Thursday, August 13, 2015


Schrodinger's Polydactyls
By Janet Shell Anderson

My client ripped her husband’s underwear to shreds with a sharpened Civil War cavalry sword, then set the house on fire.

It’s Friday night, and I’ve had a call from West O Street. She’s in jail for arson. To her, that’s nothing. Although her husband wasn’t home during the alleged underwear destruction and fire starting, he’s let her know their cats, major issues in their upcoming divorce, are going to die as soon as he returns from Berkeley.

He’s a particle physicist. She was a dancer at The Foxy Lady.

I’m an attorney. It’s the first rainy night in about a hundred years in Lincoln, Nebraska, after a polar vortex winter both hideous and dry. She’s hysterical about the animals. I can’t get her out of the lockup, so I have to drive to 178th Street and get the cats, Ernest and Nick Adams, before he gets back and does away with them.

Ernest and Nick Adams?

I had a hellish day already arguing with a sweet old divorce attorney in Saline County over some kind of Pampered Chef kitchenware. We may have a two-day trial over it.

Bryan, my ex, a horse trainer, has been on the cell calling me, wanting to tell me the trouble he is having with Trista, who is in love with him. Trista is a show rider, blond, young, with breasts like melons. Bryan says he is not in love with her. He thinks because I do divorce, I can get rid of her for him. I can’t even get rid of him.

Rescuing cats seems like a better idea.

“Molly,” Bryan calls again. “She says I don’t understand her; I am too manipulative.” He’s thinking melons, I suspect. I try to talk him into coming with me. He won’t. I’m in this alone.

It pours all the way to 178th Street. I find keys where my client hid them, enter the dark house, see no cats, only a large, square metal box squatting in the living room. The box switches on and hums. I don’t like it at all.

Bryan calls on my cell, updates me on the stress he’s feeling. I ask what kind of metal box switches on, hums.

“A bomb,” he says, and goes on about Trista.

Firemen would have noticed a bomb. The rain increases; a bolt of lightning shoots over an orchard.

“Kitty, kitty.” Two of them, boys, she said. One blue, which is really a gray one, one cream, which is actually orange. Big guys. Long haired. Very gentle. Polydactyls. With extra thumbs. Ernest is orange, I think. I find two cat carriers near the kitchen pantry, smell the scorch from the fire in the three-car garage.

Maybe the cats are dead.

They are so wonderful, she said. My babies. Can open anything.

I wonder if they have opened Mr. Wizard’s box there in the living room. The husband said he would not accept the authority of the Court. He told Judge Elliott in a personal call to her chambers she had no authority over him. She already hates him. She would never admit it. This will be quite a case. We will probably even get custody of the humming metal box.

I turn on lights, hear mewing. The cats are somewhere around. My ex calls again.

“Have you ever heard of Schrodinger’s Cat?” he shouts. Thunder crashes.


“Get out of there, Molly. Trista said something about weird physics. On the History Channel. Schrodinger’s cat. A box. She’s googling it. If you get inside, you can be alive and dead at the same time.”

“Right.” I am not listening to one more word about Schrodinger, whoever he is, his cats, the History Channel or Trista.
The box hums; cats cry. They sound like babies. The storm picks up intensity, and I wonder if we could already be in tornado weather. It’s chilly and late for it, but, still. It’s Nebraska.

I hear sirens. I call my ex. “Are we in a tornado watch?”

“Trista’s calling. Hold on.”

The box hums. It looks much bigger. A tree branch comes down with a sharp crack. Lightning turns the world electric blue.

“Bryan, are you there?”



A fat, furry body rolls into my lap; thumbed feet pat my face. Tuna breath, and the thing just purrs and purrs. Another just as huge tucks itself under my chin, and they are both humming. I am in a box with two enormous, furry, multi-toed, thumbed cats. Rough tongues wash my hands. They are glad I’m with them.

“Bryan. I’m in something. I’m with the cats.”


The wind dies down; rain patters on the sidewalks, the burned garage. The cats are pressed body to body with me, humming, but I don’t smell tuna anymore, or them. I smell the green, wonderful, wet April smell, turned earth, spring bulbs, new grass, the heaven smell of saturation, fecundity. Better than Pampered Chef, better than cutting underwear to ribbons, better than rage, revenge, darkness, fury, death, that sweet, rich scent we know from our first breath—-life itself.

How do I get out of Schrodinger’s box?

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Nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Micro Prize in 2011, I have been published in 365 Tomorrows, Four Square Universe, Daily Science Fiction, Vestal Review, decomP, FRIGG, Cease Cows, Grey Sparrow, Black Heart Magazine, and others. I write flash fiction and am an attorney.

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