Copyright 2004 by Allen Thornton

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“More of me to love, my friend; she said that there was more of me to love.”

“Well, maybe that’s how she feels.”

The movie was in black and white and I think I remember that the hero’s name was Jack Lord. Of course that couldn’t be; I’m confusing him with the actor. I’ll just call him something else, maybe James Earl. No, that wouldn’t do: too many connotations: James Earl Jones, James Earl Ray. I kind of like Johny Viscount but that’s too colorful, a good name for a criminal. I’ll just call him Jerry Leit. I forget his friend’s name so I’ll call him Horatio.

“More of me to love, Horatio; she said that there was more of me to love.” Jerry seems genuinely concerned.

“Well, maybe that’s how she feels.”

“How could she feel that way? I’ve become this plodding, sweating hippopatomus of a man; and she, she is thing of gossamer.”

To tell you the truth, I don’t know what gossamer is.

“. . . and she is an etherephon, a lovely, delicate creature constructed of dew-spotted cobwebs that shimmer in the sun, reflecting a thousand rainbows.”

Jerry didn’t look so fat to me. Maybe it was anorexia or maybe it was symbolism. He looked a little beefy, like someone who had obtained a position in the Eisenhower administration, but not actually fat.

The conversation is taking place on a patio with a barbecue grill. They’re cooking steaks on it. They both have highball glasses and are wearing pleated pants and knit shirts. I’m not sure what knit shirts denotes exactly; I think they were what we called banlon shirts. Anyway, they were the kind of shirts that men wore when they ate steaks on patios in the ’50s.

“We’ve been married for three years now and I’ve done nothing but work, work and grow fat. I promised to make her happy but I’m working 60 hours a week and I’ve become a fat slob. Three years seems like forever and when was the last time I heard her laugh?”

“But think of everything we’ve accomplished. Another year and we might have the cure.”

Just then Cindy (that was his wife’s name) walks out onto the patio. I think she was wearing bermuda shorts and a sleeveless blouse, or maybe it was a sun dress. She didn’t look like she was made of gossamer to me. She was a pleasant looking blonde: the girl next door if you lived in the ’50s.

“Are you two scientists deep in some project or can anybody join the conversation?”

Jerry and Horatio are researchers in atomic medicine. They aren’t exactly what I picture when I think of scientists, but you have to remember that this is an old movie.

“I was just reminding your genius husband that we’re getting close to publishing our final results, and this is no time to slow down on our research.”

That’s how you know that someone is a genius in one of those movies: someone else tells you that he is.

Cindy walks over and gives Jerry a kiss on the cheek. “Listen to Horatio, Jerry, and don’t worry so much.” She turns to Horatio and says, “Jerry could be the next Pasteur—if he didn’t fret so much and he could just get enough sleep.”

Well, Jerry hems and haws and moves around awkardly like a big oaf as they exchange some more small talk. Finally he excuses himself to get another highball or pack of cigarettes or something to take him out of the scene.

While Jerry is inside, Cindy sits down across from Horatio (I think they’re at some kind of picnic table) and starts talking to him, “I’m so worried about Jerry,” she says. “Lately he has been so obsessed with his weight and he isn’t even fat. He talks about it all the time. How fat he is. How I couldn’t possibly love him. How the poor people are starving. He even connects his weight with world peace and racism somehow. I don’t know. Sometimes I don’t even understand the words he says.” She starts a sob. “And the funny thing is that he’s doing so much to help the world.” At this point she takes Horatio’s hand. “You’re both doing so much to help the world. Why can’t he see that?”

Just as Cindy grabs Horatio’s hand, Jerry appears in the doorway and, from his expression, I would say that his reaction was rather negative. He was probably thinking, “Three days, my love, could you not be true for three whole days?” His expression changes from hurt to anger. “And now she’ll feed our wedding cake to him with her delicate hands and toast her new love with our leftover champagne.” Of course, he didn’t actually say those things but that’s what his looks to conveyed to me.


I love these old science fiction movies. Maybe I enjoy them because they remind me of when I was young. I’ve heard that people who had happy childhoods enjoy smells. When I see one of these movies I remember coming back to our farm and how the coal oil from the tenet house smelled. I wish I could explain what aromas mean to me, how wonderful they are; but all I can do is tell you about the movie.

Oh, my name is Allen. I am a person who was given everything. I never appreciated a thing that I got. I have spent my whole life ignoring every blessing and concentrating my full attention on the negative. As someone said in Latin “Hue mihi! quod sterilum duxi vitam iuvenilem” That’s “Alas for my for barren and misspent youth!” Fortunately, we forget all that foolish worrying and fretting when web remember our pasts. That’s why I enjoy thinking about this movie so much.




In the next scene Jerry is sitting in a lab. This is a lab you can put some faith in. It’s full of test tubes and bunsen burners and boiling liquids. There’s some kind of computer with flashing lights and lots of analog dials. Jerry himself is wearing a white coat.


I don’t think about the past much. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Besides, no one can tell you about his past. It’s his own private dream time filled with symbols that are meaningless to other people. I think that smells are the key. I can’t tell you what the smell of black top or a cucumber means to me. There’s no point in trying. I do have to admit, though, I’m a little nostalgic for the way the future used to be. We used to believe that our cars would go 120 miles an hour, that is, if we didn’t all have personal aircrafts. I remember looking up at the sky when I was six and seeing an airplane. There it was, miles in the air and I imagined people sitting in it drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes and going some place special. I suppose I would have thought that there were movie stars in those airplanes, but I was too young to know that movie stars existed.

I remember hearing sonic booms as planes broke the sound barrier. Much later I learned why they make that sound. Imagine that you are a crippled duck sitting on a railroad track. When you hear the train coming you limp slowly off: No problem, you can hear the train a mile away. But let’s say the train is traveling at half the speed of sound. By the time the sound gets to you, the train has moved half a mile ahead, and you are just barely able to get out of its way.

Now let’s say the train is moving at the speed of sound. In that case the noise it makes a mile away reaches you at the same time as the train: The sound wave and the train are moving along together. Now think about the train at half a mile away. Since the train is moving at the same speed as its sound, that noise arrives at the same time as the train, too. The sound at a mile away, the sound at half a mile away, and the train itself all arrive together. That means that all the noise that the train makes reaches you at the same time. All this accumulated noise is the sonic boom.

When we think of planes now, we think of September 11th, when the terrorists flew those planes into the World Trade Center. My daughter told me that she had no idea what sort of people worked in such buildings. She thought they probably housed corporation presidents and people like that. Who knows? I never gave it much thought myself. What sort of people work in the sky? What kind of people travel the clouds?


As I was saying, Jerry is sitting in a lab and then Horatio walks in with a general. Don’t ask me to explain. There was always a general in those movies, sooner or later. You just have to remember that people respected doctors and lawyers and generals then. They even thought that psychiatrists had special knowledge and could solve their problems.

“This is General Harrison, Jerry.”

“Ah,” the general says, “you’re the bright young man who’s going to cure all our ills.”

See, they have to tell you when a person’s smart.

“We’re doing our best, general.”

“The president has sent me here to get a report on your work.”

“Nothing we’re doing here could be of any possible interest to the military.”

“We like to keep our eyes open, Dr. Leit; you never know what our enemies might make of something.”

That’s another thing about these movies. They never refer to the godless communists or the Russians; they always talk about “our enemies.”

Jerry walks over to a blackboard and draws a representation of an atom. It has some little circles in the middle and is surrounded by three elipitical orbits; it was one of those old-fashioned atoms. “You see, general, TX19, which contains an isotope of lithium has the ability to contract the atomic radius and bind certain organic molecules more closesly together.” Jerry illustrates this idea by drawing an atom with a smaller radius. “In this state the compounds can no longer react with other compounds and they die.”

The general looks at the display in a very thoughtful manner. “What use could such a drug have in medicine?”

“We are experimenting on the destruction of tumors in laboratory animals. If TX19 is properly modified, it will attack the tumor while leaving the rest of the tissue healthy.”

The camera shows us some cages with six or seven white rats. Some look healthy and fat; the othes are emaciated and listless. “All these rats were diagnosed with radiation induced tumors. These were treated with TX19; the other were treated with conventional medicine. You can see the results for yourself.”

“That would certainly be a blessing to mankind,” the general says, “but I was more interested in something that I read in your paper on the isotopes of lithium; you claimed that the action of the drug would not depend on the size of the dose.”

“I see you’ve done your homework,” Jerry replies. “As long as the drug circulates in the system, the atomic contraction of the molecules will continue. You see, general, a very small dose of the drug will continue the action again and again until it finally contracts all the target molecules.”

General Harrison looks directly at Jerry and says, “You can see how that might have applications to weapons: tiny amounts of your drug, continuously acting on human tissue. We never understood what a small amount of uranium could do in a bomb; your drug may have similar uses in the wrong hands. We can’t let our enemies learn of this.”

“Yes, I suppose there may be other applications for TX19 that we haven’t thought about, but we’re still in the experimental phase in medical research.”

Harrison stands up and starts walking toward a door with a representation of an atom on it. “What do you have in there?”

“Sorry, general, that’s off limits. The radiation in there could be dangerous.”

Harrison looks at the door and you can see he intends to find out what is on the other side. Finally he starts to leave the room. He stops and says, “We’ll have to talk about all this later.”

As the the general leaves, Horatio asks, “Do you think he suspects, Jerry? Do you think he knows?”



In the next scene we see the general pacing his office with his underling, Captain Hugo. “They don’t know, Hugo; they don’t want to know. They think they know. They picture the violence, the pain, and the caking blood of the newly dead. They don’t see us. They see torn limbs and bullet holes. They see burning cities and weeping orphans. They look away.”

“When they want something, though, everything changes. They say, ‘We want a school and a road. We want to feed the poor.’ Then they have a smart idea: Let the government do it. Who is this government? It is us. They want money to turn their beautiful dreams into reality. Let the government do it. Let the government use the threat of guns and prisons to get their money.

“They say, ‘the people shouldn’t take drugs or gamble or get drunk.’ What do they turn to? Guns, gaping wounds, years in prisons.”

“We are their garbage men. They take their coffee grounds and orange peels and stinking chicken bones. They wrap them up and forget about them because we are always there to haul them off so they can forget about them.”

“Well, Hugo, at least we know the truth.”

Hugo may have been a lieutenant and he may have said something after that. I can’t remember it all.




Maybe the next scene went like this.

As the the general leaves, Horatio asks, “Do you think he suspects, Jerry? Do you think he knows?”

Jerry picks up a vial of something and looks at it sadly. “Oh, he knows, they always know. Attila, Caesar, and Sherman—Stalin and Alexander, they always know. They know a hundred times more than we do. For every life we save or hope to save, they know how to take a thousand lives.”

“What are the great universities to them but a means to indoctrinate the youth? All the great cities? Target practice. The poor of Earth? Cannon fodder.”

“How could it ever be otherwise? One rare man may devote his life to the painting of a masterpiece (a Mona Lisa perhaps) and any thug with a can of spray paint can ruin it and will. Carve the David and any fool with a chisel will destroy it.”

“This will be the end of our little dream, Horatio. It’s over.”


This reminds of a lady I heard once. She had been hurt by men and had become a very antimale feminist. Then she had a revelation. She said that she realized that men were healers. Once she understood this, she was able to lead a happy life. I thought this was very wise of her. I’ve heard it said that men “want to fix things,” as though such a trait were rather obnoxious. It occurred to me that men do want to fix things, things like sickness, hunger, and, yes, even unhappiness. That doesn’t strike me as being particularly evil, even if they don’t always succeed or if they don’t go about it in the right way.

It’s rather strange that people talk about men or women in the abstract. Everyone thinks that you’re an idiot if you talk about Blacks or Buddhists in this offhanded, dismissive way. What good does all this talk do? It does no good to blame anyone. When people were babies, they thought they owned the world. Then they discovered that they couldn’t control it the way they wanted to, and so they gave up the idea of ownership. Some of them became bitter and found ways to blame others for their disappointment. Some people gave up the idea of responsibility. They started calling people names. I guess I never grew up. I still think I own the world; my only question is how to control it. The problem with my way of thinking is that I have to take responsibiltiy for everything because I own it.




Next we see Jerry and Cindy having a picnic. He’s lying down with his head in her lap. “I’m so tired, Cindy, and I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

“But, Jerry, it can’t be all that bad. What if the military does make some use of your work? Is that so terrible? Maybe it will help keep the peace, and in the meantime you’ll have all the money you need for research.”

“I know. I know. I think of all that too. But you haven’t seen what we can do with TX19 already.”

“What have you done?”

“It’s not just cancer cells. We can shrink whatever we want. We can do it to fat cells; we can shrink any kind of cell in the body. We can pick and choose the cells we want to target. Can you imagine, Cindy, the power, the power to do good or ill?”

Here the weariness overcomes him and he falls asleep.

“Could there be a more perfect man? Or one more fortunate?” I believe that Cindy is thinking these things because Jerry doesn’t wake up during her speech. “Tall and handsome, atheletic and gracious, those who see him can not help but stare. They stare and then avert their eyes as though they had looked into the sun. They walk away and think that certainly such a handsome man could never be so favored by God as to have any intelligence. They content themselves that the world could not be so unfair and think him a fool. And yet, his mind is more dazzling than his visage. From the earliest age, he remembered everything he learned; and more than that, he could arrange it all and create some new and beautiful object to delight the mind of mankind—and heal it too. Add to this a soul so filled with goodness that it must pour forth blessings as the cherry tree sprouts blossoms in the spring, a soul so delicate that it can not bear harm to come to anyone—not even a loathsome insect.”

“Fortune herself has fallen in love with him. Born in the richest land the world has known, his family was wealthy even here. His schooling was the finest. His teachers were neither foolish nor envious; nor was he distracted by those common temptations of youth. After a thorough education, he was introduced to the finest minds of his age. They matched him against a worthy adversary in the form of a terrible disease. All his knowledge and inclinations gave him the means to confront this enemy of mankind and perhaps conquer it. Putting aside my modesty, I may even say that his luck extended to his choice of a wife: one not so beautiful as that curly haired darling of the Greeks, false Helen, but unmatched in doting love and pure fidelity.”

“And now some terrible, black creature attacks him—something from his own mind. I fear that such a man so favored by God and blessed by fortune cannot possibly walk through this chaotic world unmolested. Some great tragedy must await him. And yet I have hope. I have heard that catastrophes can purify the soul so that he who enters that hall of mirrors, which we call tragedy, emerges sometimes more perfect still.”




“Come now, Professor Leit, you needn’t be so secretive,” Captain Hugo is talking to Jerry in his lab. “We can put together most of your work from your published papers.”

“I just want some more time to think about this matter.”

“You know that we could have the Department of Defense order you to open your research to us; but General Harrison would prefer to keep this quiet. And that’s for your sake, Professor, to protect your interest in the findings.”

Jerry says nothing.

“I’d think that as an American you would want us to stay ahead of our enemies. It’s not as though their people haven’t read your research as carefully as we have. One of their scientists might surpass you, at least as far as weapons are concerned.”

“Yes, of course, I never thought about that.”


When you think about it, Captain Hugo, was right. Take a scientist like Newton. He invented calculus in order to prove his theories of gravitation. At the same time Leibnitz invented calculus independently in Germany. It may have taken the scientists of his day a decade or two to understand the laws of gravity, but they would have discovered them eventually. Or take Einstein. The math for his theories had already been invented. In a few years, some other scientist would have figured out relativity. Here’s my definition of a genius: A genius is a person who is 18 months ahead of his time.


“And think of the funding we can provide for you. You can achieve so much more if you will just cooperate with us.”

“Let me see what our next results are, and then I’ll talk to the general.”

Captain Hugo walks out of the lab, but first he pauses significantly in front of the closed door with the atom on it.




We see Captain Hugo in the hall. He pauses and says, “Now, it’s my turn. Two fools are about to collide and I will be there to gather the wreckage for my benefit. The first fool in General Harrison. He thinks only of country. What did this country of his ever do for him? Three bullets from the Nazis and a stay in a Korean prison. And yet he speaks of country. The bigger fool is Leit. Mankind haunts his brain. This spook, Mankind, would take the greatest pleasure in seeing Leit fed to lions in some arena. Country and mankind think only of themselves. If mankind gets hungry, it would eat these two and not give them another thought, unless one of them makes it burb. But not me. Captaim Hugo understands. I will gain the knowledge of the greater fool and the contacts of the lesser. With these, I will make myself rich. I’ll find a way. Perhaps our enemies would be interested in what Leit is doing. ‘Our enemies.’ They are no enemies of mine. They never took my money or told me what to do. They never held me back from my rightful place in this world. Two fools collide and I will be like the looter who finds some precious jewel after a train wreck.”




Back in the lab, Jerry is looking at the door with the atom on it. He’s taking a long time to enter the room and I figure that I’m about to see a special effect. I know I will believe whatever they show me. I don’t have to suspend my disbelief; I don’t have any natural disbelief. I have to force myself to be to be skeptical; maybe that’s why I’m so good at it. When I was six or seven I sent some boxtops from a cereal box to get a collection of plastic aliens in six to eight weeks. After the first week I would walk the quarter of a mile to our mail box on the farm hoping that they had come. When they came (in six to eight weeks) they were about two inches high in different colored plastic and they seemed real to me. I wish I had them now.

When Jerry opens the door, we see a collection of cages with experimental animals and here’s the shock. They are all wrong sizes: a giant dragonfly, an elephant the size of a cat, a hamster bigger as big as a german shephard, and a tiny giraffe. Apparently, this is the secret that Jerry is hiding from the general.

But that’s not all. Jerry is holding a capsule that is glowing an eiree red. I know that it was a black and white movie, but this pill is giving off a strange red glow. Maybe they painted it in.

“One little pill and my fat will be gone. I can return. Cindy and I can go back to that Eden I left so casually.”

He rolls the capsule around in his fingers considering its odd red glow. “But what if something goes wrong? What if? What if? What possible difference could it make? I have become a fat gorilla and all my dreams of curing cancer have been blown away by the hurricane of politics. Yes, I could become a great man, but not a nobel laureate, not a healer. I’d be known as ‘the father of the lithium bomb.’” He says this with as much sarcasm as the actor can manage.

Jerry swallows the pill and the red vanishes from the screen. “There was a city once, nearly a million people. There was a building in the city made of brick with a field of grass before it. One day in June a young man sat on the steps of that building waiting for a class to begin and looking out on the field. In the distance he saw a girl, Cindy; and with each step, her beauty increased. Maybe my mind can return to that sacred city. When I was a little smaller and the world was a little bigger, things were in balance then. It can not be that I should eat up the world and leave nothing for anyone else. I have tipped the scales too far. I must throw off the excess or I will surely plummet from the balance pan. In any case it makes no difference. ‘The ego wants to be recognized, but the soul wants to go back home.’ Whichever way I go will suit my taste.”




“Why do you think Professor Leit agreed to cooperate?”

“Who knows about these people?” General Harrison asks as he goes over a stack of papers. “There’s a fine line between genius and insanity.”


I’m not exactly sure what this cliche means. I think the idea is that genius is very similar to insanity, but it seems to me that you should say that there’s a large gray area between genius and insanity.


“No one can understand a mind like his,” Hugo says. “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.”

“Not even Leit can play with the world like a yoyo. Sooner or later we must all submit to reality. We are made to serve our fellow man, Hugo, either to pull them up a little closer to our own level or push them up above us.”

“Yes, general, that is so true,” Hugo agrees, but he has a villanous look in his eyes.

“There’s something wrong with this research, Hugo.”

“What do you mean?”

Harrison points to a blackboard with a vary impressive diagram on it. It shows some interlocking hexagons with letters on them; I think it’s supposed to represent an organic molecule. “It’s as though he created TX19 without any failures, as though he knew exactly what to do before he even started.”

“Could that be possible?”

“I suppose so,” Harrison replies, “but it isn’t very likely. His failures are more valuable to us than his success. About all we could do with this material is shrink our enemies’ tumors. That wouldn’t provide much of a deterrent. I don’t think Leit is being completely honest with us.” Harrison grabs some papers and walks out of the room.

Hugo studies the blackboard. “Ah ha, this Professor is playing a little game with us. I wish I knew the man who could look at a shadow and see the substance of the thing in all its three dimensions.”




In the next scene Jerry and Cindy are obviously happy and in love. I don’t remember if they’re on a boat or in a park, but it was a very sunny day. They were a cute couple: the atomic researcher and the young housewife. I would guess that she signed her notes to him with X’s and O’s. He may have lost some weight but I couldn’t tell. In any case, he tells her that he thinks he can avoid creating any weapons for the military. They chat happily for a while and then he mentions an odd thing. “I think my shoes are a little loose.”

“Maybe it’s just the weight you lost,” Cindy says.

“I suppose so, but it’s sort of strange. I think I’ll check it out.”


Consider a man, rich and happy, with dozens of friends and a loving family. Now put a stone in his shoe, a stone no bigger than a lemon seed. That same man will think of nothing but this tiny irritation. He will fix his whole mind on the one annoying thing in a universe of blessings. I know this to be true. I know it from personal experience.




Jerry is now in a shoe store looking at a fluoroscope. This is an instrument that is no longer used. You stand with your new shoes under some sort of beam and look through a scope that shows you the ghostly green outline of the shoes, your bones, and flesh. It’s a sort of X-ray machine they used to have in shoe stores to show how well your new leather shoes fit. I would guess that it wasn’t very dangerous unless you used it incorrectly, and, of course, children naturally used it incorrectly, viewing wallets, hands, whatever, the family pet, I suppose, or insects. It’s a wonder that my whole generation didn’t contract toe cancer.

Jerry stands with his shoes in the machine and turns it on. All of sudden his whole body turns an eiree green and you can see the inside of his body. Of course that special effect only lasts a second or two. They must have used the same technique as they did with the pill. Jerry reels back, faints, and falls on the floor.

The clerk props him up, “Are you OK, mister? Do you want some water or something?”

“No, no, I’ll be OK, just let me sit for a moment.”

Jerry makes it to a chair, But we see whirling pinwheels, a distorted vision of the store, and other signs that his mind is reeling.

“Is this what I have done to those poor animals? Every heartbeat is a bomb and they come faster than raindrops. But it’s worse when they slow down. This unnatural wamth slips away and the coldness of death takes its place. I’ve died a dozen times in the last five minutes. What sort of monster have I been? A mad scientist of the melodramas could not have been more callous. This is perfect justice, to feel the effects of my cruelty in my own body. I see this real and substantial world as nothing more than a picture in some forgotten photo album. It can not be real nor can it continue long. The lines blur and the snapshot fades.”




“What you have to say is very strange, captain Hugo, but how could it be of interest to my governement.” The thin man in the ill-fitting suit takes a long drag on his cigarette and exhales slowly.

“We are working on applying the technology to weapons right now; but certainly the formula is worth something by itself.”

“I’ll pass along what you say to my superiors, but until you have something more to show me, I don’t think they would be willing to pay much for it.” He examines Hugo closely through his iron-rimmed glasses, “And what am I to tell them of you? Who are you and why are you willing to do business with us? Do you sympathize with our cause, captain?”

“Of course not,” Hugo replies, “I am a small man, Mr. Smith, because I cannot believe any of your big lies. Harrison has his country. Leit has his humanity. You have your cause. These big lies make you big men because they give you the strength to ignore the little things: the taste of sausage, the feel of the sun on your face, the sight of money. You leave your warm beds on dreary mornings believing that you are doing God’s will, but the softness of my bed is quicksand to me. You pass by pretty girls without a glance, but each one draws me like a magnet. The smell of fresh oranges passes by you as so much air, but each smell has its own alchemy for me. You take what you need for your journeys, nothing more. I pile everything I can on to my creaking soul until I resemble an overloaded pickup truck with matresses and chairs tied on with twine. I can barely move uphill. I am a small man with only a small truth: the things of this world are a hundred times more beautiful than they need to be. My little truth has weighed me down. Your great lies have given you wings.”

Smith walks away slowly.

“Without its wings, though,” Hugo remarks so that the spy can not hear him, even the eagle is a pathetic creature, and the wings of flies are often entangled in the silky strands of the spider’s web.”




Jerry and Cindy are sitting in a doctor’s office, and I have to tell you that the only way I know that it’s a doctor’s office is because there’s a doctor in it, one with a white coat and a stethescope. They seemed to have skimped on the special effects in this scene. It’s a white room with one desk. At least my doctor has a chart giving the 7 warning signs of diabetes in his examining room, that and a blood pressure monitor and a cabinet with drawers.

“We’ve confirmed the fact that you’re shrinking Mr. Leit.”

“I already know that; I’ve lost more than 2 inches.”

“Well, as far as I can tell, your metabolism has increased and instead of eating the fat from your system, your body seems to be taking energy from all the cells equally. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Is there anything we can do, doctor,” Cindy asks.

