Absurdisma Bancroft had devoted her life to dejuggling, the subtle art of making things stand still without touching them. By her eleventh birthday she was already listed in the Guiness Book of Records under egg stacking (hen’s, hard boiled: seven), and to celebrate her eighteenth she repeated this feat in a boat. At university, she followed an eclectic programme of study, including courses offered by the departments of physics, mechanics, mime, biology, and sports medicine, ultimately graduating with a Bachelorate of Strange Things, and a Mastery of Oddness. She had continued in this pattern and was now in pursuit of a Doctorate of Philosophy.
Despite her personal and academic successes, she still lived at home with her devoted mother and father, she an underwater animal welder, and he a paint drying supervisor. It was a happy home, and it was said among their many friends that it was clear whence Absurdisma’s many and special talents flowed.
On this particular Friday, late in the afternoon but early in the Spring, Absurdisma was hard at work with a blackboard, a graphing calculator, a stroboscope and a jar of voles. Voles were proving more challenging than the toads had been, at least in part because they were wigglier. But she was beginning to suspect that this particular batch of voles (obtained through contacts in the Psychology Department’s Office of Cruelty to Animals) were prone to epilepsy. She would have to tell Willy that, if he once more tried to foist off rodent-factory seconds upon her, she would no more dress up as famous art museums for him.
Though in point of fact, in point of fact, this might not be entirely true. She smiled to herself, and a certain familiar warmth rose to certain familiar places. A particularly attentive vole, taking advantage of her distraction, made a bolt for it. The moment was lost, but not the vole; lightning fast reflexes honed through years of diligent practice enabled her to catch it and return it to the agitated tower before it even hit the floor.
In the distance a car door slammed, a key turned in a lock, and a cheery voice called out. “Absurdisma, darling! It came in the mail! Your grant has been funded, the approval came through, your elephants arrive on Tuesday!”