#FridayFlash: Albert Einstein Gets A Cavity

Albert Einstein Gets A Cavity

by Tony Noland

"Look at that, the seat is covered in leather."

"Great. Now we know that Einstein's ass smelled like ass AND sweaty leather."

"Jesus, Cathy, can you at least try to snap out of it? It's like you enjoy being depressed."

"Ha ha. I'm just cold and my socks are wet."

"I told you Uggs weren't waterproof, but no, you had to wear them in the snow. Here's a news flash, Cathy: it's January in New Jersey. Dress appropriately."

"Shut up, Kevin. All I wanted to do was stay home and watch 'Firefly'. My snuggie would have been appropriate dress for that. But no, you had to drag me all the way to Princeton to a fucking museum to see Albert Fucking Einstein's fucking bicycle. Big whoop-de-fuck. Can we go home now?"

"No. We're going see the whole damned exhibit. You're the big science fiction writer, you should be loving this. Besides, you've already seen every episode of 'Firefly' twenty times. What you really wanted was to lie on the couch and get drunk again. We are here to -"

"Having a couple of hot toddies while I watch TV is NOT getting drunk!"

"We are here to get you out of this funk you're in! Cathy, you haven't written a word since Thanksgiving. Oh no, don't even try to bullshit me. I read your blog, remember? Even that you're just phoning in. Links to YouTube videos, rants about nothing, limericks and maudlin haiku... that's not writing, it's fluff."

"Poetry is not fluff."

"Yours is, because you suck at poetry. You know you do. They're not even funny anymore. A limerick about trimming a hangnail? Jesus, Cathy, this is going beyond just procrastination, it's practically mental illness. You've got a deadline, hon, the publisher is going to want to see the draft of the sequel by, what is it, February 15?"

"First drafts suck. They shouldn't want to see a first draft at all. They should wait until I finish revisions on the third draft. Maybe even wait until I get comments back from my beta readers."

"They just want to know that you're writing, that you're making forward progress."

"It's not like turning on a switch, OK? OK? I'm stuck and it's kicking my ass, OK? Are you happy now?"

"Hon, c'mere. Shh, sweetie, it's OK. It's OK."

"I... I just don't know where to go with it. What am I going to do, Kevin? Oh God, I'm so fucked. I'm so fucked."

"Shhh, it's OK, I've got you. Shhh....."

"What am I going to do? They're going to want the advance back and I'll be ruined. What am I going to do?"

"Shhh.... shhh.... it's OK. You'll think of something, you always do. You just need to get out of your head for a while, get away from it."

"But I can't! I can't think of anything but this stupid fucking book, but it all sucks! It's all such trite, hackneyed crap! I can't write any of it down, it's just a waste of space on the page."

"That's not true, Cathy, come on. Look, see the bicycle? See it?"

"It's Albert Einstein's old bicycle. What about it?"

"Look, the sign says that Einstein got some of his best ideas while riding his bicycle. Not sitting at his desk or writing on a chalkboard or beating his head against the walls of his office. He was out riding his bike. The whole concept of the fixed speed of light came to him while he was out riding, when he thought about what his headlamp looked like to observers in oncoming traffic or standing by the side of the road. One of the most important insights in the history of science, while he was out for a ride. But to anybody looking at him, they would have thought he was just goofing off instead of working. You see my point?"

"What, that I should goof off more?"

"No, you dope, that you should get out of your familiar surroundings and get some exercise. Einstein said that it was the changing perspective he got while riding that made him think about things from different angles. He imagined what the world would look like if he were riding his bike near the speed of light, worked out the whole Doppler shift thing. He even used the same metaphor to talk about time dilation at extremely high velocities, as though he had a time-travelling bicycle."

"Well, it travelled forward in time all the way from 1951 just so we could be standing here looking at its worn leather seat. I just wish I could put a time machine into this stupid sequel. There's nothing like a worn out old trope to... to..."

"Cathy? Are you OK?"

"Hey. What if... no. No, that's crazy. Unless... hang on a second. I need to write something down. Shit. This pen's gone dry - do you have one?"

"Sure. Here, don't write it on your arm, use the back of the museum map. What? What is it?"

"What if the Kirellians aren't trying to build a superweapon to blow up the Core Stars homeword, but are instead trying to build a time machine? It's impossible to build a real one, of course, but if you rotate a tuned magnetic field around a collapsar, you can get sympathetic gravity waves. I saw it on PBS last month. What if they're trying to do some kind of last ditch doomsday thing? Like a, a, a resonance cavity in time? They're not trying to win the war by defeating the Core Worlds, they're trying to reset the clock by forcing the universe to re-roll the dice back in the past! And then leave a message to themselves to keep re-rolling until they win! Yes, oh my God, this is PERFECT!"

"Cathy, that sounds -"

"And my hero isn't trying to find and BLOW UP the superweapon, he's trying to infiltrate the opposition on the other side to overthrow the Kirellian government, because, holy shit, Kevin, they've already fought this war ten thousand times and the Kirellians ALWAYS lose and they ALWAYS build the time machine. He's with the spies for the other side, and they learn about the time machine, and he has to break the cycle of endless war! Hot damn, this would actually work! I can write this! Jesus, we've got to get home. February 15, February 15, that's, uh, 37 days from now, so that's about 2000 words a day for the first draft, YES! I can do this!"

