Short Story

True Justice (Albert Feinman)

Albert opened his eyes.  Blinking rapidly in the harsh light, he found that he couldn’t focus.  He felt dizzy and the world spun around him.  Literally.  Tiny little blue worlds, flapping their wings as they tweeted shrilly were circling his head distracting him from concentrating on reality.  It was wrong.

This had never happened before.  It never should, not when you were a metaphysical manifestation of physical reality.  For the first time in his existence a small sliver of genuine confusion penetrated his mind.  What on earth was going on?

He sat for a few seconds, eyeballs rotating in their sockets trying to follow the trajectory of the objects orbiting his head and waiting for his mind to come to grips with the reality of his situation.  As his mind grappled, something about the situation slowly dawned on him as being more than just wrong.  Those weren’t the world that flapped around his head, it was a small flock of birds.

Inside Albert anger blossomed.  This wasn’t just seriously wrong, it was physically impossible.  No bird should be able to fly a tight spiral like that, and if there was one thing Albert Feinman Physics Cop hated, it was an occurrence of the impossible.  Anger erupted into a rage that shook him from his stupor.  He stood, now fully conscious and surveyed the scene around him.  It was a scene unlike any he’d known before.

Before him stretched a monochrome orange desert beneath a uni-colour blue sky.  Cartoon cliffs and ridges dotted the horizon and through the middle of it all snaked a ribbon of grey.  Solid black lines fractured the vertical cliff faces giving the appearance of detail and the sun hung low as simply a circular yellow disk in the sky.  There was no temperature to speak of, but despite himself, Albert couldn’t help but feel hot, dry and parched.

A slight breeze stirred to his left and Albert turned to appreciate its freshness just in time to see a blur rocket past him.  Moments later he was struck by the shockwave.

Meep meep“, the blur said as it passed.

Before he could help it, Albert found himself launched skyward in fright.  Below him the cartoon desert shrank crazily as his ascent defied the laws of physics.  In panicked response, Albert instinctively engaged his gravity correction traits, cranking them up to full capacity.  It had no effect – his ascent continued.

Panic setting in, his mind free-wheeling like his arms and legs as together they fought the sensation of weightlessness, he lost connection with the world around him and so it took a few seconds for him to realise he could hear laughter near him.  Pulling himself together, he noticed that beside him, a figure of a man hung in thin air.

The man reclined lazily, as if lounging on a roman couch but there was nothing beneath him to hold his weight.  One hand held his head up, and with the other he gestured vaguely in the direction of the ground.  “I see you’ve met my road-runner,” smirked the man.

Albert didn’t know what to say and simply started blankly back.

“You know he’s quite the hit with the kids,” said the man.  “Let me introduce myself, I’m Warner Br’Others.  I’m the creator of this place.  But you can simply call be Warner.”

This meant nothing to Albert, so he continue to stare.

“I can see I’ve caught you off guard,” Warner said, “so let me just explain, I know who you are Albert Feinman Physics Cop. I’ve bought you here to have a little fun.  In the real world, dominion is yours.  You know the rules and ensure they are kept”, said the man.

“But in this world that is mine, I set the rules and …”, the man trailed off into a silent thoughtfulness and then continued, “… here let me show you.”

“You’ve been rising for quite a few seconds now.  That’s probably enough.  The narrative tension has been built and so … stop,” the man commanded.

Albert drifted gently to a stop and hung in mid-air.  He could tell this wasn’t a good thing.

The man continued, “And now it’s time for you to drop”.  He waggled his eyebrows suggestively, gave a cheeky smirk and waved goodbye.

With that Albert plummeted ground-wards, a small silhouette cloud left behind to symbolise where he had just hung.  His fall was far faster than his ascent and, in a short time, a small puff of distant dust showed where he ploughed into the orange ground.

Once again Albert struggled to regain consciousness and once again those blasted birds circled his head until he shrugged off the daze.  He rose to his feet and surveyed his surroundings.  With a small groan he realised it was the same cartoonish desert he’d been in before.

“I was hoping it had been a dream,” muttered Albert to himself.  He’d never dreamed before, but he had heard that humans did it regularly and figured there could always be a first time.  Besides, it was infinitely preferable to whatever this place was.

Looking more closely, he noticed he was now near a cliff face.  A furry fox-like creature was carrying a can of something towards the bottom of the cliff.  His mind cycled through options of what the creature could be. Fox, dog, dingo?  No none of those were quite right, but when he got to Coyote, somehow he just knew that it was correct.

It was a childish looking creature with a sinister leer, devoid of subtlety and constructed from strictly caricatured features.  It was also carrying a paint tin.  And despite that, he knew with absolute certainty that was what it was.  The fact that the scene paused briefly to have the word Coyote appear beside it with a large arrow pointing in its direction probably helped.