“For the time being, all I can suggest is that you eat more. You know, milk shakes, red meat, lots of fat. I can also give you these pills that may slow your metabolism some.” The doctor hands Jerry a small bottle of pills.

Jerry examines them and says, “Tranquilizers, I don’t need tranquilizers, I’ve never felt less nervous.”

“I’ll keep looking into the problem. Let’s hope it’s just a temporary phenomenon, but, in the meantime, we might be able to slow the progression.”

“I don’t know, doctor, sometimes I feel as though it really doesn’t matter. Maybe this is just some sort of natural adjustment.”

“Don’t talk like that, Jerry,” Cindy breaks in, “we’ve got to try everything.”

“Of course, I know,” Jerry says, “but I just have these feelings sometime.”




“The fluoroscope must have acted as an accellerator.”

“Was it painful?” Horatio asks.

“No, not painful, but my heart was pounding and I had this sense of unreality and I thought that I was about to die. No, not die exactly. I had this sense of dread, a fear of something worse than death. On top of that, I felt too tired and heavy to move.”

“Do you think we can use this effect?”

“I’ve been thinking about that, Horatio, and it seems to me that we may be able to reduce the dose.”

Jerry walks over to a cage with a St. Bernard in it.

“I put a 1000th of an ounce of the original TX19 on the dog’s skin. Now I’m going to use the fluoroscope on it.”

Jerry produces something that looks like a flashlight with a large bulb in it, points it at the animal, and turns it on. A pulsating beam of green light makes the dog glow. Within a few moments the dog starts shrinking. We see the special effect in a few seconds: the St. Bernard looks like a very well-fed, and very hairy chihuahua.

“I think I see,” Horatio says, “if we could direct a tiny amount of the drug and the beam toward the tumor we could destroy it without all the side effects that we’ve been getting.”

“Yes, we could do that and something else.”

“What’s that, Jerry?”

“A plane could spray an army with a pound or two of TX19 and then aim the fluoroscope at the soldiers and immobilize them in seconds.”

“You’re thinking like General Harrison now.”

“Maybe I’ve been too extreme. Maybe I’ve been too extreme about a lot of things. Tell me, Horatio, you don’t have any romantic interest in Cindy, do you?”

“Jerry? How can you ask me such a thing. You know that you are my best friend. I could never even think of anything like that.”

“Of course, I know that. It’s just that I was working so hard that . . . well, maybe I was beginning to go a bit crazy.”




Have you ever been measured against a door jam with a ruler on the top of your head? You looked with satisfaction at the little horizontal marks that indicated your previous heights. That’s how Cindy was measuring Jerry, ruler and all.

“You lost another inch in the past two days, Jerry.”

“That’s 5 inches altogether.”

“Are you worried, Jerry?”

“No, that’s the funny thing. It’s as though I am losing some sort illness, as though I had a tumor that was shrinking.”

They sit at the kitchen table; Jerry takes her hand and looks into her eyes. “I think that I’ve been sick, sick in my mind. I’ve thought of nothing but my work, and now that I look into your eyes, I see that I have been a fool. I can still work but I’m no longer obsessed with my work. Can I tell you something? It may sound crazy.”

“Of course, you can tell me anything.”

“I believe that I was possessed by some demon. I have spent sleepless nights and cheerless days in hopes of winning the approval of mankind, mankind! What is this ghost mankind? It is nothing more than people I see around me. Consider an evil, violent man. As a simple man, I would do everything in my power to make his life as miserable as possible. I want nothing from him other than his hasty departure from the planet. But as a piece of mankind he becomes the beneficiary of all my labors; he becomes my heir, more important to me than my own natural children. Is this not a form of possession: to spend hours in weary labor for a man that I hate?”

“And then I think of a certain woman. If I spied her on the street, I would quickly turn and walk three blocks out of my way rather than say ‘Hello’ to her. Finally I turn to you. There are people who shine, who glow, and attract all the world to themselves. A man may work at a boring job for 50 weeks a year and then go on a vacation. If he should but see such a person, he would account his year a great success. If such a person smiled at him and said ‘Hi,’ he would lock that moment in his memory and guard it as a miser protects his gold. And then, on his deathbed, he would gather his grandchildren around him and say, ‘Yes, I have had a good life, and I will tell you now of that day when she once said ‘Hi’ to me and we chatted.’”

“If I die tommorow, my bravest boast will be, ‘Cindy once said Hi to me.’”

“And now, will you come with me where I can demonstrate the depths of my love?”

Well, as my wife says, there is no flattery too extravagant for a cat, or a human being; and so they walk off, and, I suppose, make love.

After a decent interval, Cindy appears alone in the living room. “This is what I have always dreamed of. This is the happiest day of my life.

Happiest day of my life? Is that a blessing or a curse? To say that this is the worst day of my life would be to look forward to a more fortunate future, but to say the best day is to make my future nothing but nostalgia. Well, who knows, perhaps tomorrow will be better than today. The cut rose may delight us for a week or so, and who is to say that no new flower will bloom? I have made up my mind to look no farther than tomorrow and tomorrow may, indeed, be brighter than today.




“What happened to you?” General Harrison asks.

“I’m shrinking.”


“Yes,” Leit replies, “I experimented on myself, just to lose some weight, but the experiment got out of hand.”

“What have you lost? I mean how much have you shrunk?”

“I’m about 6 inches shorter than I used to be.”

“When will it stop? Do you know?”

“I haven’t the slightest idea, but I don’t think of it as shrinking anymore. I think of it as concentrating myself, distilling my essence.”

“Are you crazy?”

“Crazy? I don’t know. I think maybe I was crazy before.”

“You could die, Leit, die.” Harrison says, “Don’t you understand?”


I have this theory about humans. Well, it’s not really a theory in the sense that I believe it; it’s more of scenario. You see, everyone wonders what life is all about: Why are we here? What’s the meaning of life? That sort of thing. Suppose that there is a race of spiritual beings that are immortal and live somewhere outside our universe. After a few hundred thousand years, these people might get a little bored.

In order to have a some entertainment they set up an amusement park, and just like the amusement parks here, the rides are scary. Earth is their amusement park and the thrill is death. These beings are born into mortal bodies without any memory of their true natures. The ride is to live a life with death at the end of it and the possibility of death all around it. There’s also pain and unhappiness for added twists.

When a person dies, he immediately goes back to the immortal realm. Once there, he remembers the life he lived on Earth. The beings probably swap stories and brag about the death and pain they underwent. “Yeah, muscular dystrophy. Talk about suffering. I died a horrible death that lasted for years.” Then his companion might counter, “Well, at least you had friends and family around you. I was put in a concentration camp and worked and starved by fiends and eventually I was gassed and dumped into a mass grave.” You get the idea. What we call pain and misery is their idea of an amusing, harmless diversion.


Leit looks at the general and says, “Die, I don’t think so. I think I’m just going to keep getting smaller and more concentrated until I become like a subatomic particle.”

“That’s an interesting theory. But tell me, Professor, you haven’t been cooperating with us completely, have you? You’ve withheld data on your failures.”

“Yes, that’s true. I destroyed some formulas and findings, but I did provide you with the important material.”

Harrison examines Leit minutely; there’s a closeup of his face. “Did you destroy the data before or after you experimented on yourself.”

“A little bit after, but I don’t see any harm in giving you that material now. I had some strange ideas before I . . . before I lost weight. If I can just reconstruct my previous research, you’re welcome to it.”

“I’m happy to hear that, professor.”

“I’m sorry that I was so uncooperative, general. If you give me a few days I’ll see what I can remember.”

Leit leaves the general alone in the laboratory. He walks to the blackboard and examines a drawing of an organic molecule. “Well, this is the end of Professor Leit. His mind is gone. There was once a time when everything was holy, when the trees and rivers were full of spirits. But these scientists probed them and poked them and took them apart and uncovered their mysteries. They chased the gods out of nature and provided us with truth and the power that truth engenders.”

“But these are different days. These thinkers turn their thoughts inward and try to discover the truth of man. They err in ignoring the spirit within us all. They think that we are nothing more than laboratory rats. But if we are nothing more, they are nothing more. This a cannibal dining on his own foot: will he consume his own mouth with his final bite? Leit has become experiment and experimenter all in one, and now he suffers the inevitable consequence. He looks at his own mind under the microscope and sees his thoughts reflected back, the very thoughts he is investigating. Two mirrors reflecting each other into infinity. Madness is the logical result of such logic.”




“Ten thousand dollars?” Hugo asks Mr. Smith increduously as they huddle in a dark alley.

“That’s all I’ve been authorized to offer you.”

“That’s not enough. You’ll have to do better than that.”

“If you could offer something of military value, Hugo, we could go higher, a lot higher.”


I’ve heard that criminals are not necessarily stupid; they just have trouble imagining the future. It’s called a “short time horizon.” Tomorrow may exist in their minds but next week is just too far in the future for them to imagine. The average criminal will stick up a convenience store or a gas station for a hundred dollars at the risk of a year or so in jail. The more ambitious criminal is not much better. He will try to rob a bank for, say, $20,000 at the risk of a few years in prison. On average, he’d be better at a minimum wage job.

Here’s my advice to those who want to pursue a career in illegality. Get a job with a bank or an armored car company or somewhere around cash. Be completely honest and reliable. Never steal so much as a pencil. Never lie. Regard your work as a holy calling. After a year or two of conversation and observation, you will have figured out the crime with the greatest likelihood of success.

Here are some points to ponder:

1. It makes no sense to commit a crime that won’t vastly improve the way you live.

2. Committing two crimes doubles the probability of failure.

3. Vicious crimes provoke strong penalties.

4. The use of certain weapons (however necessary) may increase your sentence.

5. Certain states and localities are much more “criminal friendly” than others.

6. Accomplices increase the probability of being caught.

7. Killing a witness may be the safest course in certain circumstances.

8. Understanding how the law works in your area may be the most important factor in planning a crime.

Nonviolent crimes probably offer the greatest rewards with the least risk but they require the same sort of forethought that is distasteful to the criminal mind. There are so many things for a young person to consider when contemplating a life of crime that it may be easier just to be honest.


“Well,” Captain Hugo says, “I’m certainly not going to sell you this information for $10,000, but keep in touch. I might have something you’ll be more interested in.”

“I think I know you well enough to tell you something.”

“What’s that?” Hugo asks.

“I don’t like you. You are an empty person. You believe in nothing. And the reason I can tell you that is because you don’t even believe in yourself enough to be offended.”

“You are correct, Mr. Smith. We can still do business. Whatever offense I might feel is less important than your government’s money.”

Mr. Smith disappears into the alley, leaving Hugo alone.

“An empty person? I speak. I act. My words and deeds must come from someplace. How am I to construe this emptiness that he speaks of? Perhaps he means that I do not take enough into myself. And yet, I hear as well as he does and can see what he sees. What sense can I make of this word, empty? This Mr. Marxist Smith would use the dialectical method. Good. I shall take General Harrison as the thesis and I will be the antithesis. How is Harrison fuller than I?”

“From the time he drinks his first hot cup of coffee in the morning, Harrison is in a perpetual dialogue with someone or other. He does nothing but converse: meetings, phone calls, explanations, orders, and excuses. There is something in both of us that interprets the words we hear, but Harrison never listens to his own voice speaking to himself, nor does he speak to his own mind. His ears are so filled with the words of other people that he believes that their thoughts are his own. He has posted a sentry outside his mind to prevent any personal, private thought from entering. I, on the other hand, give no credence or weight to any word that has not originated within myself.”

“So this is what makes me empty: I do not fill myself up with the words, thoughts, and philosophies of other people. Our Mr. Smith overflows with his cause; but is it truly his cause? No, it the cause of a dead, discredited philosopher. When he calls me empty, then, he means that I am empty of other people’s thoughts and words. I am empty of what is alien to me and, as such, I am alien to him. Unless I make another person’s thoughts my thoughts, he thinks I have no thoughts, that I am empty. Yes, indeed, I am empty, without form and void. This is the emptiness that the universe was built from.”




“No, Jerry, not now.” Cindy pushes Jerry away. In this scene Jerry is about 2 inches shorter than his wife.

“What’s wrong? You always wanted to be with me before.”

“I’m not your therapy. I’m not the cure for your disease.”

“Disease? You think that there’s something wrong with me?”

“Yes, Jerry, you used to be so . . . big. I don’t mean physically. I mean you were so strong. You were so full of ideas and plans. You used to overflow, but now you seem to need me so much. You have become this vacuum that is sucking the life from me.”

“So that’s how things are. So long as I can provide goods and services, I’m acceptable in your eyes, but as soon as I need a little something from you, you don’t want anything to do with me.”

“No, Jerry, that’s not it. This is all so strange to me. You’ve changed. You don’t look at things the same way. I know this may not be right but I used to think of you as some glowing star from whom I could draw warmth and strength. But now, well, you are like me. We have become equal.”

“Equal? Is that so terrible?”

“Is it fair for me to feel this way? No. Is it right? No. But, Jerry, it is human. You must give me some time to adjust to what’s going on.”

Jerry pulls himself up to his full height and declares, “But I did it for you: for you. So that you would love me.” With these words, he walks out, slamming the door.

Cindy picks up a picture of the absent Jerry and addresses it. “If I could decide to be in love with you again, I’d do it in a second. You deserve at least that much from me. If I could will to want you, I would.” She puts it face down on the table. “But such things are not in our power. How strange! We can, with a single bomb, destroy a city or make a structure of steel, bigger than barn, fly miles high above the ever-changing clouds. But we can not alter our emotions. So many times people have said to me, ‘Don’t worry,’ and ‘Cheer up,’ as though they were asking me to pass the salt. There may be some sages who have it in their power to change their feelings, but I am particularly weak in this area. I have not developed whatever mental muscles are necessary to this task.”

“I am one of those who can not even go to a dentist without dread. As the moment approaches me, I can think of nothing else. The time of fear becomes, in my weak mind, like some black monster. As it approaches, it grows larger and blots out any pleasant future prospect. Closer still, it fills every thought. My eyes see nothing; my ears hear nothing. There is only the monster. And then, in a minute, it passes through me like a dark fog, and I can not even remember what it was.”

“When I see him now, I want only to flee, flee into the muscular arms of . . . another man? That is something that I have never so much as thought of before. How can this be? I would endure pain for Jerry; boredom, hunger, and thirst would mean nothing to me for his sake. Were he sick, I would care for him. Were he penniless, I would find work to provide him with whatever he wanted. Why am I so distressed now? Why am I so angry?”

“Yes, I fear the dentist, but I go. I go and no one can see my fear. Perhaps I can put makeup on mind and show a soul of love as actresses displays a face of beauty. If I cannot love him with my heart, I can at least love with my will.”




Jerry is sitting behind the wheel of his car, but his face comes up only to the steering wheel. “Red, red. Why do they call the color of jealousy green when all I can see is red? I’m not so small. Other women may find me attractive. Perhaps I should find someone now.”


This business of infidelity is hard to understand. Let’s say that you had a business partner and that you were fairly successful. This partner asks you not to have sex with a certain person. You might be offended and give up your business, but in most cases, you would say “OK” for the sake of the money you were making. Now suppose that this partner of yours not only was your business partner, but was also your friend, your roommate, and had sex with you. Going against this partner’s wishes would be a monumental decision. Cheating on your wife should be even more important. I’ve observed that people who are unfaithful invest little importance in the act. Antony cheated on his wife (the sister of Augustus) and so incurred the future emporer’s wrath and lost his share of world rulership. But he calculated the cost. Cleopatra, as she was dying, said, “‘Tis paltry to be Caesar,” or so Shakespeare wrote. My feeling is that most acts of infidelity are as well thought out as the eating of one more potato chip.

I don’t mean to be indelicate, but I have to point out that people can achieve the same sexual sensations without the aid of another person. I can’t get into people’s minds, though. What, then, drives them to infidelity? Perhaps if I could see their inner landscapes, I would understand. If I knew what sex meant to a particular person, it might be clear. If I could look into souls as people stare at clouds, maybe I would see some parched desert that needed watering.

And then there’s the whole business of forgiving. Once again, I’m faced with a quandry. Is sex very important or is it unimportant? Let’s say that it’s very important, then infidelity is a very serious matter. But what if it is ultimately unimportant? The one cheated on is simply wrong to regard it as important. The cheater still shows his contempt by committing a trivial act that is very serious in the eyes of his mate. It is as though a man were to make a point of buying brown eggs when his wife specifically asked for white ones. I think that some women want their men to be godlike. Other women, though, may prefer to be in the position of the long-suffering forgiver, to have a permanent upper hand. These questions are really too much for me. All I know is that people do what they want to do. The details are too complicated.


Jerry tries to move the seat forward and then in desperation prays, “Please, God, just let my feet touch the pedals.” He buries his head in his hands for a few seconds and then lifts it up again in despair. “And then what? Would I drive to California? To Alaska? There’s no escape. I can never drive away from myself, and each day, each minute, I am becoming more myself. Maybe I am destined to return to that single, fertilized egg from which I grew?

‘Grew?’ Did I grow or did I simply pick up layer upon layer of accretion from this alien world? Did my wife once love me or did she love her own reflection in my eyes? ‘My wife?’ She was never mine. Like me, she adjusted to me and I to her. And yet, I seem to remember that I loved her.”

Jerry opens the door and steps out of the car. “This is new to me. I think my heart is breaking and yet I must be patient. I’ve never know heartbreak; perhaps there are good things also that I have never known.”


This reminds me of a poem I wrote:


I cannot hear the songs you sing

Because your hearts have all been broken.


We can say red or hot or soft and be pretty sure that other people know what we mean. But when we talk about being in love or having your heart broken, I’m not sure we are communicating as well. A broken heart is probably easier to describe. Say a 5-year-old had some marshmallows toasted over a fire for the first time. A little later, he wants some more, but there are no more. We call his all-encompassing sadness mixed with desire being heart-broken. The younger you are, the more keenly you feel emotions. I suppose that’s why babies cry so often. Being in love is a little different. I fall in love every so often. I see a girl (I should say woman here, but that word would not give you the idea of how I feel) and something just goes off in my heart. It only lasts for a few seconds though. To tell you the truth, I frequently fall in love with my wife. I think other people use the word to describe a longer lasting feeling. Of course, the emotion is still very transitory whether it lasts for 3 seconds or 3 weeks. I believe other people may use in love to mean something permanent (and constant), but that use is generally negative, as in, “I love you, but I’m not in love with you any more.”




Jerry starts walking down the sidewalk when a car pulls up to him and stops. Captain Hugo leans over to him and says, “Professor Leit?”

Jerry turns and sees who it is.

“General Harrison needs you down at the lab right away.”

“Harrison? What’s he want me for?”

“I’m not sure but I think it has to do with your cancer research. I think he may have discovered something that will be helpful.”

Jerry enters the front seat of the car and drives off with Hugo.

“So it’s true, professor, you’ve been shrinking?”

“I’m afraid so and there’s something else. I’m afraid my memory is not as good as it used to be.”

“How bad is it?”

“Well, I still remember some of my research but I can’t recall details the way I once could. You know, captain, I used to be able to rattle off the whole periodic table and the electrons’ orbits and all the possible ions, but now I’m not sure I couldn’t tell you much about molydenum, I mean, except the atomic number, of course. I used to have the logarithm tables memorized 4 digits deep. It was handy for calculations, but I think that I’d need a slide rule now.”

“That doesn’t sound too bad.”

“No, not too bad. I think maybe I’m making room in brain for more important things.”

“Harrison says that you were holding out on us, that you knew more about TX19 than you told us.”

“Yes, that’s true. I didn’t keep very good notes on our original work and I didn’t really want to help you. I think I had political ideas; it all seems sort of pointless now.”

Hugo turns the handle of the laboratory door, but Jerry grabs his hand and pulls it away. I estimate that Jerry is about 5 feet tall by this time.

“Wait. Something’s wrong. That door shouldn’t be open.”

“What do you mean?”

“That door is always locked. No one can get in but me. Not even Horatio.”

“Harrison must have unlocked it.”

“No, I’m the only one who can unlock that door.”

“I’m sorry to say this, Professor, but you said that you’ve been forgetting things lately.”

“No, I’d never forget that; that room is more than half my life.”

“OK, professor, I’ll go in and you hide out here for a few minutes. If there’s a problem, call the police.”

Hugo walks into the lab and turns on the light. Finally, he emerges and says, “Everything’s OK.” Jerry follows him into the lab and Hugo slams the door behind him.

“You are very perspicacious, my little friend.”

“What do you mean?” Jerry asks.

“Something is wrong, very wrong, and that something is me. I am the villain in the drama of your life.”

“The villain?”

“Yes, and you are going to provide me with all the information on TX19. My interest is more pecuniary than humanitarian.”

“And if I don’t?”

“You will eventually, one way or another, if you understand.”

“Forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

“What is that supposed to mean, professor?”

“I’ve prayed that prayer thousands of times, and the thought occurred to me that no one had ever tresspassed against me. I have never known unhappiness for more than a minute that was not entirely my fault. It appears as though I am going to learn what those words mean.”

“There’s no need for you to suffer now if you will just cooperate with me.”

Captain Hugo grabs the diminutive Jerry by the wrist and drags him to the door with the atom on it. He opens it and pulls him in. Beside the cages with the freakish animals is another cell about 5 feet high. Hugo opens the door to it, pushes Jerry into it, and locks it.

“I may be a villain, professor, but look at your handiwork. You have been playing God, and not very well I would say, judging from the results.”

“These are test animals, Hugo; we are trying to cure cancer. Do you need to pretend that I am some sort of monster in order soothe your conscience?”

“Conscience? Why would I need a conscience. Every time I reached out to grab a piece of candy, some one was there to slap my hand. If the lion had a conscience, it would starve to death. No, professor, I have no conscience: I am innocent, as innocent as a spider.”

“Ah, a very philosophical villain.”

“And now, you will fill me in on the details of your research, the ones you kept from Harrison.”

“I’m afraid that you are going to have to do your worst; I simply can’t remember anything, not even the final formula that I gave the general.”

“I didn’t think that I could count on your cooperation, professor; that’s why I prepared a little something for you.”

Captain Hugo pulls Jerry’s arm through the bars of the cage and injects him with a syringe.

“I just gave you a combination of sodium pentothal and LSD. I think you will become more talkive now.”


There are times when truth serum or a lie detector would be useful, but my wife Susan assures me that sodium pentathol does not work. When she had a tooth out once with that drug, she made a point of telling lies and had no difficulty whatsoever.


The screen shows the room as melting and the animals as changing sizes. We are apparently looking at the world through Jerry’s drug-soaked brain.

“OK, Professor Leit,” Hugo says, “Where can I find the notes on your previous experiments?”

“Why should I tell you? You’re not my father.”

Hugo is taken aback. “You’re wrong, Jerry; I am your father.” Apparently Hugo is using psychology.

“Your words are a sort aquamarine, like a swimming pool. My father’s words are dark brown. And beside, my father is dead.”

“You’re mistaken, Jerry; I’m very much alive. Now be a good boy and tell me what you’ve been up to.”

“Up to? I’m up to 7 times 7, but I don’t know what 7 times 8 is. I think it’s 56 but that doesn’t seem right.”

“Don’t think about math now. Think about your notes. You want to please your father don’t you?”

“I’m not sure. I did want to please my father once. I wanted him to be proud of me. Do you know that I can hear your face? It’s strange that an evil person like you should have such a melodious face.”

“Research, Jerry, remember you’re research.”

“Research. Why do they call it research? Why not just search? Do we know everything already? Re-member. Re-call. I must have searched it all before, when I was that embryo to which I am returning. All I have been doing is re-searching. Give me a few more months, and I will know it all. Don’t be in such a hurry.”

“Try to concentrate.”

“It’s not easy but I think I understand. In the beginning there is the word, the one word that contains all words. Then the egg is fertilized and the word becomes the mind and the mind is ten million true words. Then the mind splits into two cells. The cells keep splitting, exploding a body from the mind, and there’s not much left over. You see, the body is nothing but an electromagnetic blueprint. And the blueprinet came from the word.

“This isn’t getting us anywhere. I must have given him too much.”

“I’m sure that we are getting somewhere, but I don’t know if somewhere is anywhere.”


I can’t understand why anyone would take hallucinogenic drugs. Of course, I also can’t understand why anyone would take uppers, but I am not averse to a few beers. Maybe we have such powerful, complicated brains that they tend to be a little bit out tune. Some people are just born with a 6-pack deficiency. Others people seem to need the stimulation of coffee, cocaine, or roller coasters.

Our brains are really quite extraordinary. Just think of all the things we learn before we are six. I was not intimidated by the prospect of teaching my children calculus. I had a step by step plan. But how, I wondered, could I possibly teach them to tie their shoes? And yet, they learned easily.

