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The Day Poppo Came Down to Breakfast, Twice

James Gotaas (Jim) is Chicago born and bred but has now spent 25 years in the UK. He is a retired PhD physicist and university lecturer and is using his retirement to return to his early love of writing, especially SF. This is his second sale, the first having taken place just minutes after the Big Bang (or so it seems).

So I was just sitting slouched down at the kitchen table eating our usual breakfast: scrambled eggs cooked real dry and black bacon bits and charred toast. Mommo was standing at the e-eco-cooker drying more scrambled eggs and shouting up the stairs at Poppo. My older brother Nicky was sitting at one side of the table, pushing at his eggs with his fork and making strange faces, like he didn't much feel like eating eggs that morning. My little sister Suzy was sitting in her babyfloater, crying because Mommo wasn't feeding her yet. I was trying real hard to eat my eggs nicely, because Mommo had promised me double allowance that week if I ate without tempering, like she called it, and making Poppo yell at me.
Anyway, Poppo finally came down, sort of in a hurry, fixing one of his funny old ties, and making funny faces to go along with it. Mommo gave him a mean look when she thought we weren't looking, but Poppo just smiled at her. So she slid his plate in front of him and sat down by Suzy to begin feeding her. Poppo just looked funny at the eggs for a while; he didn't even notice that I was being good and eating my hyperdry eggs. He finally picked up his fork and started moving the scrambled eggs around his plate.
I was already finished with my eggs and just drinking my soyamilk when I heard Mommo just sort of breathe funny, maybe like a gasp that people always do in the threedees. I looked, and saw what had made her breathe funny. Poppo was coming down the stairs again, which was weird, because he was also still sitting at the table poking his eggs around. Nicky looked at them both, then jumped away from the table, kicking over his chair, and ran to the wall-rack where Poppo kept the Thing-gun. Nicky grabbed the gun and aimed it roughly in the direction of both Poppos, waving it back and forth between them.
"Hold it," he shouted, real loud.
Poppo coming down the stairs stopped, and Poppo pushing at eggs dropped his fork and frowned in a funny way.
"Nicky, put that down," Poppo poking at eggs said real fast.
Nicky just shook his head. "Uh, uh. We've got a Thing here!"
Mommo looked like she does when she's sick, just before she heaves up the last thing she ate. Suzy was screaming. Both Poppos looked worried. Nicky just frowned at everyone for a while. Then he suddenly smiled and shouted, "You know, Pops, Chrissy is radding out with a new gang at school!"
That made me mad, 'cause he was just lying, and Poppo really flipped hyper about kids who go radical, and he'd probably blister me first and listen later. And sure enough, before I could say a word, Poppo coming down the stairs turned uber-red.
"The hell she is! I'll blister her!"
But before Poppo coming down the stairs finished turning red, Nicky triggered the Thing-gun. Poppo coming down the stairs turned grey, then black, then crumbled down, spilling charred stinkum all over Mommo's clean floor. Nicky looked at the mess he'd made, then looked at still-breathing Poppo poking at eggs, and then slipped the Thing-gun back into its clip. He came back to the table and sat down and started poking at his eggs again. Smiling mostly at me, he said, "I figured the Thing'd overreact."
Mommo finally came back inside herself and stared at the messy black Thing-stuff all over the floor by the stairs. "Why didn't the Thing go POP?" She shook her head. "They've always gone POP. For ten years they've gone POP!"
I think Mommo was what you'd call hysterical. 'Course, she always really liked a clean kitchen.
Anyway, Nicky looked at her funny, then said in that know-it-all way of his that always made Mommo feel silly, "The Things are getting better all the time, Moms. They don't go POP anymore, they just stick around and burn like real people."
"That's right, honey," Poppo agreed, poking at his eggs some more.
Nicky nodded hard, and poked at his eggs even harder, and I guessed that was that.
Until Nicky came down the stairs again, holding his hobby-hunter Thing-gun, and shot Nicky poking at eggs and Poppo poking at eggs. They both went POP.
Mommo started crying and screaming again, Suzy joined in crying and screaming, and Nicky started saying words he wasn't supposed to use.
So that's why I was late for school.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, August 29th, 2016

Author Comments

This short piece was the result of my thought processes having escaped from the hypercube, inspired by re-reading some R A Lafferty. It sort of sprang into existence from my forehead, not requiring the usual nine months of awkward, sometimes painful story development. There is no intended resemblance to any facet of my actual life.

- James Alan Gotaas
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