As he watched, the Coyote reached the cliff face and proceeded to paint a tunnel entrance on the brown surface.  Being a physics cop, Albert typically steered clear of biological concerns, so he was willing to give the Coyote’s painting abilities the benefit of the doubt.  Who knew what sort of weird genetic engineering people were getting up to these days.  What concerned Albert more was the paint tin.

Somehow out of the one tin, the Coyote managed to produce a complete multi-colour mural of a tunnel entrance.  Black shadows for the background, a blue brick multi-hued ‘faux 3D’ archway and an extension to the grey roadway that seemed to continue into the tunnel.  Strictly speaking, paint fell into the chemistry department, but chemistry was the next closest science to physics so he felt justified in being outraged.

The hairs rose on Albert’s neck and he was just about to intercede to stop this violation when a semi-familiar noise caused both him and the coyote to jump.

Meep, meep“.

For some reason, neither of them rose dramatically off the ground this time.

The coyote looked around wildly.  He spied a nearby rock and crouched down behind it to hide and wait.  Albert felt compelled to do the same and so he snuggled in behind the coyote who looked quizzically at him for a moment before turning intently back to the roadway.

Within a few seconds, a gentle breeze heralded the arrival of the road-runner.  Rocketing down the road, it ran faster than the eye could see and slammed straight into the tunnel entrance painted onto the rock-face … and passed straight through?

Albert rose in astonishment.  His jaw dropped as did the coyote’s, which literally hit the floor.  In his shocked state, Albert only tangentially  noticed this weird jaw arrangement and filed away a small note in his mind to have a chat with the biologists sometime to ensure that their experiments were still confined within the bounds of physics.  As a pair, he and the coyote staggered to the painted cliff face to stare.

They touched the painted surface, it was solid.  They scanned the roadway, it was clean.  Not a shred of tenderised road-runner jerky was to be seen anywhere.

Suddenly a horn blared, lights shone from the tunnel entrance and a 12 tonne semi-trailer raced out of the tunnel, flattened the pair and proceeded down the road on its way.

As he lost consciousness, Albert swore that he heard distant laughter.

Albert woke to find he was strapped to a rocket.  Beside him, also strapped to the rocket, was the coyote wearing a pair of roller skates and carrying a knife and fork.

Warner stood on his other side, smiling jovially as he asked, “Are we having fun yet?”

“Why are you doing this you monster?”, Albert responded.

“For fun of course,” answered Warner.  “Thousands of kids find this amazingly hilarious.  And just between you and me,” he added, “quite a few adults too.”

Just then the road-runner shot past and the coyote light a match, touching it to the wick of the rocket.

“Ta ta, I’ll see you later,” waved Warner with a grin and the rocket exploded.

The scenes flashed past for Albert.  Scenes filled with springs and ropes, with falling rocks and overhead cliff hangs, with pain, frustration and overwhelming hunger on the part of the coyote.

The journey for Albert’s part was no easier on him.  He was metaphysical and didn’t feel physical pain, but for every ludicrous attempt and failure, the broken laws of physical they constituted enacted an equivalent metaphysical pain.  It was agonising, and through it all, Warner was ever-present, slowly and persistently outlining his personal genius.

“It makes money you see,” the smug, self-congratulatory bastard gloated.

“If we did reality, the show would be boring,” he explained.  “It’s the suspension of reality that makes it so funny.  There’s only so much pain that can be inflicted without killing the coyote under normal rules.  But this way, we can be perennially cruel.  Hurt him over and over.  Even heighten it by allowing time for foreknowledge.”

As he said that, the coyote stood with a small sign titled “HELp mE!” while a rock fell from the sky onto his head.

“Nobody feels sorry for the coyote,” Warner continued, but Albert wasn’t so sure.  “Everybody knows he’s evil and cruel from his look.  The road-runner can’t be eaten, he’s too cute.  In here, that’s the overriding law.  That and the law that the coyote needs to be fed.”

Albert didn’t say anything.  He simply stared at Warner with a loathing expression that communicated his feelings better than words.  Uncharacteristically, Warner noticed.


“Come now, don’t feel sorry for yourself,” he chided.  “I’ve got nothing against you personally.  It’s just that to make it work, your laws need to be violated.  As I said before, we can’t kill the coyote, that would end things too soon.”

Behind them, the coyote turned around a cannon that had failed to fire at the road-runner and peered down the barrel.  Predictably, it went off in his face.

“Nothing personal,” said Warner, “it’s just good business.”

Albert waited through many more scenes.  He bided his time.  The years passed, he thought and observed the narrative, and slowly within him a suspicion grew.

One day he turned to Warner and asked, “How long can this continue?”

Warner spread his hands expansively and said, “Forever.  People can’t get enough.  Besides, we all know that the road-runner can’t be eaten.  No-one would stand for it.”

With that, Albert knew the answer.  Turning to the coyote, he gestured him over to form a huddle and started whispering in his ear.  The coyote’s face went through a series of expressions.  At first he was wary, then puzzled, thoughtful and finally a slow, sneaky, cunning smile spread across his face.  He and Albert shook hands and went to hide behind a nearby rock.

