Excerpt from Beauty and the Brain

   
     Martin Tafft smiled at said assistant, Colin Peters. "Isn't this fresh air invigorating? I really enjoy the mountains." Feeling expansive, he thumped himself on the chest. "Springtime in the Sierras, Colin. You can't beat it."
     Colin pushed his thick spectacles up his nose. They had a tendency to slip, as Martin had noticed before. "Actually, these aren't the Sierras, Mr. Tafft. We're presently in a range called the San Bernardinos." He pointed into a clump of trees in a direction Martin presumed was vaguely downhill. "That's San Bernardino down there. The town."
     Undaunted, Martin went on. "Ah, but you can't beat the natural beauty of these mountains." Martin, who had grown up in Pittsburgh, where there was precious little of nature left, appreciated natural beauty when he saw it. "Look there!" He pointed at a couple of birds that had just flown, chirping madly, out of a tall cedar tree. "Why, even the birds are playful!"
     Colin cleared his throat self-deprecatingly. "Er, actually, I believe that blue jay—the larger bird, you see—just tried to steal an egg from that scarlet tanager's nest. Birds don't generally play with each other. Life's too precarious for them out here in the wild."
     Martin's smile twisted slightly askew. As much as he appreciated Colin, who was a bright and enthusiastic fellow and a joy with whom to work, Martin found him a trace too literal sometimes. His scholarly nature had come as something of a surprise to Martin, since Colin looked like a well-built, muscular young man. Martin hadn't anticipated so unemotional a personality as Colin's to be housed in such a hearty, masculine shell.
     "These are the moving pictures, Colin," he said gently. "The San Bernardinos can belong to any old mountain range we want them to, and the birds can play if we say so."
     "I see." Colin frowned a little and scanned the scenery.
     Martin didn't know how a person could remain unmoved by the pristine beauty sprawled all about them, but Colin seemed to be managing nicely. Martin sighed. He was still happy. He saw a short-tailed chipmunk sitting on a rock, clutching an acorn in its paws and darting glances all around. The thing looked darling to Martin, but he chose not to point the animal out to Colin, fearing he would predict the beast's doom from its charming behavior.
     "In that case," Colin went on after a short period of thought, and startling Martin, who'd forgotten what they'd been talking about, "I suppose these would be the Black Hills, since this picture is supposed to be set in the Dakotas."
     "Right."
     "I see." Colin pushed up his glasses again. He didn't smile. Martin gave up trying to lure his assistant into thinking about anything but work. Far from gloomy, Colin had yet to exhibit anything resembling lightness of spirit, and Martin considered that something of a shame. His own cheer remained unabated, and he clapped Colin on the back.
     Colin, not anticipating the blow, took a startled step forward.
     After expelling another, rather more heartfelt sigh, and feeling a good deal of sympathy for Colin, Martin said, "I believe the rest of the crew and the cast have assembled. Let me introduce you to everyone. I'm sure you'll find them all very agreeable to work with."
     "Yes. I see." Colin sounded unconvinced.
 
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