In Irasú

by William S. Statler

Solids would want to be with their own kind, if they could, and not in the air. My eyes were still watering from the ferocious blowing dust—otherwise I’d have gone to the men’s room mirror to remove the prickles stuck in my face where the tumbleweed had smacked me while I was inspecting the hailstone dents in my car.

I had no sympathy for the people of the horrible little town of Elk Creek. If they’d had the sense to abandon this purgatory, the highway wouldn’t have come through here and neither would have I.

The roaring September windstorm made the entire restaurant vibrate, and unknown things went crick! and bump-ump! above the ceiling. Sirens and red flashing lights hurried by outside.

“Natural cover fire, southwest of town. Dry lightning. More coffee?”

I blinked. The blurry wavery thing above me was probably the waitress. “Yes, thanks.” She seemed nice. But she probably voted Republican.

She refilled my cup. “Contact lenses?”

“No, I’ve got a pair.”

I heard some coffee hit the saucer. “I mean, we’ve got travelers’ contact lens kits, a buck ninety-nine, two-ounce bottle of solution and a lens case.”

They even had solution for gas-perms. Amazing. A few minutes later, I could finally see the old hole-in-the-wall diner I’d stumbled into, and although it seemed clean it contained threateningly-high levels of duct tape. Not the silver kind, but the olive-green stuff that you only find in military-surplus catalogs: across the seams in the brown carpet, covering the splits in the green vinyl upholstery in the booths, holding the thick electrical cables to the colander-and-fruit-can assembly which the waitress was pointing at a policeman lying on the couch. On the wall above the couch, hundreds of one-dollar bills were tacked, and then I remembered this place was called the Buck Shack. Three big dead elk heads gazed down with glass eyes; one of them wore a tiny wrinkled sage-green bowler hat, dressed for a holiday half a year away. A stereo quietly emitted antique dance hits by Praetorius, barely audible between the wind gusts.

The policeman was asleep now, and the waitress coiled up the cables and replaced the colander device on its cart, which she wheeled back into the kitchen. I guessed she was about sixty, and she looked like she could have wrestled one of those elk to the ground without spilling her coffeepot.

No intelligent person would willingly tolerate the narrowness of life in Elk Creek. Nothing to do out here but serve the coffee, rototill the wheat field, read the Bible, listen to country music, watch the dust blow. I considered the group at the big round table on my left: six people having some sort of a Saturday breakfast meeting, probably the intellectual high point of their week. This guy with the big voice and the powder-blue sport coat, he had to be a salesman of some kind. And that woman next to him, with the briefcase and all the papers—maybe real estate? Yeah, if you took a real real estate agent and trapped her in Ducttapeville for a few decades, she might start wearing Goodwill pants-suits and a hairdo that—or was that a wig? It was on crooked. She was arguing with the salesman.

“John, the boron-10 is gonna absorb most of the neutrons. I don’t see why you’re still pushing for all the extra shielding.”

“Linda, we’ve been through this—the marketing can not succeed without quintuple-redundant safety features on the tractor. It’ll be hard enough persuading a farmer to sit behind a fusion reactor all day.”

So he was a tractor salesman. A tiny world of dirt, grease, and agribusiness money. What about the others?

This husky guy with the radio on his belt—the face was Irish, the accent Hispanic: “ and regulatory issues, because the EPA will surely take an interest...” He had to be another police officer. An Irish cop, what a surprise.

And the boy, probably about twelve, darker-skinned but obviously the cop’s son: “...use bismuth instead of lead for the X-ray shielding...” A cop’s son, growing up in a town where the school board probably burned the science textbooks. He might well end up a meth dealer out of sheer boredom.

Was that his young girlfriend sitting next to him? “Good suggestion, Miguel, but the thermal conductivity of bismuth is...” Ah, you could see the way his expression changed when she went from “good” to “but”—he was desperate to impress her. What was an Indonesian girl doing out here? Impossible, she must be Mexican.

“I smell sage and oranges.” That was the sixth one, the gray-haired woman. Probably spent a lot of time in the kitchen with her sage and her oranges.

The young girl ran to the window—she looked horrified—and the others joined her to watch the fire on the hill. It was hard to see it through all the smoke.

“Oh, Jessica!” That was the real-estate woman, Linda. “There goes your Artemisia tridentata citrosma!”

The waitress came to the window too. “Jessica, don’t worry, hon. There’s plenty of seedlings—the habitat can be replanted.” A tumbleweed crunched into the glass and made scuttling sounds before flying away.

