Dear Dr. Craig Vendler,
I’m writing from my office in Albany, where I’ve just been handed (by a concerned staffer) the latest copy of Cosmology Today, which includes your article on the rather unfortunate and, if you are to be believed, inevitable, heat-death of the universe. Fascinating (if cynical) work, Doctor, with broad implications for me and my colleagues in the State Senate. You see, we’re about to approve funding for a series of “green spaces” in underserved communities across five urban counties, in an effort to empower our marginalized children. Jungle gyms, sandboxes, water stations, a certain limited amount of real grass—rarer than gold (but maybe not gold teeth, ha ha) in the destitute inner cities of our republic. But if I’m reading your work correctly, it sounds as if our efforts may be undermined by the sun’s ruby-tinged engorgement a mere four or five billion years hence—an event that seems to greatly threaten our Democracy. Is it true that the light that sustains us and gives our communities hope (and warmth) will one day surfeit itself of hydrogen and swallow the earth as if it were a delicious blue potato chip? And how will this affect minority communities whose rights are already assaulted by my misguided, conservative colleagues in this mostly good-intentioned governing apparatus?
I know you are a busy man. I picture you wearing wire-rimmed glasses and raising a slide-rule to the night sky, and muttering things like, “A-ha…” and “Fascinating,” before retiring alone to the twin bed in your university-funded studio apartment, a place never visited by a woman or an athlete or a woman athlete. (Is this about right?) I intrude upon this solitude for the sake of the common good, which as a liberal thinker I am in a unique position to advance, so long as the universe does not swallow us all into her incomprehensible nothingness.
Very Sincerely yours,
Senator Chuck Ramsey
cc: Hamilton Thomas Bryer, CEO of Playgrounds!, Inc.
cc: Donna Montrose Diego, LLC
Thank you for your correspondence dated XXXX, and for your interest in my (admittedly brilliant) work. I write from my forty-foot yacht in the Pacific, surrounded by half-naked women dying for a piece of my Cosmological Constant, and this letter will be delivered to the mainland by a helicopter kept on deck for eventualities such as this. The life of a theoretical physicist is far more dynamic than you seem to have imagined.
I regret to inform you that, while elements of my work are indeed open to fierce debate and scientific scrutiny (for instance: am I correct in claiming that time’s one-directional arrow is in fact merely descriptive of a single P-brane within an infinitely divided multiverse?), the future from which you take umbrage is in fact as certain as political gridlock. Still, I would like to be clear about my motives and my affiliations, which I’m contractually obligated to point out do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the philistines known as The Administration here at UC Santa Barbara. It actually gives me no small relief to know that, although the stars will all go dead in fifty billion some-odd years, and our universe will become a place of freezing lightless nothingness that most minds can not begin to comprehend (those of us possessed of IQ scores like the slugging percentages of star center fielders being the most obvious exceptions), it is no small comfort to consider that the “hand of God” might yet be able to harvest a speck of matter from this unending darkness and recognize it as deriving from a swingset painfully crammed into the center of a hostile and unforgiving Brooklyn craphole slum. I applaud you and your colleagues for your collective and dogged pursuit of a justice so absurdly inconsequential as to occasion many a spirited guffaw from me and my own colleagues while we bang fashion models in enormous orgies purposely arranged in the non-prosecutorial safety of international waters.
I am a hopeful person, Assemblyman, and as such I hope to see a monstrous asteroid destroy our planet in my lifetime, thus decimating an earth still teeming with politicians.
Craig Vendler, PhD
UC Santa Barbara
cc: Millicent Ackroid, Coordinator of Social Events
cc: Britney on the (starboard) stern in the pink g-string
My dear Dr. Vendler,
Please don’t be offended when I remind you that I am a Senator, not an Assemblyman, and that this title bestows upon its wearer certain inalienable rights and privileges, including the right to have individuals arrested for basically no reason at all or to exact revenge in a manner befitting a novel of political intrigue which, by the way, I am writing one of those. I may be on the Atlantic coast, but we State Senators are a fraternal bunch and our shared goals (and grudges) are the stuff of Mysteriously Missing Scientists Pinned To The Bottom Of Esoteric Bodies Of Water By The Weight Of The Textbooks They Could Never Lift. Enough said on that.
