By S.B. Hunter
No one seemed to hear him when he spoke. He’d launch into a sentence, a story, an observation, and often (well, often enough) people would either turn away or, worse, interrupt, begin in on something else, not remotely on the same topic or issue. There didn’t seem to be any pattern to this, but the result was the same. He felt unheard, dismissed. This wasn’t universal, but it happened often enough to be noticeable. He once said to his wife, “I live in a Cosmos of non-sequiturs.” She didn’t understand what he was on about. He often said strange things, but their marriage had gone on long enough for her curiosity to founder quickly. She simply filed his odd pronouncement under: “Man of a Certain Age.” Older men just said things sometimes, grumpy-sounding things. Her own father had done this and she had learned the hard way that it was best to leave things well enough alone. Asking people to explain themselves led, in her experience, to trouble.
Just now, sitting across the table from her, he was reading in the newspaper about how some astronomers had picked up on the first-ever series of steady, non-random radio wave bursts emerging from deep Space.
Since 2007, researchers have cataloged over 100 fast radio bursts, or FRBs, coming from every direction in the sky. But it’s unknown what causes these radio bursts. Only 10 have been seen to repeat (SN: 8/14/19), and none of those had exhibited any sort of steady tempo—until now. (1)
To be honest, he wasn’t all that interested; science left him indifferent, and he abandoned the article after this opening paragraph. He rifled through to the Op-Ed page. He loathed the current president and enjoyed the daily eviscerations to be found there. Hard to believe the man had any supporters at all, let alone a good third of the country. It struck him as literally insane. This was a constant drumbeat in his mind and it was a subject that always got him riled up. He clanged the spoon hard, back down into the cereal bowl.
“What’s up with you?”
Why was she being so cross? But her tone had the usual, automatic effect on him, made him retreat like a snail into its shell when you hold a match up to it. So, quick, quick, “Ah… Nothing. Sorry, dear, spoon slipped.”
“Aren’t you going to be late?” She now wants him out of the house. His timidity drives her nuts and results in these tight little flare-ups of anger. She doesn’t like herself for it but can’t seem to help it
He looks over to the clock on the stove, sees it’s broken, and remembers that he had promised to fix it. He checks his phone and sees, along with the time, that there are an unusual number of messages waiting. He thought he could dog it a bit today, not get in until mid-morning, but maybe all these messages meant he’d best be going.
Out the kitchen window and over the cooling coffee and the limp toast in its rack and past the suddenly billowing curtains with the ruffles, a cloud moved across the sun. Their tidy yard was swiped with the rag of a swift shadow; the erect lavender carefully placed amongst the mottled green of the euonymus; the solitary rust of the Japanese maple.
Looking down into the flat yellow of the congealed egg on her plate and the silence she, once again, wishes she’d been able to have children. Then there’d be noise and laughter and action; then there would be others around, others to play with.
Down at his office, the new girl in HR is gathering and collating the needed documents. Today, when he came in, management was planning on terminating his contract.
One of the known repeaters has a relatively brief window of activity about every 16 days, researchers report January 28 at arXiv.org. That means something about the source or its environment is reliably controlling the burst activity, a potential clue to the true nature of these enigmatic objects. (2)
(1) Live Science, February 11, 2020
(2) Ditto : livescience.com