John the tractor salesman said, “It looks like a volcano, doesn’t it?”

“Yes!” said the boy Miguel. “We must sacrifice a virgin!” He grabbed young Jessica’s arm.

“Right, Miguel, and thank you for volunteering!” she shouted.

Tractor John said, “Hey, Sean, is that how you handled volcanoes in Costa Rica?”

The police officer laughed. “No, some Norteamericanos did that for us in 1972. They dropped a kid into the crater on Irasú, and adiós to eruptions!”

“That was me,” I said. “But it wasn’t my fault that I was still a virgin.”

Everyone looked at me, so I said, “Well, actually, I suppose it was my fault. Partly my fault. Partly the fault of all the girls in my high school who weren’t my girlfriends—which is to say, all the girls in my high school.”

Officer Sean said, “You’re the kid who fell into Irasú?”

“No.” Oh—now I was going to have to be a raconteur. I said a silent prayer to Saint Lionel Fanthorpe, and resorted to the old trick of imagining my entire audience in my underwear. That was comforting. “I’m the fifty-year-old guy who fell into Irasú when I was a teenager.”

“Holy crap. You were with that, what was it, a visiting high school band? We had a trumpeter staying at our house. I was just a little kid then.”

“We were a community youth band, from what they didn’t call Silicon Valley yet. A sister cities thing, cultural exchange. We played a few concerts, stayed with local families. One day they took us all by bus up to the summit of the Irasú Volcano. A broad gray flat area, jumbled pumice and lava chunks and ash, gray peaks of the same material all around—the only place I saw in Costa Rica that wasn’t green. And craters, several craters. Very steep sides, almost cliff faces. You could walk right up to the edge, look in, see all the layers and layers of volcanic rocks and ash echoing that edge, all the way down, down to the bottom, hundreds of feet down, and the awful, corrosion-colored pond, muddy green and stagnant, with an orange ring around its sulfurous shoreline.” Saint Lionel would be proud of me for that one.

After a moment, the waitress said, “Rose? Breakfast speaker?”

Sage-and-oranges Rose replied, “Good idea, Joyce,” and then to me she said, “You must have a, heh, unique perspective on geology. An inside view.”

“I am intimately acquainted with many igneous rocks, yes.”

“So if you’ve got a little time, we were thinkin’ you might be our guest this morning and tell us about your experience in the volcano.”


Waitress Joyce said, “It comes with a free breakfast. As your honorarium. Jessica, you okay with that?”

“Uh, yeah,” said young Jessica, who was still half-watching the fire. “Sorry. As President of the Hazel County Science Society, I’d like to invite you to be our breakfast speaker today, Mr., uh—”

“Roger Surrell, but call me Rocky, because you will anyway. Food input exchanged for voice output. Not a good deal for you, I think, but if you insist. Pancakes, stack of three. Round plate, please, not oval. One poached egg, soft, top center of the stack. No syrup, no bacon, no sausages. Tweezers.”

“Duct tape.” That was Real Estate Linda.

“Duct tape?”

“Tweezers take forever on those Russian Thistle barbs. Try duct tape, it’ll pull most of ’em out.”

I deferred to the country wisdom of the locals on a topic of which, if I could possibly help it, I would never again require knowledge. I returned from the restroom substantially debarbed and refreshed, in time to see the formerly-sleeping policeman sign his name on a dollar bill and tack it to the wall above the couch.

Waitress Joyce brought my round plate of breakfast, and fresh coffee. I was pleased to see all the edges of my meal neatly aligned, and a well-centered egg. I ate while the locals discussed treasury balances and bylaws and motions and seconding.

After a while, only an empty ring of pancake edges remained on my plate, and I noticed that everyone’s attention had turned to me. Even Waitress Joyce had joined us at the table.

“I have an affinity for edges,” I began. “I was the kid who, when our neighbor was sealing his asphalt driveway with that tarry black goo, crouched right at the very edge of the tar to watch the bubbles and poke twigs into them. And toppled right into the tar. Twice.

“So, the edge of the Irasú crater—that was the very best edge I had ever seen. It was a huge edge, and there were all the layers inside it, down to the bottom, to the orange edge of that green pond.”

I poked my fork at the very symmetrical pancake-edge circle I’d made. “One thing about edges, one important thing, is to not go beyond. I’m not really very good at that part. So, over I went. I didn’t know whether I was going to drown in the pond, or be poisoned by it, or be beaten to death by geological strata first. Death—that’s the ultimate edge, I suppose...”