In the background, Warner looked concerned.  “What are you two doing over there?” he asked.

Sidling over to the rock, Warner tried to peer at their secret preparations.  But hunched over, Albert and the coyote deliberately obscured their hands from view and, with sneaky grins, continued to wait.

A gentle breeze heralded the imminent arrival of the road-runner as it had so many time before.  Just as the characteristic “Meep meep” rang out, Albert sprang.

He launched himself at Warner, striking him with an upper cut to the chin.  Wincing with the metaphysical pain, Albert allowed the punch to adhere to cartoon convention, flipping Warner head over heels in a tight spin and dumping him in a heap where he once stood.  And all the while, the coyote had been preparing.

The coyote leapt on the fallen cartoonist, knife and fork raised in anticipation, slavering to finally sate his ravenous hunger.  As he overpowered his life-long tormentor, the camera slowly panned away from the pair.  The view hovered just to the edge of the action while shreds of clothing and hair spun into view, expelled from the furious melee.

Just off camera, Albert smiled to himself while in his minds eye he heard the chorus of cheers that radiated from the real world.  Cheers for an idea who’s time had come.  Cheers from an audience of children who had now grown to adulthood.  Who had learnt empathy and finally felt sorry for the sadistic treatment of the coyote over the years.

Inexorably the narrative had changed and, as the coyote slunk off into the wilderness, replete for the first time in his existence, Albert slipped back into the real world.  His job here was done.

He felt satisfied, but it was a strange feeling.  He hadn’t actually enforced any physical laws.  Instead he’d worked with something less tangible.  Was it a moral law?  Or just mob mentality that happened to be on his side?  It was difficult to say and in this he was definitely out of his depth.

He shrugged his shoulders.  Stick to physical laws he told himself, with them you know where you stand.  Besides it was time to head back to the office and find out what else was going on.  He’d been gone for years.


Under Pressure

James could feel the pressure building. The stage was set, the pieces in their place and the moment of decision was at hand. Would he have the courage to follow through and be the hero he was meant to be?

The flight had started so pleasantly. For the first time in his life he’d been upgraded to Business class. His wife and he had been almost skipping through the security line in anticipation, joking about the luxury in store for them.

“I’ll be asking for scented bubbles in my spa”, James said with a knowing wink to his wife.

“Don’t be silly”, she responded. “You can’t have a scented bubble bath on a plane, the champagne they fill the tub with is already carbonated”.

With that they dissolved into sniggers of laughter at the stupidity of the idea, but in the back of their minds, images of luxury continued to ferment.

The wait in the terminal lounge seemed an eternity for them as they imagined their up-coming flight. When they finally arrived in the cabin, the beckoning leather sofas that counted for seats welcomed them gloriously into their soft supportive embrace like the arms of a lover. James melted into the luxury and finally relaxed.

He didn’t feel so relaxed now though. It was a little difficult with a maniacal hijacker waving a gun around demanding the flight be re-routed to Fiji. The guy was deranged, the manic glint in his eyes betraying a grip on reality that was about as firm as jelly. The universe his mind inhabited only tangentially related to the physical one around him, and in James opinion, probably only touching in some fairly unhelpful places. For one thing, the guy kept raving about Red Dwarf and preventing the apostasy of Ourobouros.

James was trying to relax, but the pressure kept building. Internally and externally things were building to a critical juncture. He could see the Air Marshal a couple of rows ahead of him steeling himself to take action. There would soon be a breaking point and, one way or another, something significant was about to happen.

It was now or never. The scene was set, the fuse primed, the pressure building to a peak level and, almost in slow motion, the action started. It began as a low rumble. From there it quickly built to a level that caused the seats to start vibrating. That got the maniac’s attention. His head swivelled towards James in astonishment as his bowel released a good hour’s worth of pent-up anxiety. And still the emission grew.

Afterwards, James would swear that he even saw the plane’s wing tips quiver from the force of the gale he was expelling as it reached the climax. A fart so powerful it would register on the Richter scale had it been performed at ground level. A fart that could not be denied. A fart that gave provided the moment of opportunity to save the flight because it was at that point the Air Marshall saw his window to act.

With the hijacker distracted, almost incapacitated by shock, the Marshall tackled him, wresting the gun from his unresponsive fingers and immobilising the offender in one swift and practised move. Never had an opponent been so unprepared for an assault. It was graceful. It was flawless. It was team-work in action.

As the shock subsided, the passengers and crew began a round of applause. Sporadic at first, but building to a dull roar of approval as each person regained their senses. They were saved.

A stewardess approached James coyly, and with admiration in her eyes. “Well done sir”, she said, “is there anything I can get for you”.

“I believe I would like a Martini”, James replied as he gave her a charming smile.

“It would be my pleasure sir”, the attendant nodded, and as she turned to walk away James called out. “And I believe you won’t need to stir it, things should have already been well and truely shaken by now”.

