11 min read
The Further Adventures Of Quantum Girl

by William Thomas

Quantum Girl is rolling down Riverside on cloud nine, elbow on the sill of her subatomic, green-and-white ’58 Ford pickup. Wafting through the rolled-down window, an aromatic cocktail of Wisteria, Gardenia and Moonflower molecules is making her giddy. Or maybe that’s because her rocket’s running again!     

     “We’ve got it made in the shade,” she addresses her companion on the seat beside her. “How ‘bout some hits?” Reaching across the dash, she turns the AM radio knob and stabs the middle selector…     

     “When I want you in my arms, when I want you and all your charms,” she sings along, “all I have to do is dream, dream, dreamof you-oo

     Gee whiz, those dreamy Everly Brothers sure do razz my berries!”     

     “Not mine,” says the calico cat.      

     Just like playing a really cool jukebox, QG punches another selection.   

“… top of the ninth in game five. Detroit leads by a single integer. Boston at bat with two outs and a runner on second. Bolling is down two point four strikes and must wish he was in an alternative universe instead of Motor City. On the mound, Sullivan checks his watch, shakes his head…”  

     “It appears to be running backwards,” interjects a deep male voice.      

     “That’s right, Howard. When these games spill into extra dimensions, time reversibility supersedes Newton’s 3D assertions. Not to mention Einstein’s incomplete gravitational equations.” (laughs) “Whatever that means.”     

     “Now Sullivan nods, winds up…” Howard Cossel seamlessly segues.      

     Quantum Girl is so cranked she doesn’t notice the speedometer needle leaning further to the right.      

     “Here’s the pitch — a knee-high slider right down the middle! Bolling swings…”      

     She and the cat both jump at the crack! of ash against cowhide, rubber and cork.     

     “… a hard Sine drive weaving for the bleachers. The centerfielder’s back against the fence. But the pill’s coming in on the wig-wag, 15-feet over his head. What’s this? Piersall has tossed his glove straight up in the air!”      

     The amplified smack of cowhide on cowhide carries clearly over the radio.      

     “It’s a catch! Frank Bolling is out! Tigers win the series on Piersall’s desperate Strange Attractor! The fans go wild!”     

     “Jeepers,” the cat and QG both exclaim in unison.    

     Rrrrr Rrrrr Rrrrrr sounds a siren behind them as a red gumball fills the rearview.     

     “Fiddlesticks,” sighs Quantum Girl. Why do good times never last? She raises her arm — you got me — hauls one-handed on the big, canted steering wheel and pulls the pickup onto the shoulder.     

     A long moment follows, accompanied by the deceptive sewing-machine purr of that 272 cubic-inch V8.      

     Reaching up to the cashmere-bordered center mirror and twisting it towards her, QG smacks her lips and checks her eye-shadow. Could use some freshening up. But she’d better keep an eye on that big daddy with the six-shooter.      

     Re-adjusting the rearview, she watches the cop calling in her plate’s atomic number. A smile tugs at her mouth as she pulls her sweater snug as Lana Turner’s. The superscripts on her truck’s vanity plates include three elements that Mendeleev missed. No statewide punch-card directory will have them on file.     

     Mister Bad News looks up, sees he is being observed, and is instantly standing beside her door.      

     “Hookay,” Quantum Girl says with her eyes shut tight. “You wanna see my physics license and n-bit registration?”     

     “For your own safety, ma’am, leave it in neutral and step out of the vehicle please.”     

     With no time to replace ditched bobby socks and saddle-shoes, her bare toes curl against the hot asphalt.      

     “How fast was I…”     

     The fuzz blows her off again. “According to nationwide interpolations of your potential license number, your vehicle may be missing a neutron.”      

     “Impossible,” Quantum Girl says flatly. “That custom technetium frame would have decayed within 51 milliseconds instead of 51 million years. And I’d be sitting on the pavement.”     

     “Well, have it checked out,” the cop orders. “Those extra isotopes could cause front end instability.”      

     “There is nothing wrong with my front end.”     

     The officer of the law tips his hat. Only a nosebleed working in accounting would argue with a double-barrel Jayne Mansfield bullet bra.      

     The day’s third traffic stop has already half-turned away from his lingering gaze. When Quantum Girl stretches her arms behind her neck and mouths a kiss to all 283 horses, the cop’s eyeballs slap against his modified RayBans like in one of those Betty Boop cartoons.      

     “Big deal,” Quantum Girl shrugs, nearly breaking his neck. “There’s no law against self-cancelling net-zero-spin outside the Flux.”     

     “Not yet there isn’t. But if Heisenberg ever makes up his mind, there will be. So you best mind your Ps and Qs.”   

     QG restrains herself from giving this lunk a knuckle sandwich when he steps back to eye her classy chassis. “Take a picture, why doncha. It’ll last longer.”     

