String Theory

Honourable mention in the 8th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.


Mother told me not to look at the sun during the eclipse—unless I was wearing the special glasses. She could barely stand straight. Her breath reeked. When she slid the glasses on her face I had to hold back from laughing. I told her I didn’t want to watch the eclipse. The idea of it bored me. Mother rolled her eyes. Everything bores you, she said.


Mother has a new boyfriend, Jake. She’s dyed her hair a carroty colour I detest but that Jake likes fine. He’s a lot younger than Mother, and comes and goes as he pleases. I don’t know who my father is. Mother says he left when I was a baby and she hasn’t heard from him since. She says he’s probably dead or at least she wishes he were. I don’t think about him much. I don’t know what he looks like. Mother has no photographs of him, or if she does won’t show them to me.


From my bedroom window I see that the eclipse has begun, inching its black veil across the sun. Mother is outside on the front lawn with the neighbours, all wearing the special glasses and sipping cocktails. I’m not stupid. I know that staring at the eclipse is dangerous. But lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the sun. We learned in science class that eventually the sun will burn out. Maybe it will implode and become a neutron star, or a black hole. I know what an event horizon is, at least I think I do. Mr. Dundee, the science teacher, told me all about it. He said that as we get closer and closer to a black hole, time slows down.


Time has slowed down for me this summer. I spend most of it inside. Girlfriends annoy me—they’ve gotten so vain—and boys are a bore. Mother spends her time fretting about Jake: When is he coming? Why is he late? Why doesn’t he call? Sometimes, when she’s been into the rye, she rants about my father. Says I’m just like him, but I don’t know what that means. I’ve never met the guy. Maybe she hates him because he left her. Maybe he left her because she hates him.


Mr. Dundee also told me about string theory. Everything in the universe, he said, everything you see and can’t see, is made up of tiny tiny strings, vibrating like plucked violin strings. Reality is a kind of music, then.


The eclipse is upon us. It’s beautiful, and frightening. Light and warmth flee the air. Do not look at it, I think, heeding Mother’s warning. I shut my eyes and smile. I can hear her out there on the front lawn, vibrating with the neighbours.





First prize winner of the 2015 Short Long-Distance Writing Contest.

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