The Hole

One day I noticed a hole in my shoe -- a Timberland loafer I'd had for two years. This hole was in the widest part of the left shoe: a small opening, maybe 1/4 inch. For some reason, I placed my hand in the shoe, and stuck my finger through the hole.
 
But it didn’t emerge from the shoe. Clearly my finger had exited the hole, yet it was invisible. I tried again. And again. And again. After six tries, I realized the problem: my forefinger had entered another dimension.
 
I know this sounds strange, but it was the only logical explanation. In fact, I could feel the other dimension, with the tip of my finger: it was cool, and glossy -- like tile. Are other dimensions entirely tiled?
 
Immediately, I retracted my finger. "That was weird! I'll never do that again," I vowed.
 
A moment later, my finger was back in the hole -- this time a little farther. Still the same tile-like sensation. I pulled back my hand. What if a demon from another dimension bites off my finger?, I worried. I used the word "demon" instinctively, then it occurred to me: perhaps the other realm was Hell itself?
 
But after another minute, my curiosity won out. This time I pushed through my ring finger -- a more expendable appendage (and slightly longer) -- as far as possible. No "demons" attacked it.
 
I retracted my valuable digit. "Well, I've gratified my curiosity. I'll throw the shoe away," I vowed.
 
"No, I'll enter the hole once more," I decided. Again I employed my ring finger. This time, the other dimension began spinning, like a pencil sharpener. Immediately I pulled my finger out.
 
That was close!
 
I examined my finger carefully. It was unmarked. Had I imagined the "pencil sharpener effect"? I stuck the same finger through the hole. No spinning. Just that smooth, cold surface -- not freezing, slightly cool, like a bathroom wall in September.
 
Wrapping the shoe in four pages of newspaper, I stuffed it in a corner of my hall closet. The newspaper, I vaguely imagined, would stop the alien dimension from leaking out.
 
That night, I lay in bed unable to sleep. Is it possible that some food I ate contained a psychedelic drug? Supposedly St. John of Patmos feasted on stale bread containing ergot, a mold related to LSD, triggering his visions, which led to the Book of Revelation. Maybe I ate a poppy seed bagel? Or drank, unconsciously, a drugged cup of coffee? Meticulously I revisited every morsel I'd consumed in the previous 24 hours. None of them seemed suspicious. Could my shoe experience have been a "flashback" from my psychedelic experiments (which consisted of once taking mescaline)? Didn't I read somewhere that flashbacks were a myth?
 
Was there a man -- or woman -- in the other dimension trying to communicate with me? Perhaps he saw my finger peep through from time to time, but could not respond (because the hole only opens in one direction). Is it possible that my yearning was matched by an alien yearning? I began to picture this man: with purple skin, a shirt with long, loose sleeves, and a beanie.
 
I continued my insomniac meditations. Could I get rich from this interdimensional portal? If every person on earth stuck her finger through the portal and paid me a dollar, I'd have $6 billion. Or maybe I could leverage the shoe into a reality TV show?
 
The next day, my girlfriend Arlene visited. She was short, dark-haired and intense -- also very beautiful. We had only been dating three months. Should I tell her about the cosmic entryway in my shoe? As we ate dinner that night I contemplated casually, perhaps jokingly, mentioning my metaphysical portal. But the words never came. Instead, I discussed my recipe for manicotti.
 
"I went to Franklin Park today looking for mushrooms," Arlene said. She described the Solitary Lepidella she found. Suddenly I knew I could never reveal to her the truth about my hole.
 
Three days passed. I rode my motorcycle, worked, watched television. (I'm a freelance graphic designer.) I began to forget about the mysterious loafer. Then around midnight on the third day, I was compelled to return to the closet. I unwrapped the shoe, tentatively forcing my finger through the hole. Again my digit was invisible. Again the sensation of cool tile. I hastily re-wrapped the perplexing footwear and thrust it back in the closet.
 
Three more days passed. This time, I could not forget the shoe- hole. The fourth day, I pulled out the shoe and methodically placed each of my fingers inside the mystifying aperture. Each time I felt that cool glassy sensation. Then I put the shoe on my foot, and maneuvered my second toe through the hole. It became invisible, also.
 
The following day I spent hours sticking my finger through the inexplicable opening. I began to time my interdimensional intrusions. The longest was 1 minute and 43 seconds. A flashback cannot last an entire day, I decided, even if flashbacks are real. Afterwards, I sniffed my fingers. There was a faint smell of wax -- like a can of car wax.
 
That night I again lay in bed, thinking. What does the rest of that dimension look like? Am I just touching the outer wall? Or a room within a planet within that universe? There must be more than tile -- or whatever that cool substance is. Maybe that dimension is real and this one is fraudulent. Maybe Jesus stumbled through an interdimensional portal and dubbed that place "Heaven." The word "hole" is quite similar to the word "holy." Isn't there a word "holey"?
 
