The Triplet Paradox

When you drive atoms to work, it is of the utmost importance to check the weather before heading out to start the day. Too cold a day, and the particular motion of your vehicle will slow to a solid, immobile state. This is not conducive to punctual travel. On the other hand, if you happen to catch a heatwave, you could be careening out of control on your nearest freeway with gaseous collisions a likely consequence.

Atomobile manufacturers are now coming out with new models specifically tuned to fluctuations in the weather. Is it below freezing outside? Hop on the Ethyl Ether LE, with a modified low-freezing point depression, allowing for efficient travel in remote places like Reykjavik and Canada. Do you live in a tropical clime? Then perhaps the Camphor Coupe is the answer to your needs. It features a high molal boiling-point elevation constant and fuel-injected energy levels, perfect for controlled travel in places like Egypt and the United States.

Driving atoms in a world of negative trees is especially dangerous, even more so when you are looking for a path to self-validation. Atomobile manufacturers have yet to develop an atom that can deal with such ethereal pursuits, but engineers have been scouring the meditation halls and religious centers looking for the right combination of ingredients to make such travel feasible in the near future.

* * *

The Malkins. Susan, Michael, Orion, Oreo, and Oregano. A nuclear family in subatomic times, with strange names for the kids. Susan works for a bank. Michael is a cosmetics test subject. This is a relatively new area of employment for humans, and it was developed as a result of the successful lobbying against animal testing by various activist groups, including the Council of Canadians.
Orion just graduated magna cum laude from Memorial University in Newfoundland. Convinced that a cure for cancer is just around the corner, she has thrown caution to the wind and now sits an inch or two away from the TV, doesn’t wash her fruit, and plays with the radioactive bit in her smoke detector. These habits are causing her mother some stress, but her father seems unperturbed, even supportive.

Oreo was named after a cookie that Michael came across in a supermarket one day. Strangers, upon hearing her title, would always ask whether she was so named because of her raven hair and wan complexion. Each time, Oreo would patiently explain that she was bald and bloody at birth, and that her dad just really liked the cookie.

Oregano is completely ridiculous.

Sundays around the house are an exercise in frustration and futility, with some forensics thrown in for good measure. Oregano pretends to kill his older sisters, and together they recreate the crime scene from whatever clues have been left. When Monday morning rolls around they are often present at the front door, ready to hand their father some samples for him to bring to the lab and have tested. Once, he actually ran the tests, and to his shock and horror discovered the plasma from thirteen different human beings on one of his daughter’s gloves. He still ran his kids’ tests after that week, but just did them more secretly.

On this particular Sunday, however, they decided that a family outing was in order. Family outings had a set pattern for the Malkin family: They would all pile into the car and drive along the 401 until they saw somewhere cool to stop. Past excursions had landed them at Mr. Spooky’s Haunted Hayrides, The Giant Toonie, Hell Holes Farms, and the Flea Market of Damascus, Ontario. Today’s destination was still a mystery - they were presently hurtling past Napanee, heading west towards Toronto.

"Mom, I can’t stand this music!"

Guitar Music for Small Rooms, Volume 2, was apparently too large for the car. Orion, though she didn’t like it either, was contemplating sending a copy to her hypersensitive friend with a really small apartment in Montreal and seeing how he reacted to the title.

"But it’s nice sweetie, listen to the guitar parts…"

Oreo opened her mouth, twirled on her tongue a snide retort, but thought better of it, and sat back with resigned acceptance. Oregano, however, had no such operating censor.

"Mom, this is fucking bullshit shit, it sounds like Yanni and Michael Bolten and Sisqo are fucking each other."

"Oregano, watch your tone," piped his father. He then turned to his wife and with raised eyebrows mouthed the words: "Who’s Sisqo?". She shrugged apologetically. He made a mental note to download one of his songs. He felt no guilt over accessing music for free; many a time he’d walked into Rasputin’s café on Bronson Street, snuck a listen to one of the featured ragtag artists, and subsequently broken into the poor soul’s van to steal some mix tapes.

"Hey Dad, can I sit on the hood?"

"Who just asked me that?"

"Me, Orion, can I please sit on the hood?"