Superintelligent aliens are a common theme of science fiction. I’m inclined to believe that we probably have about as much raw brain power as possible. Neanderthals had bigger brains, and you could say that Cro-Magnon people invented modern man. The human species has probably been declining in absolute brain power for some time as we keep more and more people alive and breeding. Suppose that aliens had the technology to visit Earth. Their scientific knowledge would allow them to live very comfortable lives, no matter how stupid they were. They would have the technology to save the lives of very weak people, weak physically and mentally. They would also have the wealth to provide for people who couldn’t contribute to their society. I’ve read that evolution causes unused traits to atrophy although I don’t know why that would be. Space aliens may be very feeble minded, indeed. Maybe the UFOs that everyone sees are kidnapping Earth people for their brain power.




Captain Hugo walks out of the lab leaving Jerry in the cage. Through the melting room and strange visions, Jerry sees his fluoroscope on the floor. He manages to squeeze himself out between the bars; he has probably become smaller during the scene. Jerry finds a vial of red fluid, apparently the shrinking drug, and fills the syringe with it. He grabs the fluoroscope and hides behind the cages.

Captain Hugo returns and finds the cage empty. As he is looking around, Jerry attacks him from behind and rams the needle into his arm. He backs up and shines the fluoroscopic light at him. “What’s that,” demands Hugo as he rubs his arm.

“You’ll find out soon enough, captain.”

Hugo stalks toward Jerry but just as he grabs him, he is overwhelmed by his own serious of hallucinations: crucifixes, scorpians, gigantic fruit. He falls to the floor.

“You will soon have the knowledge you wanted so badly, captain.”


They say that what goes arounds comes around and that seems to be true in a lot of movies. I’ve noticed, however, that what goes around comes around fairly slowly, if at all, in real life.

It’s probably best not expect justice. Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” I’m not clear whether this is meant to be conforting or threatening. I think that it’s perfectly easy to live a wicked live without the slightest sense of doing anything wrong. Modern people seem to believe that they are more virtuous than those of any past generation; many from the past would have regarded today’s population as very wicked. Morals seem to go in and out of fashion as clothing does. My practice is to avoid righteousness at all costs. I must say, though, that it would be interesting to see the Final Judgement. Who are the righteous? Who are the wicked? Of course, it would all be from God’s point of view, and what makes God’s judgement better than mine? Is He smarter? Stronger? Older? Yes, yes, and yes, but so are a lot of people on Earth and I wouldn’t accept them as being necessarily better than I am. This Final Judgement, then, is when I will judge whether God is more virtuous than I am. I guess that’s blasphemous and that I’ll be sorry, but first I want to see.


Jerry slips out of the door as Hugo recovers himself. “So I must follow Leit into his minature maze. Unfortunate man! It seems that the pay for villainy is no better than the wages of virtue. And now the professor is a witness to my crimes. One thing is clear: Leit must die; either that or I must face a double disgrace. I cannot bear the thought of being a tiny felon imprisoned in cricket cage.”




Jerry awakens from his hidden bed under some yew bushes. He views a black and white sunrise. The things of the natural world are so much more beautiful and complicated than the creations of mankind, but, when it comes to sunrises and sunsets, it looks as though God is just showing off. None of the purple suns or grass green skies of science fiction can match a terrestrial sunrise. Take some garish pinks and purples, add luminous blues and reds, and put them together in improbable combinations; you will create a complete mess in the worst of taste. But somehow, God makes it work every time.

Jerry regards the sky, which is streaked with different shades of gray in the movie, “I’ve lived to see another day. How did I get into this situation? Let’s see. I was angry with Cindy because she didn’t desire me. I petulantly stalked out of the house. And then, when I was alone, Hugo took the opportunity to grab me. If I had been more sensible, I would be deciding between pancakes and eggs this very minute. Now the questions that confront me regard my very survival. I am not even 3 feet tall. I’m several miles from home. No doubt Hugo is still pursuing me, and who knows what other dangers lurk between me and home?”

“Suppose, though, that I had just gone to sleep and pulled up the quilt on my comfortable bed. I would certainly not be thanking God to see the sunrise. I would be feeling sorry for myself that Cindy cannot love me anymore. What a fool I was! If she lets me back I will call down blessings on her lovely head and be happy to strew rose petals at her second marriage. Three feet tall! I am going to the land of the inhuman and must leave those passing emotions behind me. The journey is long; I must not weigh myself down. Thank you, God, for my petulance. Thank you, God, for my rashness. Sometimes the fool learns faster than the wise man.”




“Jerry! Jerry! Can you hear me?” Cindy is shouting. Captain Hugo approaches her.

“Mrs. Leit, I’m Captain Hugo; do you remember meeting me?”

“Of course, captain, have you seen Jerry?”

“No, I haven’t, and I’m looking for him myself. I was just on my way to your house. The professor was supposed to see General Harrison this morning and he didn’t show up and there was no answer at your house.”

“I’ve been out most of the night looking for him.”

“What happened?”

“Oh, captain, we had a fight last night. He left and didn’t come back.”


I can tell you that it takes a very cold man to give up on an argument with his wife. I don’t see how a person can just run off and do something else and forget the fight. You could go out and walk and feel sorry for yourself while a cold rain falls on you for a while. Even that is a limited source of amusement. You just have to go back and argue some more. Fighting with your wife is like eating M&Ms: You can’t stop until you make yourself sick.

“His condition must be very difficult for him, and you, too.”

“I’m afraid that it’s worse than just his shrinking. He’s changing in his mind and I’m not strong enough to accept it.”

Hugo takes her hand, “You shouldn’t add to your problems by worrying about your feelings. Of course, it’s difficult. Just accept the way you feel about it.”

“I saw something last night that I should never have seen. I saw my husband as a human being. I know that it’s a monstrous thing to say, but I had always thought of him as higher, bigger, better than just another human.”

“You shouldn’t feel bad about yourself. Maybe he will get better,” it seems as though Hugo genuinely wishes Jerry a recovery.

“It doesn’t matter anymore. I also saw something ugly in myself.”

“No,” Hugo interrups, “you mustn’t talk that way.”

“Whatever happens now, I know that things have changed.”

“Perhaps not, everything may work out for the best.”

“Yes, I’m sure it will, but whose ‘best’ will it work out for? I was in a false paradise, deceiving my husband and being deceived by him.”

“I’m sure that you’re overstating the problem. It can’t be that bad.”

“I owned the world once. Now I have been banished from the garden and made to wander. I must learn to be strong.”

“You need rest.”

“I see the angel now and say, ‘I don’t need another Eden. Put your flaming sword away.’”

“Let me help you back to your home.”

“Help me find Jerry.”

“If that’s what you want. You look over in the park there. I’ll check the different routes between his office and his home. He can’t have gone far.”

As Cindy leaves, Captain Hugo looks after her and says, “Lucky, lucky man, to have such a wife. Good fortune must attract good fortune as ill fortune attracts ill. If the universe were subject to such laws, what would we have? It would be entirely cold, empty, and barren, with the exception of a few bright spheres, firey and round from their gluttonous gulping of everything around them: and so it is. This gives me a reason to hate Professor Leit; if you plan to kill a person, it’s good to hate him. He has helped himself to all the roast beef at the table and left me with a few cold potatos.”




Jerry is scurrying among bushes and stealthfully crossing roads and making his way toward home when a large, vague, shadowy figure comes up from behind him, throws a shirt over his head, and carries him off. We next see him at the mouth of a drainage pipe. A 10- to 12-year-old boy is keeping him in with a large rock. You can just see Jerry’s face between the top of the rock and that top of the pipe.

“Get the cat out,” the boy demands.

“What are talking about?”

“The cat ran into the pipe and I’m too big to get it out. You have to get it out for me.”

“I’m a grownup, kid. You can’t tell me what to do.”

“No you’re not; you’re smaller than me.”

“Didn’t you see my face?”

“I want the cat back.”

“What’s your name, kid?”


“OK, Will, why did the cat run in here?”

“I don’t know,” Will replies with a certain shiftiness.

“Don’t you think the cat may have run out the other end?”

“There’s only one end to this pipe.”

“Are you sure, Will?”

“Go in and get the cat,” Will is obviously loosing patience.

“I’m not going anywhere. This pipe is dark and small and wet. Now let me out.”

“No, not until I get the cat.” Will pokes at Jerry with a stick and he has to retreat into the pipe.

Jerry peeks back out when he hears two voices. “What do have in the pipe, Will?”

“Yeah, what’s behind the rock?”

“Some kid,” Will says, “He won’t get the cat out.”


“The cat ran into the pipe.”

“Oh? Hey, Will, this is no kid. He’s some kind of midget.”

“Who are you?” Jerry asks.

“I’m Carl and that’s Frank,” Carl indicates his friend, a Black boy. They are all the same age, about 11, I’d say.

“Is there something wrong with Will,” Jerry asks.

“Will? Yeah. He’s retarded.”

“Get him to let me out of here, will you?”

“Sure,” Carl says.

“Wait a minute, Carl, I know that guy. He’s a professor at the university.” Frank says.


You don’t see many Black characters in 1950s movies, but there are a few of them. Movie makers are much more sensitive to racial issues now, but the problem of prejudice is sort of strange. When my daughter was 4 or 5 she saw a green car with Pennsylvania plates on it and asked me if all cars from Pennsylvania were green. I think that example shows how our minds learn so fast. We make the most outrageous generalizations and then modify them later. It turns out that all numbers divisible by 5 end in a 5 or a 0; but most generalizations need to be modified.

It’s hardly possible for people not to make assumptions about groups of people that look different from them. And, of course, everyone notices and remembers negative traits more than positive ones. People are going to make judgements, prejudgements. If I see a White person dressed in full biker attire and a Black person in a suit, I will naturally be inclined think less of the biker than the suitwearer. I would say that clothing trumps skin color in the game of prejudice. A racist is someone who thinks worse of the Black despite his clothes. Of course, if a dirty black biker smiles at me and says, “How are you doing, Al,” well, he’s obviously a good guy. My grandmother used to say, “Short people are stuck on themselves.” Who knows?


“Hey, mister,” Frank says, “Help us with our math homework.”

“Are you crazy, kid? This guy is kidnapping me. That’s a felony.”

“You’re a teacher, mister, you should help us; it’s your job,” Frank argues.

“I’ll do no such thing. Now you let me out of here or you’re all going to be in big trouble.”

Carl moves in a little closer. “You know how to do algebra, right? And we know how to get you back to your house without anyone noticing. Of course it will take us about half an hour, so it’s only fair that you help us out.”

“OK, OK,” Jerry gives in, “Let’s get this over with, and then you take me home.”

“Here’s the first problem,” Frank says, looking at an algebra book. “7x + 22 = 3x + 14.”

“The first thing you do is group like terms; so we subtract 3x from both sides.”

“No, no, no,” Frank complains, “We just want the answer.”

“That’s right, mister,” Carl adds, “We don’t want a lecture.”

“What good will that do you?” Jerry asks.

“We won’t have to do our homework,” Carl explains.

“But then you won’t know how to do it.”

“We don’t want to know how to do it, we just want it done,” It’s clear that Frank is beginning to think that there’s something wrong with Leit.

“x equals -2.”

“Has he gotten the cat yet?” Will enquires.

“That’s less than nothing; I don’t remember anything about -2. Do you remember anything, Frank?”

“Yeah, I think Packer said something about minus numbers.”

“Let’s write it down,” Carl says. “Ask him one of those word problems; they’re the worst.”

“OK, Number 8. A train was going West. It started at 45 miles per hour for 2 hours . . .”

Another voice interrupted Franklin, “What do have there?”

“It’s some kind of midget.”

“Let me look.” A slightly older boy moves his face in front of Jerry.

“Did you get the cat?” Will demands from behind everyone.

“Shut up, Will.”

“Who are you,” Jerry asks the new boy.

“I’m Tom.”

“Look, Tom, your friends have me trapped here and they don’t seem to understand that it’s a crime to keep me here.”

“Why are you guys keeping him in there?” Tom asks.

“We were going to let him out as soon as he did our math homework,” Frank explains.

“You know what? We could charge the kids around here a quarter just to look at him.”

“You’re crazier than they are,” Jerry yells.

“We’ll give you a share,” Tom tells him.

“I don’t want a share.”

“Well, there are 3 of us, and Will too; and we think it’s a good idea. Do you want to take a vote?”

“A vote?” Jerry asks increduously.

“That would make it fair,” Tom tells him.

The boys roll the rock away and Carl grabs Jerry, but he kicks the boy in the shins and manages to run into some nearby undergrowth.




“What does it mean to be a man?” Jerry asks himself among the bushes. “Were I my previous height, these children would lower their heads before me and avoid my gaze for fear that I could read their thoughts. Now they feel free to treat me like an animal. This is my own doing. I thought that I had grown too large. I believed that I was taking up too much of the world, eating more food than was my due, breathing another person’s air. Had I remained as I was, these children would have behaved themselves. They would not have tried to use me for their childish purposes.”

“Is that so wonderful? I would have played the part of an elder,” Jerry muses, “and so the mothers and fathers of this world would have used me for their parental purposes. Why should I have to raise these children? Am I then fated always to serve someone else’s ends? Yesterday I wept because I knew that I had no hope of curing cancer, no chance of winning a Nobel Prize. Today I complain because I’m too small to discipline other people’s children.”

“All my life, I’ve grabbed as much responsibility as I could find. Why do I want it? It weighs me down and does little to lift up others. Suppose my drug were to cure one of these boys of cancer. Will he then speak my name with love and gratitude? I could have achieved as much by doing a few simple math problems. The day after tomorrow, they will forget the math problems, and it’s the same with the cure. If my drug cures anyone, he will be completely filled with love and gratitude, for a few hours. Then he will go about the life I gave him, and curse the rain that keeps the world alive and grumble that he’s hungry. The very person who could not walk ten feet will think it a tragedy if his car backfires.”

“Oh yes, today, we will grateful, and tomorrow, too. The day after tomorrow, though, that’s too far in the future. The day after tomorrow: that’s the day we can go back to normal. The boys learned no math; The sick person learns nothing from his illness. Maybe the sickness is the lesson. Is death then the final exam? What’s the point of it all?”




It’s a little crowded in front of Jerry’s lab: Cindy and General Harrison are there. Sheriff Jackson and his deputy are kneeling before a German Shepherd, giving him a shirt to smell.

“There’s a possibility,” says the general, “that Leit may have been kidnapped by foreign agents; he has a great deal of information that would be useful to our enemies.”

The sheriff and deputy seem to be oblivious to remark.

“Don’t you think we should call the FBI?”

“They’re on their way, general,” the sheriff rises to reply to Harrison, “in the meantime, I think it’s a good idea to let Sherlock here see what he can find.”

“Can we get started now?” Cindy asks.

“This dog here has a number of advantages over the FBI,” Sheriff Jackson says.

“And what would those be?” Harrison asks.

“Well, he has a lot better sense of smell than FBI agents. He works cheap. He doesn’t complain. He doesn’t tell us how to do our job. You can warm your hands on him during a cold night, and one more thing.”

“What’s that?”

“He’s here now and the FBI won’t be here for a few hours. OK, go, Sherlock, go.”

The dog starts off and the scene changes to a waste area where the dog is leading the people rather briskly. Sherlock stops at the pipe where Jerry was held captive and becomes very agitated. The pipe is too small for anyone to enter, but several people stick their heads in and yell for Jerry. Meanwhile, the deputy says he’s returning to the car to get a flashlight. When Sheriff Jackson takes his turn at the pipe, he hands the dog’s leash to the general. The general doesn’t seem to understand his new role and lets the leash fall to the ground. As everyone is looking around the pipe for signs, Sherlock sniffs away following Jerry’s new trail.

The dog moves unerringly over the path through the tall weeds that Jerry previously followed. Past thistles and flowering weeds, Sherlock moves closer and closer to the edge of the trees where Jerry is hiding. Jerry hears the dog, looks around, and then sees it approaching him. Upon seeing a German Shepherd, Jerry starts running in the opposite direction in fear.

We see him fighting his way through brush into the area of full grown trees, and Sherlock continues his steady pursuit. Finally Jerry comes to a cliff. It’s not a vertical drop but it’s quite steep with trees growing on it. He slides down it grabbing trees as he goes to keep from accellerating. At the bottom is a small river and Jerry wades into it. Sherlock stays at the top of the cliff howling as Jerry tries to cross the water. When he makes it to the middle of the stream, he slips and the current carries him away. We see him bobbing up and down in river.


Suppose that you set out to acheive some goal. You can’t know if the goal you set is going to give you greater happiness than some other goal. For all you know, your desire may make you very unhappy, or it could be that you will run into disaster in trying to achieve your end. Now, consider Jerry, he just wants to get home. If he had merely stayed where he was, his friends would have found him. So, even in trying to acheive some simple goal, a person can miscalculate and mistake good fortune for bad.

How should we live our lives then? Whenever I do anything, I wonder if my actions will lead to a catastrophe. Could the decision I make set into motion events that will lead to a car wreck or some other disaster? Maybe you can avoid fate by resetting the clock from time to time. Don’t try to beat that yellow light. Turn around on the street for no reason. Sit down someplace. Who knows? Resetting fate’s stopwatch may be the event that causes the problem. I suppose the best thing is to do what you want to do and just put yourself in God’s hands and hope that He’s on your side.

I believe one of two things. Either God doesn’t act in the physical realm or everything in this material world is an act of God. In other words, I don’t believe in miracles, special acts of God. But maybe we are so deep in a sea of miracles that we can’t even see them. We here on Earth are pretty much fated to follow our desires and receive the consequences of our actions.




Back at the drainage pipe, the people hear the dog barking and the sheriff realizes that he has continued following Jerry’s trail. “Didn’t I give you Sherlock’s leash, general?”

“You didn’t say anything; I must have let him loose in the confusion.”

The sheriff rolls his eyes almost imperceptively, “The professor isn’t here. Sherlock has picked up the scent again. Let’s follow him.”

Sheriff Jackson and his deputy set off with the others following them. “Some general,” Jackson remarks sarcastically to his deputy, “he can’t even command a trained dog.”

“Say what you want about the Nazis,” the deputy answers, “they had some mighty fine dogs.”


“I was just thinking about the Professor. Isn’t he one of those kraut rocket scientists?”

“I don’t think so. I think he’s some kind of biologist.”

“The Nazis had some pretty good scientists, too.”

“What is it with you and Nazis, today?” the sheriff asks.

“I don’t know. I was just thinking.”

They catch up to Sherlock on the edge of the cliff and the sheriff hugs him affectionately and gives him some sort of treat. “Good boy, Sherlock.”

Cindy starts calling out for Jerry but there is no reply.

Finally, the sheriff takes her hand and says, “Don’t worry, we’ll find him. Everyone has to be someplace.”


He didn’t actually say “Everyone has to be someplace.” That’s what my brother Roger used to say after he moved to Florida. I don’t know if it was his saying or a Florida saying. It expresses my attitude. I’m not sure if it’s a stoical idea or fatalistic idea; maybe it’s somewhere in between. I could be a prisoner. I could be the President of the United States. I could be sitting at the side of the road looking at my unfunctioning car. Fortunately (from my limited point of view) I am right where I want to be.

I suppose the saying is also rather democratic. We are all equal in having to be someplace. Roger died a couple of years ago in a VA hospital. He was probably killed by a hospital-acquired infection; a careful reading of an uniformative autopsy led me to that conclusion. The last person he talked to was a male nurse who came from a valley in Viet Nam where Roger had been at one time. They talked about what a nice place it was to be. An hour later he was dead. Everyone has to be someplace. Ironically, Roger is nowhere now, nowhere on the Earth. Oh, we still have his ashes and will bury them with his wife when we get out to New England.




Janey Latour is a pretty brunette in her twenties. She has a dreamy, otherworldly expression as she watches the water of the small river roll gently by her. When she sees Jerry’s unmoving body in the water, she immediately steps in to grab it. She pulls him to shore with some difficulty, lays him on his back, and pushes against his torso to revive him. This was before mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Finally Jerry coughs and rolls over, but he is completely dazed.

“What can this be?” Janey asks, “A perfectly formed man not 3 feet tall. He can’t be an angel because angels are immune to this sort of material buffeting; only the turbulence of the spirit troubles them. I don’t believe him to be a fairy. Fairies are more delicate in aspect; this being is handsome enough, but in a manly way. He’s certainly no troll because the troll is coarse in feature and rough. He must be a homonunculus of one sort or another. A space alien! That’s it. He is a space alien; I’m sure of that, either a space alien or a jinn.”

Jerry moans and grasps his blood stained shirt.

“I don’t believe that jinn are subject to this sort of injury. I’ll look it up; then I’ll know for sure.”

Janey carefully gathers Jerry’s body in a blanket and carries it away.


I think that this must be some sort of symbolism, but I’m not sure what it means. The river could be symbol of mutability. My friend Dewey told me of a Greek philosopher who said that you can never step in the same place twice in a river. You see, by the time you took your second step, the water will have flowed on. One of his students gave the matter some thought. He walked to the river, faced down river, and then, timing his next two steps to coincide with the speed of the water, he took two more steps. In this way his second step entered the same water as his first step. In other words, he stepped in the river in the same place twice. The old philosopher was so intrigued that he did the same, but he didn’t stop at two steps. He kept walking in water, timing each step with the flow. He was so delighted to escape the prison of nonrepeatability that he kept on walking that way for hours until he was finally drowned in the sea.

Or the river may symbolize the events of this world that move us inexorably toward some conclusion no matter how we struggle against them. To be out of that river is to free oneself from fate and to take control of events. I don’t think I believe in fate, at least not in the future tense. Can a noun have a tense? That would be like a color having a smell. The past seems to be set in stone, and so we can say that what was was fated to be. The past is carved in stone. When we hit the present though, the rock melts like lava and we have choices. In the future, anything is possible. It is as though the lava turns to a gas. I don’t know if this is true, but it’s the commonsense view of things. It’s the way that the “conjugating crowd” looks at things. I heard a man say that once, instead of “congrugating crowd,” and always wanted to fit it into my conversation. Maybe I’ll find a better way to use it eventually.




“The trail ended at the river and they couldn’t pick it up on the other side.” Cindy was distraught.

“I understand they have the FBI on the case now.” Captain Hugo was sitting in the Leit’s front room with Cindy on the couch.

“I’m afraid that the waters carried Jerry off and he couldn’t swim in his condition.”

“You mustn’t allow yourself such negative thoughts.”

“What battalion, what weapons, what tactics can you bring into the field against this black army of fears, captain?”

“Fear never made an unconditional surrender, but you could shield yourself a while with prayer.”

“My every other thought is a prayer, captain, but the fears keep attacking.”

“Fear is a difficult enemy, whether it makes a frontal assault or sneaks in to sabotage our efforts. Perhaps you should have a drink and try to get some sleep. Sometimes the morning light will chase it back for a while.”

“I will follow your orders, captain. I see that I have found an experienced general in this war. Perhaps tomorrow I can make myself useful in finding Jerry; maybe I’ll remember some detail that will help in the search. I know that I am no more than a hindrance now. My emotions the searchers down so that they proceed by inches where they could be making miles.”

Cindy walks off up the stairs.

As Hugo is leaving, he remarks, “I’ve faced death a dozen times, from fire, from bombs, from the ocean, from guns, and I have never trembled, but now, I fear too. One thing has changed. Now I am alone. I have crossed through the bramble patch of human entanglements, that is to say, other people’s needs and their demands. I am free, and the price of this freedom is fear. Perhaps she is free too and doesn’t know why she is afraid, not yet.”


It seems to me that the opposite of love is not hate, but fear. Who knows what the opposite of hate is? Those who have a great love, even if it is a love for model train building, have very little room in their hearts for fear. Those who are obsessed never even have a doubt. Their eyes are always looking beyond the horizon. They can never see the snakes and pits and poisons in their paths. But let them adjust their gaze a little closer to themselves and doubts and fears begin to spring up.”




Jerry is lying in bed in a small dark room decorated with the most fantastic pictures. There are portraits of fairies and elves, gods and heros, delicate aliens and prehistoric brutes. Other worldly landscapes adorn the walls above the models of castles and jungles. “I have been fortunate that this kind lady has found me. But wait. It seems that my assessment of fortune and misfortune may not be as accurate as it once was. She did not take me to the hospital or report my accident to the police. Could she have some personal motive for keeping me here? I will keep my doubts to myself until I discover the nature of her motives.”

Janey enters the room and asks, “Do you feel well enough to talk?”

“I’m a bit confused, but I don’t think that I’ve been injured seriously.”

“Do you remember your home planet?” Janey asks eagerly.

“Home planet?”

“I’ve decided that you must be a space alien; am I wrong?”

“No, no, you’re quite correct. It’s just that my mind is a bit fuzzy; I must have suffered a concussion.”

“I imagine that would be quite serious if you use more of your brain than the 10% we Earthlings use.”


“Do you remember your home?”

“Of course, the planet Miraxis in the Cigna Beta system.”