Or the portal doesn't lead to another dimension, but to another part of our world -- a bathroom at Bangkok, perhaps. Or my own bathroom? How could I ever know? The answer was obvious. I must bring the shoe into the bathroom, and stick my finger through the portal.
 
The next morning I carried out this experiment. Standing next to the toilet, I poked my ring finger through the hole in my shoe. Looking all around the walls, I saw no flesh protruding. Later, I found the word "holey" on the Internet. It means "having holes," and was first used in the 13th century.
 
Is it possible the other dimension was tiny -- extending just 2 inches further than I could feel? Why should other dimensions be necessarily infinite?
 
I began to see holes everywhere, as I walked through my day: sewers, manholes, squirrel holes in trees. The world was suddenly rich in tiny tunnels.
 
I should name my dimension, I decided. After long thought, I came up with "Carloria." It's a pretty, exotic name, which reminded me of the word "color."
 
The next day I brought the shoe up to my ear, hoping to hear Carloria. Nothing. Not even radio static!
 
Meanwhile, the hole was slowly enlarging. At first, my forefinger could barely fit through it; now it could accommodate two fingers, side by side.
 
Last year a man from the cable company came to hook up my television. He and I had a conversation, which somehow led to a story about a "glory hole." The cable man, whose name was Arthur, sometimes went to a bar in the South End, which had a circle cut out of a bathroom wall. "You just stick your dick through the hole," he explained.
 
"Who's on the other side? Is it a man or a woman?" I asked.
 
"I don't know, but it sure feels good!" the cable man smiled.
 
Now I have a glory hole of my own.
 
I seized on the idea of pushing an object through the opening in my shoe. For some reason, my first thought was breadcrumbs. I found a can of breadcrumbs in the pantry, poured some into a spoon, and thrust them through the hole. The crumbs disappeared, but there was no apparent response (though I did have the sensation of feeding an ancient and shadowy being). Next I poured a bit of honey into a spoon, and offered it to the greedy hole. Perhaps the foreign creatures on the other side have a sweet tooth, I thought. Again, no reaction -- not even a burp.
 
The next morning I made bacon, tore off a small strip and thrust it into the other dimension. This too disappeared. I decided to write a note, the way a shipwrecked man sends a message in a bottle. My text was:
 
Is anybody out there?
 
I used English for three reasons: 1) The portal may lead to a town in Iowa; 2) It's possible aliens speak English; 3) The other universe may have master cryptographers capable of decoding any language. The paper entered the hole without difficulty, and disappeared.
 
I received no written reply.
 
At this point, I switched to Italian, which I'd studied in high school. Why shouldn't aliens speak Italian? (Perhaps explorers discovered the portal in the 15th century and colonized the other dimension, as Columbus did the New World.) This time, my note read:
 
Stai vedendo il mio messaggio? ["Are you seeing my message?"]
 
Again, no response.
 
I began to place my finger through the hole and carry the shoe around, almost like a ring, once for as long as 53 minutes. Always the sensation was the same -- smooth ceramic -- and never did the alien temperature change.
 
I attempted to pull off a fragment of the "wall" on the other side, first with my finger, then a screwdriver, then an awl. But I couldn't dislodge a single grain of trans-dimensional material. And what exactly was the substance? My first thought was tile, but maybe it was smooth rock, or even ivory. Or another type of polished bone. Or even a clammy kind of metal. Could this hole be an interdimensional mine, containing a valuable mineral? My questions proliferated, but my answers did not.
 
I begin to devise rituals for the hole. One day I'd probe it with my finger every hour, exactly at the same time. The next day I'd only touch it once, at exactly 5 PM. A third day I'd push my finger through all morning and not thereafter. A fourth day I entered the hole five times, exactly at the prescribed hours for Muslim prayer. No matter how often my finger plunged into the blackness, I always felt anxiety. Couldn't, this time, an alien pterodactyl swallow my innocent digit? The cosmic hole became a curse, the way every obsession is a curse.
 
One day I carried around my shoe for an hour, until I had to sneeze. Then I sneezed into the shoe. Perhaps this was the first inter-dimensional achoo?
 
If only I could reach further into the hole! I seized on a plan using dental floss. Tearing off 48 inches of the hardy filament, I stuffed it into the portal, then pulled it back. I examined the floss carefully -- no change.
 
But maybe it was all bunching up on the other side? I tied the floss around a small eraser and passed it through the hole. After five minutes, I retrieved the line. Again it was untouched. Searching through my closet, I found a fishhook and attached it to the white string. "Time to go fishing in Carloria," I muttered to myself. I lowered the barbed hook through the aperture. Six minutes later, I pulled in the line. No aliens had been snared.
 
Sometimes I'd gaze at the magic shoe, searching for a clue in its construction. Occasionally I'd retrieve the right shoe for comparison. These examinations always proved fruitless.
 
