Black on White

Continued from page five

There are people who have banished doubts, fathomed bottomless mysteries and tracked ultimate truth to its lair. They sit with you around the fireplace, ordinary mortals like yourself, subject to the same physical and metaphysical limitations. Yet they speak with the voice of omniscience.

They tell you about life, space and time, as though they had been midwives at the creation. They tell you, perhaps, that Palestine settles everything, or Biro-Bidjan settles everything, or Karl Marx settles everything. They know exactly what’s beyond beyond—take it or leave it. And if you leave it you’re a petty bourgeois, a kulak, an infidel, an am-ha-aretz or whatever cuss word may be current around your particular fireplace.

And listening to them I think that some day, when my sluggish genius moves me, I shall write a story. It will be a story of the planet Mars and will run something like this, only much better, much smoother, much sharper.

A group of Martians were sitting around the fireplace, drinking highballs and talking earnestly about life and things. Among them was Professor Piggly-Wiggly who, though a young man in his fourth century, carries all Martian knowledge in his brain. The others listened to his words with respect amounting to awe.

They talked of this and that and came inevitably to the question which more than any other fascinates the Martians—the age-long problem as to whether there is life on the distant planet Earth. Equipped with powerful telescopes, Martian astronomers had detected certain interesting lines and ridges on the surface of Earth which encouraged the marvelous theory that there are people on that mysterious globe.

NO LIFE…

More recently, indeed, the development of the Martian phonoscope tended to strengthen that theory. The Mars Academy of Science has recordings of sounds emanating from Earth which bear some resemblance to the booming of cannon and the din of oratory.

And so the discussion waxed warmer and deeper. Some supported the fascinating notion of life on Earth, others disrupted it. Then Prof. Piggly-Wiggly coughed and had his say. He pointed out that the planet Earth, according to the best opinion, is enveloped in a substance called Air. If that were true, of course, it settled the matter, since no life could exist in such a medium. Moreover, the major portion of that far-off planet, he pointed out, is covered by a substance called Water, consisting of two parts hydrogen to one part oxygen. Life on earth would, therefore, wither away for lack of the liquid, so rich in potassium cyanide, which sustains life on Mars.

THAT SETTLES IT

In short, Prof. Piggly-Wiggly smiled and waved his tail coquettishly, stating it is clear as daylight that there is no life on the planet Earth.

Everyone else around the fireplace, of course, agreed. It was good to get a scientific, indisputable opinion.

“Of course,” the professor said, closing his nine eyes importantly, “poets and charlatans will continue to prate about life on Earth. Dreamers and crackpots will continue to build rockets to reach Earth and lunatics will seek to establish radio contacts with the supposed inhabitants there.

“We are content to leave these wild imaginings to them. The rest of us must stick to demonstrable truth. We have our feet on the ground.”

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