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.
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