“Are you so small because it’s such a small planet?”


If a planet were very small, the beings on it could actually grow very large. Land animals have a serious problems regarding size: gravity. If we fall some distance we can be injured or killed. If we were smaller or our planet had less gravity, falling would not be so dangerous. For instance, you can throw a mouse out of an airplane and it will walk away whole. Once you get to the size of dog, such a fall will prove fatal. Imagine the giants in fairy tales. If a giant, sixty feet high, had the same proportions as a man, he would break his leg just by taking a step. All this means that the bigger the planet, the smaller it’s inhabitants would have to be, but the creatures on a small planet could grow quite large.

Of course, there are other problems related to size. If a planet is too small, its gravity can not hold an atmosphere: The air molecules would simply drift off into space. And then there’s the whole brain problem. If an animal is too small, it can’t grow a large enough brain to equal a human’s. A surprizing problem with small size is the surface tension of water. Earth creatures need water but if an insect is coated with water, it can’t break the surface tension and will drown. I’m sure there are a number of other problems regarding size, but I can’t remember them all.


“No, my planet is about the same size as Earth. My particular size is the subject of a rather long story. I’m sorry, Miss, I don’t know your name.”

“My name is Janey Latour.”

“You can call me Jerry; That’s the name I go by here. Now, Janey, may I explain my height and perhaps ask you for some help?”

“Yes, of course.”

“There was a time on Miraxis when the people were all the same size. Of course, there were differences as there are on Earth. Then a scientist made a discovery; he learned how to shrink living people. Sharkakdid I (he was the king then) issued a proclamation. He ordered that everyone in the government should be shrunk: the higher the rank, the smaller; and the king would be smallest of them all.”

“You must have a very high rank,” Janey interrupted.

“No, not at all, the present king himself is not six inches tall. Sharkakdid I said that for years and years the kings and nobles had made themselves bigger and more powerful than the people, but that was the wrong order. The rulers were the servants of the people: that is the natural order. In symbolizing this truth, those who would govern must submit to shrinking as an emblem of their honest desire to serve the people.”

“He sounds like a very wise ruler.”

“Indeed, Miraxis prospered under his rule. Eventually, it became more common for people to shrink themselves. Wives would often ask their husbands to shrink themselves. Perhaps they wanted to appear more socially prominent or perhaps they simply wanted their husbands to be smaller. Rich people, prominent people, people in highly regarded professions were most likely to shrink themselves. Of course, they could only become so small; otherwise, they would be treading on the perogatives of higher government officials.”


“Within 50 or 60 years, many people were saying that everyone should shrink. There would be more food to go around. There would be less waste in everything. The snobbishness of small size would disappear. They had many good arguments and most of people reduced themselves.”

“I can see how it would make sense,” Janey says.

“Unfortunately, there was an unforseen problem. Among those who did not shrink themselves there were criminals, revolutionaries, and ruffians. These people started terrorizing the general populations, often murdering hundreds of good citizens.”

“Didn’t you have policemen and soldiers?”

“Yes, of course, but they couldn’t be everywhere and the size of these criminals made them extremely dangerous. You can imagine what damage a thirty foot high giant could do on Earth. Well, on Miraxis, we had dozens, maybe hundreds, of these giants with evil intent.”

“Why did so many of the giants become bad?” Janey asks.

“I believe that the very fact that they refused to shrink themselves showed an antisocial attitude. Some of these giants, however, justify their crimes with political rhetoric. It’s all nonsense, of course; but for some reason the others who remained large seem to be taken in by it and aren’t very cooperative in helping us control the criminals.”

“What do they complain about?”

“Oh, taxes, food allocation, the usual complaints.”

“Why not just shrink everyone.”

“We need a certain percentage of the population to retain their original size. Take physical labor, for instance. If everyone were small, we’d lose the profit of being different sizes. Consider how useful it would be if 10% of your population were gigantic. Or think of such an obvious matter as farming. A giant farm can feed 4 to 8 times as many people as before. If we were to shrink everything on the farm, there would be no advantage. Can you imagine an Earthling dealing with a hog taller than he is or a cow three times as high.”

“Are you saying that the people that stayed the same size want special advantages?”

“Not all of them; but enough of them to cause a lot a trouble for us. Now one of the worst of them has come to Earth and assumed the identity of Captain Hugo in the United States Army. I came here to track him down but I crashed.”

“What does he plan to do?”

“We’re not sure. He may have gotten hold of some sort of weapon that shot down my ship. We fear that he will recruit criminals to go back to Miraxis and attack us. I need your help in getting to the home Professor Leit of the university. We’ve been in contact with him and hope that he can help us in finding this Captain Hugo and taking him back to Miraxis. But it’s important that no one else know of my existence. Can I count on your help, Janey?”

“Yes, of course, but you still need some rest before we move you.”

“Thank you, I’ll try to get some sleep. I don’t feel very bad. Maybe you can take me there in a while.”

Janey pulls the covers over Jerry and lightly strokes his head. She turns off the light and leaves the room.

Jerry rolls over and says, “A very credulous woman; I think I can depend on her.”

Janey is pondering her experience while she is alone in the kitchen. “This alien troubles me. If he hadn’t introduced the idea of evil, I wouldn’t have given the matter a thought. Is there evil, then, even at the edge of infinity? If there is conflict in outer space, how am I to know that he is on the correct side? Everyone believes in his own cause, or can make a case for it. Everyone believes that he is on the side of good, at least in the long run. Perhaps matters are not so clear on his home planet. Perhaps this alien lies. I remember a puzzle. An astronaut encouters an alien on Mars. Their are two tribes on the planet. The members of one tribe always tell the truth; the members of the other always lie. He meets a being and is allowed to ask one question. What should he ask?”


The riddle reminds me of a paradox. There is a mining camp in the wilds of Alaska. In the town there is a barber. In the camp, the barber shaves everyone who doesn’t shave himself. The problem with the preceeding sentence is the barber himself. If he shaves himself, he is in the class of people whom the barber shaves. If he is in the class of people whom the barber shaves, then he doesn’t shave himself. Quite a conundrum. It is just this sort of paradox that pops up in any totally logical system of mathematics so that someone can always create a statement that contradicts itself. There is a class of modern thinkers who attach a great deal of importance to this fact. In my opinion, there is nothing very important about the ability to construct paradoxes. In my opinion, these philosophers should shave themselves.


“Ah yes,” Janey says, “I remember now. You ask the alien ‘If I ask you if you were a truth teller, would you say yes?’ The truth teller would reply ‘yes.’ The liar would say ‘no.’ If you asked him if he were a truth teller, he would say ‘yes.’ But you asked him what he would say. And so, he would, of course, lie about his saying ‘yes’ and reply ‘no.’ I wish it were that easy. I think I’ll investigate this matter a little more deeply.”




“Can you honestly say that the Professor is in his right mind?” Sheriff Jackson asks Cindy.

Choking back a tear, she replies, “No, I can’t say anything for sure.”

“That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If we were sure that he was in full control of his body and mind, there would be a lot more to worry about. In his present condition, though, he may be incapable of going home, or may be confused as to what he should do.”

“Yes, that’s true. His very infirmity is a strong cause for hope. Thank you, sheriff, for pointing out the flower in this field of thistles.”

As Cindy walks down the steps of the police station she is met by Captain Hugo. “Is there any news of your husband.”

“No, none, but I refuse to fear today. Today, I will have faith and if it’s a false faith; well, I can not bear an honest despair.”

“Can there be false faith?”

“That’s a fine rhetorical question, captain, and one that is worth contemplating. I’m going to the church to pray now.”

“Let me take you there, Mrs. Leit, and I’ll say a prayer with you.”

Next, we see Cindy in the front pew of a church with her head down. Hugo is in the back looking at her and examining his surroundings. “Perhaps I should say a prayer or two myself. I have already begun the process of shrinking and there’s nothing that can help me except divine intervention. If prayers are answered, though, Cindy is first in line. Her husband will be restored to her and then I will be accused of kidnapping and treason. Should I pray for the professor’s death? Such prayers are best addressed to the powers of darkness. My evil deeds have divided my mind. I cannot call the powers of love and hate both. Had I followed the path of virtue, however straight and narrow and steep, I could simply keep on plodding. What seemed a broad and easy highway has turned into a labyrinthe of confusion. Oh well, it makes no difference anyway: prayers are never answered. God’s rule is no monarchy; it is perfectly laissez faire.”

A preacher appears at the front of the church and talks to Cindy for a while. When we finally hear what they are saying, the preacher says, “I’ll pray that the Lord watches over Jerry.”

“No, no, better to pray that he comes back to me.”


Some say that religious people are weak-minded, that they only believe because they’re afraid of dying. Maybe religious people are weak-minded but not the way those anti-religious folk believe. I think the most common reason for belief in God is a desire that the universe be just and fair. They look around and conclude that life is not just; they don’t see the balance in the world. In some cases, it isn’t even personal. The more we know of history, the more we feel the suffering of the innocent. The prospering of the wicked (however defined) is no anamoly. Religious people create an invisible world where “Thy will be done.”

Some people fear death, no doubt, although, I’ve heard that it isn’t much of a fear. I understand that the fear of public speaking is stronger. The arrogant man is offended by death, just as the arrogant man wants children. It angers him that his own wonderful person should end. He wants a monument, a pyramid if possible. Better still, his traits can “live through his descendants.” When I consider my ancestors and my contemporary relatives, I don’t have much faith that my descendants will cover me with glory.

For those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness,” though, death makes justice and balance impossible. The Hindu believes in reincarnation not because he fears death but because the world can be just if suffering can be explained by bad acts in a previous life. Some religious people don’t even believe in an afterlife. It is enough for them that God is in charge of the show.

There are several varieties of antireligious people. Of course, there are those who believe in God but dislike all religions or some particular religion. Then we have atheists who believe that there is no God. It takes a lot of faith to believe there is no God and I don’t think such people have thought the matter through carefully enough. They are like those who cling desperately to all the tenets of some sect or cult that spells out all the answers to the world in detail. They base their lives on the principle that there is nothing but matter. No one can know that much about ultimate reality. Then we have the agnostics; they take the sensible view that humans are incapable of knowing such things as whether or not God exists. The problem with agnosticism is that a person has to believe something about the universe or he has no overall blueprint for constructing a view of reality from the building material of fact. Finally we have the apatheists. They are apathetic to the existence of God. Whether God exists or not is of no concern to them. They try to take care of their own business. I may have forgotten some other antireligious folks and I’ll talk about them later if I remember.


Cindy and Hugo leave the church together. “Did the preacher have anything good to tell you?”

“No, all he cares about is Jerry’s soul. I’m sure Jerry has a very nice soul but he has other problems now.”

“Oh well,” Hugo replies, “everyone has his job, and the preacher’s job is souls.”

“You’d think he’d be a bit more sensitive.”

“Maybe his faith has made him insensitive to this world.”




As Hugo and Cindy get into his car, we see that Janey has been luking behind a corner. “What am I to make of this? Leit’s wife and Captain Hugo are together, together and at a church. This can’t be a matter of chance; there must be some reason for it. If Hugo is evil, maybe he is insinuating himself into Leit’s life to prevent him from helping Jerry. But suppose that Jerry is evil. Then Hugo may have gone honestly to the Leits to present his case. I should probably turn the whole matter over to the police, but that could be a mistake, too. Once other people know about the little alien, they will turn him over to the government or they will make his existence a public matter. In either case, it may destroy his effectiveness as an agent for his planet. I dare not tell Jerry everything I know because he may be not be as pure as he makes out to be. Temporize. That’s the word. I will temporize until I can come to a decision. In the meantime, Jerry may say something to decide the matter for me.”


When I was in school, I was such a terrible speller that I was given a series of psychological tests. It turns out that I’m dyslexic; I believe they called it a “specific language disability” then. One way they could tell that I had a problem with my brain was to read a list of random digits to me: 35175. Dyslexics have a tendency to mix up the numbers when they try to repeat them: 35715. The psychologist asked me an interesting question: If you saw a train approaching a bridge that was out, what would you do? I thought for about 30 seconds, which is a long time in such situations, and then I said, “I’d try to stop it.” The psychologist said, “Yes, but how?” “Oh, I suppose I take my shirt off and jump up and down waving it in front of the train.”

During those 30 seconds I was thinking what a futile effort it would be to try to get the engineer to stop the train. What could a 14-year-old boy possibly do in such a situation. Somehow, though, the psychologist asssumed that I would accept the premise that I had the ability to stop the train, if I only did the right thing. Of course, this is the whole basis of our political system. If you can just get the state to do the right thing, you can solve all the world’s problems. There’s a particularly crazy aspect to this idea. In theory, you can solve all the problems of the world, but the state tells you how to run your all your affairs, down to the details of your personal life. There’s an old joke: Someone asks little Johnny what he would do if he saw two trains approaching each other on the same track. “I’d call my cousin,” he replies. The person asks him why. “My cousin loves train wrecks.”




One of those fake beams of sunlight crosses Jerry’s eyes and he wakes up. “Morning? How can it be morning? I must have slept 12 hours. I wonder if that woman gave me something. Janey, that was her name. I remember telling her some crazy story. Maybe this shrinking business has distorted my mind and my sense of time. I better think about getting out of here.”


I’ve heard that time goes faster as you get older and it seems pretty true to me. I suppose there could be several explanations. A day is 1/1095th of a 3-year-old’s life, but its only 1/10950th of the 30-year-old’s life. That could account for time’s going faster. There’s also the fact that older people don’t remember as much as younger people. When I look back on the day, therefore, I remember fewer things about it than I used to, and many things I do remember have happened before. The 10-year-old remembers more and the things he remembers are newer. Naturally, he thinks the day lasted longer than I think it do.

There may be a more metaphysical explanation. Suppose that time goes faster and faster until the moment before you die. Then, you are prepared to enter eternity in proper timeless state of mind. Of course, there would have to be an enormous accelleration of time as you were dying. You could see death as breaking the “time barrier.”


The next thing I remember was seeing Jerry standing up as Janey confronted him, “So, you’re telling me that you lied.”

“No, Janey, no, I was confused. Did you give me some sort of drug? I thought I had to make up some sort of story.”

“You say that you are Professor Leit and that you are shrinking because of an experimental drug.”

“Yes, you can ask anyone. Call my wife. Call the police. Call General Harrison. Everyone will confirm my story. Just keep Captain Hugo away from me. He’s trying to steal the formula. I imagine he wants to sell it to somebody.”

“Of course, you lied to me once; and Hugo never lied to me.”

“Everyone will tell you.”

“Sometimes everyone is wrong; besides, when you say everyone, you mean Mrs. Leit and that general.”

“There’s Horatio, too, and all the professors at the college.”

“Let me consider this a little more. You could use some more rest.”


Well, everyone could be wrong. I suppose that I’m a bit of an eccentric myself, at least in my political views. I don’t collect aluminum foil or wear a colander hat to protect me from Venusian death rays; I’m not that kind of eccentric. I don’t compare myself to Galileo; that’s the mark of a true crank. However, I do believe that the vast majority of people hold incorrect views about government.


“I’ve had enough rest. Did you drug me?”

“Just some herbs to help you rest.”

“I thank you for saving me from the river, but I have to get back to my home.” Jerry rises to his full height, which is about two and half feet by now, and starts to walk out, but Janey grabs him by the wrist.

“You say this drug of yours caused you to shrink?”

“Let me go.”

“When will the shrinking stop?”

“I don’t know. Maybe never. Maybe I’ll die.”

“Give me some.”

“Are you crazy?”

“If I take that drug, I’ll be somebody.”

“Look, Janey, you won’t be somebody. I’m becoming no one. I’ve lost most of what I had and I’m not sure that my mind is functioning correctly. You don’t want this.”

“I’m going to take it and you’re going to get if for me.”

Jerry stamps on the woman’s foot and runs toward the door, but he can’t open it before Janey is just about to catch him again. He evades her and they scramble around the room until he notices the fireplace. He enters the chimney and is able to move up it a bit. Then we see Janey poke a broom handle up the chimney. Jerry is able to move up a bit by putting his feet on one side of the chimney and his back on the other, but the soot is falling all over him.

“It’s no use, Professor, you’re going to have to do what I want. After all, I’m bigger than you.”

Jerry doesn’t reply but starts working his way up the chimney. “If I were a bat,” he thinks, “this would be simple enough. I’ve had several of them in my house.” He looks up at the square of light at the top and flakes of soot fall into his face and eyes. “This is the strangest mine: carbon but no coal, no diamonds either. The dimensions are skewed; this tunnel leads up instead of through and I’m mining for the bright, yellow sun, not gold.” As he approaches the top, he dramatically slips a little but is able to recover. Finally he emerges on to the roof.

The camera shows his view from the roof, only it’s distorted somehow to give the impression of a height greater than a two-story house. “Once I climbed a ladder up to the 12th step and I could climb no higher. Instead of feeling airy and free, I felt the very sky come crushing into my mind. There was a time when I could not look at a picture taken from a tall building without feeling afraid and grasping for the arm of my chair to steady my dizzy brain. But now I feel as light as wind. I almost think I could let the breezes carry me away like a golden autumn leaf. Am I light-headed? Light-minded? I should be more careful.”


Some people say that the fear of heights has survival value. I don’t like the idea that negative emotions could be good. We spend our lives tending our internal garden of emotions. The ultimate reason for all our actions is to make us feel better inside. When people ask why we did something, we tend to give the penultimate reason. (Penultimate means “next to last” and I always thought it was a sort of useless word. We can remember only so many words and I see no reason to waste one on such obscure concept. However, the word illustrates my idea very well.)

“Why did you shoot that guy?”

“Because he was sleeping with my wife.”

See? The man gives the penultimate reason. The ultimate reason is that the shooting of the guy will make the man’s emotional state better. At least that was his calculation at the time.

“Why did you give all that you owned to the poor and follow Jesus?”

“For the love of God and the love of my fellow man.”

There we have it again. Those are penultimate reasons. The final reason is that the person calculates that his actions will make his internal landscape more beautiful than it was before. He is the gardener of his mind.

You don’t have to have a fear of heights to avoid the dangers that they pose. Of course, there are some people who seek out the sensation of great height. They do it for the same reason: emotional landscaping. The philosopher Hume said that our reason is and ought to be the servant of our emotions. I don’t know what ought to be but he’s right about what is. I wonder what sort of people would be like if our reason ruled our emotions. What exactly is rational? I understand that other philosophers give answers to that question, but, of course, it doesn’t matter because our feelings rule us.


Jerry finds a downspout at the corner of the house and shimmies down it. Halfway down he slips and falls to the ground and we see him lying in the grass, covered with soot and half dazed. Maybe all his talk of golden leaves and floating with the breezes was ironic. I’m not sure.




Captain Hugo and general Harrison are examining Leit’s inner room, the one with the missized menagerie. “Horrible,” the general says, “no wonder the professor didn’t want us in here.”

“It’s insane. Look at this tiny giraffe.”

“You have to ask if Leit was ever in his right mind.”

“I blame myself,” Hugo says. “We should have taken Leit into custody when we found out about his research.”

“Who knew what he was up to.”

“General, I don’t know if he’s alive or dead, but I think you should assign me to capturing him and protecting him.”

“How would we do that?”

“I could just grab him.”

“No, no, that would be a crime; maybe we should have him arrested.”

“That wouldn’t do.” Hugo says, “He would be held by the local police and our enemies could bribe one of them. For a few dollars, they could get him and take him out of the country. Besides, what would we charge him with?”

“We can think of something.” Harrison says. “Look around: How about animal cruelty?”

“We knew he was experimenting on rats. What’s the real difference between that and experimenting on bigger animals?”

“It just seems wrong,” the general shakes his head sadly.

“Is that why we choose the rat for experiments? Because we can’t find anything amiable about it? The dragonfly, with its lustrous body and delicate, luminous wings is so lovely to our eye. We respect the lordly lion too much as it lazily feasts on whole carcasses of gazelles. The giraffe holds its head so proudly high that we can never look it in its vacant, stupid eye. No one would dare disturb the majestic elephant whose love-making is measured on the Richter scale.”

Hugo looks in the distances and continues, “Who can say that the uncanny rat may not say a silent grace before it gnaws at some maggot infested pork bones from our garbage or sing songs of praise to God as it goes to sleep in some dark and loathsome corner?”


I heard a man say once that only humans have religious feelings, but I doubt it. Religious feeling are just emotions, like fear or anger or lust. I imagine that they are common to all mammals. Why wouldn’t the dog or even the rat be overwhelmed with a sense of the cosmic? It probably happens all the time. For all we know, some animals my look at us humans with divine adoration. I remember that the astronomer Carl Sagan was always trying to create a sense of antireligious awe in people by saying that we were inhabitants of a tiny planet in a third rate solar system on the outskirts of an unimportant galaxy. This may be true, but I prefer St. Paul’s saying that we will judge angels.

If we knew what we were, we might know how to act properly. But we don’t know. As Shakespeare put it in Measure for Measure, “Most ignorant of what he’s most assured, his glassy essence.” The Venerable Bede tells the story of how Christianity came to Northern England. It seems that the other St. Augustine (not the one who wrote The Confessions, but the missionary) wanted to preach to the people of a local king. His nobles met to discuss it. One lord got up and said, “Here’s the way I look at life. Imagine that the king and his men are feasting in the great hall. They are all drinking and talking and telling stories while the icy winds blow outside. All of a sudden, a tiny sparrow flies into the busy hall. It flits about a bit; then it flies out another window. This sparrow in this great hall is how I see my life. I don’t know where I came from. I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t even understand all the commotion going on around me. Finally, I exit into that great darkness from where I came. I say that we listen to this man, St. Augustine, perhaps he can tell us something of this world where we find ourself.”

I suppose that lord’s religion is pretty close to mine, and a lot of other people’s. I have had religious feelings like everyone else: awe, gratitude, whatnot. People also have sexual feelings and there are pimps and whores who make their living from these desires. I don’t equate those who tell me “God’s will” with pimps and whores. These preachers and popes and imans are on a higher level, and so more to be condemned. They know as much about God’s will as I do, that is, nothing. They promise to make you right with God, and they set themselves up as spiritually enlightened. If it suits your temperment, you can do as they say at the cost of surrendering your will to other men. I understand that some people derive a lot of comfort from such men. I can’t tell you if the price is worth what you get.


“Well,” says General Harrison after some thought, “I’ll put you in charge of protecting Leit, but you have to do everything legally. Maybe you should consult a lawyer. Let’s just hope that he’s still alive.”




Hugo is on the steps of the police department building. “How did Harrison miss the fact that I’m shrinking? My clothes feel looser to me than a sheet thrown over a child to make him look like a ghost, looser than the sheet draping a corpse. How can I explain? I missed my chance to claim that Leit attacked me. He actually did attack me. I was so intent on finding him that I neglected to think of how to explain my size: I should have told part of the truth. That would explain this sickness and cast Leit’s sanity into doubt. I could still do it. I could say I found him alone today and he attacked me with his TX19. Then it will be my word against his. But what if he’s dead? What if he died yesterday? The silent testimony of the dead is so much stronger than the flighty, inconsistent chatter of the living. Details, details, details. Perhaps I will simply let the experts explain my condition. Experts can always fit facts together even if those facts are at war. They can make a jigsaw puzzle picture of The Last Supper look like a Martian landscape, complete with monsters and maidens.”

As Hugo is thinking about this matter, Sheriff Jackson approaches him and says, “The FBI is here now; they’ve put a couple of agents on the case.”

“The general wants me to organize a search; he’s worried about foreign agents and I can put 20 men in the field. I’m going to need some help from you, though, so they won’t be falling all over each other.”

“Well, our search has already made the news and we haven’t heard any reports of a tiny man, that is, except Little Charlie, but that doesn’t count. You’d think that if a guy lived in this town for 34 years people would have noticed him before.”

“Maybe you can give me some idea of the areas where Leit used to go,” Hugo says, “then my men can comb the areas for any signs that we was there recently.”

“I guess it couldn’t hurt. You are going to bring him in to us, aren’t you?”

“Of course, Sheriff, we’re in this together.”

“OK, my deputy will tell you everything we know.”

Hugo departs with the deputy, leaving Jackson alone.

“Maybe, I’ve been on this job too long, but there’s something about this Captain Hugo that I don’t trust. Maybe I’m too suspicious. I’ve seen so many crimes that my idea of a good citizen is one who doesn’t resist arrest. There’s something too intense about this man, too driven by his own thoughts. I can tell you one thing: This Captain Hugo is no fisherman. I can’t picture him sitting on the bank of river and waiting. I wouldn’t be surprized to see him throw a hand grenade into the water and gather the fish up after it exploded.”




Jerry is behind evergreen bushes planted next to a house, waiting for a couple to pass before he emerges, “I know where I am,” he declares triumphantly, “but everything looks different to me now.” After the man and woman pass, Jerry runs to another hiding place behind a garage. “It could be that everyone I see is ready to help me, but I can no longer take that chance.”

