Norman Lock
from Pieces For Small Orchestra


30.

He sets his theodolite on the bar glyphed by beer-glass bottoms; rubbled with cocktail napkins, tiny plastic swords, and peanut shells; anchored by elbows. It is polished brass and handsome - this instrument by which he measures two-dimensional space quaintly Euclidean now that an invisible lion in our midst has vanished into a parallel universe impossible, for us, to describe. “I am a Land Surveyor,” he replies in answer to the Prime Minister's question. “But we have no need of surveying, sir!” the P. M. asserts with a belligerence, due, in part, to absinthe (which is not forbidden us) and ministerial habit. “This is a hotel!” he continues in this strain. “To take measurements, such as are within your ken, would be superfluous in light of this --” He indicates with an elegant hand the finished space around us. “Nothing here is provisional or conditional; everything is fixed, immutable, and -- another, Bartender, if you please.” He moves his empty glass an inch-and-one-half toward the absinthe bottle. “But I was summoned!” the Surveyor protests, much put out. “By whom?” “By me.” The Physicist leans his lean length into the conversation to explain: “I wish to prove to my detractors that our hotel is swinging in and out of a visible dimension, according to String Theory's axioms as I have adapted them to suit the singularity of our existence, which is simultaneously imaginary and real.” “O, so the Surveyor will play a role in another of the Physicist's thought experiments!” we moan, having been terrified by the last involving not one but three lions! “How do you propose to prove such a postulate?” the Prime Minister, whose head is 'big' at the moment from the dangerous intoxicant, demands. “The Surveyor will measure a room to determine whether or not it shrinks or expands, as I predict it must.” The Surveyor requests a beer. “Put it on my tab,” says the Plumber, who feels collegially toward this fellow of the building trades. The Surveyor quaffs and smiles at the lace of foam inside his empty glass. Not to be outdone by a Plumber, the General calls for drinks all round. The Physicist continues to elaborate: “I conjecture that the hotel is - in its essence - a vibration induced by our desire. It will shrink as the waveform flattens. At the point of climax, we will disappear. In other words, we are invisible to the outside world in proportion to our wish to be so.