Pitiful. I could feel Saint Lionel frowning. But I forged ahead.

“At that age, I’d never thought much about death. So I was really quite astonished to find, after one particularly nasty headfirst impact, my entire life laid out before me in the traditional solid contiguous whole, all four dimensions of it, or maybe more. I wish I could describe this image for you more accurately, or at least more poetically, but it’s not a vision that stays well in the brain during normal conscious thought.”

The boy Miguel interrupted. “Could it have been an artifact? Of the way your brain was functioning at that moment?”

“Yes indeed, just as your experience of my words right now is an artifact of the way your brain is functioning at the moment.”

“Sure, but I mean, do you think your vision was of some objective reality, or—”

“Irrelevant. Consider this: what would you experience right now if you were dead, if you had no sensory inputs from objective reality, if you had no brain to generate artifacts? Can you tell me that your whole multidimensional life isn’t laid out before you eternally, waiting to be noticed? Would you see it, if only you weren’t so distracted by being alive?”

Nobody had a response for that, but Tractor John asked, “How badly were you injured?”

“When I finally bounced to a stop on an outcropping just before the water line, I had—they told me later—a spiral fracture of my left shinbone, two cracked ribs, additional fractures in my right wrist and two fingers of my left hand, a nasty concussion with some subdural bleeding, and more abrasions and contusions than I care to list.”


“And the first thing I worried about, there in the bottom of the crater, was whether anyone would remember to take my clarinet back home, because I didn’t want it forgotten in Costa Rica forever. After that, I had a long conversation with the rocks.”

Officer Sean asked, “You got knocked out, and imagined you were talking with the rocks?”

“And it was all a dream...but no. Because these were baby rocks, remember. Newborn igneous, just a few years old, younger than me even, so you have to understand they were very inclined to talk. That’s probably why they beat me up—just kids playing a little rough.”


That was a bit over the top. “Sorry. It’s hard to avoid slipping into anthropomorphic terms when talking about rocks. Of course they weren’t playing. Rocks have no consciousness. They had quite a lot to say to me about that. Perhaps they would have regretted not having consciousness if they could have felt regret, but they couldn’t, so they didn’t, and they had nothing to say about that. So I tried to tell the rocks about consciousness.”

I chopped through my pancake ring with my fork. Tractor John twitched.

“Back home, I’d been writing a computer music program. Our school computer club visited DEC once a week, and we used Teletypes and paper tape to program their big PDP-8. I had the computer printing out random note lengths and pitches statistically biased toward major chords. But was it music? I tried to make the PDP-8 pass judgment on its own music, but the only output I ever got was SYNTAX ERROR.”

I sipped some coffee. “It was like that, trying to discuss consciousness with the rocks in the crater. They had memories, so they told me. How could a rock forget its birth from the molten lava, when it was still filled with the gas bubbles trapped when its body froze? How could a gravel forget its shattering from a boulder, when all its faces showed the cleavage? They had memories, and they had experiences which created the memories, and that was not enough. I asked what they thought about being formed from molten lava and being shattered into bits and being piled into layers, and they didn’t know the term SYNTAX ERROR but that’s what they would have said if they could.”

The faces watching me looked puzzled. “I’m sorry,” I apologized. “I shouldn’t have gotten into the technical computer stuff for an audience like you people.”

“What’s that?” said Sage Orange Rose.

“That’s how I tell the story in Portland, but out here... Well, imagine you’re milking your cow, and you ask the milk what it thinks about being squirted into the bucket—”

“We are conscious of computers ‘out here,’ Mr. Surrell. Heh, this is the Hazel County Science Society—”

“And consciousness is the very issue I wish to tell you about, yet without a basic grasp of the sciences, it will be difficult for you to understand.”

“Mr. Surrell.” It was Waitress Joyce. “You noticed that police officer taking the Ten Minute Nap Special on the couch? That was courtesy of the Buck Shack Guaranteed Sleep Machine. My little invention. So—”

“Let’s not muddle the issue with police officers,” I said. “They may well have a form of consciousness that is entirely different in nature from my own.”

Officer Sean said, “Like, we notice completely obvious things that you don’t?”

Why did there always have to be a digression in the middle of my talk? “Okay. You notice magenta, right?”


