2 Time Poems, circa 1990s

*

So How Does this Time Thing Work?

or

I Am Distracted by the Passing of Moments

now

but now becomes then

now a new now– NOW!

then– then, and again and again

each now becoming then

you can go way back when

a zillions thens

each one having been

a now

when now was then

*

So How Does this Time Thing Work (part 2)

or

Our Limited Comprehension Cannot Grasp Time Traveling in More than One Direction

you can pull a now to then

but can you push a now to when?

when being (for now)

a now from now

then when upon when

a zillion whens then

each one becoming

a now

when now would be when

*

That’s Not Snow- a Flash Fiction Tale

photo via fastcompany.com

#

“Not everybody gets a private tour of Argonne National Laboratory.”

“I know. Thanks for showing me around.”

“Will you remember this when you go back to school?”

“Of course.” Annette smiles up at her uncle.

They turn a corner and enter command central. Rows of black-capped processors fill the expansive computer room. Theo waves his hand at the machines.

“This used to be the Sequoia Blue Gene Q. I modified her to run at 20.1 petaflops, and renamed her ‘Mira,’ after your aunt. She’s now the most powerful supercomputer in the world. Mira has 49,152 compute nodes, and 70 petabytes of disk storage – the fastest to date. And this is confidential,” Theo says, stooping to whisper. “I secretly programmed her to calculate the correct M-theory of the universe.”

“M-theory?”

Theo scans the room for late-working lab assistants. Seeing none, he continues. “The 11-dimensional string theory, birdie. The quantum structure of the universe.” He chuckles and taps Annette’s head. “Soon we’ll have the theoretical physics equation which will perfectly describe universal reality.”

“Soon?” Annette says, ducking her head.

“By my estimations, Mira will gift us with the equation tomorrow. Then Theo C. Stout will be recognized as the most accomplished and celebrated scientist in history. And science – as we understand it today – will be turned up-side down. Nothing will be the same.”

They stroll between the towering computer cabinets.

“So what’s that pretty head of yours thinking?”

Annette shrugs. “ ‘Knowledge is power,’ as Sir Francis Bacon famously said.” She smiles up at her uncle.

“You’re close, dear,” he says, running a finger along a casing. “The correct phrase is ‘Scientia potentia est,’ and we have the philosopher Thomas Hobbs to thank for that gem. Have you passed your Latin courses yet, sweetie?”

“I’m not taking Latin.”

Theo stops abruptly and blinks at Annette. He bursts out laughing. “You almost had me fooled there, dolly. Imagine that.” He playful tugs at her ponytail.

Annette frowns as Theo polishes the casing with his sleeve.

“Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Annette purses her lips. “And I know Lord Acton said that.”

“I suppose that would pass at your university. But his proper name is ‘John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton.’ And the un-butchered quote is,Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ You say you’re a humanities major?”

Annette’s face reddens, and Theo pats her head.

“Yes. But I-I-” Annette stammers, “I’m in my second year.”

“I’m sure they keep the city library open all summer. A solid self-education can fill in the gaping cracks and holes of an institutional education. What’s on your summer reading list, dear?”

“Well, I’m keeping up with the major authors – I mean, the top-sellers in fiction – so I can better understand the, uh, sociological impact of… of popular culture.

Theo raises his brow.

She bites her lip. “You know – John Grisham, E. L. James. Well, I kinda flipped through ‘Fifty Shades… ’ Borrowed it from a friend. Didn’t much care for it.” Her face reddens again, and she turns away and studies a processor rack.

“You know, you should think about cracking open a practical book now and then,” Theo says. “You’re welcome to borrow any of the computer science and physics books in my office library.”

Annette’s gaze sweeps over stacked silver trays and black and white wires. “Would any of those books tell me what’s inside Mira? The inner workings?”

“Sure. A few of them might give you an idea of the mechanics, but to learn what’s really going on inside Mira, you’d have to spend decades studying everything from advanced software engineering to quantum mechanics.”

Annette sighs. “Well, I was more interested in what Mira actually looks like on the inside. I’m taking an independent art class in the fall and was hoping to get inspiration – a peek at the guts of a supercomputer. I want to see something none of the art students have seen.”

“I can let you have a peek inside, right now, if you’d like.” Theo winks at her. He takes a multi-tool from his pocket, unscrews the top two screws of a cabinet, and carefully flexes the plastic casing back a couple inches. He switches on the flashlight extension and hands the tool to Annette.

