“Trickster Crumb”

One day I woke up to discover that the imp in my story is a quantum being. It just occurred to me in a dream. The imp doesn’t travel in time. The imp is not measurable at times. When the imp is not measurable, strange things happen. Time changes shape. The imp divides into many. Unpredictable movement becomes possible. When no one is looking, imps ride photons.


The cone shows possible values of wave 4-vector of a photon. The “time” axis gives the angular frequency (rad⋅s−1) and the “space” axis represents the angular wave number (rad⋅m−1). Green and indigo represent left and right polarization. By Incnis Mrsi 10:15, 4 June 2008 (UTC) – Own work, Public Domain, Link

Quantum mechanics shows that particles like photons behave differently when they are observed than when they are not observed. I always thought “observed” referred to being watched by our very own two eyes. In fact, observation refers to the act of measurement.  We are continually being measured, whether it’s by a ruler, the eyes of onlookers, or the air particles we displace.

The very week I realized that the imp was quantum, physicist Paul Coxon sent out a message on Twitter that went viral:

“Hello my name is Paul, I have a PhD in physics and thanks to a random brain freeze forgot the word for photon so had to call it a “shiny crumb” in front of my colleagues 😐”

Paul Coxon on Twitter

Clearly a sign, right? I love that he called the photon a “shiny crumb.” Thanks to Dr. Coxon’s brain freeze, I’ve taken to calling the imp in my work in progress a “trickster crumb.”

The Imp in the Stone

The Imp in the Stone

Today I completed a story that tells of a time when the imp locked their multiple selves inside a stone grotesque.*  On display in a public park overlooking  Lake Michigan, the stone imp encounters a Holocaust survivor. Here is an excerpt:

“I saw Harry again? You know what he talked about? The camps, is what. Like we were some 1965 twelve year old reminiscing about summer camp. Like we remember when we all went canoeing and told ghost stories around a campfire. Like we weren’t the damned ghosts our own selves. Only, it’s oh, remember the time everyone taller than the unnamed asshole was shot, and I survived because I am so short? This is what he wants to talk about? He has diarrhea of the mouth, this one. And you know what else? He still keeps the spoon from those days. Never goes anywhere without his god damned spoon. Harry. He’s a piece of work. You know what he says to my grandkids? Here’s what: make sure you always wear a good pair of walking shoes. Your shoes are what stand between you and survival.”

Doris is wearing gold slippers. Her toenails are painted bright red. Her hair neatly combed. The scarf with the flowers looks happier on her head today. She leans towards me, “I am never wearing sensible shoes again. Even  if it kills me.”

Then she stands as still as I do and we listen to the children in the playground laughing. This is a good day.

*(BTW, GROTESQUE: isn’t that a wonderful word? It’s the word for the carvings we often think of as gargoyles but that do not double as gutter spouts. I love it.)  

The most wonderful thing of the month

My friend Christopher shared a dance routine from the film Stormy Weather. Just watch the Nicholas Brothers own every dancer in all of history with their acrobatics, grace, and sheer joy:

Things to read

Trevor Noah’s book Born a Crime is an absolute must. It’s cruel and smart and funny and compassionate.

I’m a huge John Le Carre fan. Pigeon Tunnel is a fascinating account of his life as a writer. He shares so much without revealing anything at all about himself. For anyone who is a fan of his many spy novels, that should come as no surprise.

Bob Dylan’s The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol is the poem of the month. Here is an excerpt:

Hattie Carroll was a maid of the kitchen
She was fifty-one years old and gave birth to ten children
Who carried the dishes and took out the garbage
And never sat once at the head of the table
And didn’t even talk to the people at the table
Who just cleaned up all the food from the table
And emptied the ashtrays on a whole other level
Got killed by a blow, lay slain by a cane
That sailed through the air and came down through the room
Doomed and determined to destroy all the gentle
And she never done nothing to William Zanzinger
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain’t the time for your tears

In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavel
To show that all’s equal and that the courts are on the level
And that the strings in the books ain’t pulled and persuaded
And that even the nobles get properly handled
Once that the cops have chased after and caught ’em
And that the ladder of law has no top and no bottom
Stared at the person who killed for no reason
Who just happened to be feelin’ that way without warnin’
And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished
And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance
William Zanzinger with a six-month sentence
Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now’s the time for your tears

Podcasts I love

I love to be read to. I subscribe to Pseudopod, Escapepod, and Podcastle as well as Selected Shorts. One story I loved this month was Suddenwall by Sara Saab: http://podcastle.org/2019/02/05/podcastle-560-suddenwall/

The Selected Shorts episode Dangerously Funny was a hoot: https://www.symphonyspace.org/selected-shorts/episodes/dangerously-funny-george-saunders-carrie-brownstein-guest-host-josh-radnor-1

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