“The ‘Wonko Institute for the Incurably Sane’ was set up by the named member somewhere in coastal California.

Which is, actually, a lie.

Wonko didn’t set up an Institute. He, instead, chose to withdraw from society.

Which…is a fiction, and the distinction is essential to draw. Wonko lived a very important, if fictive, life.

His position was simple. Any society that needed printed instructions on how to use toothpicks was irrevocably insane.

The birthplace of the Institute was virtual. It was the coincidence of two news articles, seemingly unrelated. The first talked of a massive food shortage that had blighted the planet. Food riots, previously unheard of, were on the rise; the interest in biofuels had sent the price of basic food stuffs rocketing and the sheer cost of producing and moving food added significantly to the burden on the poor. Add to that the weather conditions, mysterious bee death and a seeming lack of concern about the matter, and the picture was very grim indeed.

The second story was an interview with a potential world leader. One of many grey, shapeless old men trying to stand out and appeal to a voter block. He stated that he, literally, believed that the first woman was formed from the rib of the first man. Some took this to mean that he presumed life was seeded her by some advanced alien race that genetically constructed us. Some rubbed their hands in glee that the leader of the free world would take them back to the Dark Ages.

But others despaired.

In a world that was so rapidly changing – so obviously in need of some direction and attention – surely someone should do something.

They were in despair – their ability to form sentences that had any structure was impaired. We can forgive them that.

The Wonko Institute gathers people who share that despair and makes them active. Rather than merely researching alternatives they lobby; they build, grow, and craft things that will make the world a better, more sane, place.”

Dan lowered the cheat-sheet and looked across the table at the three listeners.

“And then there’s the usual website, e-mail addresses etc.” he finished.

There was silence.

Wonko was the first to speak. Wonko the Second.

The line “Wonko the Second was the first to speak” would have been clumsy.

See.

“You don’t think it’s too…chummy? A little light hearted?”

“Well,” Dan reasoned. “You’re called the Wonko Institute for the Incurably Sane. I figured light hearted would be the way to go.”

They all nodded in agreement. “He does have a point, Matt.”

Wonko agreed. “And a very good one, Jules.” Wonko wasn’t his real name.

Obviously.

“Right then, we’ll go with that – get it online. Thank you very much, Dave. We’ll sort you out with whatever you need.”

“Actually, I’d like to join.”

The three stopped. “What?”

“The institute. I want to join.”

The three looked at him, blinking. It was as if none of them had ever thought this would happen.

None of them had, truth be told.

“You want to join?” Echoed Jan.

“The Institute?” Asked the third – whose name, it turned out, was Dave. He drove.

“But why?” Asked Wonko.

“Because you’re right. It is wrong. I’ve read all the sites, I get all the e-mails but I don’t DO anything. I want to do something.”

“Can you cook?” Jan was forever a pragmatist.

“I…can knock something up…I guess.”

“Then you’re on dinner duty. If you want to do something, you can cook tonight. Welcome to the group.”

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