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Gravity WellsSpeculative Fiction Stories
By James Gardner
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 James Gardner
All right reserved.
Muffin Explains Teleology to
the World at Large
I told my kid sister Muffin this joke.
There was this orchestra, and they were playing music, and all the violins were bowing and moving their fingers, except for this one guy who just played the same note over and over again. Someone asked the guy why he wasn't playing like the others and he said, "They're all looking for the note. I've found it."
Muffin, who's only six, told me the joke wasn't funny if you understood teleology.
I never know where she gets words like that. I had to go look it up.
TELEOLOGY [teli-oloji] n doctrine or belief that all things or actions are designed to achieve some end.
"Okay," I said when I found her again, "now I understand teleology. Why isn't the joke funny?"
"You'll find out next week," she said.
I talked to Uncle Dave that night. He's in university and real smart, even though he's going to be a minister instead of something interesting. "What's so great about teleology?" I said. He looked at me kind of weird, so I explained, "Muffin's been talking about it."
"So have my professors," he said. "It's, uhh, you know, God has a purpose for everything, even if we can't understand it. We're all heading toward some goal."
"We took that in Sunday school," I said.
"Well, Jamie, we go into it in a bit more detail."
"Yeah, I guess."
He was quiet for a bit, then asked, "What's Muffin say about it?"
"Something big is happening next week."
"That's what she says."
Muffin was in the next room with her crayons. Uncle Dave called her in to talk and she showed him what she was working on. She'd colored Big Bird black. She has all these crayons and the only ones she ever uses are black and gray.
"What's happening next week?" Uncle Dave asked.
"It's a secret," she said.
"Not even a hint?"
"Little tiny hint? Please?"
She thought about it a minute, then whispered in his ear. After that, she giggled and ran upstairs.
"What did she say?" I asked.
"She told me we'd get where we're going." He shrugged and made a face. We were both pretty used to Muffin saying things we didn't understand.
The next day I answered the front doorbell and found three guys wearing gray robes. They'd shaved their heads too.
"We are looking for her gloriousness," one of them said with a little bow. He had an accent.
"Uh, Mom's gone down the block to get some bread," I answered. "It's okay," Muffin said, coming from the TV room. "They're here for me."
All three of the men fell facedown on the porch, making a kind of high whining sound in their throats.
"You know these guys?" I asked.
"They're here to talk about teleology."
"Well, take them into the backyard. Mom doesn't like people in the house when she's not here."
"Okay." She told the guys to get up and they followed her around the side of the house, talking in some foreign language.
Excerpted from Gravity Wells by James Gardner Copyright © 2005 by James Gardner. Excerpted by permission.
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