Quantum Theory and Tube Socks (sample page)

There was a thump as Sam dropped the remote control onto the floor. The damn thing was out again, and he was sure it was the batteries one more damn time. It seemed the things couldn’t hold a charge anymore than Sam could after scraping his socked feet across the living room carpet. Anyone else would have gotten up to find some new batteries, perhaps even (God forbid!) gone to the store and bought some, but Sam Darby was spending quality time with his sofa. He had been spending more and more quality time with his sofa, as well as the big-screen TV for which the Darbys had paid a fortune, for two weeks now. By some monumental coincidence, this period of time was synchronous with the amount of time Sam had been out of work.

Sam Darby was (or had been) a producer at a small cable station, which churned out such prime time garbage as Secret Hours and Speeding Bullet. The latter had been his baby, his pet project, for the last six months. Had it been his own secret project, things might have turned out better, but everybody involved with KRIT (“The RIGHT Network for YOU!” the commercials proclaimed) had known: Speeding Bullet was Darby’s child. Darby had dreamed it up. Darby had gotten the support of station founder Ned Horner. Darby had done it all. Thinking of all the little coffee-klatches he must have missed around the office and all the closed meetings no one had told him about, Sam shuddered. He remembered the sympathetic looks of the secretaries as he passed through the office pool. Of course they were the first to know; who do you think types up the god damn memos? Nothing gets done at KRIT (or any other office) without the god damn memos. Forget all the other series’ credits in which Sam Darby’s name had appeared. Once Speeding Bullet’s ratings flopped, the show folded and KRIT was out quite a large sum of money. A god damn memo circulated around the office, Sam had a meeting with his immediate supervisor, and faster than you could say “Nielsen sucks” Sam discovered an urgent need to spend quality time with a sofa and a big screen TV. The only thing to mar his quality time was the annoying habit the remote control had of running its batteries down.

Now let’s be honest, old buddy, Sam reminded himself, one other teensy problem has cropped up from time to time.

The other problem was Lorna Darby, Sam’s wife. She was a broadcast journalist at the same station, and right now she was probably over at KRIT complaining to her friends about Sam’s new pastime. Great, he thought, who needs a god damn memo when your own wife will gladly spread the news? Of course Sam chided himself over this thought, knowing his wife would not paint unkind pictures of him for the office gossips at the station. Nonetheless, the thought was there. Lorna was understandably upset over Sam’s newfound lack of initiative. Actually, to say she was upset would be inadequate; she was frantic over it. For two weeks, Sam had spent his previous few waking hours lying on the sofa, remote control clenched in his right hand, watching reruns of Secret Hours and Larraby’s Law and Night Nasties. If some fellow with remarkably good sense, as well as a merciful nature, had not removed Speeding Bullet from KRIT’s schedule, Sam would have watched that as well. As incredibly inane as every episode was, he would have sat there and watched them all. Hell, he thought, if Lorna was kind enough to hand me the VCR remote, I’d tape the fuckers! A dry cackle rasped out of his throat, and Sam actually jumped at the sound before he realized it had come from his own lips. That’s it, when you’re jumping at the sound of your own laughter, Sam told himself shakily, it’s time to get out of here. To Sam Darby, “out of here” meant “to the kitchen”, to fix himself a snack. Sam mustered a great effort and hauled his body off the sofa, pleased to note that his legs still functioned as they always had, and walked into the kitchen. Sam considered it wonderfully efficient that the television room was adjacent to the kitchen. Whose priceless gem of an idea had that been? Why Sam Darby, of course, the wizard best known for producing prime time darling Speeding Bullet and…nameless others.

Sam slipped a bit as he stepped onto the tile flooring of the kitchen, and he looked down at his feet bemusedly. He was wearing a pair of gray-striped tube socks with several toes peeking through. A strange notion struck him, that all his toes were little piggies, just like when he was a kid and his mother was putting him to bed. The little piggies looked at him in a funny way. This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home, this little piggy lay on the sofa all day watching Speeding Bullet, and boy was it garbage! He tittered, and opened the refrigerator. His hand slid off the handle, and the refrigerator door barely turned on its hinges. Annoyed, he grasped the handle again and pulled the door wide, this time producing a more satisfying effect. This time the door swung open, revealing hidden treasures to Sam Darby and his stomach. Sam reached for the meat drawer, and that was when the strange things began to happen in earnest.


This story and 8 other short stories, as well as 1 prose poem, are now available for your Kindle device or app as an Amazon Kindle eBook titled “The Rubberband Man and Other Stories”. You can buy all of them for just 99 CENTS!

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(c) 1992 by J. David Clarke


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