Bright Time, Dark Time
Eric Skjei

9:29:17 EST, April 20, 1994

Honey is driving down the road. Cole is in the seat beside her. Outlaw Willie's on the radio. Honey and Cole have their swimsuits on. Cole has outgrown his car seat, but he's still too small for the seat belt. Even when he's sitting on his heels, like he is now, it hangs around him like an oversized coat. Honey wonders what would happen if they got into a wreck. A picture of him crashing through the windshield comes to mind and she shakes her head to get rid of it.

The day is warm but clouds are starting to roll in. When he woke up this morning Cole had a cough, one with that awful cracking sound in it. The doctor said he was fine, but she took the day off anyway. She thought she'd take him to the reservoir for a little sun. What the hey.

The car's engine misses and smooths out again. Probably needs a tune-up. Joe's old yellow Camaro, not in such bad shape on the outside except for the ding in the fender. She had to buy new tires but couldn't afford the big wide ones, so now it looks like a fat old lady on toothpick legs. Inside, the floor is full of candy wrappers and toys that Cole doesn't want to play with anymore. It still has the California plates on it. She hasn't gotten around to doing anything about that, even though they're in Ohio now. Maybe they'll wind up in a place with white plates or yellow plates. Not Arizona with those ugly red plates. She thinks about when she was a kid, driving down the road in the back seat, with her folks, going on vacation, searching for plates from different states.

She looks down at Cole again. He doesn't look anything like Joe at all. He's got her blond hair and blue eyes, not Joe's fuzzy red hair and thick neck. Not yet, anyway.

A beeping sound comes from the floor. It beeps again, then again, then again. "Huh," she says out loud. "It can't be." She hauls up the purse, fishes around in it, finds the beeper. Yup, it's her graduate assistant. She checks the readout. Eleven events in ten seconds.

Her hands start to shake and she grabs the wheel just as the car drifts over the yellow line. She pulls to the side of the road, stops. If this is real, she's one of the first to know about it. Maybe the first. If it's real. She wonders whether they know in Japan yet. She needs to get back. She's got a lot to do.

She turns to look at Cole. For a second, she'd completely forgotten he was there. He'll have to wait, as usual. She sighs, then laughs, feeling like she's going 11,000 miles a second. Cole laughs too, grinning up at her, happy to play along. She looks out the windshield. "We're going to take a bath, sweetie," she says, wondering if it might have been nothing but background noise. "An invisible bath, in hundreds of billions of neutrinos. Good thing we have our bathing suits on." She wonders if it'll be bright enough to be visible with the naked eye.

She sighs again. Then she twists in her seat to look over her shoulder and pulls back out onto the road, heading back the way she came. She reaches for the radio and turns it up real loud. "Nothing I can do about it now," whines Willie.

Tell me about it, she thinks.


InterText Copyright © 1991-1999 Jason Snell. This story may only be distributed as part of the collected whole of Volume 4, Number 3 of InterText. This story Copyright © 1994 Eric Skjei.