     “Don’t flip your lid,” the traffic dick tells her. “I dig the Colonial White egg-crate grille and quad headlights. But not the subatomic emissions pouring out those custom pipes. How long you had this vehicle? What is it, six, seven months since these first came out?”     


     “How many miles did you say you’ve got on her?”     

     “I didn’t say and she’s not a her,” Quantum Girl says. “At least not to you.”     

     When the cop removes his cap and leans across through the open window to check the Ford’s odometer, QG considers a quick karate-chop to the back of the neck and taking it from there.     

     “15,811,” she says instead. “Squared.”     

     The officer-of-the-law jerks back out of the vehicle, banging his head.      

     Oopsie Daisy.     

     “You’re telling me you put 250 million miles on this vehicle in six months?”     

     “Must of,” she says. “If that’s what it says.”     

     Her interrogator rubs his swollen noggin before replacing his hat. “Off road?”     

     “Off planet.”     

     “Which explains why your cab’s pressurized. And all that piston wear.” His grin turns into something else. “And why I want every ring replaced and this jalopy cooking with gas by tomorrow noon.”          

     It's the royal shaft and Quantum Girl knows it. She stares hard into the cop’s mirrored peepers with those diabolical double-slits. But it’s clear a phase-shift is not in the cards. “Shouldn’t you be out chasing discontinuities or something?” 

     “You really want a cherry-on-top ticket for excess Delta V? You were going like a Saurian bi-wing bat back there.”     

     “So you’re really telling me pull my V-block and fit new rings by noon tomorrow?” Quantum Girl pouts. “I’m gonna have a cow.”     

     “Well, at least don’t have a conniption,” the officer comes back, gesturing toward the muon-and-cranberry-sauce-stained coveralls lying crumpled like a myriapod’s abandoned exoskeleton in the scuffed truck bed. “Looks like you’re qualified.”      

     But the creepy cop is staring at the spare orange O-ring she always wears on her index finger. “You gonna tell your spouse you was rousted?”

     “Oh, Miss Funicello won’t mind,” Quantum Girl assures him with a wink. “She’ll think you're a hoot.”     

     The cop unsnaps his holster. “You’re the living end, lady. We got laws against homos in this state.”     

     Right on cue, the cat-activated radio wails “… one-eyed, one horn flying purple people eater…”      

     “Is that why dairy cartons are labelled, ‘homo milk’?” Quantum Girl inquires. She pats the pickup’s flank. “Everyone knows Annette’s with a Mousketeer, and it’s Tinkerbelle who rocks my cams. Anyways, I’m nearly going steady with Bobby White.”     

     “So why don’t you?”     

     “I’m not that fast, thank you very much. Plus, as you can see, for all her many virtues, my chariot does not accommodate back seat bingo.”

     What the cop looks at the long vinyl front bench seat inviting cooperative improvisation.     

     “Got a picture of your beau?”     

     “You betcha, occifer.”     

     She climbs back in and slams the door — partly because she likes the sound, and mostly because she’s given up trying to remember not to. The cat knows the glovebox routine and makes room. As QG stretches across the seat, her red cotton skirt rides up, partly exposing the backs of her knees. The cop swallows and looks away. Looks back.      

     Quantum Girl rummages through the cave-in: Half-pack of Kleenex. Black lipstick and eyeliner to discomfit the squares. 10-cent Mars bar purchased on the red planet before the economy crashed. Flashlight with two dead D-cells. One of those newfangled tampons…     

     “Sorry,” she says over her shoulder, digging deeper for ancient artifacts like Schliemann at Troy.       

     There’s an accordion-fold brochure of attractions in the Kuper Belt. A Mickey Mantle All Star baseball card that would be worth a lot of bread if eBay was on this timeline and the card wasn’t creased. Also, a dog-eared Hotel Ganymede brochure offering “Year-round ocean sailing below the outer crust!” And way in back, a bunch of those glossy, black-and-white Rexall snapshots with the deckled edges.     

     Quantum Girl sits up and starts thumbing through the stack. There’s a shot of her looking over the edge of Valles Marineris into that 8-kilometer abyss. Three photos of Tinkerbelle getting a bath. Another of a galvanized calico furball definitely not.     

     “Here it is,” she says, scooching back over to the open window and handing up the snap to the nice policeman.      

     “What the heck?” he says, staring down at a picture of an exasperated Daffy Duck. “You’re a regular comedienne. Mind if I hold onto this?”     

     “No sweat. Put in the book you’re writing.”         

     “So what about those other rings?”      

     The barefoot quantum mechanic in her TIDE-white blouse and red broadcloth dress considers. Says, “I’ve got a ragtop ’vette in the shop with a blown clutch and a differential that sounds like a cement mixer. I’ll pull that motor and stick it in my heap until I get parts.”     

     “By noon tamarra?”     

     “Why not?”      

     Her unconcern unsettles the lawman. “How you fixin’ to fit a three-speed, fuel-injected, bent eight Chevy 283 into your li’l ol’ Ford pickup?”

