The Physics of Angels – Friday Fictioneer

copyright Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

copyright Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

 

The Physics of Angels

“Mommy, how does the plane fly?”

“Sweetie, remember that word ‘migraine’ I taught you—”

“But how?”

“Angels. Angels keep it up.”

“But how does it go down?”

“Well, when they want to go down, the pilots start swearing a lot and it makes the angels drop us . . . slowly.”

“But you said a bad word before when you spilled your coffee and it didn’t go down then.”

“Oh that? That kind of word isn’t going to do anything. The pilots have to say really terrible, sinful words.”

“Like what?”

“Are you kidding? If I told you, you’d crash the plane.”


Spheres in a Pool

glowing water

Spheres in a Pool

I sat on the edge of the luminescent pool, trying to will myself to dive again into that horrible liquid. Far below the surface lay the spheres piled and jumbled together. Those tiresome, vital, detestable spheres.

“Damn them,” I said. I never wanted to see another one as long as I lived. But in them, in one of them at least, lay the key to my escape from this concrete hellhole.

My cell was smaller than a college dorm room: a concrete cube with lichen growing on the walls. At one end was a locked gate and the way of eventual freedom. It led out to a hallway lined with similar cells.

I went to the gate. “Hey Jerry, you okay?” Jerry, the man in the cell across from mine, was lying on the floor. He raised his head and nodded.

“Just tired,” he said. “I might not pull up any spheres today. You want some bread?” He sat up and threw me part of a loaf of brown bread. Jerry had a friend somewhere that sent him bread down the chute in the corner of his cell. It was the only way things came into the cells; I received nothing beyond my basic rations from mine.

“I need to get at least two spheres today,” I said. I took a deep breath, again willing myself to go in.

The problem was that the liquid in the pool was not water. It was slimy and burned after long exposure. My first day in the cell, I had pulled out eight spheres. I did not pull another one for a whole week, as I lay with screaming, inflamed skin, red and raw from whatever the liquid had done to it.

Finally, I took a deep breath and dived. I did not dare open my eyes but felt around to where I had seen a red sphere. Someone, long ago, had scrawled on the wall, “Reds are the best bet” and I followed that advice.

I felt the sphere and heaved it upwards. It was light enough in the liquid, but slippery and hard to handle. I couldn’t get it the first time and had to surface for more air, but I got it on the second dive. I hauled it out onto the floor of the cell and began the process of cracking it open.

The reds had a tougher shell than some of the others and I used to spend hours prying one open with my hands. But then Jerry (who really had the best of friends somewhere above) slid me over an extra knife he had gotten and that helped a lot. I cut open the sphere, but of course it was empty.

Jerry tried for yellows. He had gotten a tip somewhere that they were the best bet. But I stuck with reds, because even if there was no reason for it, it was nice to think I had my own system.

I pulled another one out before I stopped for a rest. I sat with my back against the wall, fighting despair and panic. The worst thing about the whole situation was that I had put myself there voluntarily. I had been happy enough where I was—that life of low risks, low responsibility, and low pay. But then I heard word of an Opportunity. Some people called it a lottery, or a contest, or a competition. It seemed easy enough and the rewards on the other side were amazing. Just pick the right ball and you’re out, they said. You have all the time in the world to do it.

The reality in their words mocked me now. All the time in the world. All the time in the world. Fifty-nine scratches on the wall marked the number of spheres I had pulled out. I finished eating the bread from Jerry. I was tempted to give up for the day; two spheres was pretty good, but I decided to get one more, any color. I dived and grabbed the first one I felt, wrestling it to the surface.

It was a green one, slightly smaller than the reds. I cut it open and my heart almost stopped when I heard a clink as my knife hit metal.

It was a key. A real key after all this time. My hand was trembling as I fitted it into the lock. But a moment later, my elation changed to confusion and then fury. The key wouldn’t turn. I reached out and put it in from the outside but still nothing. It was the wrong key. I yelled and swore and kicked the walls until Jerry finally shouted at me, asking if I was okay.

“It’s the wrong key!” I shouted. “I got a key but it doesn’t work.”

I worked at it for another twenty minutes until I finally gave up. It wasn’t going to work. “Throw it over here,” Jerry said. “Let me play around with it for a while.” I threw him the key; what did it matter? He put the key in his lock and a second later, Jerry was standing in the hallway, a free man with a look of shock on his face.

“How did you do it?” I asked.

“Just how you did it,” he said. “Here, let me try again.” He put the key in my lock and wiggled it back and forth, but it wouldn’t budge.

“It’s not fair,” I said, beating my forehead against the concrete wall. “It’s not fair.”

“I’m sorry,” Jerry said. “I’ll go see if there’s a mistake. Maybe I can get them to get you out too, since it was you who found the key.”

“Do what you can, I guess,” I said. “And don’t be sorry, Jerry. I’m happy for you.” He smiled and we shook hands through the gate and then he left, glowing with happiness.

The next day, a loaf of bread and a new blanket came down my chute, wrapped in a plastic bag. On it was scribbled a note: Don’t give up. You can do it! – Jerry

So he was up there now too. “Good for you, Jerry,” I said. “And thank you.” Then I turned back to that hideous pool and prepared to dive again.

 


포크 주세요 (Fork Please) – Friday Fictioneers

Today I must beg your indulgence. I wrote today’s Friday Fictioneers story in Korean. Yes, it is pertinent, and yes, there is a translation. However, only the Korean version is 100 words long.

I wrote it with non-Korean speakers in mind, but still I’d like you to read the Korean first (there’s English in it). Try to make guesses about what’s going on before you read the translation. Consider it a metaphor for living abroad, when you can catch part of what is going on, but not the whole thing, and many times, not the most important nuances.