I have a friend named Ben who studies astrophysics. (He's a dentist, but that's his hobby.) One day, I casually asked Ben: "Do you think there are portals to other dimensions?"
 
He grew serious. "There is less certainty in astrophysics now that at any time in history," Ben reported. "All we know is that we have no answers. It's possible that certain 'missing persons' actually step through some doorway to another universe. Especially in war."
 
"But they never return," I pointed out.
 
"Yes," Ben agreed. "That is suspicious -- but not confirmatory."
 
"What about UFOs?" I persisted. "Might they be passing through interdimensional portals?"
 
"If they exist," Ben said, "that's as logical as interstellar travel, assuming they have lifespans similar to ours."
 
"What about people who claim to enter portals to other universes?" I asked.
 
"It's certainly possible," Ben nodded, "except that such people are usually insane."
 
I grew silent.
 
At that time Arlene and I saw each other roughly every five days. Soon she was back, sitting in a chair in my living room, studying Mushrooms of North America. I stared at the floor, watching her from the corner of my eye. How would she react if I mentioned the portal? If she were horrified, I'd be deeply disappointed. Also if she were blasé. What is the chance that she would respond as I had, with fascinated, but agnostic, obsession?
 
That night we made love. I imagined that her vagina was the interdimensional portal. Afterwards, Arlene said: "That was lovely sex." I nodded. "The head of your penis felt like the cap of a sticky mottlegill," she added.
 
"What's that?"
 
"It's a mushroom."
 
"I thought so."
 
Is it necessary to tell your girlfriend you've discovered an entrance to another universe? Should some truths always remain private? Silence surrounded my mystifying discovery, a silence that became itself a hole in my life.
 
Perhaps I was not alone. Do people often discover portals to other dimensions, then clam up due to social pressure? The best idea was to keep it a secret. I would live my life without a word about Carloria. Then, at my death, in a safety deposit box, my heirs would find the shoe -- and an account of my discovery. This is that account.
 
Then one day I opened a volume of Emerson, and found:
 
Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say "I think," "I am," but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose.
 
Emerson convinced me: this discovery was too large to shroud in secrecy. I had a duty to the human race. In the phone book, I found the number for MIT, and dialed. But what should I say? "Is there an astrophysics department?" I timidly inquired.
 
"I'll give you Physics," the MIT operator said sleepily. Twelve seconds later, another woman answered: "Physics Department."
 
"I have made a discovery that I would like to discuss with a physicist," I explained, immediately regretting my phrasing.
 
"What kind of discovery?" the woman asked suspiciously. Clearly I had activated her radar. One of her jobs, apparently, was to screen out cranks.
 
I turned coy. "It concerns astrophysics," I said tersely.
 
She paused. I knew the word "astrophysics," but I could still be a kook. Should she take the risk of quashing a scientific breakthrough, or take the contrary risk of irritating a professor? Finally, she settled on a plan -- to foist me off on her least favorite physicist. "I'll connect you with Dr. Swaber," she announced briskly.
 
Dr. Swaber, of course, didn't answer his phone, but the voicemail promptly arrived, bearing no trace of a German accent. "I'd like to speak to you about a physics experiment I have done," I announced, and left my phone number.
 
To my surprise, Dr. Swaber called me back a half hour later.
 
"What is this about?" he asked curiously.
 
"Let me be honest with you," I blurted out. "I'm not a physicist. I'm not even sure if this has anything to do with physics. But I have a hole in my shoe, and I stuck my finger through it -- and my finger doesn't appear on the other side! It seems to enter another dimension. I feel a sensation like a tile wall on the other side."
 
There was a long pause. "How soon can you come in here?" Dr. Swaber asked.
 
An hour later, I was walking down the hallway of the MIT Physics Department with a Timberland shoe under my arm. For the purpose of this visit, I had sheathed it in elegant giftwrap paper. Dr. Swaber welcomed me warmly. He was a tall man of approximately 40 years, with a prominent nose and critical eyes. "Here is my shoe," I announced, dramatically unveiling the loafer.
 
Dr. Swaber expectantly placed his hand into my shoe. Tentatively, his finger entered the hole. To my surprise, half a finger was immediately visible -- as if this were just an ordinary shoe-hole!
 
The physicist's manner grew formal. "Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention," he said coldly, proffering the shoe. I hurriedly re-wrapped it in the pale violet paper. "I'm sorry," I muttered. "I don't know what happened."
 
Walking down the hallway to the stairs, I felt humiliated yet relieved. My responsibilities to the human race had vanished. I was free! On the other hand, I was quite possibly insane.
 
When I returned home I threw the shoe, unwrapped, into a corner of the closet; there it has lain ever since.
 
 
© Sparrow 2017

One day I noticed a hole in my shoe -- a Timberland loafer I'd had for two years. This hole was in the widest part of the left shoe: a small opening, maybe 1/4 inch. For some reason, I placed my hand in the shoe, and stuck my finger through the hole.
 