"Ask your mother, she’s the driver…"


"What, ok, but don’t sit in front of me, block your father."

Orion happily clamored out the window, dangled precariously for an instant a mere inches from the flying pavement, and then hauled herself up onto the hood. She readjusted the mirror that she had bumped into on the passenger side, swept away some leaves that had gotten caught in the wipers, and then reclined gently onto the windshield. There, she would listen to the hum of the engine below her. She could imagine the serpentine belt rolling beside the alternator, and it would conjure up images of the time she went to visit her friend in Montreal and they stumbled upon the see-through printing area for the newspaper La Presse somewhere near Rue Archembault, and they stared and stared and stared at the massive conveyer until she was sure that if she were to lie on one of the belts and follow the path of the blank print paper that she would be swept into the news and come out in the midst of some chaotic protest in the Middle East, or at least some place alone with Arthur Kent.

After watching her daughter lie contemplatively on the windshield for a while, Susan turned to her husband and queried, "Why on earth do you think she likes it so much up there?"

Michael thought about this for a moment. "She told me she does it to be closer to the radiation, she says it helps her think."

They were coming up on Picton now, and were about an hour and a half outside of the Greater Toronto Area. The kids were starting to get restless in the back, and Michael considered slipping in a DVD (his favourite – Waiting to Exhale) to calm the masses.

The sign passed so quickly, that nobody was really able to process its significance until they had just slipped by the indicated exit.


The sign was a Ministry of Transport Ontario model, with crisp white lettering against a royal blue, reflective background. The government’s logo, a trillium flower bordered by the sort of rounded triangle you find in pool halls, was pasted onto the lower left corner. The locals would tell you that was the only part of the sign that ever got its reflective tape replaced on a regular basis.

Orion, although sensing an increase in the concentration of ultraviolet light, missed the sign completely. Jennifer was too busy driving and humming along to an instrumental take of a Santana instrumental on Guitar Songs for Small Rooms to catch it fully, while Michael was starting to feel some ill repercussions from the newly formulated talc powder that had been squirted into his eyes at work on Friday.

Oregano, however, understood quickly and slammed on the brakes. The caravan went careening onto the shoulder, sending Orion into a patch of Indian corn, which happens to be the least forgiving strain.

"Jesus Susan, I told you the kid’s brake option was a terrible idea!" exclaimed Michael.

"Honey, I told them umpteen times that it was only for emergencies. They have them in the subways! What if something were to happen to the two of us on a drive? I am not having this argument with you again, now get out and find your daughter."

Michael exited the vehicle and sloughed his way through the rows of pixilated vegetable. He paused briefly to take a sip from his water bottle and have a nibble of trail-mix, then headed off in the vague direction of his daughter. From the ground, the corn didn’t appear to be planted according to a set grid, or any pattern for that matter, which made the search all the more difficult. From the air, however, one could see the clearly the distinct outline of the logo of the Montreal Canadiens hockey club, for the farmer who owned the land was a Habs fan. As a matter of fact, he was bons amis with Gaston Gingras, the journeyman defenseman who played for the Canadiens in the mid-1980’s. Gingras swore by the farmer’s corn, once proclaiming to a skeptical Larry Robinson that the kernels were responsible for the ethereal pop to his slapshot.

Michael eventually found her at the upper tip of the logo’s "C", her body eerily curled up in the same shape of the letter she lay in. She was slightly bruised, but otherwise ok, and they giddily made their way back through the logorinth to the 401. Everybody in the car was quite excited to see them and the trail-mix.

"Now Oregano, would you please enlighten us as to why you felt it was necessary to utilize the emergency brake?"

"It’s Isaiah."

"Pardon me? Isaiah who?"


"Isaiah Tubbs? Did he play basketball?"

"Maybe, I don’t think so."

"Yes, I think he did… with Budd Sugarman!"

"Budd who?"

"Sugarman, I heard he has a parkette named after him somewhere. Ah, I loved to watch that man dribble, smooth as Nabatean silk, supple as a camel in Canaan."

As Michael reminisced, Oreo quickly did two web searches on her laptop under the key words "Budd + Sugarman" and "Isaiah + Tubbs", respectively. She was able to interrupt her father just as he was reaching the part about Sugarman dishing to Tubbs for a behind-the-back triple saucau alley-oop.

