Posted on: August 21st, 2011 Irreversible Dad

By Kenton K. Yee

I noticed Dad shrinking when I was in third grade. He could no longer pull books from the top shelf and his pants mopped the floor. I wanted to tell Dad to see a doctor, but Mom told me to let him be. “He is what he is,” she said.

By the time I reached high school, Dad was the size of a teddy bear. Fortunately, Dad had academic tenure, so his condition was not a problem at work. The morning after I got my driver’s license, I threw a blanket over him, locked him in a cat carrier, and drove him in for testing. “Collapsing wave function,” the man wearing the stethoscope said.

“It’s irreversible.”

Dad continued teaching until a student nearly stepped on him. By that time, I was packing for college and Dad was smaller than a mouse – a baby mouse. We kept him in a gallon mayonnaise jar with two cotton balls. He licked one for water; the other absorbed his excrement.

I had to squint to resolve him during my first visit home. We sat in the kitchen. I munched a donut and flicked specks of powdered sugar into his jar. He chased after the falling flecks like a goldfish gobbling feed flakes.

“Be nicer to Mom,” I said. “Changing your soggy cotton balls through the mouth of a mayo jar with tweezers is making her twitchy.”

He cupped both hands over his mouth and shouted, but all I could hear was the quiet of cotton.

A few days later, Mom phoned to say she could no longer find him. I rushed home and took his jar to the research hospital, where they stuck it into an electron microscope. The computer screen flickered a black and white image of Dad sitting on a molecule of atoms, his legs crossed, an elbow on a knee. Engrossed in the undulations of a proton wave, he was as I had always imagined: the tall physics professor who reached up to the top shelf and pulled down books for me; the skinny graduate student who worked up the courage to ask Mom out on the final day of class; the little boy who stayed alone during recess in his second grade classroom to read about subatomic particles in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

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Posted on: August 7th, 2011 Lessons in Invertebrate Diplomacy

By Helen E. Kourous

The perfect gentleman, 78th Earth Ambassador began by praising the plumpness of her queenship’s ovipositor. Before sitting down to to the afternoon’s defecation, he complemented the new art on her exoskeleton using trending adjectives. H’waaNi Noorek, Fourth Moult, of Five Million Sacs, Queen-Prefect of Subjugated Earth Colony, twisted and untwisted her eye stalks salaciously. She yanked out a minor limb at the slightly flirtatious (but still quite proper) second joint and presented it to the human Ambassador with a flourish. He rapped it smartly on the ice block table to show his amusement, cautious not to bare his enamel incisors.

They had learned that from number 17.

Pocketing the gift, he dropped his trousers and seated himself first to show deference. Not that fast! Bend each part of your legs separately, remember? He scowled at the unwelcome tinny voice in his ear. He needed no damn coaching, he had worked for over a year for this. He continued, schooling himself to patience.

“I see that your most recent mate was a fifth tier artist.” Yes, past tense was proper here (number 50). The Ambassador nodded toward the iridescent patterns on her queenship’s chitin and politely waited for her to defecate first.

She beamed approval by clacking her pincers, and purred, “You have learned much from your-” the translator hissed static, then enunciated “–predecessors” She paused to drop a pearlescent row of dainty regal pellets from her lower thorax, and keyed up the week’s tribute sheets on the vid.

He bowed in place and said nothing, the new embedded-sensor scars on his scalp tight and aching.

Suddenly she rose and towered over him. Her abdomen quivered and she emitted a long series of pops and clacks. “Night or six?” The translator finally produced this unencouraging monosyllabic query.

The tin voice was silent. He reviewed all his memorized responses. Nothing.
“Ah, night, your queenship.” He bowed his head, waiting, and hoped they were getting all of this back home.

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