Quincy stepped from the treadmill in the basement of his house. He pulled off the Möbius strip sweatband that held together the left and right hemispheres of his restless brain. He stared at the potbelly he knew Lucinda didn’t like but was too polite to mention when they hugged. After an infinite ten seconds he reached the top of his Escher stairway. His Himalayan cat awaited him, a longhaired puff of smoke with blue eyes too big for its shrunken face. The cat had seen the dark side of Man and Nature, for its previous owner had cast it out into the Minnesota winter and its stately tail had frozen off. The cat’s left brain made it advance toward, the right made it retreat from, its new caretaker.
     Quincy was now an island of bliss in his bathtub. His pot belly was a low smooth volcanic island. His navel was the caldera, and his bony legs formed ragged coral reefs. The forced air of the heater was a susurrus in far off palm trees. Phosphorescence of music and seaweeds of memory floated about him. Particles slipped momentarily into and out of the anti-universe, the land of Boy Scout Cookies. He arose from the water and toweled. After dressing, he examined himself in the mirror. The golden threads in his beard glinted along with the golden rims of his spectacles. He had worn heavy glass lenses for so many years that little troughs had formed in his skull above his ears, and future anthropologists would probably classify him as a new species—Homo spectabilis. Ideas glinted from the swords, and heat raged from the torches, of the homunculus soldiers in the left and right sides of his brain as he thought about seeing Lucinda. Whenever he and Lucinda talked, about everything from immortality to ergotism, they ignited one another like anode and cathode.   The sidewalk had just enough irregularities of snow to keep Quincy from slipping. The branches were heavy with ice. Like the prayers of the municipal electric customers, they bent humbly but refused to break. He carried a bag with a cake of fruits, nuts, and soy flour that he had made especially for Lucinda. He shuffled past the house where the new widow kept up her spirits by reading old books; past the only Spanish stucco house in western Minnesota; past the house with the catalpa tree that against all odds had survived Minnesota winters; past the house where a huge stalactite, destroying the roof, had finally met a dumpy stalagmite, to form a pillar of strength; past the church where until just forty years ago Norwegian was spoken; to the house that Lucinda rented. His left hemisphere analyzed and his right hemisphere exulted in fragments of orchestral music, forming a maelstrøm of joy.
     A car that he did not recognize was parked outside. His universe suddenly inverted—how could a third pole function in this planetary system? As Quincy stood on the porch, his left brain told him to proceed, but his right told him that the ether was poisoned. The decision was made for him as the door opened. The yellow porch light came on, a mediocre star in a galaxy of dust, gas, and sucking black holes.
     “Oh, it’s Quincy,” said Lucinda. A man stood behind her.
     She opened the door, assuming Quincy would enter as always. He did, a comet in its orbit approaching the sun. Lucinda’s black eyes glinted behind black spectacles. A big smile lifted her cheeks, and her eyes disappeared in jolly epicanthic folds. Her hair had the usual fragrance of ginger as Quincy embraced her.
     “Quincy, meet Ron. Ron, Quincy,” she said. The man, with wild sandy hair and blue eyes, smiled crookedly, his left brain telling the right cheek to remain grave, but his right instructing joy. He extended a strong gentle hand.
     “Ron, I told you about Quincy, my best friend. Quincy, Ron is my new boyfriend.”
     Quincy’s left brain was surprised to hear his right make him say, “I didn’t know you had a boyfriend.”
     Lucinda’s face went limp. “Didn’t you get my e-mail?”
     Ron looked apologetic. “I didn’t think I was interfering with...”
     “You aren’t,” Lucinda blurted. “Quincy is my...my intellectual friend.”
     See, she likes me, not you, Quincy’s left brain said to his right. Quincy’s body started to tense as it disconnected from his brain. His left brain said, We have to discuss this. The right said, There’s nothing to discuss. The left said, She’s right, I have no romantic claim on her. The right said, Just look, will you! Quincy looked at Lucinda’s smooth brown skin, and he imagined the firm small breasts he had never seen; the sleek belly that so contrasted with his; the soft roundness of buttock he had accidentally glimpsed when they went camping together last summer; and the volcanic grotto of Pele where life began in a world of lightning and amino acids, warm in the dim light of a young sun, a mystery he assumed no man had seen. His right brain was Mars, ready for war, but his left was the moon, where there was a calculus of either light or dark, no penumbra of emotion. Electrons glinted in his right hemisphere, positrons sucked in the light in his left.
     “Quincy?” asked Lucinda.
     Quincy’s right brain said, Why are you waiting? Grasp her, take her to the bedroom! His left said, You will ruin everything if you try this. Photons whirled in a band around his cranium. The soldiers yelped in alarm. Matter became energy at the speed of light.
     Lucinda’s face, then Ron’s, showed sudden horror.
     “Quincy! What’s going on? Are you all right?”
     Lucinda and Ron leapt back, not into one another’s arms but apart, as in the Big Bang. It had been so clear to Lucinda that romantic love and intellectual love were separate forces, but Quincy had found a Unified Field Theory. The unification of forces produced fervent heat. The room smelled like grease on an electric stove.
     The coroner had no explanation. Nothing remained of Quincy except his arms and legs and charcoal and warped spectacles. But this singularity had perturbed the movements of all the stars. Lucinda became a bleak hulk of dark matter. Ron left town. And nobody in the neighborhood felt safe anymore in their comfortable orbits.

copyright 2008 Stanley A. Rice

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