“Unless you’re colorblind. Are you colorblind? No? Then you notice the color magenta. But what is magenta? There’s no magenta in the rainbow. It’s a red-blue mix. We don’t see magenta as halfway between red and blue—that would be green. We see it as a distinct color. And it doesn’t exist! It’s a complete artifact of our consciousness of color.”

“Interesting point,” said young Jessica. “So, in birds—they have a fourth color receptor, for UV, don’t they?”

“Right,” said Real Estate Linda. “So they’d see five nonexistent colors.”

“Which is something I won’t be discussing,” I said, “because I realize that you haven’t got the science background to understand it.”

“Uh, Rocky?” said Real Estate Linda. “Hazel County Science Society? World-famous? Preservation of endangered sagebrush? Field guides to fulgorid planthoppers? Two new asteroids? First practical proton/boron-11 nuclear fusion? Hello?

“The state of science education in this country has been dismal for decades, but especially here in the rural areas, and now with the increased influence of the Religious Right—well, it’s a terrible misfortune for you, and you all have my sincerest sympathy, really.”

“I’m thinkin’,” Sage Orange Rose said, “about a different consciousness example. Suppose a regular guy had some brain damage, got all the sensory inputs just fine, but didn’t always process ’em normal.”

“So,” added Waitress Joyce, “you’re thinking—just for example—if he were unable to assimilate any new information about people he met? He’s got his initial impressions and prejudices, but suppose he’s just lost the ability to update those when he learns more.”

“That’s sorta what I’m thinkin’.”

“Wow,” said Real Estate Linda. “That’s an interesting exp—example. Kinda like seeing the red and the blue, and never putting ’em together into magenta.”

Tractor John looked at me. “A guy like that, he’d really be stuck in a rut.” More of his tractor-oriented consciousness.

The boy Miguel looked everywhere except at me. “The people around him, he’d only see them as stereotypes. He couldn’t notice anything they said or did contrary to what he expected.”

I said, “And he wouldn’t even be aware that his consciousness differed from the norm. That’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about. And I feel terrible that none of you are equipped to comprehend it. But you are who you are, and I can’t change that.”

I allowed them a moment to digest their inadequacy.

“When we last saw our protagonist,” I resumed, “he was sprawled on an outcropping in a very large volcanic crater. Nothing but rocks everywhere, and the corrosion pond over my head, and someone moaning, and the blue sky and puffy clouds far, far below.”

I paused to finish my coffee. “I was thankful to all the rocks of the Earth, and the magma and the mantle and the core, for sucking on me with their gravity so that I didn’t fall out of the crater into the sky. The nearby rocks acknowledged my thanks but it was no matter to them. I secretly wished they would not suck quite so much blood out of my ear but I returned their courtesy by not complaining.

“And then I tried telling the rocks about seeing my life laid out in its four-plus dimensions, because I thought I might be seeing my consciousness in that. They told me they knew nothing beyond four dimensions, and they told me that the extra dimensions I saw might be explained by my consciousness, or by the severe beating they’d given me.

“I’m afraid I replied with sarcasm and cynicism, but the rocks were stoic. And so I tried again, and told the rocks how I could affect my surroundings by conscious will. To demonstrate, I moved my unbroken leg and made the clouds swirl around in the sky below. And the rocks asked me, who made the surroundings we are now in? I told them the volcano was made by simple physics and chemistry, and they told me my leg motion was made by complicated physics and chemistry, and I told them yes but I decided to make it move, and the rocks neither believed nor understood. Could I please have some more coffee?”

Waitress Joyce refilled my cup. The wind had changed direction, and I saw that Elk Creek was no longer enveloped in smoke and dust. It was much like seeing a homeless alcoholic no longer enveloped in a cardboard box.

Officer Sean asked, “How, exactly, did you communicate with the rocks?”

“That was a difficult problem,” I said. “Very difficult. But by then the moaning was somewhat quieter and that made it easier to concentrate. So I said to them, suppose I kick that rock, that one there—it was a handsome ten-pound specimen, rich gray with a brownish tone, and very bubbly—suppose I kick it and it falls into the pond? That would be an event, they said.

“I kicked the rock. And then, all the other rocks, and the magma and the mantle and the core, grabbed hold of it and shouted Heave, ho! in septillion-part harmony and hauled it up past the orange edge of the corrosion pond, which responded with a splash.”

I ate some of my pancake ring, which had dried to a pleasant texture like fresh soft cookies.

