Hard And Shiny

In the drawer lay something small and rocky and hard and shiny, all at the same time. When he reached in with a careful hand and wrapped his fingers around the lumpy grey object it felt cold and heavy. He picked it up. He felt it was even heavier than first thought and he weighed the item in his right palm, as if he were comparing the weight with another object recently picked up and also weighed in this manner. But the comparison wasn’t a comparison. It was simply a judgement: the grey shiny blob was quite heavy.

He had never seen this before, but he knew what it was. Granny had mentioned it. It had belonged to Grandpa, and he had been reluctant to let anyone touch it, or even see it. It was not generally known where this thing was kept, but you could have guessed. Grandpa didn’t have too many places, and this was the most obvious one.

The first place you’d go looking for Grandpa’s lump of asteroid would have been in the draw of Grandpa’s desk, and that was where he was right now, rummaging around for treasure:

A piece of asteroid, from the 1933 event in Siberia. There was something about that in a geography textbook when he was in high school. Enough force generated to rival a nuclear weapon. The destruction of several villages and flattening of a forest the size of Tasmania.

A piece of asteroid broken off a much bigger smoking fragment so cold you would burn yourself if you touched it, which didn’t make sense but he supposed it just meant that the big rocks which fell out of the sky were simply very cold indeed.

A piece of asteroid which had been taken back to the lab in Donetsk for study, where Grandpa and his team had chipped and scraped and polished the thing and taken a cross section of it. They had applied acid and other substances to it and submitted it to electromagnetic experiments which yielded results never seen before.

A piece of asteroid the local Communist officials had demanded should be placed at once in the Donetsk People’s Museum. “Otherwise you will be shot, Dr Jermyn.”

A piece of asteroid removed from the Siberian lab one night and taken out of Siberia and out of the Soviet Union, hidden in a big picnic basket with bottles of vodka, which the scientists carried on trains all the way to Western Europe over a period of two months, toasting their fake holiday from Vladivostok to Paris, and hoping that no Soviet guard would search a picnic basket with vodka, especially if he had been just offered some vodka, and no guard ever did search the basket and all of them had a glass or two when it was offered.

A piece of asteroid brought back across the world to the southern hemisphere to be studied in Dunedin, by an academic called Dr Jermyn who was also a grandfather called Grandpa.

A piece of asteroid which was brought home when Grandpa got sick and never found its way back to the university and was put into his desk drawer, and remained there when Grandpa was too sick to go back. Locked in the drawer, at home, unstudied.

Still there. Long after Grandpa had gone. A piece of asteroid which would make a very good paperweight.

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Published in: on April 27, 2015 at 8:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

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