Ask Doctor Bernofsky (Summer 2014)

“Who’s Doctor bloody Bernofsky?”
“He knows everything.”
“Ooh, I wouldn’t like that, that’d take all the mystery out of life.”
– Monty Python

Doctor Bernofsky (patent pending) is here to help! Got a question for the good doctor? Ask away! Or just continue to live vicariously through these people below! (Not responsible for any loss of limb or limb resulting from actually acting upon Doctor Bernofsky’s advice.)

Dear Dr. Bernofsky,
I built a time machine to prevent the rise of Nazi Germany, but then Adolf Hitler, the bum, stole the schematics so he could learn when the invasion of Normandy was going to happen. He made sure there was a robot army from the future waiting on the beach to defeat the Allied troops — and for that, to the people living in this alternate history, I can only say: my bad. I know I have an obligation to undo the damage that my machine and its many Nazi duplicates have caused, and to put the time-stream back the way it was. But I also don’t want to riddle the space-time continuum with additional paradoxes. (I learned that the hard way when John Wilkes Booth escaped from Ford’s Theatre on the back of a giant T-Rex.) As a man of learning and letters yourself, what do you recommend?
Professor Horatio J. Farnslow

Dear Professor,
What is it with time travelers and your obsession with big, splashy moments in modern history? Everyone’s always going back to stop Hitler, or to turn the tide of the Civil War, or to make sure that New Coke was never invented. I get it, you own a “This Day in History” desk calendar, good for you. Nobody’s ever going back to last Tuesday to use up the milk before it spoils, or three weeks ago to make sure the cat doesn’t get out — which, frankly, is a much more practical use of time travel, if you ask me. Meanwhile, Berlin in the 1940s is crawling with visitors from the future, each with his or her own madcap designs on rewriting yesterday. My advice to you is this: just wait until they all cancel each other out. Chances are, by the time anyone else is reading this, “Hitler waiting on the beach with giant robots” will just sound like crazy talk.

Dear Dr. Bernofsky,
Ten years ago, the small farm town in Indiana where I’m from, Meadowville, was the staging ground for a failed alien invasion. Maybe you heard of us? We made the state and county news. (Go Jaguars!) Anyway, these evil brain parasites from another planet took over at least half of the adults in town, including the mayor, the police force, and a bunch of teachers from the local high school. It was only through a lot of quick thinking and our inherent mistrust of authority that some childhood friends and I were able to stop them by blowing up their mothership. At the time, we were celebrated like heroes, but now a decade later, some folks are starting to say maybe things were actually better back then. The aliens brought order and discipline and a real sense of community and purpose that just seems to be lacking in the kids these days. We couldn’t even get half the town out to vote in the last election, much less get them to communicate telepathically in a vast, networked hive mind. Is it weird that I’m starting to wonder if maybe my friends and I made a terrible mistake?
Yours sincerely,
Billy Sanderson

Dear Billy,
It’s no weirder than any other part of your story, which I’ll wager has been fact-checked and verified by at least a dozen different secret government organizations. My opinion is that you did the right thing. It’s easy for people to say they want to be crushed under the boot heels of an oppressive alien invasion, especially from the comfort of ten years out. But it’s all just talk. Of course, if you’re not convinced, and you’re truly nostalgic for the strangling grip of alien tentacles and the cold flash of their death rays, I may know a reckless time traveler I can introduce you to.

Dear Dr. Bernofsky,
For a few years now, I’ve been living as a troll underneath a country bridge, forcing unsuspecting travelers to choose between either paying me in gold ducats for their safe passage or becoming my supper. It’s not a life I was born to, or one that I would naturally have chosen for myself, but it’s a pretty good life all the same. I no longer wake up in the middle of the night cursing the witch’s enchantment that left me in this predicament, but instead I focus on the simple pleasure of shiny gold things and cracked skulls. I even like to think I provide a valuable service, keeping the peasant and adventurer population well in check. But apparently the local constabulary doesn’t agree, and they’ve threatened to organize an angry mob to roust me from my contented slumber beneath the bridge — or even to burn down the bridge entirely! Tell me, doc, what’s a poor troll like me to do?
A Troll

Dearest Troll,
If all you’re doing is knocking heads and stealing gold, it’s little wonder the townsfolk want to burn you out. You really need to step up your game, and in the troll business, that means riddles. Everybody loves a good brainteaser, and there are countless books available if you don’t know any yourself. They’re also a good way to improve memory and lateral thinking, which are useful skills even for someone cursed by a witch’s hex to live beneath a dirty old bridge. Use some of your ill-gotten gold and buy a book — you’ll be glad you did!