A bit of Short Fiction on a Sunday afternoon

I meet with some writers twice a month, and we use writing prompts to get us started. Here is today’s effort. The prompt is in italics.

Streams of glowing gas and sparks of painfully bright matter wreathed themselves around Susan’s vessel and pierced the light-darkening film on the window, and the indicators for X-rays, gamma rays, and microwave energy shot up to the top of their scales. She imagined her eyebrows crisping and hair kinking to ash on her scalp, even though not a wavelength of radiation was getting through.
With a wink, it all disappeared just as she picked up her phone.
“Hello? Hi you!”
No big deal, just watching the birth of the Universe. The Discovery Channel runs a different version of it on every Wednesday, and I try to keep up with it. This week is the Sagan version, but it’s OK, I have this episode recorded.”
“Yes, Ari, I know that you used to say that when you were rabbi at Etz Chayim ‘You are the U in Universe.’” How’s the weather up there? It’s nice to hear from you. How’s Joy? Good. Now, how can I help you?”
“No, you called me.”
“Ok, maybe you’ll remember as we talk. It was really foggy here this morning, it was the strangest thing, it started out overcast, but no big deal, then got really foggy, then cleared up again. I was having breakfast with Sara, like we do every Sunday.
“Oh, gosh, we started going to Joni’s around the time Mike graduated high school, so wow, that’s about 25 years now, because he’s 43. Where does the time go?”
“Mike and the kids? I heard from them, let’s see a week ago Friday. They called for Leonard’s birthday. The kids look fine, considering.”
“Yes, the long skinny bones of low gravity! Ari, I used to think normal weight children were anorexic. My orbital grandchildren look like skeletons to me.”
“Well, YOUR family has tall genes. Except for my father’s height that Mike inherited, Tramiels are generally built like fireplugs, Joy and your girls towered over us, and our grandkids remind me of coatracks in Spandex. Have you remembered why you called?”
“That long? How about email?”
“Is your L-5 uplink working? When did you test it last?”
“Hm. Well, maybe there’s another reason. Did you make Ileana angry? Or Mike? Look, I have to bite my tongue every time I talk to them, trying not to get angry about where they live. I’m, sorry we are twelve thousand miles away from my, grandchildren, sorry OUR grandchildren, who can’t come to visit me without hours of extra physical training and only at the price of being miserable. If it weren’t for my no-fault calling contract, I might never speak to them again.”
“I got the idea from business contracts I negotiated for the synagogue. Radical acceptance and no-fault conditions. I did this after I almost wore out my therapists’ tissue supply wondering how I’d cope when they left. Before the two of them boosted up to orbit ten years ago, I made them sign a document setting out a minimum communication level. Mike owes me one call a week, plus birthdays and holidays, each call to go on for at least 180 seconds, no matter what we say to each other on email or during the call. I wouldn’t loan them a dime for boosting up without getting that in writing. With four girls, you have no idea how little boys need to communicate.”
“What, she’s calling now? Great! If you remember, let me know how it goes. I’m going back to my cosmology; I’ll be here all night. Give them my love.”
And with a click and a push of a button, Susan was immersed in the glowing gas that was the Universe in its first three minutes. She thought she could maybe see some globular structures coalescing in the lower right hand corner of the screen. She never tired of it, whatever the mathematical constraints; she loved the watch the Universe come into being.
“OK THERE’S a solar system,” she whispered to herself. “wonder if it’s going to be ours?”

About Onecakebaker

Author of a memoir called The Girl On the Wall, and working on a novel. Former Synagogue president, gardener, empty nester. Raising bees.
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