With that, he sank back into his chair, turned to his wife and said, “So Mrs Bond, where shall we ski first when we arrive?”. The smile she gave him back was indescribable.

Generations (Part 3)

The next installment of Generations.  (Part 1, Part 2).


John swung his axe again, a neat chip of wood cleaving from the block. He worked easily, with a practiced rhythm gained from many winters of work. The kindling he produced now would be useful come morning for stoking the glowing embers of their fire back into life for the day ahead.

Finishing the current log he moved onto some bigger pieces, embedding the axe first into top of the block and then flipping the whole piece over, using the weight of the wood to split itself in half on the blade as he brought it down on the base block. From the doorway to their hut, Jessica watched her husband labour away. Despite the coming winter, he worked without his shirt and she enjoyed seeing the muscles in his back flex and move. He’d been at it for almost an hour now and the sweat was thick on his skin.

Not that he was anything exceptional. The gym junkies she knew from a past life had more definition built from the luxury of spare time spent in endless reps. But he was strong, all the more so from the effort she put into maintaining their health. In a world of poverty, she had the means and knowledge to ensure their diet and health needs were provided for. The whole village benefited from her expertise. She was now the unofficial village healer but it had been a close thing. In the early days, the miraculous cures that she was able to work in the villagers brought accusations of her being a witch.

She had fallen into the role quite naturally, her training as a nurse far surpassing anything available in the village. And so, when she had found out about the minor ailments that became so destructive to her new neighbours, she’d simply applied what she knew. Of course she couldn’t cure everything, but what she could do was nothing short of a miracle to them. Despite the fledgling status of their relationship at the time, John had been her main protector during the months that controversy had raged over skills. It was he who had come up with the idea that stilled the tongues that were calling for her to be tried for witchcraft.

It was so simple really, turn the accusers into witnesses. She had refused to provide any treatment unless one of her detractors was present to observe. At first none would take part and, as villagers started to once again succumb to illnesses that she’d previously treated, desperate family had petitioned the leaders of the opposition to take part. With the building pressure it had only been a matter of time until one cracked and she took full advantage of the reprieve.

Instead of treating the patient herself, she had informed her inquisitor that he would be doing the healing. His impeccable judgement would surely prevent him from doing anything that was in the least occult, unless he was unsure of himself? Unable to defend himself against the argument, he had tentatively followed her instructions, the extended pauses as he scrutinised each step quickly turning from comical to tedious as the treatment dragged on. But finally it was finished and they had left the patient with a much greater chance of survival.

The memory brought a smile to her face. John’s protection during those days had been critical to her acceptance within the community.

The baby kicked within her womb and she rubbed her hand over her swollen belly as if it would quieten her unborn child. On her petite frame, the change in her figure was more pronounced than any of the other women she’d grown to know in the village. Coming from a world that idolised skinny, she was now distinctly different from the ladies around her. Most of the men would look straight past her, preferring instead a much broader build. “Good birthing hips, that’s what you want”, but not her John. He loved her for other qualities, and it made it so much easier to love him in return.

A frown creased her forehead. She did love him she reflected. Truly she did. Despite the meagre life they lived. Despite the adjustments she’d had to make. Despite the vast gulf in their backgrounds, she loved him. And it only made it so much harder to deliver the news that she knew she had to.

A gust of wind brought a chill breeze down from the mountains where already a fall of snow had occurred. She turned and went back inside letting the flap of leather fall back across the doorway. He would be finished soon.

John split his final log and tidied up the pile. He gathered an armful of wood for the evening and pushed his way in through the doorway. Noticing Jessica brooding in the corner he asked, “What’s wrong?”.

She remained silent and he began to stoke the fire. “It’s going to be cool night with that wind”, he said. “I’m going to get more wood to keep us going”.

As he entered the hut a second time he said, “Come on, what is it?”

“I have to leave”, she replied.

John paused briefly and then resumed stacking the new load of wood into the pile beside the fireplace. “Don’t be daft”, he said, “you’ll be having the baby soon”. He continued stacking until finished and having received no response, looked over to where his wife sat.

She started directly at him, the fear obvious in her face. “I know”, she said, “that’s why I have to leave”.

(To be continued…)

Generations (Part 2)

The next instalment of Generations.


Jessica searched frantically in the semi-darkness.  This late at night the muted sounds of the nearby ward only occasionally intruded on her isolation but each one caused her to freeze in alarm.  She’d gotten away with it every time so far, still it was only a matter of time until she was caught.  Pushing the thought from her mind she opened another cabinet, keying in the stolen pass-number on the lock and selecting a number of medication packets which she quickly transferred to her backpack.  A draft from the air-conditioner passed over her and she shivered involuntarily.  The beads of sweat lacing her brow showed the stress she was under and made the otherwise comfortable temperature seem chilly.  She made a mental note to clean herself up before emerging from pharmacy store.  It would be disastrous to appear guilty in front of others.

