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- Any Coincidence Is - 2/17 -


"And...?"

3. Meanwhile, back at the ranch... "Voyaging through the strange seas of Thought, alone." -- Wordsworth

Justin Nelson, Jr., pounded the last of the stakes of his new cattle pen into the dry dirt. Like sentinels, they sprouted in a line from the barn, swerved north of the stream, veered at a right angle for the stump, and followed Justin to where he stood. The cross-beams remained, after which he'd finally be done.

He took a white handkerchief from his shirt pocket and wiped his forehead. The task had been lengthened considerably, although Justin refused to admit it, by incessant thinking, an activity which often stopped him with his hammer in mid-swing. But now, he would soon be able to think all he wanted from the comfort of his porch as the cattle wandered from shade to shade. After he bought some cattle, he reminded himself. Or sheep. He could never decide which.

Under an entirely blue vault of sky, Justin felt something pass between himself and the morning sun. His leathered face turned up to see nothing but ubiquitous light, curving toward him in all directions. He arched his aging back, feeling the popping and hating it more than usual, before wiping his neck and replacing the handkerchief. He had that feeling that he'd better drink something and sit down or he'd end up in that damn hospital again. Twice last year, whether he needed it or not, he went in for a check-up, and twice a year, some intern treated him like the village idiot. Truth be told, everyone who knew about him had treated him that way for nearly eleven years, except his niece. With a sigh escaping from the bellows of his withering chest, Justin shuffled back to the porch he had added onto his small two-room home. In the distance, a plume of dust was billowing off the road. Mail truck. Must be time for breakfast. About time I ate something.

Tired legs maneuvered Justin's frame to the rocking chair, where both of his strong, chapped hands gripped the chair arms as he strategically placed his rear over the seat, then allowed gravity to do its work. As his ass plummeted, he was reminded that gravity yet to be reckoned with electromagnetism, strong nuclear force, and weak nuclear force, the other fundamental forces of the universe. Strange that he would remember a detail like that just now. Something he would have taught to his senior physics class and explained as best he could -- the one-eyed, cataract patient leading the blind. Gravity, he would explain, was the odd man out, and would be until somebody found a way to take the known model of the universe apart and put it back together. And when they did, he thought, wiping his face and neck again, they'd make some interesting discoveries. So much so that our explanation of space and time, the one that was "real" and "true" and had superseded every other theory since the beginning of history, would itself be superseded by something new that was more "real" and "true" than its predecessors. Be hell on all those science-fiction programs, having to reinvent how those cock-eyed transporters worked.

The dust whirled in the air, passing before the green truck as it drove up the road. A shadow, a large one, passed beside it. Dust doesn't make that big of a shadow, Justin thought. There's something up there. He looked up again, and whatever it was had passed away from the sun. And then, there was a glint of light, hovering somewhere above the mail truck. I bet it knows the secret, thought Justin, as he began to rock. How else can they hover that way? Whether anyone else believed in them wasn't the point. What was real and true didn't depend on prevailing fashions - it just was, whether or not it had been discovered yet.

Still, Justin wondered, how advanced could they be if they needed to hang out here and what for the mail truck, too?

4. In loco parentis "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." -- President William Jefferson Clinton

Alona Schwatrz's persistent knocking at the door of room 412 went unanswered for three minutes as she nervously shuffled her feet. Her book bag was super-saturated with textbooks, notebooks, schedules, rough drafts, and various other forms of academic paraphernalia. And itkept getting heavier. She continued to knock, even though there had as yet been no answer, because the note card tacked to the right of the door indicated that these indeed were Prof. Turgy K. Sigger's office hours. She could see the light under the door and thought she had heard a groan. Just before she decided to give up, slow feet approached from the opposite side, then silence; with a dramatic turn of the knob, the door swung open.

"Was this trip really necessary?" asked Prof. Sigger, blinking and brushing his oily, graying hair back into place.

"These are your office hours," Alona replied. She nervously smiled, feeling the corners of her mouth twitch. Somewhere in the darkened hall, a janitor coughed.

