Thursday, September 22, 2016

Vignettes by Me, on Themes Picked Randomly: Day 22

Theme 529: Numbers  

Homunculus, a chubby Scottish fold balled up on the rattan settee’s bolster cushion, squinted at his young associate, a feisty one year old red tabby named Hecuba. She was stalking an ingrailed clay moth across the sun-dappled conservatory. The moth spiraled down haphazardly and came to rest on the peacock tiffany glass shade of a tall floorlamp. Since the moth sat exactly two meters from the quartzite floor tiles, the nearest surface to it that Hecuba could reach was the crest of a Queen Anne chair pushed in under the games table. She jumped up and balanced on the crest, with both her fore and rear paws gripping the arched mahogany, in order to accurately judge the distance. The chair crest, which trembled slightly under the balancing cat, was a meter off the ground and three quarters of a meter laterally distant from the lampshade.

Homunculus lifted his chin and widened his citronette eyes to study the action his associate was contemplating. Judging the proposed deed to be ridiculous, he closed his eyes and turned his head away dismissively. Hecuba, however, remained determined. She began enumerating the relevant factors. 

By the Pythagorean theorem, she calculated the length of the hypotenuse, which was also the distance to the moth, as one and a quarter meters. By inverse cosine three fifths, she found the angle to be approximately fifty three degrees. She knew that the full force of her sprung haunches would propel her from the chair’s crest, after rapid acceleration, at a velocity of five meters per second. Of course downward acceleration due to gravity would remain its usual nine point eight one meters per second squared, while air resistance would be a negligible factor, considering the distance of the leap and the atmospherics of the conservatory. Setting her starting position as zero by zero meters, her target position, where her center of gravity would need to be when she snatched the moth in her front paws, was five eighths by one and one tenth meters. Finally, she calculated the necessary starting angle of her trajectory by plugging the appropriate values into the formula:

Thus completing the above calculations in two seconds, Hecuba confidently contracted her thigh muscles and launched herself from the chair’s crest at a seventy nine degree angle. She reached the target position exactly as planned and caught the moth in her clutches. Unfortunately, the lampshade proved more resistant to the push of her claws than she had anticipated, such that as she swung her paws down to land, they caught the lampshade’s rim. Sadly, this released the moth, allowing it to flutter up to freedom. The weight of Hecuba’s body dragging the lampshade along the forward arc of her trajectory brought the whole floorlamp crashing down to the hard tiles, where the tiffany glass smashed into chips that spread across the conservatory floor. Landing just short of the broken tower, Hecuba raced back behind the settee and poked her head around the corner to survey the destruction site. Clearly she would require more accurate measurements for lampshade inertias in the future.

Homunculus’ whiskers had prickled outward, but he otherwise remained insouciantly curled on his cushion, looking askance at his wayward associate, as if to say, “They’ll know who to blame for this, and it won’t be me.” 

Explanatory Postscript: When I say “picked randomly,” I mean picked from a Master List that I’ve compiled of 999 themes intended to serve as creative writing prompts (from the following sources: 501 Writing Prompts; 25 Creative Writing Prompts; Examples of Themes; List of Themes; 365 Creative Writing Prompts; 100 Themes Challenge Writing Prompts; List of Journal Ideas; and Top 10 Types of Story Themes). To pick a theme at random, I roll three ten-sided dice (the first for the hundreds place digit, the second for the tens, and the third for the singles) and find the theme under the number I have rolled. If I hit a theme I have already written on, I roll again. If I ever roll 000, I make up a theme. The Master List is a secret, so don’t ask for it.

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