But it didn’t emerge from the shoe. Clearly my finger had exited the hole, yet it was invisible. I tried again. And again. And again. After six tries, I realized the problem: my forefinger had entered another dimension.
 
I know this sounds strange, but it was the only logical explanation. In fact, I could feel the other dimension, with the tip of my finger: it was cool, and glossy -- like tile. Are other dimensions entirely tiled?
 
Immediately, I retracted my finger. "That was weird! I'll never do that again," I vowed.
 
A moment later, my finger was back in the hole -- this time a little farther. Still the same tile-like sensation. I pulled back my hand. What if a demon from another dimension bites off my finger?, I worried. I used the word "demon" instinctively, then it occurred to me: perhaps the other realm was Hell itself?
 
But after another minute, my curiosity won out. This time I pushed through my ring finger -- a more expendable appendage (and slightly longer) -- as far as possible. No "demons" attacked it.
 
I retracted my valuable digit. "Well, I've gratified my curiosity. I'll throw the shoe away," I vowed.
 
"No, I'll enter the hole once more," I decided. Again I employed my ring finger. This time, the other dimension began spinning, like a pencil sharpener. Immediately I pulled my finger out.
 
That was close!
 
I examined my finger carefully. It was unmarked. Had I imagined the "pencil sharpener effect"? I stuck the same finger through the hole. No spinning. Just that smooth, cold surface -- not freezing, slightly cool, like a bathroom wall in September.
 
Wrapping the shoe in four pages of newspaper, I stuffed it in a corner of my hall closet. The newspaper, I vaguely imagined, would stop the alien dimension from leaking out.
 
That night, I lay in bed unable to sleep. Is it possible that some food I ate contained a psychedelic drug? Supposedly St. John of Patmos feasted on stale bread containing ergot, a mold related to LSD, triggering his visions, which led to the Book of Revelation. Maybe I ate a poppy seed bagel? Or drank, unconsciously, a drugged cup of coffee? Meticulously I revisited every morsel I'd consumed in the previous 24 hours. None of them seemed suspicious. Could my shoe experience have been a "flashback" from my psychedelic experiments (which consisted of once taking mescaline)? Didn't I read somewhere that flashbacks were a myth?
 
Was there a man -- or woman -- in the other dimension trying to communicate with me? Perhaps he saw my finger peep through from time to time, but could not respond (because the hole only opens in one direction). Is it possible that my yearning was matched by an alien yearning? I began to picture this man: with purple skin, a shirt with long, loose sleeves, and a beanie.
 
I continued my insomniac meditations. Could I get rich from this interdimensional portal? If every person on earth stuck her finger through the portal and paid me a dollar, I'd have $6 billion. Or maybe I could leverage the shoe into a reality TV show?
 
The next day, my girlfriend Arlene visited. She was short, dark-haired and intense -- also very beautiful. We had only been dating three months. Should I tell her about the cosmic entryway in my shoe? As we ate dinner that night I contemplated casually, perhaps jokingly, mentioning my metaphysical portal. But the words never came. Instead, I discussed my recipe for manicotti.
 
"I went to Franklin Park today looking for mushrooms," Arlene said. She described the Solitary Lepidella she found. Suddenly I knew I could never reveal to her the truth about my hole.
 
Three days passed. I rode my motorcycle, worked, watched television. (I'm a freelance graphic designer.) I began to forget about the mysterious loafer. Then around midnight on the third day, I was compelled to return to the closet. I unwrapped the shoe, tentatively forcing my finger through the hole. Again my digit was invisible. Again the sensation of cool tile. I hastily re-wrapped the perplexing footwear and thrust it back in the closet.
 
Three more days passed. This time, I could not forget the shoe- hole. The fourth day, I pulled out the shoe and methodically placed each of my fingers inside the mystifying aperture. Each time I felt that cool glassy sensation. Then I put the shoe on my foot, and maneuvered my second toe through the hole. It became invisible, also.
 
The following day I spent hours sticking my finger through the inexplicable opening. I began to time my interdimensional intrusions. The longest was 1 minute and 43 seconds. A flashback cannot last an entire day, I decided, even if flashbacks are real. Afterwards, I sniffed my fingers. There was a faint smell of wax -- like a can of car wax.
 
That night I again lay in bed, thinking. What does the rest of that dimension look like? Am I just touching the outer wall? Or a room within a planet within that universe? There must be more than tile -- or whatever that cool substance is. Maybe that dimension is real and this one is fraudulent. Maybe Jesus stumbled through an interdimensional portal and dubbed that place "Heaven." The word "hole" is quite similar to the word "holy." Isn't there a word "holey"?
 
Or the portal doesn't lead to another dimension, but to another part of our world -- a bathroom at Bangkok, perhaps. Or my own bathroom? How could I ever know? The answer was obvious. I must bring the shoe into the bathroom, and stick my finger through the portal.
 
