his arrival, Robert claims he has found the cure of the evil that plagues man. He produces two glass boxes, one with a killer bee’s nest, the other a wasp. The occupants of these nests are very angry but after a few drops of his cure, which he calls the Calmative, Robert is able to let these often deadly insects out into the room and neither of them are stung. The dangerous insects have been calmed, robbed of the desire to sing. Robert then asks Howard to help him put this cure into a volcano his researchers tell him is about to erupt. If it does, the Calmative will be blasted all over the world and come down in rain and soak into everything.
They do it of course, and for three years, the world knows peace. No war, no fights, not even arguments. And then the brothers realize their mistake. They based it around the peaceful town and a protein found in its isolated water supply. They did not check for other side effects. It seems this town also has extremely high numbers of people with Alzheimer’s disease, which makes them forget. The reader is horrified that he and his brother have shot themselves full of the Calmative as a punishment for turning the whole world into ‘drooling idiots’. The story end with Howard, who has been telling the story, lapsing into forgetfulness. His last lines are haunting, telling his brother he forgives him for causing the end of the whole mess. Highly entertaining and hard to put down. A solid read. Four stars.