“Ripples spread in growing arcs across the green water from where the rock had entered. That was an event, I said, and the rocks said yes, that rock will remember it in its surface where the pond water eats it. I made that event, I said, and the rocks said, who cares? The crater edge, down near the sky, now sounded like caged finches beeping to one another, but I could no longer swirl the clouds with my leg, and it distressed me to tell that to the rocks but it also made me feel more at home among them.

“But several people on the rim had seen the ripples spreading across the pond, and that is how they located me. I was told later that there was much activity and some heroics involved in recovering me from the crater, but I didn’t notice, because I saw the entire life of that rock, the one I’d kicked, laid out before me. It was complex like an ocean wave and simple like H2O, with four dimensions like me and nothing like me. It was delightful to see, and, having seen it, I abandoned trying to explain consciousness to rocks.”

I brought out a chunk of dense local basalt from my pants pocket. “A demonstration will serve to clarify this—”

But Tractor John was ready for me, and took the basalt from my hand. Sage Orange Rose said, “Heh, thus he refutes Rocky.”

And then young Jessica was thanking me for my talk, and Waitress Joyce and Officer Sean were making ready to escort me to the door.

“But you haven’t heard the end!” I complained.

“Yeah,” said Real Estate Linda. “Can’t we keep him a bit longer?”

Waitress Joyce said, “I don’t think the Buck Shack can afford whatever he was about to demonstrate.”

“I’m non-violent!” I protested. “I’ve been certified!”

“Certified,” Officer Sean echoed, grinning.

“Come on, guys,” Real Estate Linda said. “We’ve gotta hear the rest of it! And besides that, he’s our invited guest, and we oughta be showing a bit more understanding here. He talks to rocks and carries one in his pocket? Big deal. Remember Winnie McKay and her pet potato, before they took her to the State Hospital? Or what about Frank Samuelson, always carrying that sawed-off golf club? Broke three car windows yesterday swatting at a hornet. Or Yolanda Smithson, there’s hazardous for you, that fire last week on East Endicott, stole all that Ethernet cable and tried to boil the ether out of it? Hell, we got dozens like that! And do we panic? Rush ’em out the door? Lock ’em up? Well, yeah, we do lock ’em up, but still.”

“Mr. Surrell,” young Jessica said, “could you finish your story without, um, performing a demonstration that might generate unexpected expenses?”

“I could. Will you all do me the favor of allowing me to finish?”

Sage Orange Rose said, “I’m still waitin’ to see who is doin’ what favor for who, Mr. Surrell. I’d be interested to hear the rest of what you’ve got to say, find out if it’s more than I’m expectin’.”

That was not something that people typically said at this point in my story, and I’m afraid it threw off my rhetorical technique. But they were all waiting.

“Well. The last thing the rocks of Irasú asked me was, who saved you? And I knew the right answer but I replied, who cares?, and I knew that answer too.

“And I never lost consciousness in the crater, because I am still alive, but I did set consciousness aside for a while, thinking what an astonishing thing it is, seemingly made of atoms and forces and dimensions, that even at its worst moments of pain and terror and despair can hold more delight than any volcano.”

Everyone was silent for a moment.

Sage Orange Rose snorted. “Yup. Less than I was expectin’.”

“So,” Officer Sean said, “you’re telling us, the worst day alive is better than the best day as a rock.”

Papá!” the boy Miguel scolded. “You say it like that, you squeeze all the feeling out of it!”

“Miguel, you know I can’t stand poetry.”

Young Jessica said, “I thought that Mr. Surrell’s conclusion was nicely stated, had a refreshing positive viewpoint, and gave us an interesting insight into several aspects of consciousness. And I would like to thank him for taking the time to share it with us.”

Sage Orange Rose snorted again. “Spoken like a true politician! Jessica, I’m thinkin’ maybe you’ve been President here longer than what’s good for you.”

“Now, Rose!” said Tractor John, as young Jessica’s charming light brown face took on a plum tone.

“Oh, do go on,” I said. “I’m happy to find that this isn’t more than I was expecting, out here.”

Real Estate Linda said, “What?”

“Mr. Surrell,” said Tractor John. “I appreciate that you may have a different way of thinking than most of us, and I’m more than happy to make allowances for that, but I think we are all finding that your obvious contempt for us is becoming tedious.”

“I have no contempt—”

“Then why can’t you acknowledge that, just maybe, you might be among some pretty sharp minds here at this table?”