Grinning, Annette positions the flashlight and peers into the crack.

A slight jumping movement. She focuses, and sees a large black spider tensed on a webby mass of white wires. Annette frowns and steps back.

“Well? Did you get your inspiration?” Theo says, snapping panel back into place.

Annette is silent.

“Do you need another look?”

She clears her throat. “No. Thank you.”

The next morning, Annette is quiet at breakfast.

“Something on your mind, dear?” says Theo.

“I was just wondering,” she says, “If an insect somehow got into Mira, would that potentially affect her M-theory calculations?”

“A bug? Mira is one-hundred percent bug-free. I coded a customized anti-bug subroutine into her software. Even with the quantum calculations she’s doing, there’s no way a software bug could pop up.”

“I don’t mean a software bug. I mean a spider.”

“Of course!” Theo says, laughing. “Mira has a web crawler constantly scanning the academic libraries for the latest research in theoretical physics.”

The phone rings, and Annette answers.

“Uncle Theo – it’s Charlotte. She says there’s an emergency at the lab.”

Theo grabs the phone. “Charlotte? Theo here… What? Actual spiders? Is this a joke?… Okay. Thank you.”

Annette shivers.

“Charlotte told me the lab is quarantined,” Theo says, trembling. “Filled with spider webbing and… millions of spiders. Can’t even open the doors. The spiders spun layers of webbing over everything.” He collapses on the sofa and pulls back the window curtain. “Snow? In July?” Theo crouches behind the sofa back and peers out the window at a glinting white landscape. “This catastrophic global climate change is happening faster than anyone predicted.”

Annette stoops and pats Theo’s head. “That’s not snow.”

#

Thanks to Albert Berg for this flash fiction challenge!


Kevin Dorian- a Flash Fiction Tale

0

“We need to talk about Kevin.” Thea speaks softly, her eyes studying the table edge. “Please. We need to talk it out. All the way though. To the end. Please, Huck. Please.”

Huck taps on his laptop and glances at his wife. “You say something, dear?”

She inhales deeply. “We need to talk about Kevin. Today. Now.”

Huck furrows his brow and frowns. “You feeling okay, dear?”

“Yes. I mean no. We need to talk.” She bites her lip.

“Sure,” he says, closing his laptop. “But I’m expecting a call from Jeff anytime. He needs me in the office today.”

“On a Saturday?”

“We picked up a couple new clients. You didn’t notice I’m in a suit and tie?”

“Oh . . I guess not.”

Huck chuckles. “You and Ava should spend the day at the park. Supposed to be sunny. A high of seventy-six.”

“Yes, she’s been wanting to go ever since school let out.”

Huck opens his laptop. “Maybe you two can go shopping. She’s grown out of last year’s summer dresses. Get yourself something nice too.” He winks and begins typing.

“Yes. We’ll do that.” She folds her napkin and runs her thumbnail along the edge, pressing a sharp crease. “Now about Kevin . . ”

“Better hurry if you want to beat the traffic. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get this report done before Jeff calls. Have fun.”

“No,” Thea says.

Huck continues typing.

“No!” She slams her fist on the table, and the breakfast dishes jump.

Huck blinks at Thea. “If you want, I can drop you off. I don’t mind. No need to fret over traffic. I’m used to it.”

“Kevin! I want to talk about Kevin!”

Huck purses his lips. “Thea, please. Ava will hear you.”

“Good. She needs to hear this.”

Huck stiffens and shakes his head. “That would not be good for her. We’ve already discussed this. It’s time to move on, Thea. It’s what’s best for our family.”

Tears spill over her cheeks, and she tears at her napkin. “Kevin is part of our family.”

“If he ever was,” Huck says, leaning forward, “he is not now.”

“I gave birth to him!” she says, her face red. “You were there. You cut the cord, and you held him first. I was too exhausted. You held him at my breast to feed him.”

“Thea, stop.”

“You changed his diapers. You pushed him in the stroller. You read to him to sleep every night. His first word was ‘book.’ He loved books. He learned to read at age five. He was reading at college level by age eight. He was way ahead on all the developmental charts.”

“Stop.”

“Kevin’s real! He’s not . . ”

“Stop.”

“He’s not imaginary!”

“Mommy?” Ava stands at the entrance to the kitchen, clutching a Barbie.

Thea dabs her eyes and blows her nose on a napkin shred. She turns and faces her daughter. “Yes, sweetheart?”