"All right," conceded Prof. Sigger. "Come in."

The carpet was smothered by leaning towers of textbooks. Papers lined the left side of the desk, above which was a small note card which read "To Be Graded." On the right side, the oak finish gleamed in the mid-morning light that pierced the Venetian blinds.

"You've come about your final project," Prof. Sigger stated.

"It's only mid-term," Alona reminded him.

"Oh yes, yes," continued Prof. Sigger, without conscious embarrassment. "Mid-term grade. I think I have it here. Somewhere." His hands disappeared into the left side of his desk.

"You told the class that we would all get a C if we maintained that Coca-Cola wasn't a crypto-fascist conspiracy."

"Oh yes," said Prof. Sigger. "We were discussing social issues, as I remember. I was quoting Marx and some little idiot brought up Rush Limbaugh."

"That was me," Alona muttered.

"Oh yes, yes," Prof. Sigger continued. "What can I do for you?"

Alona stared blankly back. "You said you wanted to see me in your office anytime before next Wednesday."

Prof. Sigger finally sighed, sinking a little in his chair.

"Did I say what for? I'm feeling a little low today," he said, hoping to elicit a small display of feminine attention.

"Oh," came the succinct and neutral reply. Prof. Sigger sighed again. "It was about my book report," continued Alona. "On..."

"Rush Limbaugh," interrupted Prof. Sigger.

"No."

"Coca-Cola?"

"No."

"I need to find my horoscope. I can't seem to keep track of anything anymore." He leaned back in his chair and felt his eyes close. That's it! he realized. That's why I asked her to my office! I have to find out if she would...

Somewhere in the pit of Sigger's abdomen, a latent piece of conscience manifested itself as a stomach cramp. He coughed and patted his belly. Then something lower than his abdomen began to draw his attention. He closed his eyes for a moment to clear his mind and focus on the art he had studied for years. With his intentions firmly aligned within (and without), Sigger opened his eyes but found himself no longer in his office but in a basement alcove. Across the room sat a pimply faced teenager who was scratching his scalp under long strawberry-blond hair.

5. Julia & Cecil the Cat, as mentioned in the title (above) "I've just one step further from falling behind." -- Brandy Daniels, "You"

"Did you ever have one of those days," inquired Julia of her cat, Cecil, who lay in the crook of her arm and was pushing his head into the moving fingers of Julia's right hand, "when you think you've noticed something everyone else has missed?"

Cecil didn't respond directly, but instead rubbed the side of his cheeks against the spine of "Gravity's Rainbow" which Julia held lopsidedly in her left.

"Pynchon keeps bleating about the preterit, right?" Cecil, who began licking his paw and washing his face, did not respond. "-- and the elect who are out to destroy them, but he's the only one I see who's treating his characters badly. I mean, how can you go off on God for malpractice when you treat your characters like you treat cockroaches?" Cecil looked at her for a moment, and resumed washing.

"OK, listen to this: 'Nobody ever said a day has to be juggled into any kind of sense at day's end.' OK, I can see that. But I don't throw you against the wall and call the universe evil, do I?" Cecil snorted a tiny snort through his nostrils.

"But as far as making trying to make sense of everything... I can see that. That's why I wonder sometimes. Like about Uncle Justin," she continued, as Cecil stood, arched his back, and attempted to find a comfortable position on her stomach, "who was a science teacher for twenty-two years, who gave up everything, because... you know..."

Julia shook her head and returned the book to its level reading elevation.

As a matter of interest, Cecil did not know, but was content enough to curl up again, feeling Julia's hand press against his fur, causing his throat to vibrate with greater volume. That is, until the book slipped from her hand and roundly thumped Cecil on the head.

"I'm sorry!" apologized Julia, but too late, and Cecil was off her lap, shaking his the pain out of his head, galloping into the bedroom to find his favorite orthopedic pillow. "Maybe I should read a shorter book," said Julia to herself. She waited for some cosmic act of


Any Coincidence Is - 2/17

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