“Let’s reverse that question, shall we? All your pretty sharp minds have categorized me as a harmless nutcase with delusions of poethood. Am I right? In Portland, when I finish my story, at least there’s some thoughtful discussion, but out here among the geniuses of Elk Creek? No, I’m just a show-and-tell item.”

There was a most gratifying silence after that. Just like in 1987, when I’d first used those words at the medical school conference. Or in 1995 at U.C. Irvine. Or last year in Pullman.

But... those audiences were neuroscientists and physicians and students. It seemed odd that I’d just chosen to use the same oratory for the hicks in the sticks here. Why had I done that?

“Mr. Surrell,” Waitress Joyce said, “you’ve done us a favor by pointing out our error. I wonder if you’d let us try to return the favor—if you wouldn’t mind staying a few more minutes as our experimental animal?”

“What did you have in mind?”

“I’d like you to take a short nap—”

“Not after all that coffee.”

“Don’t worry, I can take care of that. And then when you wake up, nice and refreshed and clear-headed, one of us will try to persuade you that he, or she, is a very knowledgeable scientist.”

“Oooh, me, me!” said Real Estate Linda. “I wanna try it, can I, can I, huh?”

“Let’s discuss that while Mr. Surrell is napping. If he’s willing?”

“Sure, I’ll play the game.”

So they invited me to relax on the couch, and Waitress Joyce wheeled out the cart with the big cables and the colander thing, and I drifted off into a very pleasant nap.

And then I was abruptly and completely awake, looking into the face of a twelve-year-old girl who observed me with intensity and concern.

“Good morning, Mr. Surrell. I’m sorry I never introduced myself properly. I’m Jessica Van Bavel, I’ve been President of the Hazel County Science Society for the past few years, and I’ve earned some notoriety as an amateur botanist. We have—I discovered—a unique sagebrush subspecies that grows here in Hazel County. The profile of secondary compounds in the essential oil is quite unusual, especially the high levels of d-limonene. I have a couple of papers published in peer-reviewed botany journals, and the news media made me one of their instant temporary celebrities, which I didn’t really like, but I’m glad now. Because the original habitat was probably destroyed today by the fire, but with that publicity, we’ve already got seedlings distributed to gardeners all over.”

“You do look sort of familiar. But I’m afraid I don’t pay much attention to the news media. What’s d-limonene?”

“It’s what gives oranges their scent.”

“Wait. The orange sagebrush? My sister has some of those.” I looked at her carefully. “That was you?”

“That was all of us. I made the discovery, the whole Society took on the project, and we saved that plant. But—here, I have a rock you might like to look at.”

She handed me an unusually ugly rock with a thick rubber band around it.

“It’s a geode,” she said. “Ever seen one unopened?”

“I don’t concern myself often with the non-igneous rocks. What do you mean, unopened?”

“I’ve already cracked it. Take the rubber band off and have a look.”

I did. The rock came apart into two halves, and inside was a tiny cave lined with beautiful little amethyst crystals. A treasure, hidden inside trash.

I looked from the amethyst wonder to the delicate face of the girl, and she said softly, “You could never tell from the outside, could you?”

What if...

Revelation came to me, like a sunrise in the back of my brain. My jaw fell open. “Ah,” was all I could vocalize.

I heard John say, “By George, I think he’s gawt it,” in a horrifyingly bad English accent. I looked around at all of them.

I said, “How could I have been so blind?” And I gave young Jessica another long, careful look. “How could I have missed it? You are Indonesian!”

“Huh?” said Tractor John.

“Y-yes, I am,” said Jessica. “On my mother’s side. But—”

“Thank you so much, Miss Jessica! Thank you, all of you! You have opened my eyes, you really have. Indonesian, out here—who would have thought?”

And so I departed from my most enlightening breakfast with the Hazel County Science Society. I gave a final glance to the big dead elk head with its tiny green Leprechaun’s hat. What if...

I stepped out the door of the Buck Shack, and over the edge.

If little girls in the orange sagebrush land were Indonesian. If atomic tractors roared across the wheat fields of Hazel County. If Leprechauns left their hats at the Buck Shack. If ether came from Ethernet cables, if potatoes made good pets, if colanders and fruit cans let policemen sleep in peace. I plummeted over the edge, out of the crater, and into the sky, where the what-if lived—and all the rocks, and the magma and the mantle and the core, shouted Farewell! in septillion-part harmony as I sailed past the flock of startled musicians and into the swirling clouds.

Copyright © 2007 William S. Statler. This work is licensed under a
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