“I keep shrinking. What if I’m shrinking so fast that I can never make it home? I’d be a living Zeno’s paradox: The hare can never catch the tortoise. Suppose the hare can run 10 times faster than the tortoise; but the hare slept and now the tortoise is a 100 feet ahead of him. The hare starts running, but when it gets to where the tortoise was, the tortoise has moved on another 10 feet. The hare keeps running, but when it gets to where the tortoise used to be, the tortoise has moved 1 more foot head. Still the rabbit runs, but when it gets to where the tortoise was, the tortoise has moved .1 of a foot farther on. The gap gets smaller: .01 foot, .001 foot, .0001 foot, but still the tortoise plods on. No matter how close the hare gets, the tortoise will still be ahead, and the poor hare, however speedy, can never catch up with tortoise.”

“Now suppose that I continue to shrink so that each of my steps is shorter and shorter. There must a great circle around me and I can never walk out of that circle. With each step my universe gets smaller and smaller, and yet, there is no limit to how many steps I can take: this universe is infinite to me but bounded and ever contracting. I could say with Hamlet, who sought to find the correct course of action,

‘O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count

myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I

have bad dreams.’”

Jerry continues his soliloquy, “I’ve never been able to get anywhere in my whole life. I longed to know the simplest thing: what the world is made of. Up pops Heisenberg and his uncertainty principle; you can know where something is or you can know where it’s going. This is the great OR of Babylon. I wanted to know about other worlds but I was limited by the speed of light. You can only see the past because the light takes so long to get to Earth; and you can’t even get to another star in a lifetime. I studied biology and thought that DNA explained how we were made; but the more I learned the more I learned what I didn’t know. Then there’s high energy physics. Everywhere I turn, I see a ‘No Tresspassing’ sign. Everything is either too big or too small, too fast or too slow. Who lives so long that he can watch the continents sail across the seas like stately schooners? Even as my universe contracts about me, my ignorance explodes and fills it up. Ignorace itself has become the element I live in. Perhaps I will sink so deeply into it that I will forget that it’s even there.”




Janey is interviewing Horatio in Leit’s lab. She is writing on a steno pad and has a camera slung over her shoulder. “Everyone is saying that we are mad scientists,” Horatio complains.

“That’s just I want to deal with. I want to tell the real story of your research.”

“Now that the military and the FBI are involved, I don’t know how much detail I can give you.”

“If you could just give me the general idea of what you were doing, I might be able to tell the people your side of the story.”

Horatio stands up, “We were looking for a cure for cancer, all cancers, and we were getting so close. Then this shrinking business started and they discovered our experimental animals. ‘Playing God,’ that’s what they say about us, that we were playing God.”

“Someone has to play God.”

“What do you mean?”

“God doesn’t seem very interested in the job. It’s up to us to do it.”

“I don’t understand you,” Horatio says.

“People are hungry and sick. The evil prevail while those who pray constantly live in poverty and suffer the contempt of the haughty. You’d think that God might do a little something. How many times have you seen Him strike down the wicked with his electrical fire or feed the starving multitudes with his manna? These are things we read about in books. You scientists decided to to desecrate a few corpses. How wicked! But how are doctors to learn what a body is and how to cure it? We eat well now and feed the world because of hundreds of years of disrespect for God’s Earth. Religion tell us to be content with the crumbs the natural world will yield us. We pray ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ Because of science, though, we eat our fill of meat every day and wash it down with wine.”

“We certainly meant no disrespect in our experiments, and our animals suffered no more than absolutely necessary.”

“Of course, of course. I wonder if I could take a picture of you with the drug.”

Horatio opens a cabinet below the counter and brings out a vial of clear liquid.

“Maybe you could put some in a syringe?” Janey asks.

“Sure, I’ll do that.” As Horatio searches for a needle Janey notes the location of the drug and lock on the door.

“Is this OK,” Horatio asks as he holds up the syringe.

“That’s great,” Janey tells him as she starts to take a picture. “But wait, is that formula on the blackboard important?”

“Oh, yes, I wouldn’t want that published anywhere.”

Janey maneuvers herself so that she can take a picture of the cabinent where the drug is kept, and clicks off a series of pictures.

“Thanks a lot, I’ll tell you when this will be published. I have other interviews to conduct first.”

They part company with a handshake, but as she leaves, the movie cameraman shows a closeup of the cabinent.




“I’m afraid that all those soldiers may scare Jerry away; he has always been wary of the military and police.” Cindy is dubious about Hugo’s putting his men into the seach.

“The important thing is getting as many people looking for him as possible,” Hugo replies.

“Yes, I suppose that’s true, but Jerry doesn’t even like being with his parents. There’s just something about authority figures that bothers him.”

“He thinks of military people as authority figures?”

“I think that’s the problem.”

Hugo laughs, “It would be nice to have some authority, we might be able to get things done a little faster.”

“How do you think of yourself, then?”

“Me? I’m an obedience figure. So is the general.” Hugo laughs again, “So is the president. We all do what we’re told. The only person around here who has any authority is the Professor himself.”

“I don’t think Jerry would agree.”

“Once you step out of the system, you start setting the agenda for everyone. Of course, if you become a criminal, you could end up dead or back in a different system. But in the meantime, you’re the one whose giving the orders. Jerry’s even harder to deal with because he’s some kind of saint.”

“That’s true; he is a saint, even if he doesn’t recognize it.”

Hugo rises to go. “Don’t worry, Mrs. Leit, we’ll find him sooner or later.” We see from the way the scene is photographed that Cindy notices that Hugo has started to shrink.

Cindy rises and hugs Hugo farewell. As Hugo opens the door, the camera moves to the window where Jerry has been watching the scene without hearing what was said.

“Where I looked for safety and even comfort, I find only danger. No, not only danger, but despair also. How can she enfold her husband’s assailant in her arms? No. I must control my raging mind. I thought my virtue was despised and received my just punishment. Let me grasp some flotsam of reason from the malstrom of my thoughts.”

“It is reasonable to suppose that this Captain Hugo is still seeking my life. After all, I am the only one who can unmask him for the villain that he is. It only makes sense that he would attempt to ingratiate himself to my wife. In that favored position, he could work his evil designs hastily enough to prevent his true intents from being made public. No doubt he has tied her to him with the silky cords of hope and pretended concern and counterfeit friendship. I know too well what lovely webs the nasty spider can weave. I am persuaded. I will go to her, and yet I do so with the greatest trepidation. Reason may be strong enough to move our bodies but not so powerful as to calm our minds.”

We see Jerry entering the living room where Cindy is sitting on the couch. At this point he is no bigger than 2 feet tall. When Cindy spots her, her eyes fill with tears and she says, “Jerry, thank God, my prayers have been answered.” She walks to him and strokes his head affectionately.

“I can only hope that I live long enough to apologize to you properly,” Jerry says. “If I say ‘I’m sorry’ as much as you deserve, I will babble my apologies into next month and still I must say it again to even my account.”

“You owe me nothing. And for my part, I now will start fulfilling those vows I made so recently and put aside all thoughts of your physical stature and see you as the colossus that you are.”

“No, you were quite right to correct my childishness and ask me to look squarely at the consequences of my folly. We must look to those we love for a proper mirror, not to the funhouse distortions of our fancy.”

“Jerry, we must tell the sheriff and the FBI and Captain Hugo that you are safe.”

A brooding look comes over Jerry’s face and he says, “Your lovely face and tender love had driven all dark thoughts from my mind. Cindy, I must tell you that Captain Hugo is a villain. He kidnapped me and would have killed me, too, if I hadn’t escaped. The spring in his mouse trap had set the deadly wire in motion; that’s how close he came to killing me.”

“Hugo? A villain?”

“He is a man who fears the law no more than he submits to the common morallity of mankind. His country’s welfare means no more to him than the promises of paradise or pain that religions make.”

“We must inform the sherrif immediately.”

“Perhaps it would be best if we kept my continued existence a secret. Besides, I’ve injected Hugo with TX19; in a day or so, he will have shrunk to my size and can do no more harm.”

“Yes, I noticed that he looked different.”

“There, you see, soon he will be a threat to no one. To tell you the truth, I don’t trust anyone anymore. I wish that everyone would just forget my name.”

“But, Jerry, everyone is so worried about you.”

“Suppose that I were dead; it would be the same thing. And besides, I’m not sure that Jerry Leit is still alive, not in the way he was.”

“The police, the FBI and the army are all out looking for you; it’s not fair to them. What if someone else needs them?”


My cousin has a theory about people who do dangerous things and then expect the authorities to rescue them: those who go mountain climbing in blizzards and sail boating in hurricanes. She thinks that it’s wrong to “strain the resources of the community.” That’s her rationale for not going out when the streets are snowy or icy: she’s a very civic-minded person.


Jerry is distraught, “You don’t seem to understand the danger I’m in. Who knows what Hugo is capable of or who has conspired with him to harm me.”

“That’s not the way you used to think. You never gave yourself a thought except maybe once a week on Sunday mornings. But even then you would rouse yourself from your comfortable couch to face a cold, bad day if you could do anyone some good.”

“As I was fighting my way home, I saw a crow fly onto a tree, not into the leaves, but to the very top. It cawed its harsh, loud cry and I was offended. ‘You think that you’re some sort of lord?’ I asked. ‘Soon, you’ll count yourself lucky to pick at the carcus of a groundhog killed on the road.’ And then I realized that if I were to shrink another foot or two, this arrogant fowl could make a lunch of me. Where once I ate so thoughtlessly, I now could be eaten. I am learning what the weak have always known: altruism is for the rich and only those who can easily vanquish their foes ever forgive.”

“It’s true; you are not yourself. I have acquired some of your nobler nature; a tiny bit has rubbed off on me (perhaps no more than a few bits of wool from your sweater from the times you hugged me). Still, I now have more of you in me than you do, and so I ask that you follow my lead and step once more on that path of duty and goodness that you have worn into a broad highway with constant treading.”

“I will defer to you. I must. I have offended against the fates somehow. I found myself in the highest tower, looking down at a chaotic world and I blamed myself for what I saw. I abandoned the station where God had set me and substituted my own rambling reasons for His perfect plan. I calculated that my good fortune had unbalanced mankind’s equation, making nonsense of the equal sign. I still don’t know why I was wrong or how, but I know that the eqauation makes no more sense now than it did. I need more schooling. Yes, and leadership, and so I will defer to you.”

Jerry looks at the black dial telephone with apprehension. Cindy picks it up and starts to dial and scene ends.


I’m not at all certain that Jerry’s instincts are correct here. Maybe he should have pursued his old altruistic habits. You never know what will make you happiest. You also never know who is actually happy and who is miserable. I’ve heard of surveys about happiness. One that I remember said that single women were happier than married men. In turn, married men were happier than married women with single men being lowest on the happiness totem pole. But all these were self-reported. How could anyone know if he is actually happier or less happy than someone else?

The desperate gaiety of the wise-cracking comedian may cover a mind in tortured turmoil, and the somber dignity of a nun in prayer may hide an ecstasy beyond our comprehension. Or it may be the other way around. All our actions are directed at making us happier, at beautifying our emotional landscapes, but there’s a problem: Seeking our own happiness is the surest way to misery. It is as though a fearful person were to take his own pulse constantly; the beating of his own heart would become a frightening monster in itself, more fearsome than what he feared.

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” That’s what Jesus said. When it comes to human beings, nothing is ever straightforward and simple. It’s all like the dreams we dream in the morning. They fade from our memory as we put on our pants, and once we think we understand one, it changes. Happiness is probably genetic: some people are just born to be happier than others. Of course, we can always find a way to make ourselves unhappy. Maybe that’s what the Garden of Eden was all about. God put Adam in a wonderful garden and gave him a wife, and he still managed to screw it up.




Janey has managed to enter Jerry’s office somehow. It is very dark because the window shades are down and she has a flashlight. She leans down to open the cabinet where the TX19 is stored. She picks the lock and fills a syringe with the drug that she saw before.

“I can bear the boredom of this gray world no longer. I am so spoiled. I have been given everything for life, for a comfortable life, and more. Pineapples, persimmons, lemons, and pears; bananas, kumquats, grapes, and cherries: there is no end, and these are just the fruits. Even the average apple delights my senses with perfumes and esters. A person with only a teaspoon of gratitude would spend half his day in praising his Creator. Yet I long to taste some imagined meal on the moons of Ichtorarcus and feel myself deprived. A billion colors entertain my eye and I demand to see the whole of the electromagnetic spectrum. What does ultraviolet look like? Or Gamma rays? There are so many animals for my wonder and amusement but I seek species from other worlds before I have seen a tenth of those on Earth. Consider the duck-billed platypus; God has filled the world world with miracles more awesome than anything we could imagine, and funnier too.”

“No matter, as the tiger has its nature and the flea does too, so I have mine. I will take this drug and step into a new world.”

At this point I think she injects herself but the movie doesn’t show the actual needle. As she does so, there are steps in the hall, getting louder.

“Quiet, someone is coming. I was so intent on my adventure that I forgot that I was stealing. It was never my intention to harm anyone else or take what wasn’t mine. I would gladly pay, but no one would understand. The steps are getting louder. Will they think me a spy?”

As Janey crouches behind the cabinent, the door swings slowly open and the bright beam from a flashlight moves about the room, slowly circling to Janey like a hawk. Janey sees the fluoroscopic light next to the cabinent. She picks it up and aims it directly at the person with the flashlight, a security guard. Then she attempts to run from the room but is tripped up by the guard. In the process, the fluoroscope shines directly on her. This is the light that causes the drug to take effect. She manages to struggle out of the building and take refuge behind some trees. As she rests, the special effects take place with the scenery about her pulsating from gigantic to miniature and the usual assortment of special effects.

“It’s started,” she says. “I have succeeded.”




Harrison and Hugo are sitting in the General’s office. We see a close-up of a phone and it rings. Harrison answers it and listens, “Captain Hugo?” he asks increduously. “Are you sure?” Harrison looks at Hugo closely.

“Excuse me, general, I’ll let you talk in private.” Hugo slowly gets up and walks out the door.

“Wait, just a second, Hugo.”

Hugo pretends not hear and vanishes outside the room.

“Yes,” Harrison says into the phone, “He’s right here.”

He listens some more.

“No, don’t worry. He can’t go far. But are you sure?” He pauses again. “Yes, I’ll get him.”

Harrison walks to the door and looks down the hall, both ways, but he doesn’t see Hugo.

“I can’t believe that Hugo would do such things,” the general says to himself, “Perhaps Leit misunderstood something that he did. I’ll have to go and talk to him.”

The general returns to phone and says, “I’m sure he’s around here somewhere.” He pauses to listen again. “No, don’t bother I’ll contact the police and FBI. Thank God your husband’s safe.” He listens again. “Yes, and mine, too. I’ll be over in few minutes.”

The scene shifts to the outside of Leit’s house. Hugo is lurking in the bushes, surveying the array of cars on the street. “Sheriff Jackson, the general, the FBI: they all know now. It’s time for me to change.” He starts removing his uniform and putting on civilian clothes, “That uniform didn’t fit me any longer. It clumped up over my skin like the wrinkles in an old man’s flesh; this attire will suit me better anyway. This professor seems to have won the game—for now. He has succeeded in keeping his research to himself. How can ideas be property like chairs and rakes? How dare he say, ‘This idea is mine.’ He is a wicked man to hoard the knowledge of God’s universe as though he were a small boy with a favorite toy.”

“He is an arrogant madman, and one who has killed me. He took the drug willingly and knew what it could do. He had no right to inject me with his venom. But they all think he is some sort of angel who causes the sun to rise. What chance do I have against him? No matter, I will find a way to revenge myself against this sacrilegious demon.”

Next, we see the Leit’s living room with the professor, Cindy, Harrison, the sheriff, and an FBI agent. “Are you positively sure that Hugo kidnapped you?” the general asks.

“Of course, I’m sure; Cindy and I had a little fight and when I walked outside, Hugo grabbed me and took me to my lab. He tried to force information out of me.”

“How did you get away,” the sheriff asks.

“Oh, I almost forgot, I injected him with TX19 when he wasn’t looking. He’s probably 10 or 20 pounds smaller now.”

“To be honest with you,” the general says, “I’d like to hear what Hugo has to say about this. I’ve never known him to be anything but a kindly person. I’ve never been in battle with him, but I have often wondered if there wasn’t something in him that would have kept him from pulling the trigger, even against a vicious enemy. He has always been a man who understood the humanity of every person he meant. I have noticed the respect and deferrence he paid to his men and even children and those whom he might have dismissed haughtily. It was as though each person, whatever his circustances, high or low, held a mirror to Hugo’s soul and he gave each the respect that he thought was his due.”

“It would be nice, general,” Cindy says, “if all the wicked people lacked cunning or even carried signs proclaiming their intentions. There is, however, this much good remaining in the worst of them: they know enough of goodness to mask their own vicious acts.”

“You are probably right, but I hate to think it of the captain. In any case, this makes it all the more important that we take the Professor into our custody for his own sake.”

A look of fear crosses Jerry’s face and he tries to hide his tiny body in the pleats of his wife’s skirt.

“Yes,” the FBI agent says, “we don’t know who Hugo’s accomplices are. We have to place him under protective custody.”

“No, no,” Jerry protests ineffectively.

“Of course, we can arrange for Mrs. Leit to come along,” the general says.

“No,” Jerry complains, “I don’t trust anyone.”

“Sheriff?” Cindy asks in a questioning tone.

“You can’t just take the man if doesn’t want to go.”

“I think you can see that he’s not exactly in his right mind and he could be in danger,” Harrison argues.

“You’re going to have to get a court order. In the meantime, I’ll station an officer to guard the house.”

“And I’ll leave a guard, too.” Harrison says.

“I wish you wouldn’t do that, general,” the sheriff replies.

“And why is that?”

“Because, I’ll have to station another man here to watch your man, and if that keeps up, there won’t be anyone left to protect the city.”

“Umph,” the general grunts, “whose side are you on?”

“As far as I know, the professor has no credible felony charges against him, but I can’t say the same thing for your people.”

The camera pans over to the window where we see the top of Hugo’s head as he observes the conversation.


I can understand how people can steal from others and assault them. Most Americans don’t consider stealing from the government, a corporation, or a very rich man to be stealing at all. As I mentioned, I’m not a very religious person, but I do believe in God. I figure that God would be offended if someone mistreated me and I figure that he feels the same toward other people. I also believe that it would be an affront to my Creator to mistreat other people. That’s about all the morallity that I have. I think a lot of people have the same attitude but they have a problem in identifying what makes another person. When tribal people were asked by explorers who they were, they often gave the answer, “people” or “human beings,” in their own language. They didn’t really think of members of other tribes as people at all. You could say the same of children, and, apparently, it takes a long time to grow up in America, sometimes, forty years or more. It’s easy for me to see how people can commit crimes.

My problem is that I don’t understand how a person can persist and redouble his crime when he is caught, how he can turn on his victim and do his best to make him a victim again. If you never see yourself in another person, it would be fairly easy; but we call such people sociopaths. Assuming some spark of human feeling or understanding in the felon, it wouldn’t be that easy. And yet it seems to be very common. We might assume that once the state has entered the picture, the victim has changed the roles and now the criminal pictures himself as the victim of a vindictive state. He does everything he can think of to extricate himself from a punishment that he considers unfair. In general, criminals probably don’t think things through very carefully. This lack of consideration may account for more than I think.




“It’s either that or jail,” Horatio is talking to Janey in the laboratory.

“To be poked and prodded, to have foreign material injected into my body and my own flesh extracted from me, to be treated like one your animals, what have I done to deserve such treatment?”

“You stole from us, and I’m willing to forget that little matter if you will only volunteer to be studied. Besides, it’s not nearly as bad you make it out to be. We might even find a way to reverse the process; think of yourself as a patient.”

“Patient?” Janey asks in despair, “Never in my life have I been patient and now you ask me to play that role. Why don’t you study Professor Leit?”

“When he has the time, I’m sure he’ll be eager to help. Don’t you realize how important this can be to medicine?”

“What business is it of mine to drag out the odious life of some bloated octagenarian whose flesh would be better used for fertilizer, whose heirs can’t say a grace at his table without secretly praying that their next meal will be at his wake?”

“Or provide twenty thousand sunrises to the happy eyes of a child whose flesh shows no trace of a wrinkle but contains within it the blueprint for death. I’m giving you a chance to answer the incessant prayers of loving parents who see only a rotting skull when they regard the sweet visage of their child.”

“You do play God, don’t you; and now you want me to join in your game as though it were hopscotch or checkers.”

“It’s either that or jail,” Horatio says as he readies a syringe to extract some blood.




Hugo, who is now only about 5 feet tall, is talking to Mr. Smith in the same dark alley where they met earlier. “I’ve got the formula and you can have it for free.”

“Free?” Smith asks. “What’s the catch?”

“The catch is that the formula is in me. That fiend Leit injected me with it.”

“And that explains your appearance.”

“I’m afraid so. But it can be recovered by scientists in your country and analyzed.”

“In other words, you want me to arrange for your removal from the United States.”

“I can be a very useful citizen to your country.”

Smith takes out cigarette and puffs on it in the Russian style by holding it between his thumb and forefinger from below. “Free” seems like a very good deal for you in your current circumstances. We’ve heard the news. Let’s say that you pay us $10,000 for a one-way ticket.”

“Ten thousand dollars?” Hugo asks with a combination of anger and despair. “I never knew you people were so particular about defectors, especially those with scientific information.”

“Maybe if you were in Eastern Europe now, but you’re not; you are a wanted man.”

“But now I need your help,” Hugo protests

“Such are the dialectics of reality: from each according to his abilities.”

“It’s going to take me at least a day to raise that kind of money.”

“We’ll contact you in the usual way.” Smith says and then turns to walk down the alley.

“Ten thousand dollars!” Hugo says to himself, “He should have asked for the Hope diamond; I’d have as much chance of getting it. Still, I have to give him the impression that I will try. I have to make him think that I am still cooperating with him. Otherwise, he might turn me in. Or worse, he might get the idea that I will inform on him. He’s not a person I would like for an enemy; his sympathy is for the mass of mankind, which means that he is indifferent to the suffering of an individual. What a strange mind that loves the forest and hates the tree.”

“Wait. I could inform on him. I do have something to bargain with. Let’s see. I did kidnap Leit. They’ll be able to prove that; but suppose I did so in order to trap Smith. Well, it’s still illegal, but perhaps I can convince them that I did so as a counterspy. If I only had one person to verify my story, I could have been acting under orders. The only problem is that I wasn’t acting under orders. But, but, but,” Hugo is desperately searching his mind. “But suppose that Smith were to murder the person who gave me those orders. That would be a sort of proof. General Harrison. Suppose Smith murdered the general.”

“‘And why did you have to actually kidnap Leit,’ they might ask. ‘I wasn’t in on all the details,’ I’ll say. Who knows, maybe they’ll conclude that Harrison was a spy. This could work.”




“I’m small enough now,” Jerry says, “I can just hide someplace.”

“You don’t have worry, Jerry,” Cindy says, “I can protect you. You know that I love you.”

“Love me? No, you can’t love me anymore; that would mean that your previous love was a lie. I’m smaller; I’m afraid; I hardly remember what I used to be.”

“At first your fear made me afraid and your size made me smaller; now I see that you have given weight to smallness and nobility to fear. The Russians have oval dolls made of wood. When you open one there is a smaller one inside. Dolls inside dolls until you finally reach the last doll. This doll is made of a solid piece of wood and can not be opened because there is no hollowness in it. So it is with people. Health, wealth, wit, and good looks are like mascara, which can be washed away with tears. But after everything is gone, something remains, something more real than this ancient and immovable Earth.”

“That’s a cheering thought, my youthful love, but suppose we open a hundred boxes, each inside the other, expecting to find that diamond at the end and all we find is one last empty box. It must come as a disappointment, however gaily the present is wrapped, however cleverly the ribbons are tied.”

“You have shown me the diamond with your presence.”

“I have a wastepaper basket in my office upstairs,” Jerry says, “filled with discarded notes and diagrams; I’m small enough to hide in there and pull the papers over me.”

“You don’t have to hide; you can face whatever comes because I’ll be there to help you.”

“To tell you the truth, I’ve lost all my altruism. I no longer give a thought to anyone’s good but my own. But, Cindy, I have one noble impulse left. I will not drag others (most particularly you) into this contracting world. Have you seen those movies where the walls close in on some helpless prisoner. It causes him such panic. The opposite is true with me. The walls recede from me so that a cramped closet holds no more terror for me than an open meadow dotted over with wild flowers. My mind has become calm and fixed. I want to live, but I will not pay for my survival with your pain.”

“You have very little understanding of pain.”