Management had started to cotton on to the fact that items were going missing.  The pharmacists had at first been reluctant to report the missing drugs; it was their necks on the line after all.  However it had now reached the point where they had no choice, there was no latitude left for fudging the records.  Not even with her mole on the inside.

With the net closing in, Jessica had decided to do one more take before quitting.  The money was good.  She now had enough to start a new life, plus a qualification that would allow her to travel.  Nursing was in demand in so many places around the world.  Not that the gang would be happy to lose their supplier.  The chance that they would simply let her walk away was zero, which was why she’d been saving.  She knew from the start that this was a no-win game if she’d been thinking locally, but she was happy to think bigger.  The gang was small enough to have limited influence outside the city limits and none overseas.  That gave her the chance to get away if she was willing to move far enough.  It was always her plan to disappear once things started to get nasty.  Little did she know just how accurate her plan would be.

A sudden noise, louder this time, caused her to the freeze again.  A jet of fear shot through her petite frame as she realised that it was the outer door to the pharmacy store.  Adrenaline surged through her, flooding her brain.  She felt her tension levels ratchet up as the hormone did what it did best, narrowing her focus on the immediate, seeking to illicit either a flight or fight response.  Caught for a moment in indecision, she tried to weight her options but failed.  That door was the only exit.  Damn, she was so close to getting away scott-free, the regret adding to her fear and shutting down her rational faculties even further.

Seemingly paralysed, she watched as the door opened, as if in slow motion thanks to the heightened stimulus of adrenaline.  Inch by agonising inch it swung as she felt the intensity of her panic build.  She could see the shoulder of the orderly framed against the half open door.

As he entered the room, the orderly thought he felt a rush of air.  He couldn’t be sure that it wasn’t simply the movement caused by the door opening, but the thought that it was unusual did strike him momentarily before he was distracted.  On the other side of the room sat a backpack, half opened in front of an open cabinet.  “Who would be so careless to leave the place like this with all the extra security hoopla going on at the moment?”, he thought to himself.  As he moved across the room to close the cabinet, his opinion changed.  The backpack was half full of medication and it looked like the cabinet had missing packets too.

His sense of self-preservation kicking in, the orderly decided that now was not the time to turn detective.  As he backed towards the door he called over his shoulder, “Hey Pablo, can you come in here for a minute man?”.  From down the corridor came a complaint, but also the sound of footsteps.  The orderly was definitely not getting this pinned on him.

Subsequent investigation determined that the medication contained in the backpack was consistent with the pattern of theft that had been going on recently.  What it did not uncover however was the identity of the thief.  Both the orderly and his friend swore that no-one had left the room before it was fully secured and yet no-one was found inside.  The investigators drew a blank, unable to proceed further.  They did note that one Jessica Donnelly disappeared the same night not to be seen again, but without direct evidence it was hard to pursue that lead.

And even harder because she had disappeared.

(To be continued …)


Well I’m finally back in a position to do a little writing again, so here goes.  This is the first part of a multi-part story.  I’m not 100% convinced that posting it piecemeal like this as I write it is a good idea because I think it will be complicated.  I’m running the risk that I will need to re-order stuff that’s already be posted, but let’s give it a shot hey …  🙂

John walked along the path to the market square.  Around him the signs of spring were emerging.  A touch of green growth dusting the trees just as the first snows had done so many months ago.  A lone bird, singing its song, eager for a mate and the bounty of seeds that the season would bring, fluttered within a nearby perennial hedge.  The sun was definitely stronger that a week ago.  Peering through the thin cloud, he actually felt warmth from its rays on his skin.

His heart was light this morning.  Jessica was with child; his child, his first.  The thought buoyed his spirit, raising his hopes above the cloying mud that stuck to his boots and in which he seemed to spend so much of his life.  Jessica, who had made such a change to his life was now bringing him another gift.

She was the ray of sunshine that had illuminated his life.  Arriving two summers ago, she had walked into the village square one morning.  A lone woman traveler.  Not completely unheard of, but rare enough to provoke comment.  A ripple of murmurs among the gathered traders, was a foretaste of things to come.

“Who is she?”, they asked.  “A runaway slave?”, proffered one pundit.  “No, look at her complexion, her teeth”, said another, “that’s no slave.”  “OK then, a runaway consort.”  “That makes her even more dangerous”, was the reply.

She’d certainly not acted like a runaway.  A supreme confidence marked her bearing, calm and deliberate in the way she’d mixed with the crowd.  She made no attempt to hide.  And time bore out that truth as day on day, week after week no-one came looking for their property.  With the safety of that truth slowly growing, fear of retribution through association had abated and she’d begun to be accepted locally.  Yet local she definitely was not.

John had never met anyone with such an inquiring spirit before.  Questions tumbled from her mouth constantly.  “What are you doing?”  “Why is that necessary?”  “How long will that last you?”  It was as if she were driven by a pathological need to fit in.  A need to be part of the community and life that he wore with practiced ease.

