PTOLEMY BARNUM, ESQ., GESTATOR OF UNIVERSES
by strannikov

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

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Ptolemy (Barnum, not the cosmologist of geocentric persuasion) reluctantly had come to conclude that any universe within a hundred megaparsecs would need to find parking at the end of the field. His most recent universe, which could seem small to pedestrian eyes only because he had conjured it in his trusty wok, was already exhibiting capabilities unlike those of any he had gestated over the course of his twenty-odd year career. His suspicions rested again with the ginger-cayenne combo he’d taken to over the most recent four years, a dependable pairing only lately subject to dilution with a heavy dose of ground black pepper.

Stiff competition for mass and velocity ensued, but by lunchtime, things had mostly quieted down. On the new universe’s periphery anaxions, chronons, neutrinos, and positrons were popping all around, threatening to leap directly into the rice cooker on the counter next to the stove, he turned the heat down a notch, the last thing he wanted was a long weekend wringing oscillations from the jasmine rice. Ptolemy made copious notes furiously on a legal pad, since his spiral-bound notebook was still drying with its most recent seventeen pages smeared by a large spoonful of tamari soy sauce all over, an accident the cat still was not eager to take credit for, but Ptolemy had exiled her from the kitchen anyway and even moved her water and food bowls out into the hall with her so that she knew he was seriously disgruntled.

According to Ptolemy’s legible notes and calculations, this new universe was considerably more dynamic than either champagne or carbonated water but still short of the dynamism routinely shown by 17.8% pure delta-9 THC hash oil. As anticipated, a composite matrix of fresh bundt cake and equally fresh squid was aggregating around the periphery, leaving the center open for the five drops of dark matter its wonders to perform in the center. (It’s true: bundt bait has been the first choice of squidcatchers since the days of Anastasios of Ios.) After another fifteen minutes over low-to-medium flame, however, this universe was not yielding more squid, which disconcerted Ptolemy acutely and not entirely inconsiderably, he could not believe he had actually spoiled that cat. He could tell just by looking in the remote corner of his pantry that a lot of room was left over, but he could not begin to guess just then what accounted for the missing matter. (He only suspected the neutrinos, of course, his confidence that he’d sustained no scalar boson leakage around the periphery remained quite high.)

Being short on universe gestation fluid for the moment, Ptolemy decided on a quick four-day jaunt to Maui. Leaving the cat’s bowls full, and setting out two fresh litter pans, he was off! Doubtless, macadamia nuts would’ve helped with this most recent confection, but he’d lost his taste for macadamias except in biscotti, and he’d neglected to bring his biscotti recipe with him anyway. He’d do fine with just the Kona coffee. After not two hours on the Hawaiian island, Ptolemy had an ample supply of reconstituted universe-gestation juice—truth be told, distilled and diffused, but dense enough for a compact universe, which his new wok concoction qualified as, some little something to entertain over a long weekend. With his standard five-liter pot, he produced enough reconstituted universe-gestation juice to fill a small tub, mercifully, one too small to sit or lie in.

Returning from Maui by way of Hilo and Honolulu, and a few hours on Molokai around both sunrise and sunset, Ptolemy mused that he’d become the success he’d turned into as a gestator of universes chiefly because he maintained a fresh outlook for conjuring different textures. Sometimes, he would be anxious for greater density and concomitant opacity, at other times he was more keen to generate volume with whatever variety ensued, and frankly, sometimes he was just dazzled by all the vibrant colors and the crisp crackling (which accounted for his spare use of his own formula of Esperanto sauce). His present concerns unknown even to himself, once he returned to his kitchen (the cat remained in exile in the hallway outside, and she’d remain there a while longer, too, since in his absence she’d raked the kitchen door merciless raw), Ptolemy brewed a fresh pot of Kona and poured in the whole pot straight. The resulting magma flow atop the stove in no way diminished his regard for Kona coffee, but it did lead him to freshly consider the prudence of keeping flame-resistant napkins on hand for filtering reconstituted universe-gestation juice. (The cat, because she had not been consulted in the matter, was napping already atop the floor vent in the living room.)

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strannikov has been assigned yet another cemetery inspection tour. Inspection only, chiefly headstone proofreading and spotting unsightly cracks and stains: no lawn mowers, weed eaters, or pruning shears. The stiff fallen leaves from the magnolias guarding the cemetery positively clatter together whenever the wind picks up. The wind itself breathes eerily even in daylight, and strannikov knocks off each day by noon, his ghosts rattle and clamor for escape even in the a. m.

© 2012 – 2013, Metazen.

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