What can YOU say in six sentences?
JFK once said, “We aim to go to the moon, not because it is easy but because it is hard: fuck easy.” Okay, so he didn’t say the last two words in public, in front of his archbishop and the microphones and LIFE Magazine, but you know he said it privately to those bright and gleaming boys, those astronauts, all of them brimming with that miracle endorphin that wells up when you are included in the innermost circle.
Orson and his sister Alana had enjoyed a running joke, one time, about Hawaiians hoarding all the vowels and the Serbs hoarding all the consonants. He'd make up names of Yugoslavian war criminals, like Brdyzstan Krmudgnlik, and she would reply with…Continue
Orson awoke from a bright, chaotic dream into a hardcore January day. He tried to grasp the dream’s receding smoke strands -- kites? a village square?-- but they eluded him.
He lay against his pillow nest inside a red, nylon camping tent, shucking off sleep in layers until he felt the blunt nudge of…Continue
Herr Zimmer came up the road again today, and would I sell him my goats and would I sell him the barn? This is the third time since August he has come with that vulture's smile, hoping to profit from our misfortune.
Gertie says I should sell the goats because I no longer keep up with the milking and the birthing, no longer go to town or shave or gladhand fellow burghers.
This is the tallest I'm ever going to be.
The New Yorker list of Best Writers To Watch Under Age 30 is a ship that has sailed.
I will not get revenge on the world's worst landlord (Johnny-Boy Boyd) by leaving fish to rot in a cooler and then pouring the fetid water under his house.
I will never own a cloak of invisibility that doubles as a flying carpet.
Dick Cheney will never walk into an alley alone where I happen to be with my trusty Louisville…Continue
Stump Shiner ate his supper (two chili dogs, a kosher dill spear, a few suspiciously healthy-looking sweet potato fries ) in front of the TV, taking in the election results from the latest primary.
He could not put a name to his feeling of unease when he watched the newest leader of the pack take a victory lap in front of cheering supporters.
The man with the track record of cheating on…Continue
Orson hums a long-ago song (The very thought of you, and I forget to do, the very ordinary things that everyone ought to do) but he doesn't believe the lyrics, as love has never made him forget what ought to be done.
Long ago and far away a girl gave her heart to him, but all too soon she left, saying, "Your love for me has to be more than room temperature," which Orson thought was overdramatic.
He hums while he runs the sweeper over the neutral (unassuming) Berber…Continue
A first cousin to Alana and Orson sends them feel-good emails telling them to live, love, laugh and "dance like no one's looking."
Orson just deletes everything the cousin sends, but Alana reads them and puzzles over the alien words and sentiments, trying to find some link between the greeting card emotions and her own. It is as if they use two distinct languages and need a third to translate them, a Rosetta stone or maybe an oracle.
She knows that she is missing a vital…
It is a black and white photograph on shiny paper, taken with a Kodak Brownie camera in 1956.
It is the sole artifact Orson has kept from childhood, not sentimentally but anthropologically, as one might keep a pottery shard that shows the culture of a long-gone tribe.
Four people are grouped together – parents behind and small children in front – and the faces of the mother and…Continue
Orson is sitting upright in his restaurant chair as if a drill sergeant has commanded him to attention, and he is eating his meat in the British fashion, with fork tines turned down.
Alana, in a bouclé shawl and small neat tam, talks without animation about her job and new apartment. The food before them is riotously spicy, but neither reaches for water or wine.
It is as if their mouths,…
When Orson and his sister were school children, they had puzzled their teachers with white flashes of brilliance and what then was termed 'antisocial behavior.'
Had they been born 30 years later, they might have been diagnosed as having Asperger’s syndrome, based on a shared lack of interest in popularity, their photographic memories and emotionless faces.
And even though they displayed no affection for each other, Orson and Alana were attuned as if a wire…
As a Southerner, Orson knows full well the dangerous waters of a conversation about religion with anyone but immediate family.
But as a scientist down to his marrow, he wants to lobotomize the ‘Young Earth Creationists’ because, as he tells his friend and colleague Sheila Searcy over lunch, “they won’t miss brains that they’re not using.”
He then relates a recent experience he had while…Continue
Orson is halfway through a lecture about the physics of weather, reviewing the way that an object’s mass (a thunderhead, for example) ties force and acceleration together.
A student asks how much a cloud weighs, and Orson explains that mass is not the same as weight, and he gives the equation.
He moves on to open a discussion about lightning and how a magnetic field has lines that reach out…
Every January, the university president hosted a tea at his gracious home for newly-hired faculty members, and all professors were expected to attend (in semi-formal attire) to welcome them.
Orson spent probably more time than necessary selecting the right tie and socks for the occasion, and in the end he chose the same blue-gray tie and charcoal gray socks as he always wore when required to put on his one and…Continue
There is a tender moment at the beginning of every semester when a teacher faces a classroom of new students and each has high hopes for the other -- and this occurs before the students cheat on exams or plagiarize or make up lavish excuses for poor work or the professor turns out to be boring or jaded or incompetent.
It was Orson’s experience as a professor of physics that his hopes and those of the students were – and…Continue
Orson was scanning an abstract in the January issue of the Journal of Applied Physics (Subthreshold characteristics of ballistic electron emission spectra) when his phone rang.
This was jarring since it was first-cup-of-coffee time on a Sunday morning ( too early for telemarketers), and anyway, Orson’s phone never rang.
He penciled a…Continue
Orson shelved the textbook for his Physics 204 course, thinking for the hundredth time that the book was inadequate, then checked his watch.
His least-favorite student was 15 minutes late for an appointment, after which Orson would have to speed-walk across campus – two-tenths of a mile – for the Provost’s annual speech.
The student had…
Every school child in Hayneville, Ala., knows that the entire region was once covered by warm, shallow seas and that in those prehistoric seas swam a 20-foot-long creature called a Mosasaur, or Mose, for short.
Those bright and happy children view photos and power point presentations about the Cretaceous Period, and they go on field trips with professors from Tuscaloosa to view fossilized bones and teeth of Moses.
It is sincerely hoped that at some point in their lives,…Continue