Bewildering Stories

The Solar Experiment

William W.

It was in the summer of 1998 that my now-wife
         then-girlfriend made the astonishing claim.
It was morning, and we were driving northbound
         on the 110 through the heart of Los Angeles.
It was then that she burst out (in a swelter of
"The sun is ALWAYS shining on
         my side when we drive!"
She squinted against the radiant blast and cursed
         deeply against the laws of stellar fate.

I, being the one of superior education, patiently
         tried to explain the folly of her conviction.
"The sun isnít always on your side," I said.
         "If it were, the planet would be
         flip-flopping at our every turn!"
This logic, needless to say, carried no weight
         with her.
"Itís a psychological effect," I tried again.
         "You just NOTICE the sun when it is
         on your side."

Her glare grew worse.

"Look," I said, not knowing my own best interest,
         "letís do an experiment! Letís keep a record
         of the times when the sun is on your side."
This, of course, was not
         the correct approach to the
         problem, but it seemed so to me at the time.


To proceed, we (we? -- ha! "I") began by
         stocking up on the proper equipment:
One of those baby-shade window thingees from Toys-R-Us
         (for her),
And a notepad to record results
         (for me).
On our very next outing,
         the great experiment was afoot!
"Is the sun in your eyes?"
         I inquired with absolute objectivity.
"YES!" she creid, and scribble scribble scribble
         went I in the notebook.
"YES!" she cried, as she struggled with the
         baby-shade thingee.

After a week, the results were in.

I was flabbergasted.
The sun REALLY WAS on her side! ALWAYS!
What mystery was this?!

I determined to approach the problem
Surely, I thought, if the sun is always on her
         side, this must imply that the very heavens
         are rotating manically as we drive.
How, though, can I test this hypothesis,
I wondered -- stymied, since (safe driver
         that I am), I always keep my eyes on the road.
Then the needed experiment came to me
         as in a dream,
         and I was determined to give it a go.

Three days later.

We sat with a wondering friend in the parking lot
         of the Griffith Observatory.
I looked at the lawn-statue of
         the astronomical giants
And wondered if I would soon join their ranks.

"You drive," I instructed my friend
         as I got out of the car.
(The plan was to keep my now-wife then girlfriend
         in the passenger seat, armed with her baby-shade
This was her normal seat, and I wanted to
         isolate variables, you see.)
"Wait until I call you with the signal" I added,
         and handed my friend a phone.

I jogged in.

The show was something or other,
         I donít remember what.
Dr. E.C. Krupp was at the helm.
I sat down anxiously and bore with
         little patience the banal warnings about
         flash photography and
         proper exits for pee-mergencies.
(A pasty Midwestern tourist stuffed away a
         disposable Kodak and mumbled about
         "how inconsiderate the planetarium people are,
         not allowing photographs.")

The show began.

Dr. Krupp, in his usual style, bantered away,
         witty as ever.
The music swelled, the lights dimmed, and
         the mighty Zeiss Mark IV
         burst forth with its heavenly stuff.

I hit the speed dial on my phone.

"Operation Joshua, go now!"
         I whispered to my friend,
And the pasty woman gave me a "Shush!"
I leaned back against
         the legendary Griffith headrest
         and waited.

"...then you ARC to ARC-turus..." Krupp was saying.
         the universe shifted.

The stars rocked in drunken fashion;
         I shouted for joy!
The laws of the universe WERE in conspiracy,
         keeping the sun
         in my now-wife then-girlfriendís eyes!

Poor Dr. Krupp struggled valiantly
         with the controls,
         alas, to no avail.
He did, however, come up a witty joke.

The audience rapidly succumbed to sea-sickness;
The pasty woman ran out.
Obviously she hadnít heard the part about
         the pee-mergency exits.
Upon flinging open the nearest door,
         she flooded the room with light from outside.

We all saw it then:
         the sun
         roaring round and round and round!


"Sorry," I said to Dr. Krupp,
         on my way out.
(Normalcy had returned
         once I signaled my friend.)
You can bet that I didn't bother
         to explain that remark,
But I did slip a nice wad
         into the FOTO donations jar.

Since the day of the experiment,
I donít drive my now-wife around so much any more.
And when I do,
I give fair warning first
         to Dr. Krupp and his crew,
         and to the fellas up on Mount Wilson.

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Copyright © 2002 by William W. and Bewildering Stories.