Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Question of Balance


Archibald Wix was a retired banker, meek and mild, who lived his days in ease … if ease can be defined as listening to the incessant nagging of his obsessive-compulsive wife, Clara. Archibald usually turned his hearing aid down in the evening while reading the paper. It was a sacrosanct hour, when silence and the crisp pages of the Herald, spread wide, blocked out whining that had begun thirty-seven years earlier.

“Your shirts are hanging crookedly on the hangers again!” Clara shouted from the kitchen.

Archibald turned to the Science and Technology page and read that mini-black holes, no bigger than the wart on a stepmother’s jaw, drifted through space like vagabonds looking for handouts. Well, in theory, at least.

“Archibald, you left your cup in the sink again!” Clara said with vocal cords raw from years of finding fault with the cosmos.

An hour passed, and Archibald turned his hearing aid up to see if any natural disaster other than Clara required his attention. He lived near the San Andreas Fault, and sometimes the earth did a quick mambo, rattling the china cabinet. He heard a melodious voice singing in the kitchen, a voice with the clarity of crystal and the timbre of a medieval damsel singing ballads to her suitor. It was a situation that called for investigation.

“Hello, Archie,” said a comely woman in her early forties. “What would you like for dinner?”

To Archibald’s left, a small black dot was floating through the kitchen, boring into the wall as a small, tinny voice called from the dot’s infinite density: “What are you up to, Archibald? Who is that woman in our kitchen? Get me out of here!”

Archibald wasn’t a scientist, but he knew that black holes not only gobbled up matter but also coughed up molecules on occasion, like cosmological burps. A mini black hole had apparently wandered through his kitchen, making both a deposit and a withdrawal. So long Clara, hello Elizabeth, the name of Archibald’s good fortune.

“How did you get here?” the banker inquired.

“I’m not quite sure,” Elizabeth said. “I remember being somewhere very small, like a genie’s bottle or a magic lamp. But I know you’re Archie, and now I’m here in the kitchen. So what would you like for dinner?”

“You,” replied Archibald Wix, not feeling the need to provide any astronomical explanations to a woman just moments away from the delights of courtly love.

As a banker, Archibald had always kept his books balanced. The universe had given him far more than a gold watch in return.

29 comments:

Lane said...

What a delight of a story.
I pity the poor sod who ends up with Clara in his kitchen:-)

Geraldine said...

What a great story, enjoyed it from beginning to end. Your last line was a perfect touch. Well done!

PS: I'm guessing this is the dreams of many a frustrated oldster!!!

www.mypoeticpath.wordpress.com

Lana Gramlich said...

Hooray for Archie! Here I thought Clara was going to be swallowed by an earthquaked crack in the Earth's crust, down into a cavernous pit of sulpherous despair!

Lisa said...

What a gem of a story! I've noticed that in addition to your gift with imagery you have an uncanny ability to pick the perfect names for your characters. Who doesn't love a protagonist named Archibald Wix? Yesterday, I got a business email from a real person who has already taken on fictions proportions in my imagination. Look for an appearance soon by Wilson Rumble (yes, that's someone's real name).

Jo said...

Yes, and the reader is delighted for him GRIN. Nicely spun.

paisley said...

very nice... and what a dream come true!!!

gautami tripathy said...

Good to read one of your short stories..

Janice Thomson said...

There's an overabundance of Clara's in the world. - I know someone who fits her description to a tee. A delightful story with a delicious ending. Excellent again William.

SnoopMurph said...

I could feel Clara's voice shredding bits of my own sanity-wow! I was a little worried for Archibald, but what happy ending for this berated poor soul! Bravo!

ChristineEldin said...

Elegant humor. Very nice!
:-)
I've always loved the name "Clara."

Billy said...

Lane, I wish grouchy people could disappear with such seeming ease!!!

Geraldine, yes,I sure wish a black hole had been around to scoop up my ex :)

Lana, who knows the ultimate fate of Clara? I'll let the universe decide. A nice person she is not!

Lisa, I love to come up with unusual names. I LOVE Wilson Rumble. I'll be looking for him :) And thank you!!!

Jo, thanks. It would be nice if justice could be dispensed so easily. Would save a lot of litigation and/or mental health :)

paisley, wouldn't it be lovely if the good guys always won?!

Guatami, glad you enjoyed it!

Janice, thanks. Yes, there are many Claras in the world. I've known a couple, and they sap the life out of people.

Linda, I guess the black hole was the guy with the white hat. Ha!

Christine, these are always fun to do. Glad you liked it :)

Bernita said...

Sweet.
And satisfyingly just.

Julie at Virtual Voyage said...

... too steeped in Star Trek not to see it coming but its still magic. Love the way you tell em....(restrained rofl).

TomCat said...

Wonderful. Now could you please direct that mini black hole to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.? It's disparately needed there.

Billy said...

Bernita, thank you as always!

Julie, do you remember "Harcourt! Harcourt Fenton Mudd!?"

Tomcat, if I could direct a black hole to W.--and Dick--I would in a nanosecond. Oh, that it should be so easy!!!

Raven said...

Wonderful story. I like tomcat's idea for one of your black holes to hit the White House and replace the current residents with sane people.

SandyCarlson said...

I enjoyed that, Billy. I like your sense of humor very much. I feel I know Arch and Clara. I will never mention another crooked shirt in this house!

Great story.

Thanks for stopping by today. You were the only one to pick up on the subtlety of my patriotic post!

Tina Trivett said...

Sounds like a tale from the Twilight Zone...well done, much enjoyed. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

It's like "Time enough at last," but the loser wins. I like it.

Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

Excellent concept (and well executed!) Karma can be a vengeful bitch or a gentle equalizer. Peace, JP/deb

Billy said...

Raven, thanks. Hopefully the November general election will be the equivalent of what the black hole did in this story!

Sandy, I'm glad I wasn't being too cerebral with your post!!! That's what former English majors do LOL--look for themes and imagery.

Tina, all of these strange tales have a "Zone" feeling. I decided to keep all the flash fiction in this quirky vein in case I ever want to collect them, probably for a POD edition for fun.

Charles, these short pieces give me a chance to have fun with a little sci-fi and/or horror twist each time since I love these genres so much. I spent a lot of time with Clarke and Asimov as a kid ... and beyond.

Deborah, one of the expressions rolling off my tongue most frequently is "Karma is a bitch." I sometimes wonder what I did in the last lifetime to have to put up with so many pains in the ass. But sometimes the cosmic slot machine gives you a break and it's three oranges in a row. I need to practice more positive thinking :) Glad you enjoyed this piece.

Casdok said...

Wonderful and love the last line.

Billy said...

Casdok, the last line wrote itself. Thanks. Glad you liked it!

Miladysa said...

A great little story. Brings a new meaning to Cosmic Ordering :-D

Billy said...

Miladysa, yes, cosmic ordering. I agree!!!! Thank you!

rebecca said...

Oh, poor Archibald! but in the end, he got his just desserts (in a good way)....good things come to those who wait :)

Enjoyed this from beginning to end.

Billy said...

Thank you, Rebecca for visiting and such a lovely comment!

spacedlaw said...

That is a great story!

Billy said...

Nathalie, thanks. I like to do these quirky stories as you might have guessed! :)