It was impossible that she had grown up locally, she knew nothing of their way of life.  In fact it surprised him how little she knew in some areas.  It was almost beyond his comprehension how she could have survived so long without knowing how to butcher a carcass.  How to properly roast over a fire.  How to start a fire for that matter.  Even the high ladies of the lord’s court knew of these things, regardless of whether they were much practiced.  Yet she knew none.

Where could she possibly have grown up and survived to such an age without them?  For all her questions of others, on this point she was resolutely silent.  Nothing he tried could tempt her to give him a hint.  It intrigued him, drew him to her and in return he’d become the primary focus of her questioning.

He enjoyed the times they spent together.  Mostly he’d be continuing about his normal business, but she’d make it hers to join him and use the chance to keep learning.  Admittedly some days he thought he might be smothered under the torrent of her questions.  It was like a bubbling brook, at times stronger and at others weaker, always running.  But like a brook, he found it cleansing.

Pausing in his stride, he sighed and looked down at his boots.  A thick layer of mud had built up again; enough to make walking laborious.  As he cleaned the sticky muck, he reflected that this was what life had been like before Jessica’s arrival.  The community, the traditions and life in which he was embedded had been ubiquitous, all that he’d known.  They had sucked at his thoughts like a mud pit, hampering his desire to move or explore.  But like thrusting filthy feet into a stream, her questions and presence had cleaned away the inertia and caused him to reflect on how things might be.  On why things were as they were.

That was the enigma of their relationship.  Jess, incessantly driving inwards to understand what was inside his world.  John relishing the glimpse of what might be outside.  So different, and yet, perhaps the same.  The difference simply being that the inside of his world was the outside of hers.  Regardless, within a year John’s mind had been made up, he had asked Jessica to be his wife.

Rounding the corner, he came within sight of the tavern and his friend Willheim waiting at the gate.

“Ho, John”, he called, raising an arm into the clearing morning air.

“Ho, Willheim”, John responded.  “Today is such a fine day, I think that after the market, you’ll be joining me for a pint at the Tavern.”

Willheim turned his face to the sky and look dubiously at the lightening sky.  “I’d say the day’s definitely better than it’s been, but I wouldn’t have thought it good enough to extract the cost of a pint from you”, he observed, “still, if you’re shouting, I won’t say no.”

John grinned, “No my friend, you’ve got it wrong.  It’s you who will be shouting me.”

Acting out an exaggerated shock, Willheim scoffed, “And what makes you think that?”

“Because of the great news I have today”, John explained, the grin on his face increasing.

Willheim looked unimpressed but tilted his head back slightly inviting an explanation good enough for him to part with his coin.  Between them silence stretched, the grin on John’s face turning mischievous as he milked the moment for all he could get until finally Willheim broke.

“Come on, spit it out.  You’re grinning like a madman.”

“Jessica’s pregnant”, he relented in a flood of excitement.

Willheim’s face broke into a smile as broad as his friend’s, and ran over to congratulate him, slapping his back and lifting him in a bear-hug.  “That might just be good enough”, he said, “but it’s you who can explain to my Sarah where we’ve been come tomorrow morning.”

Arms draped over each other’s shoulders they turned to continue on from the tavern towards the market square.

“And what makes you think I won’t be stopping at one?”, asked John, mock hurt in his voice.

“History”, said Willheim simply and burst out laughing as they disappeared around the corner.

(to be continued …)

The Crosslaws

The bus seemed to hand in mid-air. In front of it stood a skinny teenager, cowering, his arms crossed in front of his face. It was a frozen scene, both the bus and kid as unmoving as the zebra crossing on which he stood, and yet it was obviously a moment captured in time. As per the laws of universal cartoon convention, speed lines trailing the bus demonstrated the momentum with which it was bearing down on the unprotected youth.

From a shadow emerged the agent. Wrapped in his trademark fedora hat and trench coat, collar turned up despite the heat (of course), he strolled to stand between the bus and its target. Having adopted his current look in the post-war twenties he’d stubbornly refused to refresh his image with the changing time. It made him immediately obvious to those who knew what to look for. He was Albert Feynman – Physics Cop.

Removing his cigar with a sigh, he flicked ash onto the road and said to the air, “OK Thelodious, I know you’re out there.”

Nothing happened. Despite time being frozen, Albert thought he saw a shimmer from the heat haze rising off the searing bitumen. If that were true, he’d have to make sure he talked with the guys from the convection department to ensure that the molecules were restored to their original position after this was over. If a butterfly flapping its wings in the outback could theoretically cause a typhoon in the China Sea, there is no telling what rearranged molecules during a temporal freeze could do. Probably nothing, but you just never knew – that was the thing about Chaos Theory.

He folded his arms and said once again, “Come on Thelodious. You know this sort of thing isn’t on.”

