The Curious Geometry of Christopher Formax: Part 2:
"Oh, Christopher?..." he stammered, but re-gained confidence in his judgment when he re-adjusted his spectacles.
"Yes, it is you, my god how you've gotten larger, I'd have seen you earlier today if it had been my shift kid, what brings you back home and in prime fishing season I might add?"
Christopher shifted a little where he stood. He had not prepared himself for a conversation on where he had been in the past year. A part of his mind drew itself to the objects in and around the store, rather than the old acquaintance in front of him.
A total of one hundred and forty seven fish heads of various shades and sizes hung from plaques nailed to the walls of the hut, themselves held at bay by the musty stock that sat lifelessly on the two sets of eight shelves. At least half of the stainless steel equipment was by now out of date, but the familiarity of the place outweighed its function and in this instance, Christopher was soothed.
"I've been working, up in Switzerland,…" Christopher answered hesitantly.
The old man's whisked face grinned wide at the news. It was of course a fake smile, but Christopher could not articulate his displeasure.
"Switzerland, hey! You have been busy…" The old man walked out from behind the counter displaying his ragged tartan shirt and old jeans crusted with mud.
Christopher scratched the stubble on his chin and was about to launch into a fictional anecdote about his work place in a desperate attempt to keep his profession under wraps.
"Yes, urm…well you see I am a supervisor at a ski resort up there, and ...well as you can imagine it's quite tiring business what with the late nights so… what will often need to happen is…"
But something was jarring Christopher's speech from being its most fluid.
Christopher's ears rang as he forced the words out from his mouth. Something in the ramshackle room was emitting a high-pitched whining sound that vibrated his stomach to the point of sickness. He propped himself up doggedly on the counter as the old man realised something was upsetting the youth.
"You feel O.K. there Chris?..." He said, more out of habit than from being worried.
"Yep, I always find that even the smallest movements on the water can make you nauseous. Don't realise it until your back on land hey?"
The old clerk didn't hold the miscommunication against Christopher. He was a strange kid after all, and had been since the shop had opened some twelve years ago. If he wasn't feeling well on the water Christopher would have found another reason. It was just his scrambled little nature.
Being an older man, the clerk was not privy to the scruples behind out-dated terms like 'backward' or 'goofy'. He still appreciated the company of a familiar face at any rate.
But still there was the incessant buzzing that was puncturing Christopher's ears.
"What the hell IS that anyhow..." He snapped, looking across the room for the source of his pain. The old man seemed to be a little spooked at this, and turned around to see nothing but the cash register and an empty six-pack of beer cans.
"You're a little old to be playing games aint ya Chris, now whatever can be bothering you now?"
But before an argument could develop Christopher spied an old cathode-ray television suspended in the top left hand corner of the dusty room. Feeling foolish he did his best to explain away the misunderstanding that it was high-pitched noises he was supremely sensitive to, not unlike the static were crackling out of the broken speakers.
The old clerk raised an eyebrow at Christopher, who tried and failed to laugh of the matter as trivial.
"No, you see it's high pitched noises, they bother me an awful lot, coming from your TV Sorry that must have seemed very peculiar."
The clerk picked some wax out of his ear with fat, swollen fingers before giving a polite nod. For the most part he was now satisfied.
"Anyway..." Christopher continued, placing his borrowed equipment on the old desk.
"...that's four lures, one tackle box, six fishing hooks and the rod..."
He deftly whipped out his leather wallet and counted out the remainder of his money.
"...how much do I get back for that again?"
The clerk turned and opened the register, taking out three 'five pound' notes and a selection of silver coins. He stamped them lightly on the counter in front of Christopher, and then watched as he picked them up and placed them neatly into his wallet.
The old clerk coughed heavily, leaning over to Christopher.
"You know you might as well keep that fishing rod."
Christopher blinked in surprise.
"Every time you come here you always choose that wooden fishing pole. It puzzled me for a while but I guess if that's what you prefer, that's what the fisherman stuck with."
Christopher's glasses slipped a fraction of a millimetre prompting him to push them back into his face. He was still trying to think up something that would pass for a reply.
Wearily, the old clerk tried again.
"...what I'm trying to say is you can keep it. You've bought it at least twenty times while you've been coming here, you may as well take it home with you. Nowadays I get more money from renting the aluminium rods, so consider it a 'welcome home' gift."
Christopher took the rod in both hands, examining it thoroughly for the one thousand four hundredth and seventy-third time. Nothing escaped that cold gaze, and every detail from its metallic red reel down to its crooked wing dings was instantly re-captured.
"Thank you very much." Christopher finally replied, never taking his eyes off his new present.
"No problem kid...You'll need to tell me how Switzerland was at some point."
The old clerk sat back down in his chair and lit up a pipe.
"Take care now Christopher, hope to see you at the lake again soon."
Christopher only nodded to reply, then turned to leave. He was only a few steps away from passing through the door when the clerk called out to him again, this time much more jolly.
"Oh yeah! I was going to say this guy looks a lot like you, to a tee don't-cha know. Everything down to your glasses and messy hair! Hilarious, am I right? I guess they say that if you're one in a million, there's seven million people just like you, and there's the proof."
By this time Christopher had wheeled round to look at the old man whose attention was directed at the television screen above them.