 

포크 주세요

외국사람 커플 들어갈때 식당이 조용했다. 다른 손님이 없었다. 3시: 점심과 저녁의 바쁜 시간 딱 사이 있었다.

직원이 와서 남자가 메뉴판을 얼른 보고 손가락으로 가리켰다. “Also, fork please. Fork?” 포크로 먹는 손짓했다.

“You should try using chopsticks, Mark.” 여자친구가 말했다.

그때 한국인 할아버지 들어왔다. 외국사람 커플 밖에 손님이 없는지 확인한 후에 자리에 앉아서 떡볶이를 주문했다. “그리고 포크주세요” 라고 말했다.

마크가 들어서 웃었다. “You see? Even Koreans are using forks these days. Chopsticks are history.”

할아버지가 코트를 벗었다. 왼손이 없고 오른손에 엄지 손가락만 남았다. 떡볶이를 받아서 포크를 느리고 아프게 들고 먹기 시작했다.

이제 마크가 웃지 않았다. “Maybe I’ll try chopsticks after all.”

 

_______________________________________________________________________

And now, the translation:

_______________________________________________________________________

 Fork, Please.

The restaurant was quiet and empty when the non-Korean couple entered. It was 3:00: right between the lunch and dinner rush.

The waitress came over and the man scanned the menu and pointed to something. “Also, fork please. Fork?” He mimed using a fork.

“You should try using chopsticks, Mark,” his girlfriend said.

Just then, an old Korean man came in. After making sure there was no one in the restaurant besides the foreign couple, he sat down and ordered. “Fork, please,” he said.

Mark heard him and laughed. “You see? Even Koreans are using forks these days. Chopsticks are history.”

The old man took off his coat. His left hand was gone and on the right, only the thumb remained. He got his food and slowly, painfully picked up the fork and began to eat.

Mark wasn’t laughing anymore. “Maybe I’ll try chopsticks after all.”

 


Ramning Evidence – Friday Fictioneers

The title is a terrible pun, I know. I just hope I’m the first one to make it this week.

copyright Adam Ickes

copyright Adam Ickes

Ramning Evidence

My grandfather said it was a relic, that hideous taxidermist’s ram that sat in the corner and stared with unblinking eyes. He said he got it in Africa. He told the tale in great detail and I listened, worried, since it hadn’t been in his nursing home room the week before.

Finally, I stole it while he was sleeping. That night, I picked it apart. I found the hidden cameras inside, the listening devices. Armed with damning evidence, I threatened to sue the nursing home.

Turns out, my grandfather bought it online. He thought the nurses were stealing his books.


Superdad

This is the first time in a long time that I’ve had the time, energy, and Internet access to do the Sunday Photo Fiction story. Hopefully, though, I can continue this from now on though.

copyright Al Forbes

copyright Al Forbes

Superdad

“You know, Harry,” I said, sitting down on a bench overlooking the lake. “This is where I went to camp when I was young. That’s when I found I had powers.”

“Is this like how you say you have eyes on the back of your head?” my son Harry asked.

“Kind of,” I said. Except I could use my mind to move things. I was out one night and suddenly—POW!—a boulder almost fell on me. I picked it up with my mind and threw it in the lake. SPLASH!”

“So, you’re like a Superdad?” Harry asked, skepticism oozing from his expression. “Well, do something now to prove it.”

“Ooh sorry, I’m retired now. Being a father and all, you know.”

“Yeah. Can we get ice cream now?”

“Sure,” I said. Harry stood up and walked towards the roadside ice cream stand.

“You almost had him there,” a middle-aged man sitting nearby commented.

“I don’t know; kids are pretty shrewd these days. Excuse me for a moment.” I could see a swimmer across the lake struggling in deep water. I pulled him into the shallows, turned and nodded to the man, then followed Harry to get ice cream.


Approaching Storms – Friday Fictioneers

Copyright Kelly Sands

Copyright Kelly Sands

Approaching Storms

A storm was coming.

Rebecca stood, tied to a stake, on the uncannily silent beach, watching coal-black clouds gather and build. She had deserted. Tomorrow she would be shot.

Lightning blazed through the approaching tempest. In its fitful glow, a warship appeared, then many more. They were not friendly, Rebecca knew. The invasion had finally come.

Darkness thickened but still no alarm sounded. The sentries must be asleep.

She imagined herself raising the alarm, being pardoned—a hero. She pictured the invasion force rescuing her. The calculating wheels of  self-preservation spun. She opened her mouth to scream, but still hesitated.

 


He’s a Natural Man… – Friday Fictioneers

This is probably the latest I’ve ever posted a Friday Fictioneers story, since I usually do it on Wednesday. But we just got back to North America and this whole week has been up in the air (partially literally). I’ve been the first on the list before. Maybe this time I’ll be the last on the list.

copyright Claire Fuller

copyright Claire Fuller

He’s a Natural Man…

“It’s for our landlord,” I told Joe, pointing to the festivities. “He’s never bathed, ever. After a few years, lichen started to accumulate. We tried to get rid of him but by then, he had Greenpeace on his side, seeing that he was so much a part of the environment.”

“Sounds disgusting,” Joe said.

“Well, yeah, but he’s kind of a local treasure now. After the town accepted him, they fought hard to get him recognition. Let’s go: the party’s starting.”

We walked over to where a huge banner proudly proclaimed:

CONGRATULATIONS KARL ZIMEKIS ON MAKING THE NEW SPECIES LIST.


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