“There are some old rags in the basement, rags that I use for painting or to wipe off oil and grease when I take on some little task around the house. I could hide in the folds of those rags and be as comfortable as a king in a giant bed with ermine blankets.”

“But, Jerry, there is always a chance for a cure. Play the game a little longer. Wager a little safety for the chance of getting everything back.”

“What do the gamblers say? ‘Good money after bad.’ Better to take the little left to me and quit the game.”

“This safety I’m asking you to bet may be no more clear or real than your reflection in a window. You strain to make some sense of what you see, and then someone inside turns the light on. Everything you thought you saw disappears and another scene appears.”

“For your sake, Cindy, I will play this human game a bit longer.”

“Whatever happens will be OK. I love you.”


This love is a funny word. Love like freedom means whatever the speaker wants it mean. People love beer; they love chocolate. There’s nothing ambivalent in that sort of love. If you want to be loved, you should be like chocolate or like beer. Chocolate delights the senses of smell and taste; it makes you feel full and peaceful. Beer gives you the impression that you are stronger and better and more important than you are. It makes you forget your worries. If you are like chocolate or beer, people will love you; but there is a price to pay for being loved.” This all puts me in mind of a caption under a girl’s picture in my wife’s high school yearbook, “Loves animals, adores fried clams.”

As far as the love of one person for another, I’m as ignorant as the next person. It is far too complicated for my understanding. Even the love of men and women for each other is difficult to fathom. It should be the easiest thing in the world to comprehend (men and women were made for each other.) But as the writer of Proverbs said. “There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.”


“I love you, Jerry, and I want you to get better.”

“If you really loved me, the me that I am now, you wouldn’t want me to get better. There are women who love the potential they see in men. They don’t love what the man is but what he could be. I know that you are not one of those women. Rather, I think I know the recipe for your present love: a quart of memory, 2 cups of duty and a pinch of hope. You love not against your will, which is the most selfish and truest form of love; but you love with your will and against your emotions. It is more than I can rightly ask of you and reveals the lionlike ferocity of your spirit. And yet I must accept your charitable love a while longer with the gratitude of one who knows he can never repay.”




“Hands in the air and turn around slowly,” the deputy barks at Hugo.

Hugo’s clothes hang loosely around him and his sleeves fall down his upraised arms, “What is this?”

The deputy beckons Hugo to come to the police car.

“What are you doing?”

“Are you stupid or something? I’m arresting you.”

“You can’t arrest me,” Hugo says.

“You don’t look big enough to stop me,” The deputy says.

“Do you know who I am?”

“Captain Hugo, aide to General Harrison, the guy we’ve all been looking for.”

“You don’t understand. I’m a special internal security agent for the Pentagon and I’m investigating Harrison. If you arrest me, Harrison can get away. You’ve got to call General Norwich at the Pentagon right away.”

“Harrison? Harrison’s some kind of hero, isn’t he?” the deputy asks.

“Oh, yes, he’s a hero, all right: decorated in the War and Korea, too. He is a man of great bravery, an intellectual, too. Why do you think he was chosen to deal with Leit? He is also a man of unquestioned honesty, perhaps too honest. He was passed over for promotion more than once in favor of politically more astute officers.”

Hugo continues his argument, “You can understand that, can’t you deputy, how the worthy sometime fall behind the glib and empty people with nothing but ambition to recommend them?”

The deputy says nothing but becomes thoughtful.

“Now, you and I are mature people; we understand that this world is not always just. Harrison, though, is bit more sensitive than us.”

“Sensitive?” the deputy asks.

“Yes, that’s the word, I think. Add to that a gruff word from some officer unfairly placed above him, or even a look that could be interpreted as disappoving. All this ate at his soul as the drops of spring rain dissolve a pile of winter snow. You’ve seen how long those icy hills can last in the sun but the tiny drops of rain quickly turn the freezing mountain into a puddle. Eventually, it was more than he could take; he turned against his country. He held out promises of a cure to the desperate Proffesor Leit, if he would only join him in this betrayal. Leit, his mind nearly gone, hung on to these false promises as a drowning man reaches for anything around him that might appear to float. I am the only one here who can stop his traiterous plan from flowering.”

“I’m going to have to call the Chief,” the deputy handcuffs Hugo to a nearby tree and returns to the police car to call.

With the deputy gone, Hugo says, “Who does he think I am? Does he know who he’s dealing with?”


These are interesting questions if we ask them in humility instead of arrogance. In fact, we need to answer these questions before anything else can make any sense. Shakespeare wrote this speech about authority:


“Could great men thunder

As Jove himself does, Jove would ne'er be quiet,

For every pelting, petty officer

Would use his heaven for thunder;

Nothing but thunder! Merciful Heaven,

Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt

Split'st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak

Than the soft myrtle: but man, proud man,

Drest in a little brief authority,

Most ignorant of what he's most assured,

His glassy essence, like an angry ape,

Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven

As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,

Would all themselves laugh mortal.”


What is this “glassy essence” of mine? What does it even mean? I believe that I and other humans are real, that we are the only actors in a world or reactions. Perhaps, I’m wrong. I’m about as spirtual as a hog, but I think I know what is real and what is not. Human beings are the reality of the world. Sometimes, when I’m riding my bike on the road, I’ll see an 18 wheeler and think, “that guy better be careful so that I don’t hit him and destroy his truck.” The rest of the universe is made of cobwebs. A man and his wife drinking coffee at the kitchen table, an old woman warming herself by the fire, a child playing in the mud: these are the only reasons governments exist. All the giant industries and superhighways, the wonderful technology, and fabulous medical knowledge, the great religious and philosophical systems, everything that seems to stand so loftily above us is only there to serve these people and their desires. Those people who understand what is real and what is illusion approach other human beings with the greatest trepidation.

And yet, sometimes, I feel as fragile as an eggshell, as helpless as that tiny zygote. My mind tells me that I am mistaken at such times. Some ignorant blowhard may ask, "Who do you think you’re dealing with here? I think then, "Are you a colonel? Don’t you know that not even all the armies of the Earth can destroy what I am? Are you personal friends with the judge? St. Paul saw a little of reality and he said that we would judge angels. Do you own that shopping center? There are more galaxies in universe we can see than all the people that every lived, and I own the universe." The pompous fool asks, "Do you know who I am?" I think, "You are a million times greater than you think you are; if you only knew who you were, you wouldn’t ask such a stupid question."


We see things from Hugo’s point of view. The deputy grows to the size of a building; the police car shrinks down to toy size. The trees around him form waves like an angry ocean. The camera draws back and we see that Hugo is shrinking a few inches and is able free himself of the handcuffs. He sneaks off down a street and disappears while the deputy is on the radio.




“We’re only talking about one man here,” General Harrison complains in frustration, “and you have no idea of the damage that he can cause.”

“If you think it’s that important,” Sheriff Jackson replies mildly, “why don’t you just take him and let the law sort it out later. I certainly don’t have the power to stop you.”

“I don’t know if Leit remembers how to activate the drug. His partner may know, too, but he acts like he doesn’t. I can’t tell if he’s lying or not. Hugo is probably a traitor and I don’t know if there are foreign agents involved in this thing. We could end up with nothing and our enemies could have it all. If I grab Leit, it will become a big political problem. The man has lots of important friends, men whose names you hear on TV. It’s a complete mess. I just want a little control over the situation.”

“Sorry, general, I can’t just arrest the man; he hasn’t done anything wrong.”

“As far as you know,” Harrison adds darkly. “He may be in league with foreign agents and the Hugo story may be a ruse.”

“There’s no evidence of that.”

Jackson answers his radio and makes a few noncomittal replies to the other party whose words are incomprehensible to us. He concludes by saying, “Bring him in and we’ll get this whole thing straightened out. The general’s here and I’m sure he’ll be interested.

“What’s that all about?”

“It seems that the mystery is solved.”


“You’re the traitor, at least that’s what Captain Hugo says. On top of that, the captain is shrinking too. He’s under 5 feet tall now.”

“Hugo says that I’m a traitor?” the general asks in disbelief. “How can things get more complicated?”

The sheriff returns to the radio and grunts a few times into it. “OK,” he concludes, “Tom’s in the area; hook up with him and see if you can find him.” He looks at Harrison and says, “Hugo managed to escape while the deputy called me.”

“This is completely crazy. Everyone involved in this affair is totally insane.”

“Don’t worry, general, we’ll sort everything out eventually.”

“Wait. If Leit is insane (and he is), we could have him committed to an insane asylum. We could do that, couldn’t we?”

“You’ll have to go before a judge.”

“Yes, we can do that,” the general agrees. “Suppose you find yourself in some alien world where nothing makes any sense. What do you do? You have to start giving things names: That’s the first step in contol. Even if the names are all wrong and you name an alien city a fungus, well, you’ve named it. You’ve put it in a mental box. See the weeds by the side of the road. You pass them a thousand times but you can’t remember what they look like. Give them names and you’ll start remembering them. Leit is crazy. Hugo is a villain. Once we assign names, we start controlling this situation.”

“I suppose that makes a certain kind of sense,” the Chief says, “you might get a little control around the edges. I find that things become clearer with time. Sometimes it takes a few years no matter what I do.”




Horatio is taking Janey’s pulse in the lab, “Were you exposed to a particularly strong light?” he asks her.

“Yes, that one,” she says pointing to the fluoroscope.

“We think that might explain the rapid contraction of the molecules.”

Janey make no reply.

“Your pulse is normal, just like your other readings. I can’t think of physiological reason why you shouldn’t maintain perfect health during the shrinkage, but there has to be some purely mechanical level where you will have to stop shrinking.”

Janey remains silent and detached.

“Well, you can go now. I don’t know why you have this attitude. You should be happy that you can do something for humanity. All that I’m asking for is a little cooperation.”

Janey throws on an oversized cloth coat and walks silently from the office.

In the hall she talks to herself, “This will not do. I can no longer give myself over to this man’s will. It’s blackmail. What if he makes greater demands on me? What’s to keep him from involving me in a crime? For all I know this research is illegal in itself. I can’t stand that touch of his, which he, no doubt, considers reassuring. To think I gave this odius person my own blood. What impertinence. A person who thinks nothing of taking your blood puts no human limits on his actions. I must extricate myself from this sticky web before his ugly fangs can sink into my throat.




“How dare they test my sanity. I, you, I can’t believe it,” Jerry sputters angrily. He is now 8 or 10 inches tall. He is standing in front of doll house, but he makes it look small. He would have stoop down to get through the door. His body is draped with a piece of white cloth, tied at the waist. A length of thread is coiled at his side. “Has anyone tested his sanity?”

We see the scene from another angle. Cindy, Sherriff Jackson, and the psychiatrist are seated in the living room looking down at Jerry in front of the doll house that is backed up to the sofa.

“I’m sorry, professor, but the judge signed the order,” the sheriff explains.

“What have I done that would cause anyone to question my sanity.”

The psychiatrist has a goatee and wears a three-piece suit. He seems to be a good example of a 1950s or 1960s psychiatrist. “The judge took into account the fact that you are privy to a number of very important state secrets. To a certain extent, this is about protecting the American people.”

“State secrets? I don’t know any state secrets. The only thing I know is my own research, from my own mind, created by my own work.”

“It amounts to the same thing, professor. Whereever your information came from, it’s still important to national securty.”

“It came from my head. It’s mine.”

“Please, Professor, just cooperate with us for a little while. We might be able to end this whole matter today.”

Cindy looks down at Jerry and quietly says, “Please.”

“All right, what do you want to know.”

“I’m going to give you a few standard preliminary tests,” the psychiatrist says. “First of all let’s try some free association. I’ll say a word and you tell me the first thing that pops into your mind.” He pulls out a steno pad and pen. “Black.”



“I was looking at the crossword puzzle this morning,” Jerry explains.



“Please, professor, you can think of something.”

“I thought of nothing. It’s like the wave property of light. What is a wave in the water? It’s not the water; it’s not the shape of the water. It’s the action of the shape of the water. But what is a wave in a vaccuum, what is light travelling through space? It’s not nothing; it’s the action of nothing. I never really understood any of that. Biology is a lot more complicated but it least it makes sense.”




There was game show on TV based on this sort of association. I think it was called Password. The idea was to induce your partner to say a word by giving one word clues. You played in order against another team. We used to play it. Let’s say the word was habit; you might say, “Nun’s.” Of course, if your partner didn’t get it, your opponent might say, “clothing.” Then your opponent’s partner would have two words to work with. Some people seem to be able to read their partner’s minds. Other’s are a real mismatch. My wife and I were playing with Paul and Rory one time, and the previous clues were metal and something else. Rory was my partner at the time. He looked at me and said, “spot” with his voice rising at the end to indicate that I should merely complete the obvious phrase. My mind was as vacant as the interstellar space Jerry was talking about. He repeated, “spot” with the same rising inflection. Eventually, someone got the word, but it wasn’t me. The word was silver; what he had in mind was spot silver. You see Rory has a very intense interest in money and markets, one that I didn’t share. He was amazed that I hadn’t come up with the correct completion for spot. I thought that he was crazy.



“Oh,” Jerry starts talking instead of giving an answer, “I forgot to tell you; everything is so new to me. I can see things like a microscope now. I can also see everything I used to; of course the distances are greater. But I also have microscopic sight; I estimate that it’s around 1000 times magnification: X 1000. Maybe if someone were to hold me up to a microscope, my sight would multiply the magnification by a thousand. If it multiplied the target by a thousand, I might be able to see it multiplied by a million. I’m not sure of the physics of it. It could be a very useful ability if it worked.

“Then you’re thinking of how you could be helpful,” the psychiatrist asks. “That’s a very positive attitude.”

“It was just a thought. You’d be surprized how different things are for me now.”

“Water,” the pschiatrist says.

“Tidal wave.”



“That’s very good. Now I’m going to show you this inkblot and I want you to tell you me what you see in it.” The psychiatrist lays a piece of paper on the floor before Jerry.

He grabs a pipe cleaner from the the doll house and walks up to it. “Here’s the big bang. That’s where the universe came into being. Over here is where the gas in the solar system cooled and formed planets that crashed into one another until we had the planets we know. And over here, “Jerry moved the pipe cleaner to another part of the inkblot, “is the earth. See the great ocean where everything came from. Here are the cosmic rays that fused the molecules together into living things. And there are the great towers of a fantastic city; you can see the clouds that obscure the highest part of buildings. Over here . . . ,” Jerry pauses.

“Yes, professor?” the psychiatrist prods him.

“Over here is the darkness, the darkness after entropy has done its slow and inevitable work. The whole universe is at 1 degree above absolute zero.”

“Have you had any thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself?”

“No,” Jerry replies, “My whole mind is focused on maintaining my life, who can imagine nothing?” The scene starts to shake and he shrinks again down to 6 inches or so, and now he seems to be on the same scale as the doll house. “It happened again, and as it was happening, I understood it all. I can tell you.”

Now we see the scene from the point of view of the big people. Jerry is standing on the floor speaking and gesticulating, but his voice now sounds like high pitched static. “Can you understand him?” the Sherriff asks.

“It’s just a hum to me,” the psychiatrist replies, “like the buzzing of a mosquito in my ear.

The perspective shifts to Jerry again and all we hear is some low-pitched rumbling. “I’m not shrinking. I’m just what I’ve always been. Don’t you see? You are all growing. You are all exploding, only very slowly. You are all doomed; you are all going to die, only you don’t know it yet. You must do something. It’s like watching an explosion in super slow motion. In a while the pieces of your bodies will be flying outward. It’s like seeing a person blow up a balloon until it gets too big: you know he’s going too far and there will soon be a loud bang. You have to do something. I see now. It’s all so clear.”

“How strange it is to understand something rightly. I know the feeling will pass and the knowledge may go with it. Somehow I have to file away this fact as I would some important paper. Our memories can store facts but not the emotions that accompany them. I recall Fermat’s proof about the powers of prime numbers and I know how delightful it was. I couldn’t duplicate his proof now but I know that the theorem is true even though I can’t create the joy it gave me then. That’s how I must understand this matter. I am not really shrinking at all; it’s an illusion. I must store this truth in my mind as I keep the deed to my house in a very safe place. I don’t want to lose it.”


I don’t know if Jerry is supposed to be crazy or this is supposed to be an important point. It may be a revelation or an epiphany or an apotheosis. I think a revelation is pretty close to an epiphay, but an apotheosis is something different. At least that’s what I think.


“He’s trying to tell us something,” Cindy says.

“He is going on,” the sheriff remarks.

“Well,” the psychiatrist says, “it doesn’t make any difference now. We can’t understand a syllable. Maybe we can find some kind of translator, something to lower his pitch a little so we can hear him.

“Still,” Cindy sighs, “I wish I could understand his words.”




“What strange noises disturbed my sleep last night,” we see a closeup of Janey’s face poking out from under a white sheet. “I thought that I had heard every creak and twitch that this old house could make, but there were great low groanings. I dreamt of the time when I walked over the frozen river and the unstable ice made a noise as though the flowing water under the ice had turned into some huge bass and reverberated a noise so low in pitch that I feared that chasms were opening up all around me. It was just the noise the ice makes and I crossed in perfect dry safety. I heard a sharp crack, too, in my dream, or was it a quick rumble, like distant thunder. Then, I was wakened again by incessant pelting as though boulders were being dropped on my roof. Throughout all this, I heard a distant sound of music. It was so harminous and yet the pitch was so high I could barely make it out.”

The camera pulls back and we see that Janey is on top of a pillow. It is under her bed and the blankets hang down by the sides giving the feeling of great space. Above are the springs in her matress. “I’ve shrunk again. This is truly a new day.” She slides easily down the pillow and we see that she is no more than 2 or 3 inches tall. “The noises I heard must have been the usual things I hear. The boulders must have been rain on the window. But the music, I never heard that before; what was that?”

She looks up at her room and the window seems as though it could be a hundred feet above her. “I may never see the sun again; and yet, what new sights I am starting to see now will more than make up for it. But what is there to eat. Am I to starve?” As she walks around, she comes up on something that looks like a white lava boulder. “Angel food cake! I remember that from the day before yesterday.” She tears off a bite and eats. “A very luxurious breakfast. I think this new life agrees with me. I will try to remember it all. Tomorrow may be a new life altogether. I will be like the Hindu sage entering into Nirvana. He pauses and says to his disciples, ‘However many times you are reborn,’ he tells them, ‘you always remember your first life.’ This is truly a day to remember.”


There is a sort of interesting idea that I heard of once. You are supposed to think of the very first thing that you remembered. The idea is that you didn’t remember it at all; you constructed it from the material of your later life. In my case, I know this to be true because the dates don’t fit. I don’t think I remembered it at all. I think I remember remembering it, maybe remember remembering remembering it. My parents and my father’s parents were watching TV (my father always had to have all the latest gadgets.) I wish I had that TV now; it would be worth something as an “antique.” The screen pulled up from a cabinet so that it looked like a piece of furniture most of the time. They were watching the presidential convention where Eisenhower was chosen over Taft. I walked into the hall where there was a piano. On the piano was a calendar that said “1950.” It occurred to me that I would eventually see a calendar that said “1960.” Then I had an incredible thought. Sometime there would be a calander that read “1970.” It was too much for me. The problem with this first memory of mine is that the convention that nominated Eisenhower was in 1952 and so I have to ask what else was wrong with this first memory.


Janey is startled by extremely low sounds coming her way and runs back under the bed. To her surprize Horatio appears in her room. “Janey,” he calls and we hear it once as he says it and once as she hears it, the roar of a distant train.

“Here I am, Horatio, and you can’t have me any more. I can dive into a crack between the floor boards or hide in a cookie jar. There are a thousand places too small for you to enter. Search for me with your microscope, and I’ll still disappear.”

Horatio seems to hear something but it is only a high-pitch whine. He sits on a chair facing the bed. He is almost looking directly at her but he doesn’t see. “She’s gone. The prisoner, the pauper, and the dying man may sleep and dream; and in those dreams may appear great gold-encrusted palaces with verdant vistas and, perhaps, an unequalled lady. Such was Janey; and as the details of the dream fade from the waking mind, so her image fades from my grieving soul. All I know is that I am capable of freedom, wealth, and love because those things were in my dream. I may not be the modern day Hippocrates, but still, I might have cured her. If not, I could have looked into her eyes and told her the simple truth, ‘Janey, my life began when I met you.”


My first real memory was probably in the blizzard of 1950. My parents put me in a snow drift that came up to my chin and took a picture of me. I thought, “I bet they think this is cute.” Apparently I understood sarcasm at an early age; I mean the concept, not the word.


Once more we see the scene from Janey’s point of view, looking at the unseeing Horatio as he speaks. His words, though, are no more than low drawn-out sounds of the bass pipes of a church organ. “I’m free of you now, of your stethescopes and needles and syphgnomometers, free of your pills and potions and x-rays. You can’t even see me. If you come back, I’ll be small enough to jump in your nose and tickle you until you sneeze. Maybe I’ll ride in the cuff of your pants as hobos travel the rails just so that I can bedevil you.”


Rich Richardson, who taught me the meaning of anarchy (the meaning I understand now), had a first memory that reflected his life extremely well. He remembered that his parents left him with a babysitter, a girl that he regarded as very desirable. To pass the time they fashioned a spider of copper wire and hung it in the door. When his parents came home, his mother was taken aback by trick. Girls, gadgets, and thwarting authority: that’s what his life was all about. When he got around to writing a book about his life, he called it The Copper Spider.




A diminutive Hugo is lurking in the bushes as everyone leaves the Leit home. “I don’t see Leit,” Hugo remarks, “or anything they could carry him in.” The whole group enters a car. “This could be my chance. I’m not going to live like this.”


“I’m not going to live like this.” That’s just what I said just before I cut my hand trying to fix a pipe.


“My nights have turned arctic, they last forever. If I find a safe place to sleep that is warm and dry enough, I no longer sleep, I pass out from exhaustion. My dreams are all confused with reality. I always find myself confronted by some difficult task too complicated for me to accomplish. Sometimes I find myself building a shelter from ten thousand sticks as black clouds gather in the sky, clouds filled with flashes of blue lightning. If I could only put the sticks together properly, I’d be safe. But I can’t. I can’t. I turn in my sleep and tell myself that it is all dream. ‘Just will the thing into being and it will happen,’ I tell myself. But I can no longer believe myself. Or I am digging a trench, but as I dig, tiny bits of soil fall all around me and my work is all undone. I can never finish anything.

And then I wake. ‘Why wasn’t I more careful to imprison Leit? Why wasn’t I on the look out?’ And then comes the hatred. I will do this and I will do that and then he will see how he has wronged me. And he will be sorry. My mind is in such a fury and that it is some relief. But then a leaf will fall on me or I will hear a dog sniffing around my hiding place and the thought of my stature will crush me and all my plans. Exhausted by my pursuers in the day and my thoughts at night, I fall asleep again and wake up unrefreshed and still unresolved.”

Hugo is just tall enough to peek into the window by halfway climbing a bush. “I will kill the little monster with my bare hands. I might not be very tall, but I’m big enough to overpower him.”

He breaks the window, enters the house and yells out, “Leit, where are you, Leit?” Jerry scurries across the floor. “A mouse,” exclaims Hugo, “what right have you to be here? I’ll do the lady of the house a great favor now. I’ll be her exterminator.” Jerry once more appears and quickly disappears behind the couch.

“Now that I almost have him, I think of other things. Why is that? I think of how good turkey and gravy tastes at Thanksgiving or the warmth of a bath. These thoughts almost drive out my hatred and my resolve. I could almost forgive this creature. No. I have but one source of heat in this cold world and that is my hatred. If let go of that, another ice age descends on me and I will freeze. I will be nothing more than a tiny snow man that children use as a target for their icy missiles and when spring finally comes, I will simply cease.”

Hugo has completely lost Jerry’s track. “Gone, hidden, but not safe.” He picks up a gallon of gasoline from someplace and starts spreading it all over the first floor of the house. He then holds up an unlit kitchen match. “Here’s a match for you, professor. I’ll just throw a little light on the situation.” With that he strikes the match and tosses it onto the floor. The room is immediately engulfed in flames. As he is about to leave, Hugo sees a tiny figure disappear behind the basement door. Then we see things from Jerry’s point of view. Even at his height he is able to jump down the stairs with ease. Each step would be 8 to 10 feet high in relation to Jerry’s height.

“It doesn’t matter how low you go, you won’t be safe from me,” Hugo rolls some newspaper into a cylinder and lights it like a torch. He follows Jerry down the steps. “I’ve got some news for you, my little friend.” With that, he stumbles on the stairs and and falls down them. We see him at the bottom with the papers lying next to him. Within a few seconds the wooden stairs have caught fire."




“This will lower the pitch of Jerry’s speech so that we will be able to understand him,” Horatio tells Cindy as he holds a microphone attached to black box with three dials on it.

“Will he be able to understand us?” Cindy asks.

“I never thought of that.”

“Well, if we can’t make out what Jerry is saying, he might not be able to understand us either.”

