Blue ribbon

Once upon a time, there was nothing. Not even the idea of nothing. Nothing didn’t even exist yet. And then there was something. To this day, there is debate over how the nothing became something. Was there a bang. Was there a God. No one knows. There is no way to prove any of it was true.

Or there wasn’t. Until Sam Birabond drove the lawn tractor through our garage door the other day totally destroying my Science Fair project but accidentally creating a new universe when the snapped cord from the generator sparked up some of the pages from the Bible I was using to prop up some of the flasks and beakers. This, I thought, is a way cooler Science Fair project than what effect different metals have on the growth of plants.

NOBODY, not even Melody Hartmann whose dad works at the chem lab at the university and always brings in really messed up drug-related projects that are probably illegal and that she didn’t even do, would ever create a new universe just to win a ribbon for what the kids who are failing science call the Nerd Olympics. A new universe! Can you imagine the look on Melody Hartmann’s face? I could just die.

Technically, I guess I could just die because how I am going to get this mess of a universe out of my garage, especially without telling my dad it melted his really expensive road bike that he’s all psyched up to ride next weekend in some dumb bicycle ride for charity. It’s not like it will fit in a box. The universe, not the bike. That’s gone. Does stuff that gets destroyed by the formation of a universe ever come back? Not really, right? What happens to it? No, Jamie, focus on this hypothesis! You can’t have two hypothesises for Science Fair—that’s how you lose. Focus makes the grade. So I am bringing the universe to school, which, you know, I don’t even know if I’ll need a posterboard. I mean, I guess I’ll make one because you have to explain your project, but really. New universe. Isn’t it pretty self-explanatory?

Mrs. Flanagan, the science teacher who judged last year’s contest, would totally mark it down though for not having a written explanation with your hypothesis and your tests and your outcomes. Hypothesis: the universe was created by the spark of a live generator cord against the pages of a Bible. New King James Version, of course. Test: 1) take a Bible and live generator cord and place them in proximity to each other; 2) tell Sam Birabond you’ll pay him $2 and let him see a pair of your underwear if he’ll do your lawn mowing chore for you so you can finish your lame plant science project that you were supposed to finish over the weekend but instead were busy covering your bedroom walls with pictures of hot guys; 3) BAM. Sparks, a small fire that was quickly extinguished with the water from the watering can, some soggy paper, a bunch of subatomic particles that quickly destroyed my plant project. Maybe I’ll leave that second step out. I mean, two bucks. Come on. Anyway. Outcome: New universe.

Okay. So the posterboard pretty much writes itself, but how to get the new universe to school and then keep it there until the Science Fair on Wednesday night is going to be tricky. It’s taking up half the garage and getting bigger by the minute. I am thinking that maybe I can use a tarp and then tie it to my bicycle like a balloon when I go to school tomorrow. Mr. Brane will let me keep it tied up behind the band practice room, no problem. He’s always letting kids go back there to smoke weed and whatever, even though he sometimes goes with them and offers to give them rides home and stuff. Teachers are so weird.

So I get it to school and tie it up behind band practice room where Melody will never go because her mom thinks Mr. Brane is a perv and then on Wednesday I bring it into the gym if it fits through the doors or I ask for one of the spots outside. Those usually go to the kids with the rockets powered by Mentos, but hello. NEW UNIVERSE. I think they can give up a stupid Mentos rocket space for that.

Do you suppose I can name it? Like my own universe? Jamie’s Universe. The Universe of Jamie. I am so going to win Science Fair this year. Take that, Melody Hartmann’s dad.

Me & Sergey

I’ve been living in my teal Pontiac Sunbird with my ghost travelling companion, Sergey. It would be a better situation if Sergey wasn’t such a pain in the ass. I mean, I might be required to have a travelling companion to fulfill the letter of the law, but does he have to be such a jerk? I can’t even remember how I ended up with him, much less living in my car. One day, I’m driving circles around my ex’s block and tossing Twix wrappers and Coke cans in the backseat. As you do, right? The next, Sergey’s shimmering in the passenger seat, criticizing my hygiene and calling me a total creep.

In retrospect, the ghost was right. I had totally let myself go. I spent two hours cleaning out the car in the parking lot of one of the old Wal-Marts. I wrote an apology note to the ex- that was only half insincere. Sergey said it was time to let it go. We left it in the mailbox and got out of town before rush hour traffic. No map, no plan. It seemed like a good idea at the time, you know? At night, I’d sleep in the car while Sergey would gather intel from his fellow ghosts. During the day, I’d drive in the direction that the ghosts told us not to go. It worked for awhile.

Everything works until it doesn’t.

The car broke down eventually. It was too cold to sleep in the car. I traded four hours of work cleaning up after a party for a night in this ramshackle former rooming house the hostess owned in town. If you can believe it, the place was full—I mean, chock-a-block, wall-to-wall full—of other ghost travelling companions. They had all been left behind in this rooming house. The whole place shimmered. Seriously. The hair stands up on your arms all day long. Sergey and I, we’ve been fighting over whether we should stay. He wants to settle down, have roots, be with his own kind. Me, I might want to keep moving. I thought about letting Sergey stay and taking on one of the other ghosts. None of them want to leave though.