"Dad, there’s nothing on the internet about Budd Sugarman, ‘cept for some drug paraphernalia. No wait, there is a parkette named after him at, uh, Rosedale subway station in Toronto. But it says here the parkette was named for a homeless man who used to sleep there. And Isaiah Tubbs wasn’t a basketball player, it’s the name of some resort and inn not that far from here."

Michael silently cursed the internet for its voracity in veracity, then checked out the photo of the Inn. It was listed as having 84 bedrooms, a sauna, pool, tennis courts, on-site masseuse, and most importantly, a Restaurant on the Knoll. It also made mention of several theme week-ends, and encouraged people to call for updated information on these special occasions.

"Orion, may I please have your cellular telephone?"

Orion, who had been in the midst of a call (antennae down, of course), grudgingly got off the phone and tossed it to her father. She then pulled out her smokes.

Michael punched in the required digits and waited. After a couple of rings a polite voice answered.

"Isaiah Tubbs Inn and Resort. We’re not just another hole, we feature the Restaurant on the Knoll. How may I help you?"

"Yes hi, this is Michael Malkin speaking. I’m here on the side of the 401 with my family and I was just wondering what theme you might be having this week-end at your establishment?"

There was a short pause before the voice resumed. "Ooooh, well, we’re trying a new one. We’re calling it the Relativity Speaking Week-end."

Michael chuckled at this.

"Boy, do I know what you mean," he said, "we here in the Malkin family often have Relatively Little Speaking Amongst Relatives Week-ends."

The woman at the other end chuckled at this.

Then they both chuckled together.

"Could you tell me a bit about what the week-end would entail?"

"Sure Mr. Malkin, but I don’t want to give away too much. Suffice it to say there will be a lot of Science, and with Science comes Truth and Understanding. And if Truth and Understanding isn’t enough for you, then we have Space Rides."

"Well Miss, that sounds great! If you have room for five people at your little resort there, then we’d love to come and stay."
"Oooh, wonderful. I’ll pencil you in on my handy electronic organizer!"


The Malkins piled back into the minivan and headed onto the 401 East. They excitedly kept an eye out for West Lake Road, aka County Road #12, and when they finally found it Michael passed out sweets and cakes.

The voluptuous county road dipped and swerved, and Michael was pleased with the van’s handling. It had been an impulse buy; after toiling away for hours at one of the many one-of-a-kind craft shows his wife drags him to, he had finally decided that he’d had enough of hand-painted, pastel-coloured, inverted tire-mirrors and rushed to the nearest Pontiac dealer to buy something mass-produced with four right-side-out tires, a rear-view mirror, two side mirrors and a transmission, all for about the same cost as one of those "art pieces".

They’d been driving for about 20 minutes when Oregano first spotted what looked to be a ferris wheel gently rising into the air like a hot air balloon, unhinged, rotating along its slope. It broke the cloudline, disseminating some wisps of mist, and then disappeared from sight. At about the same time, coming from within the cloud mass, another ferris wheel appeared. It punctured through the lower layer of the line and gracefully rolled downwards towards the earth.

They watched in silence for a while before Susan decided to resume the drive. The van protested at first, a bit like a spooked horse would, but eventually the oil pumped and the gas combusted and the van lurched forward, albeit cautiously. The gravel sparked and spat beneath the tires, while bits of overhanging branches from the surrounding canopy ran their fingers along the van’s body.

The road led them past several abandoned farmhouses and a row of silos. After they cleared the corner, the resort came into full view. It was sprawled out in a natural valley, with intricate systems of levers and pulleys attached to the treetops, and buildings peppered throughout the enclave.

They were greeted at the gate by a reasonable facsimile of Simeon Poisson, the scientist who developed the eponymous Poisson distribution, which describes the probability that a random event will occur in a time or space interval under the conditions that the probability of the event occurring is very small, but the number of trials is very large so that the event actually occurs a few times.

"Ah, bonjour! Welcome! Welcome!"

The cherubic Poisson was smiling broadly. He was decked out in period costume replete with taffeta necktie, tubular trousers, and a welt-pocketed sack coat.

