A diary entry by George Schier, as provided by Gary Cuba
Art by Luke Spooner
Hell of a way to lose, I thought, as I plowed my way through the detritus covering the parking lot.
I headed toward my office in Newton Hall, the center for Physics and Mathematics studies at Manley University. The trash was the day-old aftermath of the school’s final football game of the year. It consisted, in the main, of plastic beer cups, discarded game programs, and empty half-pint liquor bottles.
The students had been gifted with a good reason to get smashed. Once again, their team had managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, ending their season with a record whose “wins” column consisted of an unblemished goose egg. What had made it all the more depressing was the way they had lost, on a last-second “Hail Mary” pass by the opposing offense. Heck, I thought. How had that scrawny Framingham Tech quarterback managed to throw the football so far, scrambling from deep in his own end zone? It must have traveled ninety yards in the air!
I plopped my heavy briefcase down on my desk and looked over at my office-mate, Harvey Atwood. Harvey was a full Professor, an aging don with dual doctorates in Physics and Chemistry. His unkempt, gray hair spilled across his shoulders, making his deep frown seem all that much more dour.
“Morning, Harvey. You look like you bet on the wrong team. How much did you manage to drop?”
Harvey snorted. “George, you know I try to stay clear of that sort of thing. Unless it’s a sure deal. No, there’s something else bugging me about that game–about that last play, that last pass.”
“Like, perhaps, the thought that it was impossible? That it violated the laws of physics and human physiology? Old friend, my lowly field of expertise may be in linguistic meta-geometry, but even I know that. It had to be a fix, a trick football. Filled with helium or something.”
“Not a credible hypothesis,” Harvey replied. “The volume-to-weight ratio is too small. You couldn’t pack enough helium in there to make a significant difference in the ball’s performance. But we saw it with our own eyes. It seemed impossible–but it’s obviously not. I’ve been tearing my hair out all night, trying to reason it out scientifically. And then, this morning, I began to think about Dudley.”
“Dr. Luttle, over at Framingham? What possible connection could Dudley have had with yesterday’s game?”
“He was there, so I naturally suspect him. I’d suspect him for causing the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, too–except I know for a fact that he wasn’t in Ukraine at the time.”
I knew where this was heading: the same place any conversation about Dudley went. Harvey was a brilliant man, but I had come to learn over the years that he harbored a vindictive, malevolent impulse when it came to his arch-rival. He saved and stored Dudley’s professional slights as an English Squire might collect postage stamps: immaculately kept, but overly ruminated upon. He sputtered on.
To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2014 collection.
George Schier (1935-2011) was Professor of Linguistic Meta-Geometry at Manley University. While his own lifetime scholastic achievements were for the most part unremarkable, he is better known today for the extensive diary he kept during his tenure at Manley, which detailed the numerous capers and exploits he undertook with his close friend and eccentric colleague, Dr. Harvey Atwood. This is but one selected excerpt.
Gary Cuba lives with his wife and an unruly horde of domestic critters in South Carolina, USA. Now retired, he spent most of his career working in the commercial nuclear power industry, and holds several US patents in that field. His short fiction has appeared in more than eighty publications, including Jim Baen’s Universe, Flash Fiction Online, Grantville Gazette, Daily SF, Penumbra and Nature Futures. Visit http://www.thefoggiestnotion.com to learn more about him and to find links to some of his other stories.
Luke Spooner a.k.a. ‘Carrion House’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at www.carrionhouse.com.
“The Long Toss” was originally published in Crossed Genres: Science in My Fiction (April 2011).