Angle of Incidence

By Isabel Brome Gaddis

One ray of light,

with a sense of noblesse oblige,

filters in through my wooden blinds to illuminate

the crumbs and cat hair clinging to my living room rug.

I pretend to ignore it and,

with eyes straining sideways,

follow the beam up about

twenty light-years

(not so awfully far,

Orion would throw a ball farther than that for Sirius to fetch),

and oh, there I am, twenty-something,

and so slim, if only I knew then how flexible and healthy I was,

and so young,

still young enough to be anything,

and no friends sharing horrible pictures of their grandchildren



Quick as a lie I step on the beam with my right foot, pinning it to the rug.

I grab the edge of the rug and slide it left, then right, looking up the beam for any reflective surface up there, about twenty light years away

(just a flash of time, really—I have pens older than that)

and there, just past twenty-four light-years, the beam bounces onto a frozen moon (hard to see, b Hydri is so bright)

(no, surely b Hydri is further south?)

(don’t distract me—my foot is beginning to cramp—you have to press down hard to hold photons in place)

and I shift the rug,

enough to send the beam shooting off

in a different direction.

Just to give her a chance,

that slender, funny twenty-something,

to go shooting off in a different direction herself

and maybe land

in a cleaner living room.


Isabel Brome Gaddis earned her bachelor’s degree in Earth and Planetary Sciences from MIT and worked as a geophysicist at Shell, then as a technical writer and copywriter at Microsoft. She studied playwriting at Freehold Theatre in Seattle, writing for television at UCLA, screenwriting with Corey Mandell, and creative writing with Jack Grapes. She also holds four certificates in embroidery and design from City and Guilds of London.

Her work is forthcoming in OnTheBus.


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