“Can we go to the park today?”

“Of course. Come sit on my lap.”

Ava climbs onto her mother’s lap and puts Barbie on the table.

“I have something important to tell you, Ava.”

Huck clenches his jaw. “Thea, no.”

“You have a brother.”

“You’re confused, dear.” Huck reaches across the table and takes Ava’s hand. “Mommy is confused right now. But everything will be better when you go to the park,” he says firmly. “Mommy will buy you a pretty dress. You can even get cotton candy. Do you like cotton candy, sweetheart?”

“Yes!” Ava says, grinning. “The pink kind.”

“Then tell mommy to take you to the park, before they run out of pink cotton candy.”

Ava jumps off Thea’s lap. “Can we go now? Please?”

Thea glares at Huck. “Put on your sandals and put a towel and your hat and your chalk in your backpack. And your camera. Then we’ll go.”

Ava runs out of the kitchen.

“You can’t tell me you don’t remember Kevin. He was real. Say it.”

“Listen to me.” Huck scoots his chair around the table and puts his hand on her shoulder. “We don’t have anything to prove he existed. No photos. No school records. Not even a birth certificate. Not even a pair of baby shoes or a scribbled drawing or lock of hair . . nothing.”

“It was a home birth! And I home schooled him! We were off the grid, homesteading. Back to basics. We didn’t believe in buying into the system back then, remember? We were loners. No friends, no neighbors, just our weekly trip into town, and-”

“And we were different people back then,” Huck says. “We were immature.”

Thea stares out the window. “And then he disappeared in the library, and we couldn’t find him, and we couldn’t even prove to the police that we had a missing child, and-”

“And nobody at the library remembered seeing him,” Huck says flatly. “Ever.”

“And then we had the fire, and we lost everything. That was when you snapped. After the fire, you decided Kevin never existed.”

“You’re right. I did decide. I decided to get clean and sober and make something of myself. I decided to get a real job so we could have a real house so we could have a real future. And you got clean and sober too. Weird things happen when you free-wheel and mess with drugs. Bad trips mess with your mind. But we don’t take those trips anymore.”

“Kevin loved going to the library. He loved books. Why didn’t I get him a junior library card?” Fresh tears spill over her cheeks. “I would’ve kept it in my purse, and I would’ve still had the card today. It would’ve said ‘Kevin Dorian.’ It would’ve been proof.”

“Nobody remembered seeing him,” Huck says, shaking his head. “No one.”

Ava stomps into the kitchen, arms crossed and pouting. “I can’t find my chalk!”

“Did you check your toy box?” Thea says, pressing her palms over her eyes.

A smile breaks out on Ava’s face. “Oh!” she says, then turns and runs.

Thea sighs and wipes her wet hands on her lap. “We take pictures of Ava almost every day. We have her birth on video. A copy of her birth certificate is framed on the wall. The original certificate is in a bank vault. We bronzed her baby shoes. Archived all her artwork. She’s in Brownies. She’s a card-carrying member of every kid’s club in the county.” She shakes her head. “And . . she has a junior library card.”

Huck squeezes Thea’s hand. “It’s been ten years. It’s time to move on. It’s time to be a happy family.”

Thea leans back in her chair. Her arms fall at her sides. “I want to hear you say you remember Kevin.”

Huck’s phone rings. He grabs it.

“Hey, Jim. How’s it going? . . Right. I’m on my way now.” He stands and shuts his laptop. “Gotta go, dear. You and Ava have fun.”

Thea jumps up and grabs his shoulders. “Kevin was skinny, lanky- like you. He ate like a horse, but was thin as a rail, like you. Kevin had your hair- blonde with a cowlick.” Thea shakes him by his shoulders. “Kevin wore a ring. You gave him that ring when he was eight, for his birthday. It was your grandfather’s ring. Kevin wanted to wear it. You re-sized it for him. That was the year he disappeared-”

Kevin!” Huck screams and breaks from Thea’s grasp, falling back on his chair. He presses his hands over his ears, eyes shut tight. He kicks and flails, catching his feet on the chair legs, and collapses on the floor. “Oh, Kevin . . ” he moans, his tear-stained face purple.

Thea kneels and embraces him.

“I remember. ”

0

Thanks to Flannery Alden of Flash Fiction Friday for this flash fiction prompt!

0

0

And in other news . .

My flash fiction story “Gods of the Compuverses” is a winner in a Zova Books contest!

0