(A fictional tale involving aliens, blogs, some scientists and a dash of poetry.)
Dear Star SN 2014,
Thanks, you’re the closest star to go nova.
‘Cigar Galaxy’ or M82*,
where you dwelt, twelve million light years ova’
in neighbor Ursa Major, when you blew.
A prof caught you in the act**; the world watched,
this astrophysicist got sacked ‘cause you
died in the birthplace of stars, and you botched
my career. You Type Ia Nova***, you
damned binary system with a white dwarf
star–you just had to be special, outshine
everybody else, be so close and morph
my job into unemployment, you swine.
You’re gone; I still thrive. Writing this letter
didn’t bring back my job but I feel better.
I crumpled the paper up. A dear john letter to a star? Really? Had unemployment sank me so low that writing such a letter–in rhyme no less–seemed like a good idea? The paper in my hand argued that, yes I had done such a brainless thing. At least it had been cathartic.
Sitting in a semicircle of discarded drafts of my rhythmic rant, which offered further evidence that unemployment had a deleterious effect on my sanity, just drove home the ridiculousness of the whole thing. So a professor from a third rate college had spotted the supernova and I, who had been stargazing at the time, hadn’t. So what? It meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. The whole thing would blow over in a few weeks and I’d find a new position. Other institutions existed and one of them must need an astrophysicist.
A half dozen unfinished projects scattered about glared back at me, challenging me to work on them. Aunt Ida didn’t need that half finished scarf draped over the sofa. Neither did cousin Betty need that necklace half strung on the night stand. Those papers on the kitchen table? Just a bunch of bills I’d already paid with one flick of my finger on my mobile. They could wait another day for the shredder.
I flopped back onto a pillow that had fallen off the couch a week ago. Maybe the place did need some tidying–just a bit. Why go over board? Gotta leave something for tomorrow.
Tomorrow, it promised a whole day’s worth of empty hours. I grabbed the remote from under the bed, dusted it off on my black t-shirt and hit the power button. Nothing happened because I’d never signed up for cable tv. I let the remote fall onto the shag rug and felt around for my phone. Locating it ate up five whole minutes. Swiping the pattern on the lock screen that secured my phone ate up 30 more seconds when I messed it up. My index finger connected the dots into a perfect “8” at last and my phone unlocked.
Social media provided no sympathy. Why I thought it would extend a virtual hug to me for my misfortune, I don’t know but it didn’t. Tweets ranged from congratulatory for the nova-finding prof to disparaging for me, the expert who overlooked it. One tweet’s odd message caught my eye and made me sit up. It read:
Stars Die while you worry.
Just that and a link which I clicked. A blog loaded with the following text:
Stars Die While You Worry
Explosion! A star dying in the black,
years it takes for its light to reach her eye.
The day’s layoff blinds her to the star’s lack.
She gives the star-strewn heavens one last glance,
heads to her car to end her last workday.
Far away alien worlds haven’t a chance.
New supernovas’ shock waves heads their way.
Back on earth she crumples up the pink slip.
Her tenure with that company now ends.
Thousands of light years distant, forces rip
stars apart. Unnoticed her career ends
in silence, unlike stars’ end in violence.
For both, the world turns in ambivalence.
I tossed down my phone. That jerk. How had he–I assumed that a man wrote this–known? I closed my eyes but it didn’t help. It saw my hand, felt it wad up the pink slip. Heard my boss’ say those awful words– “we’re sorry but in light of recent events, we have to let you go.”
I unearthed my laptop from a mountain of papers that I should have returned to the office. Oh well, can’t rectify that now that my keycard and work id were confiscated. The shredder beckoned me over; it would only take a few minutes to shred all the detritus from my former job. Tempting, very tempting but instead, I loaded up that blog and stared at the author’s image. It was a woman who had authored my misery. I left a piece of my mind in the comments for that blog post, poem, whatever.
Take that you bitch. That’ll teach you to hit a woman when she’s down! I closed my laptop with a click that satisfied me better than a slammed door. I was down but not out, not not by a long shot. I had degrees hanging on my walls–a bit askew and dusty, but still there and all mine.
I sat there and the cluttered studio looked back at me. It had nothing to offer me in terms of entertainment. Just a reminder that some housework was in order, like those dishes stacked up in the dishwasher. I should run it so I have a clean plate to eat take out on.
Yet I sat there, chin leaning on fist doing a whole lot of nothing.
At some point, I dozed off curled up on the shag rug with my fingers twined around its soft, white nap. It reminded me of dog hair, so thick and twirlable.
~ ~ ~
Aerials is the working title for a science fiction story I’ve been developing for the fun of it. I’ll be sharing it with you guys on Fridays. So the new editorial schedule will be: Monday to Wednesday–Quest, Thursday— (Re) Quest, Friday–Aerials, Saturday & Sunday–Sarn/Curse Breaker: Enchanted.
What’s this (Re) Quest you ask? It’s a recasting of the earlier parts of Quest so they include prose passages fleshing out what the sonnets couldn’t cover and making those earlier parts have the same style as the current Quests. (If you think of a better title do let me know; titles are obviously not my forte.) It’s also a chance to catch up on earlier Quests.
I plan to debut Part 1 of (Re) Quest on my birthday, March 10, 2016. So look out for that! If you have suggestions, comments or questions, do leave them in the comment box and I promise to reply as soon as I can. Thank you for reading!
Now for a gratuitous music reference tangentially related to the post:
Footnotes/ Science stuff:
*Messier 82 (also known as NGC 3034, Cigar Galaxy or M82) is a starburst galaxy about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major… The starburst activity is thought to be triggered by interaction with neighboring galaxy M81….Throughout the galaxy’s center, young stars are being born 10 times faster than they are inside our entire Milky Way Galaxy.
** The supernova was discovered by astronomer Steve Fossey, of University College London. Fossey was training four undergraduate students (Ben Cooke, Guy Pollack, Matthew Wilde and Thomas Wright) to use a small 0.35-metre (14 in) telescope at University of London Observatory, located in Mill Hill, north London.
***Type Ia supernovae occur in binary systems (two stars orbiting one another) in which one of the stars is a white dwarf while the other can vary from a giant star to an even smaller white dwarf.
Daily Post: Inevitable because it was.