Banging the Biedermeier

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Mother and Father sipped their afternoon coffee in the comfort of their living room. They enjoyed themselves. They had just made their peace with their son not wanting to cut his hair.

“Boys will be boys.” Mother said.
“Yes, dear.” Father said. “He will most certainly grow out of it.”
“As it were.” Mother said. “Another biscuit, dear?”
She attempted to giggle. Father picked up the clue at once and laughed.
“Yes, please.” Father rumbled. “Two, in fact.”
“Oh, you mustn’t.”
“But I must.” Father insisted. “Did you notice how he went straight upstairs today? No argument. No word. Indeed, I must. Two biscuits, dear.”
“What do you think he’s doing up there now?” Mother asked.
“Do you really want to know, dear?” Father answered and added. “Hahaha.”

Mother smiled but said nothing.


“Did you hear that? What was that?” Mother asked. Father had already cocked his head in astonishment.


“Most peculiar.” he said. “Shall we investigate?”
“Yes. Please do.”
“Oh, er, yes.” he said.

He went upstairs, silently, making sure to avoid the very floor boards which had ruined many a sneak attempt at listening in on his son‘s endeavours.


He put his ear to the door.


And drew it back immediately. He took a deep breath and opened the door.


The boy flicked greasy hair out of his face. He said nothing. He stared at the dark outline of Father in front of the bright lights in the corridor. Father stared back.

“What…?” Father asked rather meekly.

The boy held up a hammer. In front of him, there were two piles on a board. To the boy’s left, Father recognized what looked like a fair amount of wintergreen candy. To the boy’s right, under the hammer held aloft, there was powder.

“It’s not what you think it is.” the boy said.
“I’m not sure I think anything.” Father replied.
“You see”, the boy continued, “if you use this hammer to crush the candy, and you do it in a dark room, it gives off light.”

There was silence.

“If that makes sense.” the boy said. “I mean, the candy gives off light, not the room.”
“See, when you stress the right kind og material, you know, then it gives off light. not much light, you need to turn off the, er, light.

Father’s silhouette stayed very still for a while as he listened. Eventually, however, he took a careful step inside and closed the door behind him.

“—!” the boy stopped.
“Tell me,” Father said. “why would candy radiate like that? Is that something to do with energy conservation?”
“Come on, boy! It’s long ago, but I did go to school, too.” Father said. “Mr Wilkens, I remember, Mr Wilkens always told us that when you didn’t understand things in physics, you should start with energy conservation. And this I don’t understand. Do you?”
“Well. No.” the boy hesitated. “But I try to find out.»
«Good. Good.»
«Here’s the hammer, dad.”

Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!

They crouched working together. Son beaming and Father getting more into the experiment than he would later admit. The voice of Mother stopped it:

“What are you two doing?!”

Father turned around.

“You have to see this, dear!” he said.


© 2020 Alexander Biebricher All Rights Reserved.

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