The next morning I carried out this experiment. Standing next to the toilet, I poked my ring finger through the hole in my shoe. Looking all around the walls, I saw no flesh protruding. Later, I found the word "holey" on the Internet. It means "having holes," and was first used in the 13th century.
 
Is it possible the other dimension was tiny -- extending just 2 inches further than I could feel? Why should other dimensions be necessarily infinite?
 
I began to see holes everywhere, as I walked through my day: sewers, manholes, squirrel holes in trees. The world was suddenly rich in tiny tunnels.
 
I should name my dimension, I decided. After long thought, I came up with "Carloria." It's a pretty, exotic name, which reminded me of the word "color."
 
The next day I brought the shoe up to my ear, hoping to hear Carloria. Nothing. Not even radio static!
 
Meanwhile, the hole was slowly enlarging. At first, my forefinger could barely fit through it; now it could accommodate two fingers, side by side.
 
Last year a man from the cable company came to hook up my television. He and I had a conversation, which somehow led to a story about a "glory hole." The cable man, whose name was Arthur, sometimes went to a bar in the South End, which had a circle cut out of a bathroom wall. "You just stick your dick through the hole," he explained.
 
"Who's on the other side? Is it a man or a woman?" I asked.
 
"I don't know, but it sure feels good!" the cable man smiled.
 
Now I have a glory hole of my own.
 
I seized on the idea of pushing an object through the opening in my shoe. For some reason, my first thought was breadcrumbs. I found a can of breadcrumbs in the pantry, poured some into a spoon, and thrust them through the hole. The crumbs disappeared, but there was no apparent response (though I did have the sensation of feeding an ancient and shadowy being). Next I poured a bit of honey into a spoon, and offered it to the greedy hole. Perhaps the foreign creatures on the other side have a sweet tooth, I thought. Again, no reaction -- not even a burp.
 
The next morning I made bacon, tore off a small strip and thrust it into the other dimension. This too disappeared. I decided to write a note, the way a shipwrecked man sends a message in a bottle. My text was:
 
Is anybody out there?
 
I used English for three reasons: 1) The portal may lead to a town in Iowa; 2) It's possible aliens speak English; 3) The other universe may have master cryptographers capable of decoding any language. The paper entered the hole without difficulty, and disappeared.
 
I received no written reply.
 
At this point, I switched to Italian, which I'd studied in high school. Why shouldn't aliens speak Italian? (Perhaps explorers discovered the portal in the 15th century and colonized the other dimension, as Columbus did the New World.) This time, my note read:
 
Stai vedendo il mio messaggio? ["Are you seeing my message?"]
 
Again, no response.
 
I began to place my finger through the hole and carry the shoe around, almost like a ring, once for as long as 53 minutes. Always the sensation was the same -- smooth ceramic -- and never did the alien temperature change.
 
I attempted to pull off a fragment of the "wall" on the other side, first with my finger, then a screwdriver, then an awl. But I couldn't dislodge a single grain of trans-dimensional material. And what exactly was the substance? My first thought was tile, but maybe it was smooth rock, or even ivory. Or another type of polished bone. Or even a clammy kind of metal. Could this hole be an interdimensional mine, containing a valuable mineral? My questions proliferated, but my answers did not.
 
I begin to devise rituals for the hole. One day I'd probe it with my finger every hour, exactly at the same time. The next day I'd only touch it once, at exactly 5 PM. A third day I'd push my finger through all morning and not thereafter. A fourth day I entered the hole five times, exactly at the prescribed hours for Muslim prayer. No matter how often my finger plunged into the blackness, I always felt anxiety. Couldn't, this time, an alien pterodactyl swallow my innocent digit? The cosmic hole became a curse, the way every obsession is a curse.
 
One day I carried around my shoe for an hour, until I had to sneeze. Then I sneezed into the shoe. Perhaps this was the first inter-dimensional achoo?
 
If only I could reach further into the hole! I seized on a plan using dental floss. Tearing off 48 inches of the hardy filament, I stuffed it into the portal, then pulled it back. I examined the floss carefully -- no change.
 
But maybe it was all bunching up on the other side? I tied the floss around a small eraser and passed it through the hole. After five minutes, I retrieved the line. Again it was untouched. Searching through my closet, I found a fishhook and attached it to the white string. "Time to go fishing in Carloria," I muttered to myself. I lowered the barbed hook through the aperture. Six minutes later, I pulled in the line. No aliens had been snared.
 
Sometimes I'd gaze at the magic shoe, searching for a clue in its construction. Occasionally I'd retrieve the right shoe for comparison. These examinations always proved fruitless.
 
I have a friend named Ben who studies astrophysics. (He's a dentist, but that's his hobby.) One day, I casually asked Ben: "Do you think there are portals to other dimensions?"
 
