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The Short Form

“The Universe in Miniature”

Patrick Somerville


Kevin Johnson asks me what I do. I tell him I make accurate models even though they are technically not to scale.

“Models of what?”

“Do you know,” I say, “how sometimes little boys, for science fairs, decide they want to make a model of the solar system?”

“Sort of.”

“So they find maybe a basketball and cut it in half for the sun? And then they use, like, a marble for the Earth? And so on? And their dads probably help and it turns into this huge project with cardboard and rope and everything? And how maybe sometimes the dad even says to the little boy, ‘You know, Timmy, if we really wanted to be accurate about this model we'd have to drive five whole miles away to properly include Uranus,’ and the kid is totally into it? Like his mind is blown by the scale?”

“Yeah,” says Kevin. “I know about that.”

“I make models of that.”

“Cool,” he says. “Wait. Of what, now?”

“I make models of little boys and sometimes their father making models of the solar system.”

We read it in The Universe in Miniature.

Originally published in American Short Fiction: Summer 2009.