art by Jonathan Westbrook
by Peter M. Wood
Sam looked around Dad's cluttered laboratory. Even after becoming a tenured Ivy League physics professor, he still didn't understand Dad's cutting-edge research into quantum physics. Now, with Dad gone after a three-year battle with cancer, the world would probably stay in the dark.
The dusty lab was a paradox, just like Dad. His father had theorized about parallel universes, but had never owned a mobile phone or television. His lab was filled with equipment that was outdated before Sam was born--vacuum tubes and monstrous computers that took up entire walls.
His sister, Doris, stepped down the rickety wooden stairs from the back-alley entrance. She was dressed to the nines, as if she wanted to impress somebody at the funeral. "I thought I might find you here," she said. "It'll be a shame to auction off Dad's equipment, but that's the only fair thing."
His stomach lurched. "Why the hell should we sell the lab? I need time to go through everything."
"The will says the estate should be split fifty-fifty." She fingered a diamond bracelet. "Of course, if you want, you can have the lab and I'll take the house."
He stared at her wrist. He hadn't seen the bracelet in years, but it was distinctive. "That was Mom's."
Doris smiled. "Dad gave it to me last week."
"The hell he did."
"You should have been here, Samuel."
He cringed. Everybody called him Sam except Doris. Dad had been floating in and out of dementia for months. Doris had stayed with him the last weeks of his life after not visiting for ten years. Dad gave her many "gifts" during this time. His bank account was cleaned out.
"The house is worth far more than the lab," Sam snapped.
Doris shrugged. "Fine. We'll just sell both and split whatever we get."
Sam glared at her. "Don't you have enough money?"
"I've got my future to think about." She walked over to a full-length silver mirror. "Why would Dad have this? He never combed his hair or gave a damn what he wore."
"How should I know?"
Doris leaned casually against a nearby computer.
"Careful," Sam said.
Doris slapped the machine. "This piece of junk doesn't do anything."