He grew serious. "There is less certainty in astrophysics now that at any time in history," Ben reported. "All we know is that we have no answers. It's possible that certain 'missing persons' actually step through some doorway to another universe. Especially in war."
 
"But they never return," I pointed out.
 
"Yes," Ben agreed. "That is suspicious -- but not confirmatory."
 
"What about UFOs?" I persisted. "Might they be passing through interdimensional portals?"
 
"If they exist," Ben said, "that's as logical as interstellar travel, assuming they have lifespans similar to ours."
 
"What about people who claim to enter portals to other universes?" I asked.
 
"It's certainly possible," Ben nodded, "except that such people are usually insane."
 
I grew silent.
 
At that time Arlene and I saw each other roughly every five days. Soon she was back, sitting in a chair in my living room, studying Mushrooms of North America. I stared at the floor, watching her from the corner of my eye. How would she react if I mentioned the portal? If she were horrified, I'd be deeply disappointed. Also if she were blasé. What is the chance that she would respond as I had, with fascinated, but agnostic, obsession?
 
That night we made love. I imagined that her vagina was the interdimensional portal. Afterwards, Arlene said: "That was lovely sex." I nodded. "The head of your penis felt like the cap of a sticky mottlegill," she added.
 
"What's that?"
 
"It's a mushroom."
 
"I thought so."
 
Is it necessary to tell your girlfriend you've discovered an entrance to another universe? Should some truths always remain private? Silence surrounded my mystifying discovery, a silence that became itself a hole in my life.
 
Perhaps I was not alone. Do people often discover portals to other dimensions, then clam up due to social pressure? The best idea was to keep it a secret. I would live my life without a word about Carloria. Then, at my death, in a safety deposit box, my heirs would find the shoe -- and an account of my discovery. This is that account.
 
Then one day I opened a volume of Emerson, and found:
 
Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say "I think," "I am," but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose.
 
Emerson convinced me: this discovery was too large to shroud in secrecy. I had a duty to the human race. In the phone book, I found the number for MIT, and dialed. But what should I say? "Is there an astrophysics department?" I timidly inquired.
 
"I'll give you Physics," the MIT operator said sleepily. Twelve seconds later, another woman answered: "Physics Department."
 
"I have made a discovery that I would like to discuss with a physicist," I explained, immediately regretting my phrasing.
 
"What kind of discovery?" the woman asked suspiciously. Clearly I had activated her radar. One of her jobs, apparently, was to screen out cranks.
 
I turned coy. "It concerns astrophysics," I said tersely.
 
She paused. I knew the word "astrophysics," but I could still be a kook. Should she take the risk of quashing a scientific breakthrough, or take the contrary risk of irritating a professor? Finally, she settled on a plan -- to foist me off on her least favorite physicist. "I'll connect you with Dr. Swaber," she announced briskly.
 
Dr. Swaber, of course, didn't answer his phone, but the voicemail promptly arrived, bearing no trace of a German accent. "I'd like to speak to you about a physics experiment I have done," I announced, and left my phone number.
 
To my surprise, Dr. Swaber called me back a half hour later.
 
"What is this about?" he asked curiously.
 
"Let me be honest with you," I blurted out. "I'm not a physicist. I'm not even sure if this has anything to do with physics. But I have a hole in my shoe, and I stuck my finger through it -- and my finger doesn't appear on the other side! It seems to enter another dimension. I feel a sensation like a tile wall on the other side."
 
There was a long pause. "How soon can you come in here?" Dr. Swaber asked.
 
An hour later, I was walking down the hallway of the MIT Physics Department with a Timberland shoe under my arm. For the purpose of this visit, I had sheathed it in elegant giftwrap paper. Dr. Swaber welcomed me warmly. He was a tall man of approximately 40 years, with a prominent nose and critical eyes. "Here is my shoe," I announced, dramatically unveiling the loafer.
 
Dr. Swaber expectantly placed his hand into my shoe. Tentatively, his finger entered the hole. To my surprise, half a finger was immediately visible -- as if this were just an ordinary shoe-hole!
 
The physicist's manner grew formal. "Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention," he said coldly, proffering the shoe. I hurriedly re-wrapped it in the pale violet paper. "I'm sorry," I muttered. "I don't know what happened."
 
Walking down the hallway to the stairs, I felt humiliated yet relieved. My responsibilities to the human race had vanished. I was free! On the other hand, I was quite possibly insane.
 
When I returned home I threw the shoe, unwrapped, into a corner of the closet; there it has lain ever since.
 
 
© Sparrow 2017

Read by Sparrow.

Read by Sparrow.

POST RECITAL

Talk Icon

TALK

BR: Welcome, Sparrow.
 
S: Oh hello.
 
BR: You just got off the bus from New York City. So were you working on any writing during the bus ride? Or doing something else?
 