"What are the odds, what are the odds" he exclaimed, "that you would by chance end up here at Isaiah Tubbs Inn and Resort! Another confirmation of my distribution. I am unstoppable. I am hero!"

With this proclamation he levered himself into the air and clacked his heels together, a gesture that Orion felt was superfluous and tacky. She wondered where they had found the actor. The pick of Picton no doubt.

"Come follow me, suivez-moi, I will take you to the Hepburn building and get you registered."

The grounds were teeming with faux-scientists. To their right, Copernicus was spitting watermelon seeds into a creek, while Kepler and Galileo were tossing a baseball around. Maxwell was on his cellphone, and Gauss was eating a macaroon. Newton was out of sight, busy experimenting with the planetary globes of one of the guests.

The Hepburn room was decorated in a black-light-rendered galaxial motif. Oregano immediately pointed out that Oreo had applied chapstick on her nose, and Orion instinctively moved closer to the source. Michael was amused at how the cartoon characters on his Warner Bros. denim shirt were fluorescing – a feature he would have gladly paid extra for.

Planets and stars swirled around them. Susan started pondering her insignificance as a mere mote in the face of the vastness of the universe. She thought about writing a poem. The alpha cluster blinked and purred.

Orion basked in the ultra-violet glow of the light. She was reminded of a first-year Physics course she had taken in which the professor was describing various ideas about how the universe originated and how a basic tenet of physics is that nothing can become of nothing, and trying to reconcile this theory with an explanation for how the universe began. Trying to wrap her head around concepts such as anti-matter and energy fields and quantum spin. A cat in a box is both there and not there. A switch is both on and off. The course started causing her actual physical pain. Physics pain. New pain. Pressure in the temples, upset stomach, and a slew of other idiosyncratic ailments. She was diagnosed with having irritable bowel syndrome, a terrible region to be short-tempered, and eventually dropped the course in an attempt to stave off chronic illness.
The Malkins eventually snapped out of their collective stupor and ambled up to the desk. Poisson bade them farewell, proclaiming that "according to my distribution, we will meet again", and gave another clack of the heels.

The woman at the desk smiled and greeted them warmly, she was almost effervescent, an aura accentuated by the purple glow of her exceptionally large teeth.

"Hi there! Are you the family that just called? Malkins? Are you related to Sandy and Richard? From Philadelphia? No? Ok, we have a room for you in the Bayhaven cottages. The kids have their own room with two singles and a cot. There’s a fireplace, a colour TV with digital feed, and a hair dryer. We offer room service from the Restaurant on the Knoll, and you are within walking distance to Adolphus Beach. We also offer day trips to Waupoos and Big Island. You can book those here the morning of. Here are your keys, checkout time depends on your dimension… hee, hee, oh it’s just a theme joke… really it’s 11am. Let me call Kevin, I mean Lorentz, he’ll show you to your room and tell you about our events this week-end."

Michael Malkin was beaming. It seemed that here he had finally found the elusive combination of education and fun that no CD-ROM had been able to produce, not even Funbrain’s Math Baseball, though that one was pretty good.

Lorentz appeared quickly. He was about 17 years old, and was doing this as a summer job in order to save money for university. He vowed that once he reached the age of 23, he would never again take a job that required period costume. He launched into a prepared speech:

"Science. What is Science? Is Science a powerful tool with which we can understand the world and beyond? An optical fibre driven into the organs of our universe? A submersible vessel dropped to the depths of our galactic trench? Or is it fallacious and salacious? A tool used by the infidels to wipe divinity from humanity’s conciousness? This has been a question that has been debated for many centuries, and it would be crass of me to suggest that I might have an answer here for you at the present time. However, we here at the Isaiah Tubbs Inn and Resort feel that regardless of your theoretical leanings in this matter, it is important to honour the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the theory of relativity by Albert Einstein. Thus, we have created a unique accommodation experience centred around this magnificent entity. Join us tonight, at the Restaurant on the Knoll, for what promises to be a time-bending affair!"

Lorentz finished his homily and took a bow, leaving the Malkins alone in their cottage.


"Yes, Oregano?"

"Am I gold?"

"You sure are sweetie, you sure are."

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