It's Not Just Physics

November 12, 1896
Elizabeth Bassett

There are days when I do not think the differences between Penelope and I could be more stark and then there are surprising moments when I am amazed by our similarities. Our approach to life is so different and yet I think we come from nearly the same place. Where she is free and unburdened I feel the weight of societies expectations upon me.

If I were only different, I might find the courage to say what I really want to say to the likes of Dr. Phallic among others. In truth it is not he who occupies my thoughts but Penelope’s adorable brother Wilbur. Sitting in Dr. Phallic’s physic class he was the only thing on my mind and the science was more chemistry than physics.

“Can anyone tell me one of Newton’s three laws?” Dr. Phallic asked.

He paced the front of the classroom in his white lab coat looking completely distracted from the day’s lesson. Several of the boys raised their hands for an opportunity to answer his question but he ignored them all in favor of calling on Penelope who was staring very hard at her desktop rather than volunteering to answer questions.

“Miss Sumter, name one of Newton’s laws.” He said.

Penelope looked up in surprise. She should know better by now but clearly she was still living in the fantasy land of her own creation. It is a wonderful place where nothing ever happens unless you want it to. I would never tell her but I envy her that confidence.

“An object in motion will continue unless it is acted upon by an outside force.” Penelope said.

I nearly fell out of my chair as the outside force of Penelope’s thoughts stunned me. Not only had she answered but she had answered correctly. Dr. Phallic might have been more surprised than me. He stopped his pacing and turned to look at her with a curious expression which seemed to me to reflect both disbelief and pride all in the same moment.

“Very good, Miss Sumter. Now can you tell me what force is acting on a wheel to cause it stop turning?” He asked.

Penelope looked thoughtful for a moment. I was sitting on the edge of my seat hoping she would get it wrong so that I might have the opportunity to reaffirm myself as the most intelligent woman in the room.

“I believe there would be at least two, sir. Gravity and friction.” Penelope said.

The boys around the room were becoming more interested in Penelope by the second and quickly forgetting I existed at all. Why want the girl with a brain, when there is one with beauty and a brain?

“Excellent, Miss Sumter. It seems you have done your reading for a change. Miss Bassett, another of Newton’s laws if you please.”

My mind raced for an answer that had only moments before been on the tip of my tongue. Something about being put on the spot makes my brain slow to respond. Finally, another of the laws came to me. I felt extremely self-conscious as I spoke.

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I said.

“Thank you Miss Bassett. Now, what is the equal and opposite reaction to your walking by on the sidewalk?” Dr. Phallic asked.

I wanted to say I did not know because that was in fact the truth, but being out done by Penelope was too distasteful for me not to try and salvage what I could. I considered the forces at work and began to imagine what could possibly be the reactive forces. The class was silent in anticipation of me blundering a response.

“I know if you were referring to me walking by, it would be all these boys turning their heads to watch.” Penelope said.

The classroom erupted in laughter.

“Thank you, Miss Sumter. I can see while you have grasped the material for the week you have not lost your unique ability to ridicule science at every level. We will discuss your interruption further after class.” Dr. Phallic said.

He turned back to me clearly still waiting for my answer.

“Wind?” I said hopefully.

“Thank you, Miss Bassett.”

The bell began to ring from the tower signaling the end of class. I felt relieved knowing I was at least out of the spotlight for another day. Penelope looked sour at the prospect of remaining behind as I exited the room. I would not wish to be in her shoes but when will she learn to guard her words?

Walking down the corridor I was struck by the illogic of my own thoughts. Was it not our very point in voting that we should not be forced to hide our opinions and thoughts from the world? Perhaps I am more the fool than Penelope will ever be for I am unable to make myself heard unless someone else gives me the permission to do so. Consequences or not, I think it might be time for a change.

“Where is Penelope?” Wilbur asked, coming in through the front door.

I smiled at him and then hid my face as I realized I was blushing just to look at him.

“Dr. Phallic kept her after.” I replied.

“What did she do this time?” He asked.

“She was smarter than he likes.” I replied before my brain realized it might not have been the best choice of words.

“Indeed?” He asked.

I bit my lip and scurried away before he could ask me to explain further. I think maybe I am not quite as ready for change as I wish to be. In the meantime, I can still dream and, watching Wilbur walk into Dr. Phallic‘s classroom, what a dream it is.

1 comment:

Steff said...

not to be offensive but,

its not just boring, if there was a point to be made i missed it completely. not your best work, imho.