And each year two more tons of polymer now float downstream
and slide into oceans.
A horn blasts, vehicles screech. Throb of ongoing noise. Cities
resemble torture chambers where bored guards blast atrocious
music at high decibels. You’d think dark would turn the volume
down, but you have to wear earplugs to sleep. Then you sleep,
sort of, but your blood doesn’t. Researchers monitoring sleep-ers’ blood pressure near airports found the louder the noise, the
greater the pressure increase, and there you are, major risk.
He imagines an antidote: Norway’s doomsday vault built to
hold seeds of all the world’s crops, just in case after we’re dead
more of us spring up wanting pesto pasta. How quiet it must
be there, seeds dozing beside fellow seeds. Imagine, if he and
Beatrice could spend the night there!
He pays, then walks out thrilled — he’s just remembered how
light came into existence. First our dense, hot, new universe dou-bled in size hundreds of times. Then it exhaled and cooled, and
those protons and electrons in which light was trapped kissed
each other and turned into hydrogen. This kissing freed the light
trapped in those particles, and voilà: forth went light into the
world! That’s what it’s like to kiss Beatrice, he thinks. All that
light trapped inside him just comes pouring out. He imagines
the two of them becoming hydrogen, every light in the apart-ment blazing on.
I LIKE HIS ENERGY, his intention to do the right thing.
Anyone this passionate about life deserves to keep a thick mass
of film-star hair. I’m thrilled that he gets to thrive a little longer.
Long life unmarred by ailments is exactly what I want for him.
Though given the times we live in, such a life is a luxury. Don’t
expect him to last indefinitely.
BACK AT THE SCREEN Romesh discovers that overfishing
sharks was a bad idea. Sharks eat cownose rays, which eat mol-lusks, and without sharks, rays increase tenfold and wipe mol-lusks out. Plus here comes a hurricane where no hurricane has
been before. It’s time for visionaries to act! He heads down the
hall to the loo and remembers: Europeans have two-gear toilets so
you can flush according to what’s going down. So go them one bet-ter—
imagine composting toilets right here at the Climate Chal-lenge digs! He e-mails his superior, clicks send, and feels pleased.
He’s done the right thing, all this clicking is helping, plus
every click is a click for his shining mermaid Beatrice. But
whoa—Jennifer Lopez pops onto his screen, bulbously preg-
nant, husband’s arm around what was her waist, showing o=
her splendorous protrusion. Let future generations struggle
with population sprawl’s pressure on the planet—Jennifer has
decided to procreate. Right then and there Romesh decides: he
and Beatrice will have only one child. Or they could adopt an
Albanian orphan. But he’s attached to those names, Dark Matter
and Dark Energy. So then, he decides, they’ll adopt twin orphans.
He imagines himself and Beatrice wheeling the double stroller
down the sidewalk, passersby waving at the babies. But gunmen
kill bystanders first, Romesh thinks, so they themselves will be
forced into suicide. What if some crazy with a gun saw those two
little cuties? Beatrice would throw herself in front of the stroller!
FINAL L Y: the word gods announce that unemployed mechanic
Eddie Harper, forty-one, has bought a Smith & Wesson Model
642 revolver, originally $394.00, mark-down price $250.00, from
a guy needing cash for rent. Readers, gather round—the word
gods have downed triple lattes! Eddie has acne, spindle legs, a beer
belly. He was the shy one kids avoided, and where was beer-soaked
dad while chain-smoking mom clerked at the 7-Eleven? Eddie was
not going to Harvard. Then the accident. Dad and son went o= to
hunt elk, and while sitting around the campfire, dad’s inebriated
gun fired itself. The bullet blew away most of Eddie’s right ear.
Now his face is asymmetrical. People stare—
is this guy re-tarded? It’s been a hard road in a hard rain for Eddie. He has the
sense that everything he attempts turns out an awkward mess he
can’t put right, so he gives up and walks away. He’s been arrested
twice, once for getting into a fight in a bar, once for speeding.
Mechanics never get fired, but in this recession he’s been laid
o=, and damn if he can find any other work.
A gun, he imagines, will change his image. Just the name,
Smith & Wesson, bestows confidence on the bearer, and confi-dence implies sophistication. He’ll hold himself di=erently, and
women will notice. Plus men will size him up and feel a certain
lack while pretending not to. Hefting the gun in his hand, he
can already feel the casual glory of the swagger. And if someone
doesn’t treat him right, well let’s just say they’d better.
ROMESH CLICKS HIS MOUSE and learns that people
whose bodies produce a certain form of monoamine oxidase
are more likely than others to experience an incessant need for
newness. Hence those housewives wandering Costco, selecting
patio furniture and air conditioners and taking down forests.
Enough—he clicks close, shuts down his computer, runs his
fingers through his hair. Switches out the lights.
When the elevator doors close behind him, he remembers
the prisoners. Imagine if you had to stay in an elevator the rest
of your life, never seeing the sun! You’d do what prisoners do:
tear out your fingernails, swallow razor blades, hang yourself.
Though once in a while a prisoner turns his confinement into
a meditation retreat, and a guy who murdered three third-grade
girls turns into a Gandhi.