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Mini Sledgehammer: May 2010

This month marked the first of our second-Tuesday recurring series of Mini Sledgehammers at Blackbird Wine Shop. Half a dozen writers showed up, and we had a great time writing, reading, and drinking wine. Thanks for hosting us, Andy!

Kari LunaKari Luna took home the prize package including four books, a calendar, and a classy bottle of wine.  Congratulations!

Prompts included:
a traveler
someplace warm with a snap in the air
“clouds in  my coffee”
tearing a page out of a calendar

Einstein’s Hand

I usually got an Americano, almost always a double Americano, but for some reason I chose a latte, instead. But there wasn’t a heart or a leaf or the ever-predictable swirls swimming in the cream, there were just clouds. In my coffee.

“Is something wrong?” Emily asked.

“No,” I said, lying for the third time that morning. “Everything’s great. This trip is going to be amazing.”

“Just what the doctor ordered,” Emily said, sitting back in her chair the way she always did. You know, the way that said she was right. “Doctors don’t send you to cool climates for nothing,” she said. “This is serious.”

The doctor she referred to was Dr. Angstrom, an archeologist-slash-physicist. The climate she referred to was Mongolia. And the serious business had nothing to do with my health. It was a dig that had something to do with Einstein’s right hand.

“It’s too warm here, anyway,” I said, brushing a fly away from my coffee. “A change will do me good.”

“You said that already,” she said, biting her pinky nail. This conversation was going the way most of them had gone for the past six months, ever since Angstrom had chosen me over Emily for the expedition, a dig most scientists believed was insane.

“Henry,” she said, moving her chair closer. “Let’s pick a date.”

We were sitting outside the train station but I could still feel the brisk air blowing in from the ocean. The Gulf was like that – serene and inviting one minute, a seven-headed monster the next.

“Henry?”

Emily pulled a calendar from her purse and not a small one, nothing handheld, but a full-sized wall calendar. Each month featured a photo of molecules in action, cartoon-style. Protons doing the lindy with neutrons, electrons whizzing down water slides, positives and negatives playing nicely with each other. The very sight of it disturbed me. So many things about her disturbed me.

“I was thinking next June,” she said. “You know, something Spring-like. The family would like that.”

I could be on the cover of Time Magazine by June. Surely I couldn’t marry her then. I thought our relationship was temporary, a grad school thing. I ran my fingers through my mop of curly black hair and adjusted my glasses. They were too big. I was going to hate that in Russia.

“It’s too early to plan,” I said, baffled. We’d barely spoken in months but Emily was still sporting the pink rock candy ring I’d given her last month like a trophy.

“It’s too early for anything,” I said.

My words fell through the slats in the wooden table and landed on her feet. She brushed them away, the same way she did the crumbs from her plate of scones. She loved the cinnamon ones and practically lived on them. Like she loved me. And lived on me.
“I’m the one planning this,” she said. “It will give me something to do while you’re away.”

While I’m away you should find yourself a new husband, I thought. A new career. Maybe something in knitting or the culinary arts. Or a mix of all of that with Math and form a new discipline like Dr. Angstrom.

Emily and I had met in his class six months ago. What she called a whirlwind romance, I called a trap. We were both so excited about Angstrom’s book, titled Einstein’s Right Hand – the Greatest Dig of Mankind and bonded over Mojitos and extreme science on public television. We were close enough to Miami to go out but far enough away so that studying was easily a priority. And this trip? My adventure? It was the first in a series of many. I could tell I was meant to search the world in honor of physics and anthropology underneath Angstrom’s wing. Even if others thought he was a quack. I was twenty-seven and had loved science since I was seven, so the term was somewhat familiar.

But now I was leaving the premier internship of the summer to do what no intern before me had done. Mongolia. Einstein’s right hand. My name in history. And lots of vodka, which I could do here, but with Emily millions of miles away it seemed much more romantic.

The announcement for the train to New York boomed across the speakers.

“Henry,” she pleaded. “You’ll need me when you’re out there in your fur coats doing shots and trying to support Angstrom’s improvable theories. You know I’m right. My letters will save you.”

I tore the month of June from the calendar. June, with its illustration of neutrons squirting neutrinos with a hose by the wading pool. I looked down at my coffee – no design, only puffy little clouds – and read it like tea leaves. Like I should have done in the beginning.

“You’re being unreasonable,” Emily said. Her right eye twitched, a large display of emotion for her.

“And you’re not engaged,” I said, ripping June into tiny pieces and dropping them in her coffee. “In life or with me.”

If I ever found Einstein’s right hand I’d love to return and slap her with it.

© 2010 Kari Luna

Please join us Tuesday, June 8 for the next Mini Sledgehammer!

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