Johnny America


Cold Fu­sion


Ethan Zhou, en­gi­neer for SolTech In­dus­tries, fig­ured out the so­lu­tion to cold fu­sion while vis­it­ing the aquar­i­um with his wife, Sarah. The grail of end­less sup­plies of en­er­gy pro­duced in a tiny box with wa­ter elec­trolyzed on top of pal­la­di­um had been deemed ‘pseu­do-sci­ence’ in many cor­ners. He re­al­ized the prob­lem hadn’t been with the par­ti­cles. Not even the math. It was relationships.

It trig­gered when Sarah told him about an ex­per­i­ment where small sharks and fish were placed in a tank to­geth­er. A trans­par­ent glass par­ti­tion sep­a­rat­ed the two. When­ev­er the sharks in­stinc­tive­ly moved to de­vour the fish, they banged their heads against the wall. A month of this and sci­en­tists re­moved the par­ti­tion. The sharks had it so in­grained that the fish couldn’t be eat­en, they’d leave them alone, even if they were float­ing right next to them.

Fish be­came atoms and Ethan re­al­ized elec­trons weren’t all that dif­fer­ent from hu­mans. Neg­a­tive, pos­i­tive en­er­gy, fis­sion, anom­alous heat pro­duc­tion, mys­te­ri­ous re­ac­tions. Quarks were feisty son’s of bitch­es and the Heisen­berg un­cer­tain­ty was just an­oth­er name for some­one who was moody.

Nor­mal­ly, the dis­cov­ery would have been a mo­ment of joy. But Sarah al­so had an an­nounce­ment. “I’m leav­ing for Chi­na next week.”

“For how long?” he asked.



She sighed. “Things haven’t been the same since…”

And he knew she meant the mo­ment she’d been di­ag­nosed with diabetes.

“I hate that I can’t have sug­ar when­ev­er I want,” she said. “What’s the point of the Amer­i­can dream if I can’t have sweets?”

Or the free­dom to be fat. He bare­ly rec­og­nized him­self in the mir­ror any­more cause the two gorged on desserts so much. His bel­ly was more like a moun­tain and hers was no dif­fer­ent. Pang fuqi, she joked. The fat couple.

Ethan worked in a huge lab with a fu­sion gen­er­a­tor that looked like it was from Star Trek. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, his job was cler­i­cal. Ad­min­is­tra­tive. Bor­ing. Even if it in­volved ex­plo­sions that could rip the plan­et in two.

How to con­vince her to stay? he won­dered. Tell her he dis­cov­ered a way to pro­vide in­ter­minable sup­plies of en­er­gy to the world? Tell her he’d make the sun ob­so­lete by un­der­stand­ing that elec­trons were as whim­si­cal as fire­flies? Then again, it wasn’t like he would tell any­one his so­lu­tion. SolTech In­dus­tries had the nasty habit of can­ning peo­ple who made im­por­tant dis­cov­er­ies. Li­a­bil­i­ties, the lawyers said. Ba­si­cal­ly, they didn’t want any­one to re­ceive cred­it or fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tion. Bet­ter to draw them out, take ba­by steps so he’d keep his job, mis­lead them just enough.

Part of his cyn­i­cism came from the fact that all his boss­es cared about was pro­mot­ing them­selves to more grandiose ti­tles, ex­ec­u­tive of this and pres­i­dent of that. They lived off the achieve­ments of past years, elic­it­ing grants like vul­tures, their hypocrisies more man­i­fold than wavelength’s of sound. Not that Sarah cared. She just want­ed her choco­late tapi­o­ca dipped in caramel and red bean.

He re­mem­bered that on their eigh­teenth date to­geth­er, he ex­plained how su­per­strings were re­ver­ber­a­tions in oth­er di­men­sions that caused the phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tions in our uni­verse. Mar­riage gu­rus said it was re­ver­ber­a­tions in our de­sires that caused at­trac­tion. Sarah had a con­fused look. Why was it so hard for him to sim­ply say, “I love you.”

Maybe cause his nerves were fused to­geth­er, like hy­dro­gen par­ti­cles that com­bined un­til they ex­plod­ed and caused a cat­a­stroph­ic det­o­na­tion. He want­ed to hold Sarah that much.

“I’ve al­ready bought the tick­et,” she said.

“I’ve dis­cov­ered the so­lu­tion to cold fu­sion,” Ethan sput­tered out.

She looked at him and said, “That’s nice…” She low­ered her head. “Maybe next time, you can just find out how to say, don’t go.

Af­ter Sarah left, Ethan watched man­ta rays chase ham­mer­head sharks and trop­i­cal fish slith­er through corals. His fin­gers were in­ter­laced. He bought a straw­ber­ry short­cake ice cream and took a bite. It tast­ed bitter.

Filed under Fiction on December 3rd, 2010

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