Friday, May 7, 2010

CONTINENTAL DRIFT (flash fiction)

Harold C. Gregorian never invited recognition to rear its ugly head.

By trade he was a pencil pusher and worked the doldrums of the middle management ladder all the way up to Vice president of development for Hughes Research Laboratories in California. The event at The Continental was supposed to be special because his firm was celebrating their crowning achievment, the first working laser.

Gregorian was 61 and found that things changing all around him more and more. On the way over to the event, he heard newsman John Cameron Swayze on the radio talking about some bright young senator from Massachusetts named Kennedy. Earlier that day, the young WASP announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination and claimed he had big plans for the country. Gregorian thought, good luck...

It was a charming night filled with conversation. Gregorian and friends - which consisted mostly of military types - chatted mostly about the Antarctic Treaty which was basically some bullshit agreement that set aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve and banned military activity on that continent. They all joked it wouldn't be banned if their cuckoo boss needed the land for one of his cocamamie ideas. He'd just buy it. They all laughed. Around round of martinis.

Gregorian was starting to feel woozy and fixated on the banner above the podium. It read:

'Behold the LASER: Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.
The future is now... '

He scoffed as he chewed his olive. Probably because he knew that those were his words on that majestic-looking piece of cotton and silk. You see, Harold C. Gregorian claims that he coined the term 'laser' and truth be told, he very well could have.

But tell that to special guest Gordon Gould, who originally published the term in one of his many widely-read science journal essays. Gould, a consultant for Hughes Research, claims he came up with the acronym while on a flight to Indonesia.

Another martini.

Just before dinner, Harold C. Gregorian shifted in his seat in preparation for the keynote speaker. He watched his boss Howard Hughes address the crowd and marveled at how regal the billionaire still appeared to be, wacky rumors and all. It was then that Harold C. Gregorian had a severe moment of clarity.

He pondered the great men. Hughes. Gould. Even that young Massachusetts Senator. Harold C. Gregorian knew he could never be one of them. So he raised his glass and from his seat, gave perhaps one of the most eloquent retirement speeches that any of those grizzly army engineers have ever heard.

Within the month, Harold C. Gregorian sold his house, liquidated most of his assets and bought a remote mountain cabin in Big Bear.

No more martinis.

While Harold C. Gregorian might not have been a great man, one thing was for sure and he repeated it to himself every morning at the lake, "I'm a God Damned great fisherman..."


  1. Much less direct than your normal prose, Anthony. I figured by the Antarctica part that it was going in a scientific or military direction. The absence of direction doesn't hurt it, though. There's enough detail in the scattered turns of his thoughts and life that it's fun to mull over.

  2. It's these 'severe moments of clarity' that change everything. I like how you built the story. And the ending is perfect. It's how we all should be... although, I, personally, would keep drinking martinis-- moment of clarity or not. ;-)

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  4. Another great piece of flash, Anthony. A very concis story told there in not a lot of words. And as Jodi said, the ending is how we should all be.

    Regards and I'm now off for a night in the Hilton (Not the slapper, Paris) up in Aviemore, to be pampered. :-)

  5. Anthony, I can't add to what John, Jodi and David said except to say:

    I thought this was fact for most of the story (until I googled Gregorian and started chanting).
    First rate piece for mine...

  6. You always nail the feel of the time periods of your pieces. I can almost taste those martinis.

    I think Gregorian did himself a favor that night.

    Well done.

  7. This read like non-fiction. If it wasn' sure made it sound belieavable.

  8. Well... The character of Gregorian is made up but the Hughes involvement with LASERS is real... Gordon Gould is also a real character.

  9. Well written and interesting. Makes me want to look up the history of the men more.

    Nicely done.

  10. Not only was that well done as a story in general it also worked well as a bit of historical fiction in particular. To give such a sense of time and place with such an economy of prose is impressive.

  11. I read this just coming off listening to some Lena Horne and her music was still in my background (probably will for a while, but what a great soundtrack for life) and seemed to match up with what was going on in your flash.
    I loved the texture of this piece, the descriptive atmosphere of the party, the mannish suit and tie opinions of the title character and the little bits of reality that tied everything together and gave it credence.
    Nice work, Anthony, you are always an interesting read.

  12. You have such a swagger in your writing, and this is no exception. Absolutely love the name Gregorian, and the voice was really good. Enjoyed, as always.


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