Schrӧdinger’s Question

Gail Sosinsky

“So until the cat in the box is observed, it is both living and dead,” Drew summed up for his former college roommate, “which of course, is absurd, but that’s what Schrӧdinger was trying to—”

“You’re over my head, Drew,” Nathan said, laughing and popping another stick of gum into his mouth. “Just like old times.”

Drew had agreed to prep Nathan, a surprisingly successful journalist, for his interview with the head of the Heisenberg Institute, but this was a lost cause. If anything, Nathan was dumber than he had been during the two years they had shared a dorm room. Drew regretted inviting him into the privacy of the lab he shared with Eva Sklodowska—brilliant, beautiful, kind…

He looked across the lab, past the computers-in-series running simulations, past the equation-filled whiteboards, to the cubicle partitions at the other end of the room, the only concession the institute had made to the scientists’ request for quiet space where they could think undisturbed. He could just hear Eva’s nails drumming her desktop. Her nails were pink this week.

Yes, a little publicity could be useful. Eva’s work deserved recognition by the world at large, not just a handful of specialists.

“C’mon, Drew,” Nathan said, snapping the gum with a jaw movement reminiscent of a masticating cow. “There’s gotta be something interesting for the lede. Some new billion-dollar machine I can take a picture of. Better yet, some machine you blew up. With twisted metal, a little blood—”

“But that would give the impression our work is dangerous, and it’s not,” Drew said. “If you scare people, they will protest—”

“Protests make great pictures. Front page—”

A chair scraped the floor, and Eva moved out of her cubicle to the workstation that controlled the simulation they’d started this morning.

Nathan gaped, jaw open, gum stretched from maxilla to mandible. In a raspy whisper, Nathan said, “Now there’s a picture the common man can understand. Who’s she? Does she give interviews?”

“Knock it off, Nathan,” Drew said. “That’s Dr. Sklodowska.”

“Doctor—you mean the one with the theory?”

“Yes,” Drew said, ice in his voice. He had no right to be jealous. Eva was a colleague. Nothing more, unfortunately. But if Nathan didn’t peel his stare off of her pretty soon, Drew would, would…

Oh, who was he kidding? He was a numbers man. CEO of Equations R Us and about as interesting as lint. Knowing who he was didn’t make him yearn any less, but he could and would contain his emotions and treat Eva as a fellow professional.

The department secretary popped her head through the door. “There you are,” she scolded Nathan. “Dr. Bertram is ready for the interview. Follow me.”

As the door closed behind Nathan, Drew leaned against the lab table and sighed.

“I can’t believe you roomed with him,” Eva said, coming up beside Drew.

“Me neither.”

“And there is no way he understood your explanation of Schrӧdinger’s Cat. He doesn’t seem like the type to engage in thought experiments.”

“That would require thought,” Drew said.

Eva laughed and laid her hand on the lab table about an inch from where he was leaning. Drew swallowed.

“Of course, I am struggling with a bit of a thought experiment myself.” She gave Drew a searching look.

“Trouble with the simulation?”

“No, no. That’s going fine. This is more of a biology problem.”

“Biology?” Drew stared hard at the scuff mark on the toe of his left shoe. “That’s outside my area of expertise.”

“Let’s try anyway,” she said.

Drew could imagine her smiling. “Sure.” Did that squeaky sound just come from him?

Eva chuckled. “If an attractive man wants to ask an attractive woman on a date, but the question is never asked, is the answer both ‘yes’ and ‘no’ at the same time?”

Attractive? Drew’s breath caught. His heart thundered. All the operators in the equations of his life shifted to new positions.

Drew cleared his throat. He lifted his head to stare at the lab door. “And if the man asked, would the answer be ‘yes’?”

“No,” Eva said.

In disbelief, Drew turned, only to find her smiling warmly.

“The answer,” she said, “would be ‘Pick me up at seven Saturday night. And wear dancing shoes.’” She strolled back to the computer and its calculations.

Drew sank onto a stool and stared at the numbers on his own screen, but he didn’t really see them. He was too busy calculating the possibility of a happier future.

Gail Sosinsky
A native of the American Midwest, Gail Sosinsky grew up in a small paper-mill town and currently earns her living as a mild-mannered office worker.

She has published fiction and poetry in multiple venues including Moss Piglet, Star*line, Eye to the Telescope, Mindfilights, Pure Slush, and America West Airlines Magazine.

She lives with her aged, sweet-tempered mother and her less-predictably sweet-tempered cat, Nefertari.