One day, the color of our kitchen sink began to change from porcelain white to hot pink, on its way, I feared, to fire engine red.
A nearby (relatively speaking) supernova, being sucked into a black hole, was emitting a beam of highly energetic gamma rays which were being focused through the gravitational lens of a double star system to pass through our kitchen sink. Since the sink was radiating only light, there was little danger unless one used the sink, which I immediately cordoned off.
As you can imagine, this was disturbing. Especially disturbed was my pet Gila monster, Emile, who, until the glowing began, had been living contentedly in his half of the sink. I was now forced to move him to the bathtub. Though I had added sand, rocks, and a scorpion or two, he had trouble adjusting. I tried making amends by feeding him twice a day instead of once. (In consideration of the squeamish, I will not mention what he ate.)
Inconvenient as it was to use only water from the bathroom sink, I insisted on it.
Unfortunately, our youngest, Everest, who had always been afraid of Emile—though the creature was gentle as a puppy—now refused to go into the bathroom. My other children, Bruxism and Spider, refused to keep Everest company in the bathroom. We had to rent a backyard Porta Potty for him.
Our next door neighbor, Maxwell, complained to the city sanitation department, but an inspector ruled that as long the potty was well maintained, it was legal. When Maxwell began badmouthing us to the neighbors, I made the mistake of inviting him over for a drink, but he wasn’t mollified, even after visiting Emile in the bathroom. Worse yet, he peeked into the kitchen while I was mixing the drinks and got a glimpse of the sink. Suddenly all our neighbors began coming over, asking to see it. I politely demurred, but Everest, angry at my putting Emile in the bathtub, let them in behind my back. They began to post photos of the sink on their Facebook pages. Soon we were getting calls from astronomy departments from around the country—from around the world, actually.
Professor Murgymas drove over from the university to ask if we might allow the astronomy department, under his supervision, to install a series of gamma ray detectors in the kitchen. I said no.
I thought of removing the sink, but it had been a wedding present from my wife’s brother Ted, so finally I just threw a big tarp over it and bolted the tarp to the floor so it couldn’t slip off.
“You are ruining my life, Daddy,” my daughter Bruxism told me repeatedly, glaring at me as if I were Old Scratch himself rather than her loving father. “Everyone at school laughs at me. I don’t get invited to sleepovers anymore. Nobody talks to me. I hate you. I hate you.”
“Listen, Bruxie,” I would say reasonably, “is it any fault of mine that a black hole is swallowing a supernova?”
That usually quieted her down for a while, but by this time Spider had gotten downright nasty and I began to notice a definite loosening of the bolts holding the tarp to the floor, and a certain listlessness in Emile who was usually a frisky little rascal.
So, one night, I hid in the walk-in kitchen pantry. At about midnight, I heard voices. I should mention that during a routine check-up, my doctor had noted the unusual shape of my ears and sent me to an audiologist to test my hearing.
“Holy moly,” said the audiologist when the testing was over, “you have the auditory acuity of a bat.” The slightest sound her machine could make did not escape me. She went into the next room, closed the door, and began reading Moby Dick in a whisper. I was able to get the gist of it, though I thought she said “fish meal” instead of “Ishmael.”
In any case, there I was in the pantry. I listened.
“I don’t care if it is a gift from Uncle Ted; we’re getting rid of it.” That was Everest.
“Swear you won’t tell Daddy,” said Bruxism.
“I swear,” said Everest.
“Let’s get a move on, then,” said Spider.
I heard the turning of the screws on the monkey wrenches, the bolts being pulled up from the floor, the tarp slipping off the sink, the closing of the master valve, the rattling and squeaking of the pipes as the sink was removed, and then the opening and closing of the back door.
I should have stopped them. Why I didn’t, I don’t know. I heard the garden gate open and three pairs of feet skittering away into the distance.
Back in bed, I was unable to sleep. What would be my wife’s reaction when she saw the gap in the wall, like an empty socket after a tooth had been pulled. But the next day, all she said was, “Thank goodness. I just hope Ted doesn’t find out.”
Ted lived in Greenland, so the chances were slim that he’d drop by to discover his gift was gone. If he did, we’d make something up, like the kids knocked a bottle of sulfuric acid into the sink.
“I thought you loved that sink,” I said to my wife.
“I thought you did,” she said.
The next day, I invited the university’s astronomy department to install their gamma ray detectors, but the radiation had disappeared. Professor Murgymas thought it likely that the rotation of the double star system had changed the focal point of the gravitational lens. Either that or the black hole had finished its meal.
Everything’s back to normal now, except that Emile has disappeared. I miss him. Remarkably, only Maxwell was sympathetic. “I had a komodo dragon once,” he said. “Jumped from the back of the pick-up truck when I wasn’t looking. It’s tough without a venomous reptile. Hang in there.”