A Summer at Shiloh Grove (Part 3)

Brother V opened his beer and stared out the window which may as well have been a painting of pure blackness. “Dr. Brum is a great man,” he said. “Do you keep up with his work?”

Upon shaking my head he continued to explain. Dr. Brum is a popular guest on news, television and podcasts. He gives talks all around the world and conducts research in conjunction with various universities. He’s published quite a few papers which are beginning to look like foundational materials for a new book on his method. Individual Optimization. When working with prisoners or addicts or the mentally disabled, he had to focus on finding one thing for them to do and be good at. At this, he was exemplary. But people aren’t only good at just one thing. They’re not meant to be robots performing a single task over and over. Depending upon their age and experience, their abilities likewise shift, along with their interests. He was developing a calculus of human competency.

None of that had anything to do with Brother V’s story, but he wanted to illustrate how incredible Dr. Brum was, and still is, despite this sidetrack.


Brother V would be working with (i.e. serving) the most powerful and influential people on the planet, and it was necessary that he understand the speed with which they function and the large numbers they are constantly contemplating. Dr. Brum issued a battery of tests, most of which were quite boring. It was a sight, Brother V  explained, to see Dr. Brum not as this media personality, but as an actual scientist who laboriously churned piles of numbers for a living in search of replicable patterns.

“I’m just learning who you are,” Dr. Brum explained. “This is not a pass/fail, or smart vs. dumb. These tests will determine how we work together.”

Brother V was given a tour of the area accompanied by silent men in black suits. The bulge of weaponry could be seen in their sides and wires led to nearly invisible ear-pieces like exposed nerves.

Why was Brother V not introduced or being trained by the other FOH staff? Where were the cooks? Even during this off-time, prep had to be done. Fridges and freezers cleaned. 

Dr. Brum explained it like a game. “Think of a chess board. Or any game board really. A simple arrangement of colored shapes. A child could come up with it. But on top of this lies a game which has ensnared humanity for thousands of years. Maybe longer. You are seeing the base of operations. The foundation upon which all this functions. And a kitchen is more complicated than a game because it involves people with egos. And out there,” he pointed to the dining room, “are the egos that rule the world. And their game is even more complicated. But it still all rests on this simple geometric arrangement.”

Brother V said, “and then he turned my head. We were standing in between the kitchen and the dining room. A guard leaned against the door, holding it open. Dr. Brum tilted my head ever so slightly to the side, made a single adjustment to my chin and said, ‘there.’ And everything changed. It was like I was looking at a grid, but from above. I’m not saying it was an out-of-body experience or anything, but I could see half of the kitchen and half of the dining room, and the way they worked together, their lines and spaces, and the implicit shapes in between them, suggested the rest of the layout, and I saw immediately who would stand where in the kitchen, where their boundaries were. The patterns in which the service staff would move. The counter-pattern of the bus-staff. At this point I almost fell over and Dr. Brum was behind me. He put his hand on my shoulder.”

Brum chuckled and explained to Brother V that he hadn’t expected him to see the pattern so soon, but all the better. Brum whispered conspiratorially that he worked with an architect to renovate this space so that it suited its current dimensions. The old hotel board however, had declined to keep Brum as part of the hiring process after that, to which Brum had offered a bet. They could hire whomever they want, and he would predict with a 100% success rate who would stay and who would go. Even further, he would predict when an employee would leave to the exact day. If Brum’s predictions were correct for a year, they’d make him in charge of the hiring. Given a 100% success rate, they gave it to him after four months.

He took Brother V to a series of bungalows in a joint property behind the hotel and restaurant. It seemed odd that the hotel would have live-in staff. Such things were usually reserved for the olden days of massive factories employing entire towns.

These buildings were, in fact, a series of medical offices, chemistry labs and storage. The hotel performed its R&D right on the spot. The restaurant had its recipe development building, and the laundry and recreational services were constantly perfecting cleaners and sterilizers, water purification. And the doctor’s offices were there for the staff. Anything from a headache to a heart-attack could be serviced here. Of course, there were first-aid kits all around the hotel for burns and cuts and what-have-you. 

At this point, one of the guards put a blindfold over Brother V’s eyes.

“I’m going to take you somewhere that I can’t show you,” said Dr. Brum. “It’s not far.” A guard cleared his throat to indicate that even this was too much information.

Brother V could have figured out on his own that they weren’t going far as they were lead into a building, through some hallways and down some stairs, then into an elevator. Even if they walked through the same hallways twice, he never got in a vehicle, so he knew they were still on the hotel grounds.

From the side of his ears he heard skittering noises, like small mice running around. The light peeking in from the edges of the blindfold turned from fluorescent white to sterile-lab blue. He felt fingers removing the blindfold and it was revealed that he was in a science lab of some kind. Black cloths were draped around large boxes with bright lights inside. It smelled of sawdust.

“Gentlemen,” said Doctor Brum to the guards. They stared at each other and after a moment the guards turned and left the room, seeming to have lost a battle. Their entire job was to go places where others were not allowed, and here was this newbie, getting to play with all the lab toys alone with the doctor.

“I need to take a little blood from you,” said Doctor Brum. “Nothing more than what you’d give at the Red Cross. I don’t know if you’re jumpy around needles. I wouldn’t guess so based on your tests, but phobias tend to be irrational. It is a requirement for the job, so if you have any reservations, now is the time to voice them.”

Brother V had none. This was a high-profile job and they were likely going to test him for any hard-to-find drugs or maybe genetic conditions and predispositions to illness which could become problematic later. No one wanted a Typhoid Mary walking among the world elite.