S: I don't... first of all I don't even consider myself a writer but in the morning I don't talk until 12:01, from the time I wake up till 12:01 PM I don't talk, and that's when I stare into space and sometimes if a thought comes to me I might transcribe it on my computer. The rest of the day I'm just a person. I'm like everyone. It's like I work in a car wash.
 
BR: Okay.
 
TN: As a poet, you’re known as a minimalist. But this story, The Hole, contains no less than 2,874 separate words. Why so long?
 
S: I am not sure, I mean my poems are getting shorter and shorter in general, and the extra words are leaking out into my prose. That's the only theory that I can come up with. I mean my main problem as a poet is I can never think of a second line for a poem. I come up with the first line. First line seems good enough basically. Second line doesn't seem to work, so therefore I stick with the first line but with prose I can come up with the second line. Once I come up with the second line, why not have three thousand lines? It seems to be... there's no stopping it once you get to the second line. That seems to be my experience.
 
TN: So you're going really in two different directions at once. I kind of like the idea of a poem gradually getting shorter and shorter. You go from a few words down to a couple, down to one, then maybe down to a letter. And then eventually, you know, you'll write the perfect poem which is silence. Or nothing.
 
S: Yeah... I may have written that poem already. There's something on the other side of silence, that's what I'm working on now. But I don't know what it is. It's kind of like what's on the other side of that hole.
 
BR: Speaking of large piles of words, didn’t you recently co-write a mystery novel? Tell us about that.
 
S: Oh yeah, me and my friend Mike Topp just published a novel entitled The Double Dream of Spring, great title that we stole from De Chirico, the painter, and then the subtitle Peg Sluice Mystery. So Peg Sluice is our hero, heroine that we're hoping – anyway I'm hoping to do a series of books about. And it's a kind of... I call it an adventure, romance, suspense, mystery, espionage, science fiction... tale.
 
BR: Okay. It covers a few genres.
 
S: Yeah. All the genres I can think of.
 
TN: So, I understand you once stood on the street with a picket sign that said “My poetry is as bad as yours.” Why?
 
S: I'm with a group of writers called The Unbearables in New York City - mostly in New York City. And we were protesting at The New Yorker, demanding that they publish our poems. It's not actually true that I was holding that sign but it says that in my various bios and I've just kind of kept it in. I like having this myth about myself. It's something that I did say to The New York Observer about our protest, when the journalist asked me why should The New Yorker publish my poems, and I thought about it for a second and I said, “because our poems are just as bad as the ones they publish.” So we were demanding that they publish us and through some twist of fate they ended up publishing me. They published two poems by me, The New Yorker that is. They bought five of my poems. They killed three of them, if that's the word you use for poems and then they forgot about me forever.
 
TN: So they got you back.
 
S: Yeah.
 
BR: Time is entirely fictional, but we seem to be almost out of it.
 
TN: But not entirely. Will you be running for president in 2020?
 
S: It's a very good question. I have run for president seven times in a row. Every four years since I was old enough to be president. You have to be thirty-five years old to be president. I don't know how deeply you've read the constitution...
 
TN: What's that?
 
S: ... So I have always run every time, and each time I hope I'm going stop. It seems like really pathetic to be an old man constantly running for this office, for which I'm eminently unqualified. But knowing me it seems likely that I will run again. And I just wrote a new book. It's called... I'm pretty sure it's called Some Nights Every Person in the U.S.A. Has the same Dream. I really have forgotten the exact title. Published by Inpatient Press and it's the journal of my last campaign, my 2016 campaign where I lost to Donald J. Trump.
 
TN: Yeah. Well who knows what will happen next time.
 
BR: Do you have any kind of message for aspiring young writers the world over?
 
S: Um... yes. My advice to you is: don't worry too much about writing. Take up an extra hobby that you're really bad at. For example, playing... the clarinet. Just spend a certain amount of time playing the clarinet, don't think about writing. Try to get writing out of your mind. It's a waste of time. And then maybe while playing the clarinet something will occur to you, and if you like you can write it down but don't feel under any pressure. It really doesn't matter whether you write or not. It has no meaning. We're all going to die anyway.
 
TN: How about this – why don't you randomly pick one of your poems to recite and that’ll be the message.
 
S: Okay great. Maybe this is the one I should read. Economics 101.
 
My shitty job pays for this ugly apartment.
 
RN: That's kind of silly.
 
TN: So Sparrow, one more thing. In the story the narrator puts his finger through the hole from the inside of the shoe. The physicist also probes from the same direction. Does either of them put a finger through the hole from the outside? If not, why?
 
Silence
 
TN: Sparrow?... I think he must have flown away.
 
RN: Well that makes silly sense.

BR: Welcome, Sparrow.
 
S: Oh hello.
 
BR: You just got off the bus from New York City. So were you working on any writing during the bus ride? Or doing something else?
 
S: I don't... first of all I don't even consider myself a writer but in the morning I don't talk until 12:01, from the time I wake up till 12:01 PM I don't talk, and that's when I stare into space and sometimes if a thought comes to me I might transcribe it on my computer. The rest of the day I'm just a person. I'm like everyone. It's like I work in a car wash.
 