Waiting what seemed like an eternity, Albert was about to try again when from behind the bus stepped a tall slender man. Strolling deliberately in his pin stripped suit, hair immaculately plastered in place, he tried to appear nonchalant as he presented himself before Albert.

“Ah … Thelodious Rouge Tapus”, said Albert, “of course it would be you.”

“Who else”, said Thelodious indicating the zebra crossing, “it is my job. This is an emergency freeze to forestall a legislative breach by the bus.”

“And it is my job to stop you when you overstep you jurisdiction”, countered Albert. “This is a gross breach of protocol, even for a Legislative Cop like you.”

“Not at all”, protested Thelodious, “Australian Law clearly states that vehicles must give way to pedestrians on zebra crossings.”

Albert gave him a withering stare. “And yet,” he continued dryly, “you are still outside of your jurisdiction by taking this action.”

Thelodious stood his ground and radiated unrepentant resolve. He was a legal man and rules must be kept, otherwise what was the point? This wasn’t his first confrontation with Albert and it wouldn’t be his last. He was damned if the bus was going to flout the law on his watch by failing to give way.

Albert continued, “May I refresh your memory about our little tussle decades ago in the States? It was about pi I believe.”

“Indeed it was,” said Thelodious wincing slightly but refusing to expand on the incident.

In the yawning silence that followed Albert plunged on, “And if I recall correctly, the State Legislature had passed a bill to set the value of pi at four. Four!? I mean come on, four! What on earth, even three would have been miles better.”

“Four was an excellent value administratively speaking,” Thelodious interjected. “Being an even number it simplifies so many calculations. Think of the savings to be made.”

“But it’s not correct.”

“That’s why we changed it.”

“You can’t, it’s a physical constant.”

“Really?” insinuated Thelodious his temper rising. “Because of all your meddling, we didn’t get a proper chance to see how things ran with a value of four. Now we’ll never know how well it would have worked”.

“Oh yes we do,” growled Albert under his breath.

The agents lapsed into silence as they re-gained their composure. Around them the scene remained fixed. A cicada hung mid-flight in the bushes to the side of the road. Only centimetres behind it, its recently departed branch was in the process of being flexed down by a cat paw. It wouldn’t take long for the look of predatory intent etched on the face of its stalker to fade once time was restarted, the cat realising it had just missed its quarry.

Even then, Albert mused, the cat wouldn’t have time to experience its disappointment. By his calculations, the bus would strike the youth within 0.6 of a second. The wet thump of impact, the squeal of tyres and eventual screams from passengers would drive it away almost immediately. He turned to look at the youth and shook his head sadly at the waste.

Without looking away, he said, “So Thelodious what is your plan now? How do you get your outcome?”

“To be honest”, Thelodious drawled, “I don’t see that I have to do anything. Look at the situation as it stands, no laws infringed. Quite perfect as far as I can see.”

“How about the fact that time is no longer progressing?” asked Albert.

Thelodious glared. He loathed Albert and what he perceived as a self-righteous elitism from the other agent. “You and your onerous Physical Laws. What makes them so special?” he spat.

“They are reality,” explained Albert, “it is how the universe is structured.”

“And these Legislative Laws are how society is structured,” said Thelodious.

“And yet your laws change with society but ours stay fixed. Doesn’t that tell you something?” asked Albert.

“Only that we’re progressive and you’re not”, stated Thelodious smugly.

Albert realised that he was gritting his teeth and consciously forced himself to relax. The man drove him mad. He often felt that these debates got dragged down to a level of stupidity and then the other guy would be on his home turf and thrash him from experience. It was exhausting.

“So let me get this straight”, Albert said, “you’re protecting a progressive law that is defined and made relevant by the society in which it exists?”

“That’s right”, said Thelodious.

“And you’re happy for this to happen by time being permanently frozen, hence keeping the status quo?” asked Albert.


“So wouldn’t that then render the dynamic operating culture from which the law was derived obsolete and make the law pointless?” reasoned Albert.

“Damn”, said Thelodious. He paused mouth open for a while, cogs whirring inside his mind looking for a way out. His jaw worked a few times as he started to say something only to stop and eventually gave up. “Fine”, he said, “restart time. Let the bus through.”

And let the kid be killed thought Albert.

When time started again, the youth was perplexed to be hit in the face by a warm ball of fur that turned out later to be a cat and not 10 tonnes of bus. Quite a good thing to be perplexed about in the scheme of things. The cat for its part never worked out how the cicada transformed into a human and vowed in its small catty mind to only hunt lizards in the future.
The bus driver was the source of much hilarity amongst his workmates whenever he told the story of the phantom zebra crossing boy. The mandatory drug test his boss insisted on came back negative however and he was cleared for further duty.

As Albert faded back into the shadows, he had to suppress a feeling that he might have done the wrong thing. If a few molecules of gas out of place could cause such big consequences, what was transposition of a cicada and human going to do? It didn’t bear thinking about – but that was the thing about Chaos Theory, you never quite knew what difference it would make. The boys in the convection department certainly wouldn’t be hearing from him on this one.