More alarming than your disrespect, however, is your apparent certainty that the human race—the race that brought you the pyramids, in-ground plumbing, the internal combustion engine; the race that may have landed on the moon, Doctor, though I’ve always had my doubts that you eggheads could have engineered such a feat—your certainty that we are incapable, over the next five billion years, of figuring out this Red Giant problem and keeping the sun burning bright forever. Your article states that hydrogen, then helium, will be exhausted and the sun—like all stars—will expand, destroy everything in its now-deadly circumference, and finally “burn out.” But why couldn’t we make more hydrogen, then launch it at the sun via some yet-to-be-imagined rocket ship? Or with a really big and strong catapult… or a giant rubber-band-type thingy. (These are just a few ideas, Doctor, and they occurred to me in like, five seconds, so imagine what someone like yourself might be able to do with just an iota of life-nourishing hope.) You may not believe in man’s ingenuity or his capacity for greatness, but some of us know that there is no limit to what you can accomplish if you follow your dreams. You will be able to identify us by our bumper stickers.
As one small bit of evidence, I point you toward a young woman named Leticia Roy, who was present at the last State of the State address given here in the hallowed halls of Albany, as we attempted to ignore our budget crisis through hackneyed (but effective) political misdirection. At the age of five Leticia saw her father murder her mother before turning the weapon on himself. His last words to her were, “Watch this, bitch.” She survived alone with the decaying bodies for six odorous days in which she was attacked incessantly by the rats that arrived through tenement walls to devour the carcasses. Leticia spent the next five years bouncing from foster home to foster home, often sexually or psychologically abused by the notorious scumbags who tend to volunteer their kindnesses to this broken system that me and my liberal colleagues are fighting desperately to reform (I refer you to the Stop Violence Against Children [SVAC] Act up for senatorial debate next month, assuming we manage to avoid additional delays, which between you and me: we won’t). The point being that Leticia—now eighteen and with tits you just would not believe, Doctor—is headed to Harvard on scholarship, after fighting tooth and claw for an education the world was dead set on denying her.
If Leticia Roy can survive this nightmare, Doctor Vendler, if the human spirit can uphold its own dignity in the face of shit-storms such as Leticia’s, I have to believe we can pool our collective will—equal to the light of a thousand suns, Doctor!—and figure out a way to stave off the universe’s heat death and to prevent everything from going black. Forgive my optimism, Doctor, just as I forgive you your ridiculous lies about the yacht, the orgies, the helicopter. I, too, was mistreated as a child, and so I understand the genesis of your deceitfulness. One day, someone may love you, or at least touch you, despite your hideous acne and your sclerotic limbs and your moss-covered teeth. Hope is the world, Craig, and I’ve got the bumper sticker to prove it.
cc: Your mother the filthy whore
PS: We will be going forward with the low-income playground project, with or without your admission that your “theory” is only that—one possible future for humanity, but no more inevitable than Leticia’s failure to get educated must have seemed, to those who did not know the potential of a hungry mind.
Dearest one-term “Senator” Ramsey,
I fear I have been less than completely fair to you and your colleagues in the “senate.” My article in CT did little to humanize the series of cosmological events that will precede the end of light, life, and warmth. In my business we call these events “the storm before the calm,” which is a phrase that might equally apply to the flurry of political outrage that so often precedes impotence and inaction (two things that your wife likely knows all about). So let me do a better job here of sketching what a ten-million degree sun will do to this planet you so admire.
As the sun retires from nuclear core fusion, it will actually emit much more energy, and its expansion will be unkind. The earth will come to resemble the place where you and your fellow politicians are surely bound (hell, that is, not prison). This will be the time of Great Disintegration. If any civilization still exists during the billion-year-long process, they and everything they’ve built will be seared away to drift steam-like into the outer reaches of a wholly disinterested solar system. The earth itself may or may not be devoured (this is an issue of some contention in my community), but everything on it will disappear. If it remains at all it will be as a cold dead rock, like the moon we once visited, in the days before politicians lost interest in anything good, worthy, or life-affirming. (See, “senator,” I’m not the cynical one, your bumper sticker is.)
I have taken some time to research your “Leticia Roy.” The only hits I can find are for the basketball player at Rutgers, who happens to be the coach’s niece, and was ushered through the program despite failing grades and an IQ low enough to stave off an execution.
I’m enclosing a picture of myself fucking your sister. Notice how happy she looks. And the size of my biceps.
Doctor Vendler, PhD
Dear Doctor Vendler,
Joke’s on you, sir. That is my step-sister. I’m not saying she and I have also had relations, but I’m also not not saying that.
