Heartlands: The Adhesion Coefficient (μ)

The ratio between vertical load (weight/mass) and adhesion force (the point at which to unlike things attract).


It’s Valentine’s Day afternoon. Marianne and Walter Sr. visit Walter’s childhood friend, Jason Pannetti. They have a nice brunch courtesy of Erin. The couples discuss the goings on with their lives, work and everything in-between. The women split into the living room, discussing television dramas and plays, while Walter and Jay walk out into the back patio.

“Thanks for having us over, Jay. I didn’t want to say it in front of Marianne, but I’ve been worried about our son Junior,” Walter says, lighting up a cigarette. “Junior’s always been strange. Reasonably strange for a highly-intelligent, highly-creative, kid, but nonetheless, strange as hell. The dreams he’s been having have been somewhat credible.”

“Like what?” Jay asks, sliding a glass ashtray over the table. They sit under the awning in Jay’s backyard and observe the light snow sprinkles drifting in the air; it clings to the outdoor furniture and the evergreen trees in the distance. Jay hunches over, perplexed, waiting for a response. With a heavy sigh, Walter Sr. exhales a plume of smoke away from Jay’s face. He stares off into the distance, then looks at Jay.

“Just weird stuff, Jay. He’s talked about his family before he was born. He had a wife and a daughter and worked some random job. Then, some guy brought him to some train tracks.”

Jay sits silent, nodding and sipping a steaming cup of Lavazza. He slurps the frothed milk. “We all have weird dreams, Walt. I mean that, in and of itself, is not all that peculiar. I dreamt I was made of marshmallows and lived in a world made of plastic. Then, a giant hand grabbed me and large ivory teeth bit into me, tearing my flesh as the hand pulled me away. In three bites, I was inside of a warm, dark place tossed around with my limbs until I woke up,” Jay says, warming his hands around his mug. “I’m an unimaginative adult. I can’t even fathom the intricacies of an incredibly sharp and imaginative child’s dreams, but I do know that, for the most part, dreams are just dreams. I mean, there could be some trauma you guys haven’t gotten to yet. Maybe recalling his birth is a traumatic experience. Maybe, that’s why we don’t remember the earliest years of our lives. The trauma of being ejected into a world and experiencing physical, emotional and mental stimulation. It’s overwhelming when you think about it. No one ever asks to be who or what they are. Shit, it’s crazy to me that even with all the pro-life and pro-choice garbage, we still never talk about the fact that no one asks to be born.”

Walter freezes. A chill runs up his spine. The hairs on the back of his neck and his forearms rise. He clears his throat and leans in, looking around. Jay doesn’t notice the terrified expression on Walter’s face. “I think, and this is going to sound nuts, Marianne thinks I should see a therapist for even suggesting it, but what if Junior did see something. What if there is another world, or other worlds, that we don’t know about. What if all of these worlds, realities, or whatever you want to call them, happen to attract each other just enough to tap each other, but never actually mix. And, somehow, some way, our spirit lives in one of these alternate places and there’s a force that, for lack of a better term, breaks the barrier between the other realm and ours. There’s natural force, other forces, and when they interact just right, meeting specific conditions, then BAM!” Walter exclaims, smashing a fist into his open palm. “Transmission. Exchange. Life.”

Jay snatches Walter’s pack of cigarettes and examines the packaging. He sighs and flings them back in Walter’s direction. The box skips and slides, then stops before the end of the table’s surface. “I get what you mean,” he says, “but you should probably smoke cigarette with 100% nicotine and no traces of THC, before you come talking this stuff with your buddy who happens to be an award-winning elementary school principal turned college professor,” Jay mutters, condescending and annoyed. He sighs again, then crosses his legs, fold his arms and takes a deep breath.

“Just saying, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy,” Walter declares, taking another puff. “Besides, Jay, remember when we used to smoke like chimneys? You know this doesn’t do anything to the mind in low doses. I doubt cigarettes with 2% THC can cloud anyone’s thinking. It probably isn’t even enough to get an infant to the moon, let alone over the crib.” Jay and Walter laugh.

Jay shrugs and reaches for one of Walter’s cigarettes. He marvels at it for a moment then puts it back in the pack. “Oh, I haven’t forgotten at all. I still have my bong and rip it with my woman from time-to-time. I guess you could be right, in the sense of mechanical engineering and physics, but I’m not sure that your son’s nightmares are a good foundation to form a hypothesis about the nature of reality. And, I say this because, my name isn’t Horatio. I know this better than I can explain, Walter,” Jay says, taking another sip of coffee. He smiles and shakes his head. “That’s not say it’s impossible. I believe there are other worlds and realities, but humans doing crossing them? No way.”

“I’m not gonna argue it, but I remain convinced, Jay,” Walter responds.

“Agree to disagree then,” Jay says. The men continue talking about work and their lives, reminiscing about the past. Jay reveals he plans to propose to his girlfriend Erin. Walter pats him on the shoulder and gives him a soft punch on the arm. After another cigarette and another cup of coffee, Walter calls out to Marianne who’s thumbing through magazines and conversing with Erin. They drive home, waved off by Jay and Erin.


Later that evening, Jay flosses his teeth and prepares for bed. He checks Erin out while she brushes her teeth and plucks her eyebrows. “Hey, Erin, you know how you said there were other planets with life and how some Mantleans can leave our planet, and how dragons are, if I remember correctly, born between realms -or realities- and need to incubate in a Void Egg?” Jay asks.