BR: Okay.
 
TN: As a poet, you’re known as a minimalist. But this story, The Hole, contains no less than 2,874 separate words. Why so long?
 
S: I am not sure, I mean my poems are getting shorter and shorter in general, and the extra words are leaking out into my prose. That's the only theory that I can come up with. I mean my main problem as a poet is I can never think of a second line for a poem. I come up with the first line. First line seems good enough basically. Second line doesn't seem to work, so therefore I stick with the first line but with prose I can come up with the second line. Once I come up with the second line, why not have three thousand lines? It seems to be... there's no stopping it once you get to the second line. That seems to be my experience.
 
TN: So you're going really in two different directions at once. I kind of like the idea of a poem gradually getting shorter and shorter. You go from a few words down to a couple, down to one, then maybe down to a letter. And then eventually, you know, you'll write the perfect poem which is silence. Or nothing.
 
S: Yeah... I may have written that poem already. There's something on the other side of silence, that's what I'm working on now. But I don't know what it is. It's kind of like what's on the other side of that hole.
 
BR: Speaking of large piles of words, didn’t you recently co-write a mystery novel? Tell us about that.
 
S: Oh yeah, me and my friend Mike Topp just published a novel entitled The Double Dream of Spring, great title that we stole from De Chirico, the painter, and then the subtitle Peg Sluice Mystery. So Peg Sluice is our hero, heroine that we're hoping – anyway I'm hoping to do a series of books about. And it's a kind of... I call it an adventure, romance, suspense, mystery, espionage, science fiction... tale.
 
BR: Okay. It covers a few genres.
 
S: Yeah. All the genres I can think of.
 
TN: So, I understand you once stood on the street with a picket sign that said “My poetry is as bad as yours.” Why?
 
S: I'm with a group of writers called The Unbearables in New York City - mostly in New York City. And we were protesting at The New Yorker, demanding that they publish our poems. It's not actually true that I was holding that sign but it says that in my various bios and I've just kind of kept it in. I like having this myth about myself. It's something that I did say to The New York Observer about our protest, when the journalist asked me why should The New Yorker publish my poems, and I thought about it for a second and I said, “because our poems are just as bad as the ones they publish.” So we were demanding that they publish us and through some twist of fate they ended up publishing me. They published two poems by me, The New Yorker that is. They bought five of my poems. They killed three of them, if that's the word you use for poems and then they forgot about me forever.
 
TN: So they got you back.
 
S: Yeah.
 
BR: Time is entirely fictional, but we seem to be almost out of it.
 
TN: But not entirely. Will you be running for president in 2020?
 
S: It's a very good question. I have run for president seven times in a row. Every four years since I was old enough to be president. You have to be thirty-five years old to be president. I don't know how deeply you've read the constitution...
 
TN: What's that?
 
S: ... So I have always run every time, and each time I hope I'm going stop. It seems like really pathetic to be an old man constantly running for this office, for which I'm eminently unqualified. But knowing me it seems likely that I will run again. And I just wrote a new book. It's called... I'm pretty sure it's called Some Nights Every Person in the U.S.A. Has the same Dream. I really have forgotten the exact title. Published by Inpatient Press and it's the journal of my last campaign, my 2016 campaign where I lost to Donald J. Trump.
 
TN: Yeah. Well who knows what will happen next time.
 
BR: Do you have any kind of message for aspiring young writers the world over?
 
S: Um... yes. My advice to you is: don't worry too much about writing. Take up an extra hobby that you're really bad at. For example, playing... the clarinet. Just spend a certain amount of time playing the clarinet, don't think about writing. Try to get writing out of your mind. It's a waste of time. And then maybe while playing the clarinet something will occur to you, and if you like you can write it down but don't feel under any pressure. It really doesn't matter whether you write or not. It has no meaning. We're all going to die anyway.
 
TN: How about this – why don't you randomly pick one of your poems to recite and that’ll be the message.
 
S: Okay great. Maybe this is the one I should read. Economics 101.
 
My shitty job pays for this ugly apartment.
 
RN: That's kind of silly.
 
TN: So Sparrow, one more thing. In the story the narrator puts his finger through the hole from the inside of the shoe. The physicist also probes from the same direction. Does either of them put a finger through the hole from the outside? If not, why?
 
Silence
 
TN: Sparrow?... I think he must have flown away.
 
RN: Well that makes silly sense.

Music on this episode:

Étude in C-sharp minor (OP. 2, no. 1) by Alexander Scriabin.

License CC PD.

She Ming by xj5000.

Used by permission of the artist.

Through Walls by PUC.

Used by permission of the artist.

THE STRANGE RECITAL

Episode 18012

BLACK BULL Logo

"I am a ghetto of one." - Sparrow.