art by Shannon N. Kelly
by Benjamin Rosenbaum
Standard gravity: the standard acceleration due to free fall is the nominal acceleration of an object in a vacuum near the surface of the Earth. Approximate value of 9.81 ms-2--symbol g, derived from the law of universal gravitation stated in Sir Isaac Newton's Principia, first published in 1687 AD.
An angry child pushed her father out the window of a tall castle. Her father knew the push was coming, but he failed to take hold of the window-ledge.
Why, he asked himself as he fell, had he failed to take hold of the window-ledge? Exhaustion, stubbornness, perversity, guilt?
He was not a terrible father. He did not hit his children, or at least, not often, or at least, he did not push them out of windows.
He was a better father, admittedly, in the morning.
In the morning, fresh from the dewy weightless caverns of sleep, with nice light poured by the bucket through the diaphanous curtains of their apartments, he would meet tantrums with gentle firmness, and invent distracting finger-puppet games.
But in the evening, after a day of small bureaucratic labors, he would snap at the girl and her brother, he would drag them by their arms. He would nurse petty grievances against them.
These small bureaucratic labors related to the logistical details of the activities in which the authorities occupying the castle were involved. Some of these activities--especially since the commencement of hostilities--were unspeakable. He carried the knowledge of these unspeakable activities in his throat, unable to swallow it.
"If you aren't going to eat your soup properly," he would shout, "then you can't have any at all!"
This he would instantly regret. The soup plate would be in his hand already, the words in the air already, but he would be surprised by them. They seemed to have simply occurred, without anyone's explicit intention. A product of circumstances: just as, he knew, at that moment, a transport was departing, authorized by the standing rule pertaining to transport authorizations. The form pertaining to its departure bore his signature. This signature was not an authorization. He himself had no power to authorize. It was required merely that he attest the functioning of the standing rule.
Could he, he would wonder, simply slip the dish back onto the table? Would everyone then be willing to pretend that he had not spoken? That he had simply found the soup plate in his hand by accident?
But the girl, eyes wide with rage, would be already gathering breath to yell. She was extremely strong-willed; intimidating, in fact, despite being a child. He therefore could not return the dish to the table--not with the girl yelling. It would constitute a submission. An abdication. One must be resolute. An absence of authority is the last thing which we can afford. And so he would have to take the soup away and pour it out the window, and she would have to go to bed hungry, and he would have to stand in the corridor outside her room listening to her cry.