Erin clenches her teeth and presses her face against the mirror on her side of the bathroom. She examines her pearly whites and obsesses over her smooth, blemish free face. “Mhm,” she says, identifying imperfections on her face. “What of it, darling?” Erin asks.

“Humans, are we… uh.. Can we… I mean, is it possible humans are born, or at least are spirits exist, in another reality and then come here?” Jay inquires, puckering his lips to one side of his face, slightly self-conscious. “I know how redic-“

“You mean the Meta?” Erin interrupts. “Oh sure, sure. Yes. Humans, despite being filthy, hedonistic apes in life, as we’ve seen with your politicians of late, have special spirits and there’s a special thing about the human mind. I don’t understand the intricacies myself. Truthfully, my little Italian capuchin, there’s a lot I don’t know about humans because I simply do not care. Your nature leaves much to be desired, or at least most of you, I should say. Not all.” She smiles at Jay and shakes her hips. “Now, bed, mister human man.”

Jay blushes. “I’m always ready and willing, Erin, but this is serious.”

Erin scoffs and saunters to bed. She sits up against the headboard with her knees to her chest and parts her hair to the left. “Well, then, go on. I may not say anything of consequence, you know, but I will do my best, since your life is so fleeting. The least I can do is bring some brilliance to this flash of existence your life will ultimately end up being,” she says, casual and frank. “I love and adore you Jay, so please, inquire away, my darling.”

Jay leans against the doorframe to the bathroom. “The Schreren’s son-“

“The faint, ill-looking child with the unnatural curiosity? The one girls will likely avoid due to the disproportionately ugly pairing of the melon resting on his shoulders and the frail frame he calls a body?” she asks, tilting her chin up. “The fifth runt of the gorilla litter belonging to the one, clearly Habsburg-jawed, Walter and the pretty, yet obscenely dull, under-hygienic and overly-educated Marianne? That one?” She asks, gazing into the ceiling as if waiting for a divine response.

“Jesus. Tell me how you really feel. Yes, that one. Their youngest kid, Junior,” Jay says, somewhat offended, but also amused. “He’s had dreams about being alive in another capacity. He had a family, a job and then some guy brought him through some train tracks. Then, he was born.”

Erin, still unnecessarily pensive, clutches her knees and rests her beautiful flowing locks over her kneecaps. She takes a deep breath and exhales. “Well, at the risk of disappointing you, I didn’t pay attention in Human Ontology and Metaphysical Essentials Research and Studies. Such a dull subject. Though we all arise from the same place and still have much more learning on the matter of being and becoming, the human origins are just so droll it’s painful. I have friends that care about the subject. I will at once put you in touch. I assume you are aware that ‘at once’ means, sometime in the next few human years, when I get around to it.”

Jay laughs and flings a hairband at her. “Get out of here!” he exclaims. “I had no idea you were so busy Erin, but that’s fine, I suppose.”

“Well, there’s much of human entertainment that is so utterly engrossing that I can’t help, but find myself marveling for hours at the multitudes of your content. We have species with no care or mind of race, but you have race-specific content, gendered content, alphabet people, cartoons of humans with food fingers. It’s marvelous. To think that in lifetimes shorter than my adolescence you create such mind-boggling, engrossing, dramatic and thought-provoking content! The depths of humanity is so comical that it’s like watching a serpent trying to clap its hands, or meeting a gnome who doesn’t have a beard, or a hitchhiker without a thumb. I cannot get enough, my dear. I simply, as you monkeys say, cannot!” Erin has a good laugh at her own ignorant, yet innocent, curiosity and amusement. She brings herself to tears and finally finishes laughing. “To think that the most religious people are the first ones to be so gullible and prone to violence. Those who push human rights and freedoms inadvertently hurt their own cause by their own lack of enlightenment! Ha! Oh, how I can just go on and on! Humans are like an ape that picks its own anus and gets mad at the stench on its finger!”

“I get it, Erin. You’ll get to it, when you get to it,” Jay responds, rolling his eyes. “Jeez, god forbid, any conversation is simple with you.”

Erin wipes her tears and giggles some more. “If you were several thousand human years old, you’d think differently, my dear. I do not fault you for your inability to think beyond yourself. After all,” she pauses and chuckles, then says, “It’s only human!” She laughs some more and finally takes a breath. “In all seriousness, my darling sculpture of patience, I jest with truth as all the great thespians do. The frail, ugly one you call Walt Junior is correct. Obviously, it’s more complicated then a man and a train, and I scarcely know the intricacies, but rest assured, someone I know does. If not one of the immortals roaming the Earth, then one of the more aged Mantleans would have the knowledge to satisfy your questions.”

“Immortals? Like human immortals?” Jay asks. He makes his way to the bed, sliding out of his white t-shirt.

“Why, yes, of course. Foolish humans who made a deal with a trickster, or were captured by one of the many Mantleans using humans to play a game with each other. Fear not, I wouldn’t dare reach out to any of those kinds of perverted degenerates. They would likely give you immortality without hesitation, provided that you push an agenda solely based on providing them entertainment. We’ve tried to put and end to those activities, and mostly we have with Earthen Mantleans, but the ones who come from other planets, with magics and powers we do not comprehend, are beyond our jurisdiction, so we let them be. Albeit at the expense of humans, but the number of immortals across the cosmos is but a raindrop in the oceans of existence.” Erin leans back and removes her underwear. She looks at Jay then looks between her legs and winks. Jay smirks, parting her legs. “Enough of this talk. Let’s go to bed, darling.” She pats the back of Jay’s head. “Happy Valentine’s Day, indeed!”

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