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A serial adventure in fiction by Brad Sondahl

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Chapter 23
Quantum Uncertainty revealed

    It was a fine spring evening, that brief time when you forget about opening or closing windows to keep the temperature right, and just enjoy life.
    Alice and I were sitting on the swinging chair in the screen porch, admiring the bats' acrobatics, when she jabbed me in the ribs and whispered to me, "There's someone hiding out in the bushes."
    "Well, " I said,  "Part of running for president is learning to live a public life.  There's no such thing as a private hair cut, or singing a little Beach Boys song among friends...  I expect it's the paparazzi, trying to get a  photo of us to go into a tabloid newspaper."
    "What, you mean, get our lives turned into a headline, like the neighbors, the Dorkelsons?  I don't know if I signed on for this when I agreed to let you run."
    "Alice, please, don't let them hear that!  You didn't let me run--I decided I was the best candidate..."
    "Yes, then you asked me if I thought it was a good idea, and rather than respond to that question directly, I said go ahead and run...  I thought it would get you out of the house more..."
    "How were you to know I'd be the first purely Internet candidate, not needing to leave my home for campaigning?..."
    "Okay, so about this guy in the bushes.  Shall I turn the sprinkler on, or call 911?"
    "Let's try reasoning with him," I said.  "COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP, OR YOU'RE DEAD MEAT!" I shouted in all capital letters.
    "He'll think you have a gun,"  Alice pointed out, in a stage whisper.  "He may shoot first and find out later."
    "DON'T SHOOT!"  I said.  "We give up."
    "No we don't, " said Alice.  "Just go away and leave us alone."
    "Is that really what you want?" the stranger said.
    "Well, we don't need any insurance, in case that's what you're selling," I said.
    "No," he said.  "I don't want any either.  In fact, I'm a lot like you."
     "Do you play banjo?" I asked.  After all, that's one of my defining features.
    "Yes, as a matter of fact, but only the 6 string kind, which banjo purists, if there is such a thing, can't stand...  Anyway, I was just out in the bushes, hoping for some ideas for the stories I write about you."
    "Oh, so you're a reporter, hoping to dig up some dirt on me to throw my candidacy off track."
    "Phil, your candidacy is so far off track that no one knows you're running."  This could have been said by either the Stranger or Alice.
    "I've gotten pledges for votes on Youtube," Phil countered.
    "Two," the stranger said.
    "Wow," said Alice, "This guy really does his research."

    "Did you ever see the play, Peter Pan?" the stranger asked.
    Phil said, "Probably.  I know the characters--everyone knows them.  I've no idea how the Disney movie related to the book or the play..."
    "Nor does it matter.  The reason I mention it is, at one point, Tinkerbell is down for the count, and the audience is asked to really believe in fairies, to help her get well.  At least it happened in the version I saw.  At the tender age I saw the play, it was the emotional crux of the play."
    "Look," said Alice.  "It's been nice visiting with you, but discussing old plays isn't really on the agenda. What's on the agenda is that  you were hiding in our bushes, and we want you to leave."
    "Well, that's kind of my point, getting back to Tinkerbell.  You see, I'm writing your adventures on the web, and your stats are way down.  I'm guessing it's probably that most people don't want to read a novel a paragraph a day. If they are like me, they can't remember what's going on from one day to the next..."
    "I'm like you," said Phil...
    "Yes," he said, "Except I've never claimed to be abducted by aliens. Not even once."
    "You haven't lived until you've been abducted by aliens..." said Phil.
    "Actually, YOU haven't lived, is more accurate." The stranger said.

    "So, the question is, should I keep thinking up your lame adventures for the 3.5 people per day who check the webpage?
    "Lame adventures?" said Phil.
    "Thinking up?" said Alice.
    "Don't worry your fuzzy heads about it," the stranger said.  "The fact is, that like Tinkerbell, this world is facing THE END.  Unless the boys and girls out there in Internetland make a reasonable plea for the stories to continue."
    "What, you're holding us hostage for tawdry public approval?" said Phil.
    "This reminds me of an Old Testament story," said Alice.
    "Alright, Alice, at last some redeeming social purpose!  And what does it remind you of?" said the stranger.
    "Well God was going to smite this place down bigtime, and somebody like Abraham starts negotiating with God, and saying, well, maybe it's not all bad--what if there were a hundred good people in the place, and in stereotypical sales fashion he succeeds in talking God down to saving the place even if there were only one good person in the town."
    "And was there one good person--was the town saved?"  the stranger asked.
    "I don't remember," said Alice.
    "Neither do I," said Phil and the stranger together.

    "I think that's something to do with quantum uncertainty.  At least I'll waggle the term about as proficiently as lots of other authors," said the stranger, in spite of never even taking calculus in school.
    "You mean like the Schroedinger cat thing--you can't know if the cat has been killed by deadly radiation until you open the box?"
    "Well, I think in the context of the biblical story, it means we're all getting older and none of us won prizes for biblical scholarship in Sunday School." said the stranger.
    "Look," said Phil, "you're getting on my nerves.  Are you saying you want people to email you in support of documenting our valiant lives and my ongoing bid for the presidency, or what?"
    "Yes," the stranger said.
    Phil said, "At this point you can't stop me, anyway.  I've got those two votes sewn up. What with electronic voting machines, you can't know where I'll turn up on the Internet.  I might win Florida."
    "We'll think about what you've said, but for now, we'd just like you to leave," said Alice.  "Talk about rocking our world..."
    "Yeah, well, it was fun and all," the stranger said. "We'll see how it comes out."
    The stranger went off down Maine Street.
    "Nice evening," said Phil.
    "Too dark to see the bats, but the stars are out," said Alice.


Use this chart to find the next of the cartoons (first 47  entries) or the stories (starting with  1 A River Too Far 5 rows below week 8)
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Week 47
(cartoon ends)
1. A River Too Far
2.The Reunion
3.The Daily Grind
4 The New Car and Treasure
5. The Big 
6. The old
7. The Ravine Runner 8. The Fabulous
Folk Festival
9. Druid
10. Goats of
Christmas Past
11. The Secret Six 12. The Great
White Hunters
13. The Old School
Lost in the City

What's in
a name?
The Curse of
Bently Manor
Shortbottom Possessed
The Lost
of Iraq
Phil Steen
for President!
Phil Steen
for Rehab
The Adventures
of Handiman
and Fiberwoman
Pirates of the Puget Sound
Building a platform, plank by plank
The Quest
for meaning
Larry and
Phil to
The Rescue
Hurrah for
the Reds,
Whites, and
How I spent
my summer
I am
trapped in
the Present
Help I am trapped
in the future
Nose of Death