“I wish I knew a little more about physiology.”

“There’s another problem,” Cindy says with some sadness in her voice.

“What’s that?”

“Suppose that he comes through clearly and says exactly what he means. He’s changed so much that we might not know what he’s getting at.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Jerry’s been changing, Horatio, and I don’t mean just in stature. He no longer has the same concerns that he used to. I don’t like to say the word, but he’s become selfish. Not selfish like an adult but like a child. He has become like a young child or an infant. He has the fears of a child and he never thinks of a future past an hour or two.”

“That must be very difficult for you,” Horatio says.

“No, not really; in a way, it’s very easy. You know how Jerry used to be. He cared about people that he’d never met, people from other countries. He always had the future on his mind. I can’t remember how many times he said, ‘Three years from now . . . ,’ or ‘In twenty years . . .” It was as though his mind was far-sighted. Now it’s just the opposite. All his mind is taken up with the immediate and the near.”

“And there’s nothing closer to him than himself.”

“Exactly. In a strange way, though, he has become more himself. It’s as though the Jerry we knew was obsessed with other people, other cultures, other times. Now, he doesn’t care about anything more than 10 feet away from him or a few hours in the past or future.”

“I wonder if he remembers his work on TX19.”

“It really doesn’t matter. Unless he can use that knowledge for some immediate purpose, he won’t even think about it. He won’t try to remember.”

Horatio pauses for a moment and says, “Maybe the drug has caused some sort of sickness in him. Perhaps his mind is gone.”


Kenneth Copeland is a TV preacher who claims that Christians should all have the powers of Jesus. In particular he preaches that God will heal anyone. Of course, it is obvious to him that there are a lot of Christians with illnesses. Here’s where he becomes creative. He claims that the flesh is at war against the spirit and that you just have receive your healing and act on it in faith. In explaining why people don’t get well, he once said that “there is nothing more selfish than a sick person.” This is turning cause and effect upside down. Psychiatrists do it some time. You are not selfish because you are sick; you are sick in order to be selfish.

There may be something in this idea for some people with certain illnesses. I would never want to guess how often it works out that way. Just to be safe, I administer a little prophylactic gold bricking to myself. If sickness is caused by selfishness, it follows that the selfish person has no need to get sick. On the other hand, if a person acts too selfishly, he can run into trouble with his contemporaries. A little goldbricking and perhaps some pretended illness ought to keep the doctor away better than apples. As a corollary, I try not to act sick or even admit to it when I actually have something wrong with me.

Brother Copeland also delivered the opinion that marital infidelity causes the death of child. I was completely appalled when I heard this. Think how someone whose child died must think when he hears this. It’s a very horrible thought. The idea would pop up in mind from time to time. Then I heard that the son of Bill Cosby the comedian was murdered. “What do you make of that, Brother Copeland,” I thought. Here’s a man who constantly preaches clean comedy, upright living, and family first; I hope he never heard Copeland’s ugly thought. And then, in a day or two, the news came out that Cosby’s illegitimate daughter was arrested for attempting to blackmail the comedian. The idea that infidelity causes the death of a child is still a very nasty one, but the Cosby case sticks in my mind.

One of my problems is that I remember false things that are colorful better than dull things that are true. I read a cookbook by some crank once and he stated that hot peppers prevented radiation sickness. I doubt it, but I will never forget it. He also had a recipes for making worcestershire sauce from apples rather than tamarinds. It turned out to be quite good.




The fire is destroying the Leit’s house. The scene shifts to the basement, which is also in flames. Jerry is tugging the unconscious Hugo to a a corner under a work bench. The area is not burning. Hugo has shrunk from a couple of feet tall down to less than a foot. “If I were much taller,” Jerry says, “I’d probably pass out, but the oxygen is close to the floor. This Hugo is a Goliath compared to me: ‘six cubits and a span.’ This man sought my life; why do I trouble myself so? I should watch him burn and feast on his roasted carcass. Do morals drive me to this act of kindness? No, I have no room for morality in this tiny body. It is simply a matter of taste. The spectacle of his fiery death is not my idea of entertainment.

There’s another point, too. I have nothing to fear from this clumsy felon. I’ve faced down the fearsome cat who tried to swipe at me with its 6 inch claws and made it slink away with my stern gaze. The birds of the air, which used to fill me with such dread, take flight when I walk by. Their instincts inform them that I am still a being to be feared, no matter what my size. Just as a young child can command a hundred pound dog to roll over and play dead, so these creatures submit to something in me that I can’t name. My body may have shrunk but my spirit has grown.”

Jerry has managed to pull Hugo into a corner where he covers him with some sort of tarp. “Besides, Hugo, you and I may be of use to one another; our interests converge. We both want to survive.”

Outside General Harrison is watching the fire with Cindy who is hugging Horatio for comfort. “I thought I was prepared for anything,” Cindy sobs, “but not this.”

“There’s still hope,” Horatio tells her.

“Don’t say that,” Cindy replies, “I’ve had enough of hope, lately. It is a medicine that soothes the mind for a while but ends up sickening the stomach.”

“Then I won’t try to force this drug upon you. Maybe it’s time for you to cry. Only, cry loudly, so that no one will notice the tears that I’m about to shed. He towered above me in intellect, in morality, in loving friendship and in modesty. If I could claim half his virtue in any of these categories, I would be so proud that the Fates would single me out for retribution.”

A firefighter brings a small bar to Harrison, “Do you know what this is?” he asks.

We see that it is one of those multicolored ribbons that military men wear instead of medals. “It’s a silver star. Hugo won it for bravery in Korea.”

“We found it near the window that was broken from the outside. Smell it.”

Harrison sniffs and observes, “Gasoline.”

“You see how it looks, don’t you, general.”

“I’m afaid I do. It looks as though Hugo is behind this fire. Right up until that call from Leit, I never saw anything but good in Hugo. It’s so hard to believe. I just don’t get it.”


I had a teacher in Junior High who openly wished the word get could be taken out of the language. When people become interested in grammar, they can sometimes go a little nutty. Apparently she felt that get was misused frequently; on top of that, it could always be replaced by another word: understand, have, etc. I suppose that may be true, but when it comes to jokes, it only makes sense to say “I got it.” It’s not enough to say that you understand a joke (or a mathematical theorem). In an intellectual sense, you possess these things. You make a joke your own mental property. You get it.


“I just don’t get it,” Harrison repeats sadly.




Time has obviously passed. The Leit home is totally destroyed, burnt to the ground, and there are few wisps of smoke rising from the ruin in the sunset. The scene shifts to the basement where Hugo is yelling at Jerry. “I don’t care. I don’t care. I’m going to kill you if it’s the last thing I do.” There is a crude work bench built into the room next to the wall. It is the only thing left that is not charred or burned. Hugo is climbing the leg in an effort to get to the suface of the bench where Jerry is watching with a certain amount of amusement. “I’m still a foot taller than you. I can still destroy you,” Hugo threatens as he climbs.

“No you can’t,” Jerry replies mildly, “and by the way, you aren’t even a foot tall. You couldn’t be any more than a couple of inches taller than me.”

“You know what I mean.”

Hugo’s hands reach the top of the work bench and Jerry simply pries them off, sending Hugo to the floor again. “You’ve spent your time thinking of me, captain. I, on the other hand, have spent my time thinking of myself and my situation. Your mind has not come to terms with your body; mine has.” Jerry throws a thread down to Hugo. “Here, I’ll pull you up. You can kill me then.”

Hugo accepts the help and manages to climb to the work area. He immediately attacks Jerry. Jerry nimbly dodges the bigger man and trips him up. Hugo is up again quickly and attacks again, with the same result. This time, though, Jerry puts his foot on Hugo’s head and pushes his swordlike pin a little bit into Hugo’s chest, under the breast bone.

“Get it over with.”

“I have no reason to kill you. I might have a reason later but, for now, I leave you to your thoughts.” Jerry walks away, leaving a puzzled Hugo lying on the planks of the work bench.

“Wait,” he calls out weakly.

“What do you want?”

“You can’t leave me alone.”

“Yes, I can.”

“My hatred gives me warmth. If you leave, I will have neither heat nor light.”

“I have no time to be your personal light bulb or your hated space heater.”

“Help me, professor.”

“I can’t help you until you do one thing.”

“What’s that?”

Jerry slowly approaches the captain, who is now sitting up, “Forgive me, Hugo.”

“If I forgive you, there will be nothing left of me.”

“I know that,” Jerry tells him, “there’s nothing left of you now; you just have to accept it.”

Hugo falls silent for a while. “You know the truth: I’m the one who needs forgiveness from you.”

“You? No, you have never done me any harm,” Jerry tells him.

“How can you say that, professor?”

“I’ve learned something else: I am utterly alone: No one owes me anything. I am the only specimen of my species: Only I can cause myself harm. I’ve left the world of mankind, the world of others. What are those giants to me? If one of them steps on me, it’s my own fault. I can communicate with the rumbling of distant thunder more easily than with one of them.”

“Your world is too hard for me, professor; even as a villain, I had a temperature. You are absolute zero. Stick a thermometer in your mouth and the mercury would contract into a frozen ball and break the glass.”


It occurred to me that I had preforgiven my children of everything they might do before they were born. If they committed crimes or stole from me or had complete contempt for me, I would simply accept the fact. Otherwise, my mind would be constantly entwined in their activities, their feelings, and their loves and hates. Let’s say I acquired some money. Unless I forgave everything they did, I would be destined to spend two days a month in lawyers’ offices changing my will to punish or reward my children for real or imagined wrongs or accomplishments. Forgiveness is all for the mental health of the forgiver, not the forgiven person, who might not have done anything wrong in the first place.

Of course, this has nothing to do with my strictness or leniency as a parent. You can punish a child knowing all along that you have no complaint against him. In fact, that is the only proper way to punish. My own tendency is toward indulgence so that I must keep reminding myself of my responsibility. After all, God entrusted two girls to me and my wife and I suppose I will have to account for the sort of job I did.

You can raise children pretty much as you were raised; this strategy works out well if you are happy with the way you turned out. You could follow nature in raising your children. The problem with this plan is that they would grow up naturally and we do not live in a state of nature. Some intellectuals praise the child-rearing practices of New Guinea or the Pygmies, but these people don’t have air conditioning, and they don’t eat enough, and they die young. My belief is that it’s best to prepare your children for the twenty-first century, and if they don’t find that civilization agreeable, they can always revert in adulthood.




“Why are you in such a hurry?” the man in the blue suit asks Cindy.

“I’m not in a hurry. How can you say that?” I just want to get it over with so I don’t have to deal with any more details.

“Just sign the death certificate, Phil,” Sheriff Jackson orders, “so Mrs. Leit can get out of here.

“Look, sheriff, it hasn’t even been 48 hours. You wouldn’t even declare the professor a missing person under normal circumstances.”

“These aren’t normal circumstances. Have you been listening to news? Did you see the what was left after the fire? Just do what Mrs. Leit asks.”

“This wouldn’t have anything to do with insurance, would it?” Phil looks pointedly at Cindy.

“That does it,” Sheriff Jackson is starting to lose his temper, “if you had any brains you could make money as a doctor. Instead, you had to take this crummy job as a coroner. Now you think that you’re some kind of a detective. Cindy grabs the sheriff sleeve and pulls him back to confer in whispers.

“OK, Phil, Mrs. Leit tells me she has a $5,000 insurance policy on the professor. She also told me that I could hang on to for as long as necessary. If I just lock it in my safe for a couple of weeks, will that make you happy?”

“OK, OK. There’s no reason to get all worked up over this.” Phil signs the death certificate.”


I guess this is supposed to be a matter of closure; and I’ve never understood closure. Sometimes, at a store, when I give the clerk the exact change, I wait for the receipt. If I didn’t get anything back, I’d feel that something was left undone. That’s why I wait for the reciept: closure. But how can there ever be closure when it comes to people. People and the trouble or joy they bring never end. They just receed in time until they become smaller and smaller in the mind. Someone may wave good-bye to you from an airplane’s window. As the plane takes off, the person disappears from sight, but you still see the airplane. As it flies away, it gets smaller and smaller. You think, though, that if you squinted a little, you could still see some part of it.

I can think of a half dozen times when I was very irritated by someone. Sometimes, I would even wake up in the middle of the night and fret over the matter. Eventually, though, even the memory would just fade away. I can’t remember now why I was angry at anyone in the first place. I’ve lived long enough to know that I can’t hold a grudge very long, so I just forgive the person as soon as possible, forgive in my mind. What good does my hatred do me? The thought of the wrong would only sit in my soul the way a bit undigested food lies in the stomach of a dyspeptic person. Forgiveness is the digestive of the mind.




“We were the same once,” Jerry instructs Hugo, “you were my shadow or I was yours. It doesn’t matter now. My life was all about other people: my wife, Horatio, strangers that I would never meet. And you, even in your villainy, what did you picture? Did you imagine a land devoid of humans? No. I can assure you that your every action was to please other people, to make them admire you, envy you, who knows, love you. But that world is gone now.”

“I was so intent on the love and admiration of strangers that neglected those closest to me. I didn’t know how to rid myself of that curse and I thought I could use my science to readjust my mind. You see the results before you. And you, you were so obsessed with how other people viewed you that you decided to travel the crooked path, the one that always leads to the waste places of this world.”

Hugo and Jerry are still on top of the work bench, but now Hugo seems more receptive to what he is hearing. “Is this going to be on the final exam, professor?” Hugo asks without irony.

“In our former lives, Hugo, we put the world out of balance. I longed to be the hero, and in the process, I sucked all the goodness out of people and appropriated it to myself. I was so ravenous for virtue that I left nothing on the table, not even a scrap for the dogs. And so the world looked at me and said, ‘We have our hero; now we can mind our own business.’”

“You are no less to blame. You had to play the villain. You used violence and deceit to get what you wanted. The people looked at you and said, ‘That villain lies and employs force to have his way; violence and deceit must be bad things. We will have none of them. We will be peaceful and honest and go about our business.’ But the tools you used were good tools, useful in proper hands; you took them away from the people. They should have understood that the traits you look for in a linebacker are not those you want in a babysitter, but they are useful traits just the same.”

“A curious philosphy, professor, but what does it have to with our present situation?”

“It’s time for you to become selfish, Hugo.”

“How can you say that? You know that I’ve been thinking of myself all along.”

“Not true. You have done nothing but think about other people. You’ve been obsessed with me for quite a while. Before that, you thought of the general or some other superiors of yours. ‘I’ll show Leit,’ you thought. ‘I’ll show them,’ you thought. But you had nothing in you to show. And then, once you had money, who did you plan to show? Some ancient enemy of yours? The chorus girls at the casino? Your cousin? That girl from high school?”

“There may be something in what you say,” Hugo confesses.

“It makes no sense for us to be heroes and villains any longer. Heroes and villains are nothing but reflections in the eyes of other people. No one’s left, Hugo. Right here, right now, we can communicate with each other a little, but we are not even in same species. We must live totally for ourselves now, or die. We must find food and drink. We must keep ourselves safe. And if we can derive some sort of passing pleasure in process, the better for us. This is our whole calling and our duty, too, as it is the duty of the blue jay to live. It may turn out that you will have to kill me or I you, but not for the admiration or fear of strangers. Kill a mosquito. Kill Hugo. It’s all the same.”

“What you say seems right, Professor, but rather grim.”

“We are free, Hugo, more than free. We are the conquerors of our own worlds. Each time we shrink, there is a new world to overcome. There is no time to sit like Alexander and lament the lack of worlds to conquer. If we can not accept this challenge, we will surely die.”

“I would prefer a safer fate, Professor. I don’t relish becoming an hors d’oerve for a kitten. I don’t want to be trampled and have my corpse scraped off a giant’s shoe as though it were used chewing gum.”

“If you pay attention, there are benefits in each world,” the professor tells him. He dives off the work bench. He spreads his arms revealing translucent wings attached to his arms and flies gracefully around the basement until he lands in front of the amazed Hugo.

“My God! You can fly.”

“You could too, if you had paid attention. Gravity is no longer an enemy. I simply fashioned myself some wings from some dead flies.”

“What else have I missed?”

“Roasted ants.”

“Ants?” Hugo asks.

“The flesh is sweeter and more delicate than the finest lobster, and you can wash it down with a thimbleful of evening dew, deliciously scented with clover. Look around you. Your eyes are like microscopes now. You can see into the structure of things, and the deeper you look, the more complicated and wonderful things become. I know a garden where we could feast our lives away, and there’s an apple tree with a rotting apple under it. Only some of those apples have fermented and we can gather a cider that will match champagne for taste. Listen. You will hear such music as humans never know. Touch. Everything is new to us. The tension of the water’s surface is a miracle. Everything is miraculous. And when you tire, you can stuff some rag with milkweed seed and sleep more comfortably than the princess with her dozen matress marred by a single pea. What you have lost is more than made up for in this new world. Every step we take is new. It is as though we woke up after a blizzard to face an icy world. Each step we make in the drifting snow is absolutely new; no one has made that step before. Everywhere we walk we leave footprint on the moon. And as we shrink, I do not doubt that greater wonders await us.”




“Didn’t the professor keep notes of his earlier experiments? The ones that weren’t so successful?” General Harrison asks Horatio in the laboratory.

“Oh, yes, I’m sure he did. I was mostly interested in the cellular effects of the drugs he prepared. I don’t know where the actual formulas were.”

“Have you looked around?”

“Every place I could think of. All I can figure out is that he must have kept them in his house and you know what happened there.”

“You still have the final formula, don’t you?” Harrison asks.

“Yes, maybe I can use that. But there are still a lot of problems that need to be worked out.”

“If you find anything that might be useful to your country, can I count on you to turn it over to me, or to someone else in the government?”

“Of course, general, I’m sure that I’ll turn up something, eventually.”

Harrison walks slowly out of the lab and Horatio opens a cabinet with a key. He pulls out a note book, rips out a page, and burns it in a bunsen burner. After burning several pages, he closes the book and looks into the camera with a very serious expression. He seems to be thinking, “There are some things that it is better for man not to know.”


That seems to be a theme of a lot of science fiction movies, but I don’t believe it. You can kill the whole population of the planet with a rock. The problem lies in the will of the person and the acquiesence of the people to that will. The governments of the world murdered hundreds of millions of people in the 20th century (mostly with 19th century means) because the people have accepted the idea of the state: Nothing is inevitible but death and taxes. The more taxes the more deaths.

Currently, people seem to be worried about cloning. After all the slaughter, you’d think that creating life would be a fairly harmless pursuit, but the fear is that scientists are encroaching into God’s territory. I used to think that my particular set of genes was so wonderful that I had a duty to pass it on to the world. I’ve come to the conclusion that the world could probably muddle through without the addition of my genes. I have two daughters, who are definitely an addition to the planet, but that’s by chance. Who knows what genes of mine they received and what good those genes will do them or anyone else? I’m sure that I owe them an apology for some of the genetic material I foisted on them.

Cloning may be playing God, but if it works and a child is ever cloned, God will have honored the manipulation. And why not? Sometimes two teenagers in the back seat of a car create life. God uses them. A man and woman in the act of infidelity (or even rape) can produce life. We see God’s will in the baby. Why couldn’t he use a scientist in a lab? I say we worry about killing and stealing first, and when we solve those problems, we might worry about cloning and genetic engineering.

I read that members of the aboriginal Arunta tribe in central Australia claim that they do not associate sex with pregnancy. They say that pregnancy results from a woman’s contact with a nature spirit.

I can think of four possibilities:

1. I was mistaken or forgot what I read.

2. The Arunta believe in the literal, biological truth of this assertion.

3. The Arunta are having a little quiet fun at the expense of the anthropologists.

4. The Arunta know that sex is a necessary for pregnancy but believe it is not sufficient.

Number 4 might seem a little strange but most Americans probably believe something close to it: God makes children so God and sex are both necessary for a child to be conceived. It seems as though the knowledge that sex and pregnancy are linked does not destroy people’s faith. The facts that the Earth is round and that microorganisms can cause disease and that splitting atoms releases energy haven’t turned the world atheistic. I think we can handle some more knowledge. There are probably a number of things that man was meant to understand; and we don’t know half of them yet.




“What are we going to eat tomorrow?” Hugo asks. Hugo and Jerry are leaning on a gigantic metal garbage can; they are dressed in brightly colored silken togas, eating huge chunks of meat. “What will drink? When we get smaller, what will we wear?”

“I don’t know, Hugo, but we have it pretty good today. That was an inspired idea about looking into trash.”

“What’s going to happen to us as we get smaller and smaller?

“I don’t know, but as I see it, things have just continued to get better and better. We’re so small that we can even go out during the day now.”

“True,” Hugo admits, “but the ants we used to eat are getting big enough to eat us now.”

“What’s wrong, Hugo, it isn’t like you to worry.”

“Sooner or later, we won’t be able to contol where we go. Every gust of wind will take us where it wants to.”

“I’ve thought about that,” Jerry says. “We’ll just have deal with it when it happens.”

“We’ll be separated, eventually.”

“Is that the problem?”

“I like you, Jerry.”

“That’s nice of you to say.”

“I never liked anyone before. I always thought of people as things I could get stuff from or had to handle or wanted to get things from me. It never occurred to me that I could actually like someone.”

“There’s just no reason left not like each other,” Jerry says chewing off a piece of meat.

“Isms. They were the death of me. Patriotism, communism, militarism, and finally epicureanism. Everything was always about some ism or other. Even when I was a villain, it was never me. It was some ism I had in my head. Isms. I sinned for money. Isms. That’s what shrunk me.”

Jerry wipes his mouth with a huge tissue. “Don’t forget altruism. Ism: I sold myself.”


“Not at all. You sell yourself. It doesn’t matter if you give the money you got to the poor or if you spend it on yourself. You’re still sold.”

“Maybe we should tie ourself together so that we don’t lose each other.”

“You know that it won’t work. I like you, too, Hugo, but the time will come when we’ll have to part.”

“Do you think of the others, Jerry?

“Sure. I think of my wife. I think of Horatio. I feel sorry for them.”

“Because they’re grieving for you?”

“Yes, of course, I’d like to tell them that I’m OK; but most of all, I’m sorry that they won’t follow us. They’re condemned to remain in the gross world. I’m sure they think their great bulk is a wonderful gift, but we know that it’s nothing but a burden. They are weighted down by a hundred pounds of useless baggage.”

“We could stay together a little longer if we tied ourselves together with a thread.”

“I know, Hugo, but you can’t think that way. I like you. I enjoy your company. Once we part, though, I will lose one more burden.”

“You mean me?” Hugo asks with only the slightest bit of hurt in his voice.

“No, no. You are no burden. I mean my name.”

“Your name?”

“I thought I was a boy once. I called myself a student then. Eventually, I named myself scientist, but that wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted to be a husband and a man. When I started shrinking, I thought I was just me, but I was wrong because me is acted on. I concluded that I was I. Now I am Jerry. Once we part, I won’t need to be Jerry anymore. I will be . . . . I will be . . . whatever I am.”




“You’re an idiot, Horatio. You’re a fool and you’re ugly, too.” Janey is standing on Horatio’s shoulder while he sleeps, yelling in his ear. She’s only two inches tall or so and she tickles the inside of his ear with a feather, or a bit of down. We see Horatio toss in his sleep, settle back down, and say, “Janey.” Janey flies off his body with a pair of butterfly wings and then lands again. The word Janey comes through only as a low rumble.

“Let’s see. I’ve put pepper in his nose and heard him sneeze a hundred times last night. That’s why he’s napping now. The day before I hid one of his shoes and watched him search for an hour. He probably thought he was losing his mind. I loaded his sugar bowl with salt and, let’s see, a half a dozen other pranks. I feel better now. I suppose I could drive this pompous professor mad, but I’ve had enough revenge. I’ll go watch to the sunset now and steal some honey from the bees and drink the nectar from the roses.”

Janey flies out a window and up into the early evening air. She flits around the flowers and a bee hive. She lands on the ground and finds a leaf to cover herself with. “Maybe I’ll rest a while and then I can ride the beetles as though they were horses. But wait. Suppose I play one more trick on old Horatio. I could hide his keys and watch as he hunted fruitlessly for them.”

“I think too much of the man. I should have forgotten him by now. My eyes can hardly stay open and yet I picture him in the morning mists as though he were coming out of a cloud. Could it be love?”

“That thought woke me up.”

“Oh well, there’s nothing to fear: It can only be love from afar. It can never be a tear-engendering love or the jealous love that leads to midnight fights. It can never be that love that last 20,000 days and ends as crutch love where two sexless, superannuated lovers lean on each other as they limp off into eternity. That’s casket love, and when one dies, the love of the other follows easily along into death. The ancient body then waits to be rejoined someplace with the love that left it. No, none of that for me. I’ll sleep now and if I dream of a dalliance, so much the better: Sweet dreams make for a sound sleep.”