He’d be getting a call from his boss this evening though, of that he was sure. That prat Thelodious would see to it. Once the opportunity to uphold his Legislative position was lost, he could care less for the boy. Well too bad, his boss could be dealt with, right now he was off for a drink. He needed to forget this recent breach of protocol.

The Hyperbole Defense

730Good evening and welcome to tonight’s edition of the 7:30 Report. With the Australian Federal Election looming, we have with us representatives of the contending parties to explain aspect of their campaigns. Firstly tonight, we have the pleasure of the Minister for Finance.

Host: Welcome minister.
Minister: Thank-you very much.
H: Minister, you recently made the claim that the opposition’s policy costing have a budget hole of 29.3 billion dollars.
M: That’s right.
H: But their entire budgetary costings only add up to 17 billion.
M: That’s right.
H: How do you explain that?
M: They are completely unsuitable to manage our economy.
H: But minister, what you are claiming about their budget is not even possible.
M: I don’t follow you?
H: Well based on what you’re claiming, they’re missing a funding source for more money than they are actually planning to spend. How can they require a funding source for money they don’t plan on spending?
M: Obviously we’re taking into account debt repayments that they’re not aware of?
H: Really. So there has been debt incurred during your administration that isn’t a matter of public record?
M: Look, I’m using hyperbole. The point I’m making is that if they obtain office they’ll destroy the economy. We’ve been assured of that.
H: Oh really? By whom?
M: The Treasury office has officially costed their budget and declared it to have more holes than an asylum seeker vessel.
H: So why has the Treasury office issued a formal declaration that they have done no such thing?
M: Well it wasn’t a formal official declaration.
H: What was it then?
M: Well I hung around the car park of the treasury department and found one of their officials who confided over a cigarette that he didn’t trust the buggers. So it did come from an official.
H: If I may be so pointed let me ask, how does this claim of an official declaration not constitute a blatant lie to the Australian public?
M: I’m using hyperbole. When you look at me like that, it’s hyperbole. Look there’s big issues at stake here and we need to get our message across. I’ll bet you’ve complained that your bag weighs a ton before when it hasn’t really. It’s just like that.
H: Minister, thank-you for your time.

Host: We now turn our attention to the Shadow Minister for Immigration. Welcome minister.
Shadow Minister: Thank-you, it’s good to be here.
H: I’d like to ask you about your policy on boat people.
S: Ah yes, clearly the government has lost the battle against the toxic tidal wave of illegal invaders. We’ll stop the boats.
H: I think some people might describe them as asylum seekers.
S: Yes but we can’t afford to risk being seen as soft or we’ll be crucified by the media. That’s the first point in our 5 point plan to stop the boats. We toyed with the term illegal terrorists but didn’t want to be seen as racist so settled on illegal invaders instead. Tough but fair don’t you think?
H: I think some would say misleading.
S: Potato … Potaato
H: The second point in your plan is to buy back all the boats in Indonesia?
S: Yes, really clever isn’t it? Can’t cross the water without a boat right?
H: But couldn’t it be considered impractical?
S: No, that’s the beauty of it. When we get the boats, we get the fuel in them – boost to the economy. And some people still have wood fires so we can be green by chopping them up for heating.
H: I don’t really know what to say in response to that, so we’ll move on to the next point. You plan on sending intercepted boat people to be processed on the moon?
S: That’s right. No-one there to complain that we’ll be burdening any existing nation. Plus it’s way more extreme that those buggers in Government so we look better. Would you like to hear our final two points?
H: Are they worse?
S: Of course.
H: Then no thank-you.
S: Probably for the best. They’re pretty horrible. We have to do it of course for show, but everyone knows it’s all hyperbole. Then when the dust settles and all the hysteria dies down, we can pull back from the brink and discuss a real solution.
H: I don’t think the Government is planning no pulling back.
S: Good lord, you think so? That’s horrible.
H: Shadow minister, thank you for your time.
S: My pleasure.

Host: Finally tonight, we turn our attention to the minor parties. Welcome all.
Parties: Thank-youu … ank-you … you.
H: Can you please explain how you feature in this election in the presence of the two major parties?
P: Well it’s quite simple. Vote for us and we’ll promise you whatever your little heart desires.
H: Really, how do you propose to do that? Aren’t people’s interests often conflicting?
P: We’re not just one party. There’s a bunch of us so you’re bound to find something you like the sound of.
H: I see, so have you costed your promises?
P: Pfft. Why would we bother wasting our time on that. We’ll never get a large enough majority to be held accountable for our promises.
H: Makes sense. Thank you for your time.
P: Our pleasure.

That’s about time for our show this evening. I’m not sure that we’ve actually clarified anything of use to the voting public, but unfortunately that’s par for the course in a political campaign. Join us next week as we consult with medical experts on techniques to reduce bruising cause by bashing your head repeatedly against a rock.

Thank-you for watching and good night.