Meanwhile, Playgrounds! Inc. has moved forward with the dedication ceremonies in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and the Hudson Valley craphole slum of Newburgh. Your work—convincing as it may be—has not discouraged us from doing good, nor has it broken the will of the people to effect real and lasting change. Just the opposite, Doctor. Knowing that the universe has a limited shelf life, we’re more determined than ever to fill those shelves with peace, justice, and opportunity for all of God’s people. But you don’t care about the shelves, do you Craig? You don’t even see them. You just see the empty wall to which they’ve been so effectively affixed by the ingenuity and craftsmanship of our human carpenters.
I’m curious about one thing, though: how did you know Janice was my (step)sister? And how did you get her out to California? I talked to her three weeks ago and she was living in Western Massachusetts with all of her lesbian friends.
Well, either way Doctor, please go fuck yourself.
cc: Your dead father who I know from a shitload of research (done on my own in the wee hours and not at taxpayer’s expense so nice try) was mangled horrifically in a car wreck and suffered for six long hours while they tried to cut him free of the smoking metal frame until at last they discovered that the frame was the only thing holding him together, which makes me laugh out loud, hahaha, you sister-fucking coward.
Dear Walking Corpse,
It was not my father who perished as you describe in your latest and most doltish missive, but my mother’s husband, which believe me, Walking Corpse, are not remotely analogous. You speak of shelves. What, I wonder, have you collected on yours? An employee of the month award from your pre-senatorial assistant managership at Denny’s? Or pictures of you and your wife in front of national monuments built from the bones of indigenous peoples? Or boyhood little league trophies that you burnish once a month in an effort to commune with a past in which you were less completely a failure?
I have taken the liberty of coating this envelope in a compound known as DMSO, used by our chemistry department to subcutaneously euthanize large reptiles. You should be short of breath by now. Say hello to your life-affirming hope-disseminating conflict-averse God, and ask where He intends to sit out the universe’s (absolutely inevitable) end of days.
Dr. Craig Vendler, PhD
cc: Your wife, though without the deadly poisons; for her, this is not the end of life, but the beginning.
Dear, misguided Doctor,
Surely you must realize that a man of my stature does not open his own mail. Poor Robert, an intern studying at the State University (where he’s majoring in political science) has descended into a toxic-shock-coma, which I understand is one of the worst comas we’ve got. We’re being told that he probably won’t make it. But what were his final words before slipping into this likely-forever sleep? “Tell my mother that I love her.” See, Craig, this is the kind of thing that stands in opposition to your “The Whole Universe Will One Day End” shtick, and if asked to throw my hat in with one or the other of these competing life-arrangements, I’m with loving Robert’s mother. In fact I’m seeing her in a few hours to commiserate and I have my fingers crossed.
I have convinced some friends of mine in DC to order a nuclear submarine to your vessel’s coordinates. They should be arriving momentarily. Watch how you react to their warnings, Doctor. These sub Commanders are just dying to blow shit up, such are there lives of routine, boredom, and oceanic darkness. Sound familiar, dickweed?
Yours in light and optimism,
Senator Chuck Ramsey
Doctor Craig Vendler and Senator Chuck Ramsey:
We have been following your petty correspondence from our decaying orbit aboard the International Space Station (recently renamed, as you likely know, The JP Morgan Chase High Yield Orbiting Hub). How? Don’t ask how, gentlemen. You can’t handle the “how.” The point is that we are appalled by the deteriorating civility in your epistolary exchange, especially given the remarkable opportunity your communiqués afford for a meaningful dialogue between Science and Politics. We are beaming billions of South Korean nanobots to your respective locations. They’ll soon be infiltrating your bloodstream and reprogramming your synapses, just as they have for millions of your countrymen and women. Don’t worry, you won’t feel a thing. You’ll simply wake up tomorrow as baptized Episcopalians. Today you speak from the ego; tomorrow, from the fantastic and all-conquering collective human heart.
Meanwhile we’re tracking the progress of Kabelac (7670), an asteroid the size of Pluto that seems on course to annihilate the planet in 27 days. Enjoy your brief time in the bright Red Giant of God’s love, you hopeless pricks.
The Omega Council
David Hollander is the author of the novel L.I.E. His work has appeared in McSweeney’s, Post Road, The New York Times Magazine, The Black Warrior Review, Poets & Writers, The Collagist, and Unsaid, and has been frequently anthologized, most recently in Best American Fantasy 2008. Hollander teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College, where he is revered as a God.
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