art by Melissa Mead
by Christopher Kastensmidt
"Excuse me," said the man sitting beside me at the bar.
"Yes?" I replied.
I welcomed the interruption. I'd spent most of the evening sipping a stout and staring at the Sox game on the hotel bar TV.
"Please pardon my intrusion," he said, "but I attended your lecture at the conference today, the one about genius, and I wanted to ask you a question."
"Ask away." I took a quick look at the guy. From the sprinkling of gray in his hair I guessed he was probably in his forties or fifties, but his face was covered with wrinkles more appropriate for a man of seventy. I didn't recognize him from the lecture, but it had been a full house. I did notice that his beer lay untouched in front of him, the head long since fizzled away.
"It appears you know quite a bit about geniuses," he said. I could sense a challenge in his voice that made me want to snap back a reply, but I took it in stride.
"It's a subject I've studied for years," I responded. "Back since I first earned my Ph.D. in psychology. So what's your question?"
"Perhaps you could call it more of a wager than a question. I'll buy you a beer if you can name any three of the ten greatest geniuses of the twentieth century. Take as many guesses as you like."