Greg flicked a lintball off the arm of his sweater and watched it follow a perfect arc into his coffee cup where it floated, serenely mocking him. “Piece of shit,” he said.
Helen quietly pulled his cup towards her and pushed her own, lint-free cup in front of him. She touched the lint ball and it stuck to the tip of her finger. She peered at it and said, “You know, this may be the perfect lint-ball!”
“Sorry to get it wet,” Greg said, taking a sip from his new cup. “You must be getting close to having a complete collection.”
“You mean, for the gallery showing?” Helen asked. “I think this one will do it. It’s exactly what I needed! Once it dries, of course.”
Jessica said, “Mom, I have to tell you something.”
“Yes, honey?” her mom replied.
“I’ve been accepted into a government program. I can’t tell you much, but I can say that you may never see me again.”
“Oh? But Jesse, you can’t leave me alone. After your father died, you’re all I have left!” her mother said, her voice wavering.
“I know that, Mom. That’s why I’ve arranged for someone to come take my place. Her name is Lisa. I think you’ll like her.”
John approached the box and looked at it. It was closed tight, so he had no idea what might be inside, but something about the appearance of the box attracted him and he found himself irresistibly drawn to it. He felt the sides of the box, looking for a way to open it.
“Careful, John,” Karen said. “It could be dangerous.” Even as she said it, she knelt down and looked closely, apparently helping him look for a way to open it.
John felt a small crack and tried to use his fingernails to open the box. Once he got a little bit of a hold, the lid opened smoothly and easily, as if the box wanted to be opened. He gazed inside and at first thought it was empty, but then he realized he could see clouds floating within. If he looked at it one way, they looked like they were impossibly far away, but in another way, they were little puffs of smoke, somehow frozen in the small space.
Karen reached in and took one of the clouds, pulling it out of the box. Small flashes of lightning trailed in its wake as she placed it in the palm of one hand. Tiny rumblings of what might have been thunder followed. John reached in and took one of his own and held it to his eye. Just then, an airplane the size of a fly emerged from the cloud and flew into John’s eye. He screamed and dropped the cloud, which simply floated there in front of his face. The airplane, however, fell, bouncing off his chest and nose-diving into the floor. A tiny explosion lit the room before subsiding into a small fire that Karen quickly stamped out with one foot.