He froze as he stared into the analogue picture of his own face, hemmed in by the swirling banners of a B.B.C broadcast.
His mouth went dry, but did his best to hide the surprise.
The old clerk had not yet realized that Christopher and the pale looking scientist on the screen were the same person.
"I suppose you've missed the news of the last few days, jet lag and all, y'know them science-types, who said they were gonna find the God of all particles or something like that? Turns out they found the bastard thing! I mean it's supposed to be a big deal in a mathematics sort of way but I don't really get it myself. Think we got enough atoms already if you know what I mean, not like one more means too much!"
The old man cackled at his own joke, taking a victory puff of tobacco fumes. He didn't seem to notice Christopher, yellow puffy sleeves to his sides, quietly reeling in astonishment that against his own instructions, his identity as a physicist working in conjunction with NERT had been revealed.
He stood naked to the world.
The clerk seemed to pick up on this.
"I know, a scary resemblance isn't it? Still, its something to tell your auntie about, you'll wish her well for me won't you boy? Here!"
He grabbed a grubby looking remote and stabbed at the volume button.
"I reckon you're the type what are in to them science discoveries, take a look."
Christopher prayed that the in televisions' inbuilt speakers were equally as decrepit as it's picture. However, a crystal clear audio blared out into the small store, simultaneously updating Christopher to the abysmal situation he was desperate to forget.
' *****….A breakthrough.' The T.V spat.
'…The Diggs Boson which has been hypothesized for nearly fifty years has, according to scientists at NERT, finally been found. Early yesterday morning test results of the particle were confirmed to 'correlate' with the values of the Standard model, confirming as fact what generations of scientific theory could only speculate.'
Christopher tore himself away from the pixilated nightmare to force a casual conversation out of the old man.
"It's…erm, its really alright, you can just,err…turn over, or something. Because I've seen it already so…"
But by this time the old clerk himself was at least partially interested, fondling his impressively white beard between puffs on the ivory pipe.
Horrified, Christopher turned back to the flickering glass.
An elderly man appeared on the screen, smiling to the point of tears.
'Perhaps most pleased by this occasion was physicist and original theorist of he Diggs Boson, Percy Diggs, who today was asked to comment on the groundbreaking achievement. This was what he had to say.'
The image cut to the same man, wearing a suit and tie but this time addressing a crowd of eager journalists.
"In a nutshell the problem was that even if we found a Diggs Boson like particle it would have been impossible to say with complete certainty whether the said particle was a Diggs."
The newsreaders voice continued to flow whilst a beautiful, over-simplified animation flickered into view. Two rubber balls from each end of a long black tube came spinning into view, crushing into one another and birthing a spaghetti of haphazardly colored lines.
"In order for the subatomic particle to be confirmed as not only a Boson, but a 'DIGGS' Boson…" the narration continued.
'…the decay rate of said particle would have to reach around five Sigma signal, at around one hundred and twenty-five GeV. It is around this thresh-hold at which new particles are discovered, but even this leaves a window of doubt.'
"Not quite so sure then?" The clerk tutted, leading Christopher to believe that those were the only words his salesman had truly understood.
'Albeit a ninety-nine, point, nine nine nine nine per cent certainty, the particle still needed to be confirmed as a Diggs. The question was whether what had been observed was a regular Diggs, or a Diggs with fluctuations.'
Christopher took a solitary step towards the T.V.
"And that's where perhaps the greatest puzzle of this breakthrough lends itself to the experiments conclusion."
"Could you…err, could turn it off now please…Christopher said, not a little curtly.
"… now please, if you don't mind?"
The old clerk looked contentedly towards Christopher, then back towards the television again.
"Share some science for the rest of us, eh lad?" He chuckled.
'One particular member of the monitoring team was said to have had something next to a premonition before the testing had begun at all. His prediction of the Diggs being found with a mass of 125.3, plus or minus 0.6 GeV, at 4.9 Sigma standard deviation-Incandela, was astoundingly correct.
The smiling old man was back on the screen now, chuckling at what he thought to have been an unbelievable co-incidence.
"Oh its quite the miracle I must admit. Although I only heard about this famed 'prediction' second-hand the very idea of someone guessing the conditions under which a Diggs could be found is staggering. I suppose that this now makes two extra-ordinary things to have happened today, the second of which we owe to teen prodigy Christopher Form-.******
Percy Diggs never finished, the reason why was because at that moment, he exploded. Or at least the television screen did.
A two year old can of 'fisherman's choice' baked beans flew through the air and shattered the glass screen, effectively silencing the broadcast in a bright flare that died on Christopher's retinas.
Glass rained down on customer and salesman, leaving Christopher to ponder what it was exactly that had led to him commit his sixteenth act of vandalism this year.
Doubled over in the driving seat of his Ford Taurus, Christopher peaked over the dashboard to see if the old clerk was still chasing him. He could see the old man next to a large electric lamp on the edge of the parking lot, the only source of light in at least a half a mile radius.
The angry silhouette just stood there, squinting his eyes piercingly at the picturesque shapes beyond him. It was a happy co-incidence, Christopher had thought to himself (whilst diving frantically into the car) that the colour of his transport happened to be completely black, meaning when viewed a few hundred meters away under the additional cloak of night his location was rendered as almost undetectable.