My Dad and the Flat Earth

My Dad and the Flat Earth

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My Dad and the Flat Earth

 

Today my father tells us the earth is flat. He sits us down, the five of us, sits us down on the couch in the living room and tells us the earth is flat. It's not like he says, "Boys. The earth is flat," and then walks away. It's not like that at all. What he does is he takes the time to explain it to us. Even gives us visual aids. His hands become the earth. With his hands out before us he shows us the exact shape of the earth. It's not flat, really, but saucer shaped. Almost bowl shaped. He shows us with his hands. His fingers bend up slightly and his thumbs bend in towards each other, so that his hands make a kind of bowl.

 

"Where do we live?" my oldest brother Sam asks.

"Here," says my father. "in the bowl."

"Really?"

 

"Yeah," he says, with total confidence. "Look." He starts pulling his slightly cupped hands upward towards the ceiling, slowly. He doesn't say anything as he performs this move. He wants us to watch it for a while. He doesn't look at his hands, he looks at us. Our reaction. We don't react.

 

"This is how the earth moves," he says. "it travels constantly upwards."

"Upward?" says Len, my other older brother.

"Yes. Upward."

 

"Towards what?" It's me asking this time. I figure it's my turn to speak. My father looks at me for a moment and I think he's angry. I'm sorry I asked the question. Then this weird smile comes across his face and I'm not sorry anymore. Now I'm nervous. About my father. The thought occurs to me that my father has lost his mind and that this strange half-smile is the half-smile of a madman.

 

"That's a very good question, Rand."

"It is?"

"A very good question. It shows you're using your mind."

"Losing my mind? Why?"

"Using," she says.

"Oh. Using."

"The earth travels upwards but it's not important where."

"It isn't?" I was confused. He had just said that it was a good question, now he seemed to be saying it wasn't.

"No," he answers. "What is important is what the earth moves in relation to.

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"

"Oh." I had no idea what he was talking about.

"The earth moves constantly upwards because the universe moves constantly upwards."

"The universe does?" says Len, who is pretty good at science and mathematics and such. He seemed to be taking a sudden interest in my father's theory.

"Yes. The universe travels upwards. The earth travels upwards because the universe does."

 

Now there's this long silence while my father, I think, waits for the next question. He has that half-smile again. My mother is out shopping for groceries and I begin to wonder when she is coming back. If she is coming back. It's possible she heard the same lecture this morning, left my father and us with him.

 

"And," my father says, with emphasis. "And .. there's no such thing as gravity."

 

I feel myself laugh. It's like I have no control over it, like someone else was laughing, but was borrowing my body to do it with.

 

"There's no such thing as gravity," he says again.

 

"We have to go to the bathroom," says my little brother Jack. He's speaking for Jeff as well as himself. The two of them have been whispering during this whole conversation. This bathroom routine is a smart move on their part. I wish I could join them.

 

"Go ahead," says my father and they break speed records leaving the room; and not because they have to go to the bathroom.

 

My two older brothers and my father and I just sit there for a while. Actually, my father is still standing. He never sits for his lectures. He always stands so that he's this towering figure in front of us. His last lecture was on religion, I think. Before that it was something else. My father has a lot of ideas. My mother is very supportive of my father, but even she has her limits. Last night, for instance. Last night my mother and father had an argument. It had something to do with money. Since my father lost his job, things have been pretty tight around the house. My mother has been forced to go out and get a job as a waitress. I don't think she likes it. So last night my father was talking about something, one of his theories, I guess. My mother yelled at him to stop trying so hard to change the world, try a little harder to change our financial situation. This did not set at all well with my father, who likes to be taken seriously. Instead of yelling though, which is what we were all afraid of, he got real quiet. Silent, I think, is a better word. Didn't say a word for the rest of the night. Didn't say a word, in fact, until this morning, when he called us together to break the news that the earth is flat. I mean did he dream this one up during the night or something? Why is the earth flat all of a sudden? And why, all of a sudden, is there no gravity? Suddenly I have this image of us all shooting straight upwards, crashing through the ceiling and traveling constantly upwards in relation to the universe. I hear myself laughing. I think it's just me but it's not. Sam's laughing too. So is Len. Thank god. If it was just me I'd be in trouble. But it's all of us. Even my father is laughing, although in a different way than the three of us.
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