"I'd say this calls for a celebration, doesn't it? Maybe some of those fancy candies you like?"

"No way, not until I get the first fifty thousand words written. I've got to get to work, I've got a lot of writing to do."

"Well, we can stop at the Victorian Sweets Shoppe and buy a box in anticipation. They'll be waiting for you when you hit 50K. Deal?"

"Deal! Oh, Kevin, I love you. And I'm sorry I was such a pain."

"No worries, love. No worries."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story was prompted by Icy Sedgwick, who gave me the following to work with: "the January blues, a time travelling bicycle and a box of Victorian sweets". Any resemblance to writers or writers' spouses, living or deceased is entirely within your own imagination, and I'll thank you to keep your idle thoughts to yourself.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. This is fantastic!! Only you could have taken such a random prompt and come up with something so awesome.

  2. I agree, quite a story from the prompts! Although she could have worn her Snuggie outside the house - I saw someone wearing one in their car a few weeks ago.

  3. Or maybe a writer's mistress? One named Cathy? g/d/r

    This was really clever, a time traveling bicycle cracked her writer's block!

  4. And of course the brilliant author's name is Cathy... :)

    I loved this!

  5. Oh that was a wonderful piece done using Icy prompt. I really liked it. I loved how seeing the bicycle cleared her writers block.

    Nice one Tony!

  6. Wait... you managed to nest a second plot of an entirely different genre within a flash fiction... nice!

    Great work, Tony. =)

  7. Hey, at least Cathy got into it. Being maniacal beats being a downer!

  8. I agree with @Wiswell. Chuckled several times during this - funny and clever! Great work Tony! :)

  9. SO loved this! Loved the scene, loved the dialogue, loved the quirks demonstrated by their preferences for Firefly (best show ever!) and Einstein- loved it!

  10. Icy: Thanks! When I'm in the mood to write, I can sometimes spin straw into gold. ;-)

    Li: I'm glad you liked it! As for the Snuggie worn as street clothes... no. I'm afraid I can't agree to that, not even in fiction.

    FARfetched: Nope, no mistresses here. Pure coincidence.

    ganymeder: And of course the brilliant author's name is Cathy... Naturally! said...

    Helen: Thanks! As a matter of fact, ALL bicycles travel through time. It's the ones that go BACKWARDS that are impressive.

    John Xero: I have way more ideas than I have time to write up. This is one way to put them to good use. 8-)

    John Wiswell: Cathy does seem a bit bipolar, doesn't she? But then, she's a writer who just broke through a block. I think we can cut her some slack, right?

    Cassie: I'm glad it made you laugh, Cassie!

    Bev: Thanks for reading! Believe it or not, I've never seen an episode of Firefly. I got the movie from Netflix, but have yet to crack into the DVD of the TV show that a friend lent me. I'm just faking it on the geek cred with that one.

  11. I could relate to a lot of this story. Especially this line: "this is going beyond just procrastination, it's practically mental illness."

    I thought the dialogue was fantastic.

    Do you think you will ever write the Core Stars story?

  12. This is brilliant, Tony. Such a great piece from the prompt given. Extra points for Firefly reference, obviously.

  13. Such a great piece! Science, time travel and finding a path through the tale you're writing, three of my favorite subjects! Very well done.

  14. Great piece from that prompt! Loved the mental illness line.

  15. Loved it. And I have to agree with the story--new surroundings do have a way of bringing out the ideas. Nice use of the prompt.

  16. Poor Kevin. He seems to lose out either way. At least till the 50k is done.

    Neat idea.

  17. I'm climbing into my cycling shorts as I speak......Must...Find....Inspiration.
    Oh, and great dialogue. Kept me reading.

  18. The comforting stretch of dialogue is my favorite. My husband has done so much of the same.

  19. Hilarious!.. loved the opener.. which set the scene for a sparkler..

    On blistering form Mr T..

  20. Craig: I'm glad you liked it! BTW, I am a terrible, terrible procrastinator. Sometimes I wonder how I ever get anything done.

    Jack: This is brilliant, Tony. Such a great piece from the prompt given. Extra points for Firefly reference, obviously. Some people are content to merely pander. I suck up.

    Aaron: Thanks for reading!

    Sonia: Heh, that line is striking a chord with people!

    Eric: Exercise and fresh air are pretty much a sure-fire way for me to clear my head and break through blocks.

    Peter: Ah, but Kevin loves Cathy. Now that she's up and running again, they'll both be happier.

    flyingscribbler: It's out there! Go get it!

    Raven: I'm glad that section worked. I didn't want to layer it heavily with tears, snuffling or sobs, so it was tricky to convey what was going on.

    Tom: I can't say that I've ever, ever, EVER read any speculation about what Einstein's ass actually smelled like, so I'm going to give myself some points for that. ;-)

  21. I'm trying to find out the name/model/brand of bicycle that Einstein owned. Does anyone know?

  22. I'm trying to find out the name/model/brand of bicycle that Einstein owned. Does anyone know?


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