    “I’ve got the adapter plates. I’ll just pop it in. Then it’s just a matter of bashing some nuclei into new configurations, changing out a few quantum circuits, unentangling both field states, and hooking up a pair of single-photon avalanche diodes. If there’s any room left on tomorrow’s time arrow.”     

     “Careful you don’t collapse any big-bore wave functions. That’s 230-horsepower you’re playing with, missy.”     

     The cat’s been purring in synch with the idling V8. Now that low soothing growl abruptly downshifts: “Think she can’t handle it, daddy-O?”     

     “I think that Ford tranny won’t take the extra torque.”     

     “Who says?” the cat demands.     

     Turning back to the ginchiest girl he’s stopped in weeks, the officer salutes. “That’s a real kookie kitty-cat you got there. What’s his name?”     

     “Her name is Schrödingera.”     

     “Strange handle.”     

     “You don’t know the half of it. She can be in two states at once. Until someone sees her. Then she’s either in one or t’other.” 

     “Here or there, huh?”     

     “You know what they say: flip the particle, ride the wave.”     

     The cop points to an empty All State oil carton slid willy-nilly against the far armrest. “Well, if y’all are headin’ over the line, I’d advise you to put Shrodiggera there in that box. So your pet don’t get loose and confuse the locals as to which state it’s in.”  

      At the word “pet”, Quantum Girl and the cat both frown. The square doesn’t realize his ingrained chauvinism has tripped a null-state anomaly. As his head starts to decohere, his dismebodied mouth lingers in space, laughing at its own joke. 

     “Okay doke, dolly. Beat feet, before I cha…”     

     Schrödingera blinks, as only cats can, at a pair of shiny black Cordovans sitting alone on the pavement.     

     The quantum mechanic doesn’t wait for a shoebox. She returns the salute, jumps into Tinkerbelle and cuts out, burning subvalent tread. Coming airborne off a crest halfway back to her pad, the pickup bangs down like a jubliant jailbird. Seems to gather herself. QG heaves on the wheel. Tires chirping, they gybe over into the next cross-street like Cutty Sark rounding the Horn. She and the cat want to check out what’s playing at the local passion pit.      

     “VERTIGO” screams the drive-in’s monster marquee.     

     “Boss!” Quantum Girl squeals, giving voice to a delicious shiver. Hitch loves scaring the crap out of nice, unassuming, everyday rubes like her. Who keep lining up to buy tickets!    

     The driver laughs at life’s sheer imponderability and guns it, anticipating tomorrow’s souped up ‘Forvette’. Still no sign of the heat. Five minutes later, she turns in through her own quantum gate and vanishes...

In 1958, America was the greatest country in the world. Ask any 10-year-old Michigan boy whose navy pilot dad had flown in two wars and landed his PBY in the Pacific to rescue a ditched Corsair pilot under fire.      

     I lived on my red Schwinn bicycle, knew the make of every American automobile on sight, and was over the moon when my father swapped our stodgy black four-door Ford sedan for a beige T-bird whose luxurious interior smelled like the lining in Rockefeller’s wallet. That space-ship was loaded: lap belts, tilt-away steering wheel, air con, and a vast tinted windshield. Which was good, because the car’s ultra wide-track sometimes needed to borrow the oncoming lane.

     My black-and-white alternative universe revolved around Sky King, Captain Midnight, Robin Hood, Lassie, that new cowboy series Have Gun Will Travel, the Detroit Lions, and my airplane-chasing Kodak Brownie Bullet. The Detroit Tigers byplay featuring Piersall and Sullivan came over the crystal set my dad made by wrapping bare copper wire around a resin core and attaching one end to a super-sensitive crystal diode. The other wire led to a pair of high impedance earphones. No battery needed.     

     The only flaws in this perfect world were cutting the grass, shoveling out the driveway, and Confession. Besides asking the Father to bless me for “thinking bad thoughts” — which he did! — I said things like “nifty” and “geez” and “let’s blow this pop stand,” called my classmates “spaz” when they klutzed out, and kept an eye out for cooties and big kids wanting to give me “noogies” by grinding their knuckles into my shoulder. 

     Girls were an alien species. “The facts of life” described to me by my own dutiful and acutely embarrassed father sounded utterly preposterous.        

     Five years later we’d moved, and my next-door neighbor and I were making the scene along Grand Haven’s summer beach strip in his dad’s new three-speed Corvette Stingray. With top stowed, that little blue bottle-rocket was a real chick magnet. And we were both careful never to confess our relief over its lack of extra room.      

     1963 was also the year our high-school principal came on the classroom intercom to announce that JFK had been shot in Dallas.     

     And everything fell apart.

Photo Captions:

Quantum Girl's '58 Ford F100 Street Rod - YouTube

1958 Ford Custom motor pull -sandyautomotive.com

Einstein chillin'

Buster Brown