The following short fiction piece was written exclusively for a Legion Reading at Post 134 in Portland. The night celebrated the late Douglas Adams’ birthday, the theme being “space.”
Heat death. Meteorites. Black holes. Hawking Radiation. Entropy. We theorize unquantifiable, well, really, inconceivable claims for being locked on a rock. We believe what we read. Thanks to the Fall of Reptile World, our apish ancestors secured ruins. The wheel. Mass slaughters in the names of gods. We ruled the planet. Kind of.
But, seriously: heat death. Meteorites. It’s all I can do not tearing my hair out—write it out, write it out.
Mom said, set the alarm. Don’t flip the light switch if your hands are wet. Close the blinds, people can see in. Lock the door if you’re stepping out. “Mom, I’m checking the mail.” Bring the flashlight. “Mom, it’s across the street.”
Our sun will eat us alive someday. And mom calls if I’m ten minutes late. Nature or nurture, Hypochondria feels genetic.
“On Earth,” Douglas Adams wrote, “it is never possible to be farther than sixteen thousand miles from your birthplace.” I am 615 miles from mine.
The world is not ending this moment. I don’t think it is. No? Still hasn’t ended. And these 615 miles feel farthest when I’m afraid. Which is often. Not afraid of the world ending but mine ending. I’m an ex-Catholic who doesn’t put much stock in a big man running things, and the Afterlife makes little sense to the little shaking scientist in me, and I’ve decided I very much enjoy living.
I have a migraine. Mom guesses, tumor. An uncle had an aneurysm.
My boss says, quit the chatter, keep your nose clean, do your job, focus, and other things against my nature. Yes, he touches grease, handles ink, and races through our warehouse, and his white button-up shirts never get dirty. His ties are pristine as the day he purchased them. As the day they were sewn.
I have people to hug and to cry with before the big smart people fail in detecting or stopping a meteorite aimed for extinction. We are fragile, and I’m sorry I can’t care about maximizing my work schedule, cutting out side-bar conversations, or building one-touch processes when our universe is currently expanding at an increasing rate, and the stars that once collided to form new life will be too far apart to react off one another. Their raw elements will float, freeze, unspent. I have to hold my mother while I still can. I have to be afraid while I’m still alive and aware. This is my nature. Can I defy nature?
Douglas Adams demolished planet Earth for a galactic highway. He described our “desperate fleeing panic,” how “there was nowhere to flee to.” He is not alive today. But if he could laugh about it, can’t I?
Take the time mom crushed the cat in the garage door. We heard the squeal. The vet said it was fat enough that the door sprung back.
Or when mom dug the hole to bury the cat years later, and her shovel lobbed off the eerily preserved head of my pet parakeet.
Or when the other cat jumped out from the hedges and made off with the bird head.
I guess if our universe can’t think or speak but can freeze or burn up all matter then I’m going to laugh at it until it takes me out. I’ll laugh until it hurts.