One of the big philosophical questions is "Why are we here?" I can't answer this question for everyone but I can answer it for a lot of people. I once saw one of those modern ministers on television. He said something that intrigued me. Noting that no one had ever come back from death, he suggested that "maybe the next life is so wonderful that God doesn't want us killing ourselves to get there."

This remark suggested an experiment to me. Suppose that you could be guaranteed a completely happy life. The only condition would be that you had to leave your state, never to return. You would forget your entire previous life and everything in it that you might regret; but God himself would assure you that you were doing nothing wrong in leaving. As you crossed the Ohio River, everything that might keep you in your present life would simply drip out of your memory and you would enter into a new and much happier life.

Would you take this deal?

My guess is that most people would not accept this offer. We can then answer that troubling philosophical question for those people.

"Why am I here?"

You are here because you want to be here. Not even the absolute assurance of greater happiness could pry you from the life you have here. What are we to say about those people who would take the offer? There are many doors and gates for them. Perhaps they will enter into a place more pleasing to them. Or they may keep knocking until they go through that door that has only one side.

What would keep the rest of us here? Wives and children? Employees and bosses? Friends? Some obsession? Some quest? Perhaps we would remain for the sake of duty and selflessness. Perhaps we have an exaggerated opinion of our impact on this world. Would we then remain only for the sake of our egos? The question of why you are here is easy enough to answer. You are here because you want to be here. The harder question is "Why do you want to be here?" That’s the penultimate question. That's a question that everyone has to answer for himself.




“It was so nice of you to come all this way for Jerry’s memorial service, Dr. Reising,” Cindy tells the tall man with the full beard who is dressed in a tweed suit with patches at the elbows.

Dr. Reising is obviously embarrassed. “Yes, of course. But I’m afraid that I’m here at General Harrison’s invitation.”

“General Harrison?” Horatio asks suspiciously. The four of them are standing around a bunsen burner in Jerry’s laboratory.

“Dr. Reising is the person best qualified to continue the Professor’s research. I thought he might pick up the torch. This is such important medical work. I’ve talked to the university already. They’ll be happy to have the Doctor here. The government will not only pay his salary but provide whatever funds you need for your research.”

“Nothing against Dr. Reising,” Horatio says, “we all know what an eminent scientist he is, but perhaps we should drop this particular line of research. You see what it has led to already.”

“Of course, we understand your feelings, and Mrs. Leit’s, too.” Harrison says, “but I hope you’ll consider working with Dr. Reising.”

“Working with?” Horatio seems a little hurt.

“Well, Dr. Reising is the logical person to take the Professor’s place.”

“Professor Leit was my best student, a great deal brighter than me,” Reising says. “I hope I can be of help in making his dream come true. I think he would have wanted his cure to reach the people.”

“I’m not so sure of that,” Cindy says. “I saw a side of him that was not the least bit interested in science or medicine.”

“Surely,” Harrison interrupts, “that was a result of his disease.”

“I don’t know, general,” Cindy explains, “maybe the disease, as you call it, was a result of his attitude. Maybe he just got tired. He was working 20 hour days, and for who? Other people, people who he’d never meet, people who didn’t care if he lived or died. Then you, general, had to interfere and try to turn his dreams of health into a vision of destruction. Maybe he knew exactly what his TX19 would do to him. It gave him a way to escape. Perhaps he needed to escape from a wife, too, one that was too demanding and understood his brightness no more clearly than this dark world.”

“You mustn’t even think that,” Horatio says, taking the crying Cindy in his arms. “It was just an accident; he thought it would make him more attractive to you. Maybe it was bit of vanity on his part, but I can assure you, he never wanted to get away from you, not for a minute.”

“And yet,” Cindy says, “that has been the result, and we all know how brilliant he was.”

“It was just an accident.” Harrison says, “You have to believe that.”

“I just don’t know,” Cindy says.


Well, maybe it wasn’t an accident. I can’t remember the details of the movie well enough to judge. “Freud says that there are no accidents.” I’ve heard a number of people say that. I don’t know if Freud ever said it and I read a lot of Freud when I was younger. I was deceived into believing that a scientific patina on a philosophy made it more plausible.

It would nice to believe that there are no accidents because that would mean the world was less chaotic. Suppose, though, a drunken man wrecks a car. Why? He had incomplete control over the machine, that is, his body. The man misjudged his ability to control. He had the knowledge that drinking could slow his reflexes, but does that mean that he intended (on some level) to hurt the car? That isn’t a good example because someone might say that excessive drinking indicated his hidden desire to hurt himself.

There are a couple of common accidents that I have; one is grabbing a hot pan that I had previously taken out of the oven. I tend to forget that it had been in the oven, and I grab hold of it without a hot pad. The other accident that I have is when I try to carry too many things at once and drop one. The common thread in all these accidents is overreaching, attempting to do more than one is capable of.

It seems to me, then, that every accident is a kind of tragedy, a tragedy in the Greek sense. The hero of the Greek tragedy displays excessive pride, which the gods punish. In this sense, then, there are no accidents, only tragedies.


“This is too much, general,” Horatio says, “this madness has to end.” I refuse to participate in any more research.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, but I’m afraid that Dr. Reising will have to take over the project.”

“What do you mean?”

Harrison motions toward the door and two soldiers walk in with their handguns drawn. “This laboratory is now under the army’s control. You and Mrs. Leit will have to leave now. We can’t take the chance of your sabotaging anything here.”

“You can’t do this.”

“I’m sorry. The University has set up another office for you on the third floor. Until Dr. Reising goes over everything in here, it will have to serve you.”

A soldier escorts Horatio and Cindy to the door.

“Wait,” Dr. Reising says, “I’m sorry about this. Why don’t we have a talk about all this later?”

Horatio looks back suspiciously and walks out without replying.




Janey is falling and twisting and flipping around with some sort of animal and quickly hits the bottom of something. You can’t tell what’s going on until she gets up again and looks around. Apparently she is in a giant Mason jar with a firefly the size of big, long dog. She looks up at the lid and sees several air holes poked into the top.

We see the scene from the point of view of normal sized people. A girl, eight or nine years old, has captured Janey and a firefly in a jar. She sets it in the grass and gets down on her elbows to look at it. “A little person,” she says, “a fairy. I’ll have to show this to mom.” She gets up and the perspective switches back to the inside of the jar.

Janey pounds ineffectually on the glass with her fists. “This is hopeless.” She turns back to the insect, which is merely standing on the bottom of the jar, blinking from time to time. “A firefly. Well, Mr. Firefly, what are we to do? I have an idea: Blink once for no and twice for yes. OK?”

The firefly blinks once.

“What is the proper address for a firefly? Some people would call you a lightning bug. Some call you a glow worm. What do you prefer?”

The firefly blinks once.

“Perhaps I am being too informal. Our mutual misfortune doesn’t justify bad manners. I’ll address you by your proper name, Lampyridae. Is that better?”

Janey walks up to the bug. “As long as we’re here, you can solve a mystery for me. I’ve seen you and your cousins on warm summer evenings but never during the day or in colder weather. Where do you go when the sun comes out or when the days turn frosty?”

The firefly blinks once.

“Do you fly up to the sun in the morning and sleep in those brillant flares? Or perhaps you follow the night around the globe as it spins in the sky? Do you winter in Honduras? Perhaps you charge your lantern in the lightning itself. I seem to remember distant thunder every time I’ve seen one of you, but my memory may be mixed up. It’s been a while since I’ve seen you. You are quite the mysterious creature,” Janey says as she walks back to the firefly’s back end, which blinks once, “and very uncommunicative.”

The little girl returns to the jar and looks in. We see her gigantic face from Janey’s point of view. “No, I won’t show you to Mom. She’ll take you away from me. You are mine now, mine, and I want to keep you.”

Janey looks up at the air holes where there are jagged sharp edges of the top pointing in. “If I could will myself to shrink a bit more, I could just crawl out of one of those holes. I think I can do it. I think I can make myself smaller just by thinking hard enough.

The firefly blinks once.




Jerry and Hugo are holding hands and being tossed in the wind when the shrinking starts again. Hugo reaches out his other hand to grab Jerry. “This is it, isn’t it, Professor?”

“If it is, I just want to tell you how glad I am to have had this time with you.”

They are split apart by the wind and Hugo drifts off, rather slowly, “Good bye, Professor, thanks.”

“Thank you, captain, I wouldn’t be surprised to see you later.”

“I know,” Hugo yells as floats out of sight.

Jerry is tossed and driven until he finally hits the ground again and manages to hide from the wind in some grass. At this point in the movie, Jerry stops talking out loud and we hear his thoughts as they are narrated. “I was sorry to see him go; there was much in him to be loved. It was in that moment, though, that I felt in my heart what I had long since known in my mind: I was no longer a human being. Hugo had been that last thin thread that held me to the world of humanity; the thread had no more strength than a dust-covered spider’s web. At one time I was trapped in a soft cocoon that enmeshed my thoughts and emotions in a network of people; then each cord snapped, one by one. I had no idea how strong that last bond would be. I suppose that I clung tightly to it, as a child might cling to his parents when they urge him into the water for his first swim. Then in a moment I was free. Like a child that loves the water immediately, I reveled in my freedom. I had found, not just another world, but another whole dimension.


A lot of science fiction involves great differences in size. Maybe huge things and tiny things create feelings of awe in us or maybe just feelings of childishness. You can understand why children like little things. They make the child feel bigger, but why do they like giants? We had an electric train set when I was a kid. It had springs that cushioned the wheels and these springs were not much bigger than springs you might find in a watch. They were models of the springs in real railroad cars. The real springs are more than a foot long and the metal they are made from has a diameter of one or two inches. When I see these real springs I think that the real train is a toy and and toy train is real.

Huge things may make the child feel equal to adults. After all, the adult has no more power against King Kong or Godzilla than a child: everyone becomes equally impotent in the presence of the gigantic. There were probably more scenes where the tiny Jerry overcame some huge adversaries but I forget them. On the human scale bigness can be a positive. We talk about a “big man,” and being “tall, dark, and handsome” is regarded as good. Bigness can make people feel safe, that is, give the illusion of safety. It’s strange to consider how many people are descendants of men and the women who chose them because the were tall.


“When I finally looked around,” Jerry narrates, “I noticed that my whole world was glowing with a strange green light. The very air was a neon green color. I looked up at the vegetation and realized that my vision had changed again. I could see through things; at least I could see into things. When I examined the grass around me, I saw into the very cells. It was easy to pick out the chloroplasts; they were larger than the dark mitochondria and they gave off that eerie green light that was engulfing me. I climbed to the top of the grass so that the sun would illuminate the very heart of cells. I felt that I could remain there forever, looking farther and farther into the cells, seeing with my own eyes those tiny structures that I had viewed only in electron microscopes. I felt that as I shrunk I could enter into that world and witness the mystery of photosynthesis firsthand. But as I squinted to see deeper into a cell, a breeze swept me back up into the air and I was once more at the mercy of the wind.”




“Can you imagine it,” Cindy asks Horatio, “twenty million people shrunk into helpless mice?”

“We can’t even be sure of what would happen. Some of our early experiments produced giants. They could use a shrinking weapon and produce an army of colossal enemies.”

“We can’t let it happen.” Cindy and Horatio are sitting on a park bench. They look to each other for ideas. Cindy finally speaks. “We can burn the lab. Then everyone will think that Hugo escaped and set the fire.”

“He may have gotten out of your house,” Horatio comments.

“And if he did and they catch him, well, he did kill Jerry. It’s not as though he’s an innocent man.”

“Wait. I forgot about the animals. We can’t just burn them alive.”

“No, that wouldn’t be humane.” Cindy says.

“And, you know, they might be able to extract some of our original drugs from their cells. We’ll have to remove the animals, too.”

“What are we going to do?”

“Unless they’ve reinforced the lab, I can get into it through a window that I know of, one with a broken latch. The trouble is that you will have to help me.”

“Of course, I’m going to help you, Horatio; this is as much my business as it is yours. What sort of person would I be if I boldly taunted the rhino and cowardly ran away leaving you to face its horn?”

As she says this, Dr. Reising appears before them. “Horatio, Cindy, I have to talk to you.”

“Why?” Cindy asks.

“I know how you must feel. Cindy, you lost your husband, but you don’t have to lose his dream. And, Horatio, you must think of me as some kind of interloper; but when I heard of Jerry’s research, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. A cure for cancer. Who can believe it would be possible? Who knows what other diseases we might be able to treat with this drug? It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

“You realize, don’t you, that General Harrison is not interested in cures? All he cares about is a new weapon.”

“It that so terrible?” Dr. Reising asks. “We already have enough weapons to kill everyone in the world; what difference can one more make? In the meantime, we could perfect the cure.”

Horatio rises and takes Reising by the hand. “To be honest with you, Doctor, I was a bit hurt that the general wanted to bring in someone else to take Jerry’s place instead of coming to me. But that was childish. You are Jerry’s obvious replacement. The truth is that I’ve seen what this drug can do in the wrong hands and I just won’t be a part of it. I hope you understand.”

“Of course I do, Horatio, and when we succeed in finding a cure, no one is going to forget your part of the work. We will alway put your name first and, of course, Jerry’s name too.” Dr. Reising turns to go but turns around and smiles. “If we win the Nobel prize, Horatio, you get half the money. OK?”

“OK,” Horatio laughs.

After Reising leaves, Horatio turns back to Cindy and says, “After Jerry’s memorial service, at 2 AM at night, that’s when we’ll do it. Are you sure you want to come.”

“2 AM. We’ll put a final end to this madness then.” Cindy replies.




Once more we see Janey tumbling onto the ground, this time the firefly tumbles with her. When they hit the ground, the insect blinks once and flies off. Disoriented, she looks up into the gigantic face of the little girl.

“You’re free. You can go now,” the girl tells her, but the sentence comes across as series of tuba blasts to Janey’s ears.

Janey pulls herself up to her full one inch height and looks the girl directly in the eye. “What do you want of me? Do you expect me to do tricks for you? Do you think I will beg for my life. I won’t do it. I refuse to plead. You think yourself a mountain. You fancy yourself stronger than fate, but you are nothing but a child. Will you squash me with your thumb and paint your nails in grownup red with my blood? Do what you will, I will not beg.”

“I can’t understand your language,” The girl tells her.

“Some day, if you are fortunate, you will be an old lady looking for a fire to warm you. In that day, I tell you, you will remember me and what cruelties you have perpetrated this day. That is the curse I curse you with. You will remember, and you will repent.”

“Don’t you want to go?” the girl asks.

“My soul is prepared.”

“I can’t keep you. I know that. Someone will take you away. I might as well let you go. Maybe you are a fairy and maybe you will help me some time.” The girl gently flicks her finger knocking Janey into the grass. When Janey recovers, she looks back for a second and then runs off through the green jungle.

“Free. I’m free,” Janey says, “stupid girl.”




We see a microscopic world of maganified cells and hear Jerry’s thoughts. “As the forces of nature drove me from one place to another, I discovered more and more wonders. This world is unbelievably filled with life, life forever reproducing itself. My sight continued to become more acute so that I could see deeper into the structures of the cells I encountered. Not only was the endoplasmic reticulum visible to me but also the ribosomes on its surface constructing protein in front of me. I could even make out the tiny lysosomes with their special enzymes.”

“I felt that I was shrinking faster and faster, but time no longer held any meaning for me. I watched a cell reproduce itself. It was difficult to hang on against the wind and other forces that were moving me about, but I picked out a cell that was in metaphase and concentrated on it as it entered anaphase and the chromosomes’ centromeres split apart. I was able to stay in place until telophase but was knocked away before I saw the final formation of two cells from one. I don’t know what sort of cell it was, and so I can give you no clear estimate of the time I spent watching this miracle. I believe that it was longer than I spent at any place since I had started seeing into things.”

“I estimated that I was no bigger than a cell myself. I could see all sorts of bacteria, and finally the strange mechanical looking viruses revealed their structure to me. Swept up by air or knocked about by unseen forces, I would have mourned the sights I lost were they not turned stale by new wonders for me to see. The knocking was not painful to me, but it was very disconcerting. Perhaps stray atoms or even electrons were bumping into me so that the air could carry me away. Eventually, I learned to expect and even enjoy the little jolts that carried me into new worlds.”




“For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” the preacher declaims in the background as Cindy and Horatio look on.

“2 AM?” Cindy asks in a whisper.

“Behind the lab.” Horatio replies.

“. . . and the passing of Jerry Leit is not only a private tragedy; it is a catastrophe for mankind. When we think of the promise of this young scientist, we are tempted to despair. How many thousands, no millions, of suffering people have had their hope crushed. In his bitterness, Job said, ‘Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground; yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.’ And yet we are reminded that the sparks do indeed fly upward, upward to heaven. We can not understand why such a radiant creature was taken from us, but we know with certainty where he is now. If ever a man were fashioned to be with the Father, he was that man.”

Suddenly the scene changes and we see Jerry in what appears to be water. Around him are certain transparent cubic structures, which he regards with wonder. We make out another human form in the distance. Slowing Jerry and the person move closer and closer to each other. We see that the person is Janey. What happens next is rather difficult to make out. They grab each other’s hands and pull close to each other. Then a series of special effects takes place involving the distortion of microscopic images. I think that all this is meant to show that they are making love.

The preacher continues, “. . . who worked with him or studied under him would never say a single word against him. He was a person with every reason to give in to anger and pride and even contempt, but he never saw ‘the mote that is in thy brother's eye,’ his sight was always fixed on what he could do for that brother, how he could make his life better.”

Cindy grabs Horatio’s hand as a tear rolls down her face. She pays no attention to it at it falls off her cheek. We watch as it hits her leather purse and splashes. As it splashes the scene shifts back to Jerry. The water he is in is torn apart and he is sent flying away from Janey. The idea is that he was in Cindy’s teardrop.

I think this is supposed to be symbolic and I originally thought that it was sort of melodramatic, but when I think about it, I’m not sure what the meaning is supposed to be. Maybe it was about Jerry’s total abandonment of the human world. It was in Cindy’s tear, though, and it may have been a sort of reenactment of their love. Maybe there was no sex and it was just special effects. Of course, I don’t know what sort of microscopic scenes they would show to indicate sex on the cellular level. Maybe the character of Janey was symbolic to begin with and this scene has some other deep meaning, but I still found it sort of embarrassing and unnecessary.

“Are you OK?” Horatio asks Cindy.

“Yes. I feel sad and empty, but I’m OK.”

“Did the service help?”

“No. I don’t know why that minister had to turn Jerry’s death into a commercial for his God.”

“I agree, but it’s just what they do. Was Jerry very, well, you know, religious.”

“Didn’t you ever talk about things like that?” Cindy asks.

“No, it never came up.”

“Jerry believed in God, but I’m not exactly sure what he meant by that.”

“Funny, isn’t it, all that time we spent together and it never came up.”


Maybe death is just a metaphor; if it is, though, it’s an extended metaphor.




Horatio is in the lab, all dressed in black with one of those dark knit caps on. Cindy is outside the window, apparently on a ladder. He hands her a cage with a giant hamster. She takes it away and reappears at the window. “I need to get some papers.” Horatio says.

“Didn’t you burn everything they could use?” Cindy asks.

“I left some of the later material; it might contain some clues. Why make it any easier on them than we have to.”

They fall completely silent as there is the muffled sound of a key turning in a lock. “Get the car ready,” Horatio tells her.

Horatio picks up as many papers as he can and disappears out of the window as a soldier enters the room. He takes a few seconds to look around and notices the open window. The soldier looks out for a while as his eyes adjust to the dark then yells out, “Stop. Halt.”

We see a station wagon driving away and hear a shot, but the car makes a turn and is no longer in sight.

Horatio is driving. Cindy asks, “What do we do now?”

“South of here, where I grew up, there is a road. Now this road turns into a gravel path almost covered by weeds in the summer. At the end of this path is an abandoned house, all the windows are broken out and the wires and pipes have all been removed. Of course, every kid knows about the place, but if you walk up a couple of tree covered hills, you come upon a field that is starting to return to forest. We can release the animals there. Someone might see them sometimes but no one will believe. I know the people there. They talk of ghosts and forgotten crimes and strange lights in the air. It’s their favorite form of entertainment.”

“You don’t think they’ll call the authorieties?” Cindy asks.

“They’ve already called everyone they could think of: the police, the highway patrol, the army. The authorities pay no attention to them. They may call. People may come. But that will be the end of it. The police will just sit in their cars and sleep. The highway patrol will ask some questions. The army people will take it for a vacation and fish. Believe me, this is the safest place for the experimental animals.”

“How is it that someone just leaves a house?” Cindy asks.

“Oh, I’m sure that there’s some story about it, probably very lurid. I don’t remember ever hearing it. When I was a child, I used to picture the house filled with people and decorated for Christmas. To tell you the truth, though, the house was probably taken for taxes back in the thirties and no one ever bought it. Then it was looted for pipes and whatever anyone could find and vandals did the rest until it lost all its value.”

“I’m sleepy, Horatio,” Cindy lays her head on his shoulder, “Do you mind if I sleep a bit?”

“Of course not, Cindy, it’s still a long way.”

“I feel tired and empty, but I have this sense, all of a sudden, of peace and gratitude. I don’t know why.”

We see scenes of the station wagon driving through the countryside and finally up the road that was described. Cindy and Horatio each carry a couple of cages up a wooded hill until they finally come to an open area. They release the strangely sized animals. The animals look back at their cages and slowly walk out into the field. All this is taking place while the sun is rising. “We better hide the cages,” Cindy says.

“Here, I’ll just crush them with my foot and throw them back down the hill. They’ll rust in a few days and no one will connect them to our lab.”

Cindy and Horatio watch the animals slowly stroll off into the sunrise. Cindy takes his hand, “OK, I think we’re done,” she says, “shall we go home now.”

“Let’s wait a few more minutes to watch the sun rise.”

“Yes, that’s a good idea.”

That’s the last we see of them, standing in the sunrise, holding hands. I’m not sure what to make of the scene, but I think they have found some sort of love or comfort. They seem content in a melancholy way.




We see Jerry again, only he is distorted. Sometimes he appears normal; at other times he seems to be smeared out as though his image were elongated in a fun house mirror. “You’ll never forget seeing your first atom,” we hear him narrate. “At first it seems like the hardest thing in the world, like a fortress carved from a single diamond. But as you shrink, you see it as blur of motion as the electrons circle the nucleus. They are neither here nor there. They are all spread out like wispy clouds. If you put your hand out, though, they will get in the way. No matter where you touch, there they are. You can’t get through them.”

“That was at first. As I shrank even more I became like them; I was neither here nor there. I found myself circling an oxygen nucleus. I was myself, of course, but somehow, I had become a sphere of me circling and protecting the sacred positive center of the atom along with all the other guardian electons. I was perfect. I was doing what I was meant to do.”

“Eventually I realized that my orbit was decaying. There was a time when I would have said, ‘I was shrinking.’ For the first time since I left the world of humans, I felt fear. It approached terror. I was not afraid of the world I was in. I was not afraid for my safety. I was afraid of what I was. I had not eaten in days. I may not have eaten in years; I had lost all sense of time. I had not breathed in some time. How could I breathe when breathing meant inhaling a number of atoms each of which was a great deal bigger than I was? How was I . . .? How was I maintaining myself? Is maintaining the right word. What business did I have existing at all? I remembered how I felt the first time I was told that we lived on a ball in empty space circling a ball of fire. How could these things be? I remembered when I heard about infinity. Yes, infinity, I thought, but what’s outside it. Yes, eternity, I thought, but what comes before it? What comes after it? I taught myself not to think such thoughts but to take comfort in my own existence, here and now. I realized that here and now made no more sense than infinity or eternity, and I was terrified again.”

“My fear disappeared as my orbit decayed again; perhaps I should say that my probability wave collapsed. I entered the proton. At first it seemed like no more than a mass of multi-colored, glowing spaghetti; then I realized that I was looking at the 11 dimensional superstrings that composed the particle. My shrinking had accellerated to an unbelievable speed. I found myself sliding into the 8th dimension along the path of fiery red superstring. I looked about me. There were coiled dimensions all around. I wish that I could explain it to you. There were wonders upon wonders, things without names without number, whole galaxies at my disposal. And I was home. And I was happy. And (this is hard to explain) it was funny. I laughed. Everywhere I turned there were friendly things and sensual things and holy things, and it was funny too.”


That was the end of the movie. Somehow Jerry got it. I think it was like this joke I heard when I was a kid. “What has four wheels and flies?” The answer is “a garbage truck.” For years, that joke had no meaning for me. I thought of a very fast garbage truck. I thought of a celestial garbage truck manned by angels; but nothing I thought of seemed to make sense, not in the traditional joke sense. Then one day, long after I had turned 50, I realized that flies was not a verb but a noun. You know, musca domestica. What has four wheels and flies? A garbage truck. Get it?