The day a black hole appeared in Riley’s living room was a day he’d never forget.
He’d imagined black holes to have the suction of a zillion vacuum cleaners, but this one
sizzled quietly between his Barcalounger and TV, and didn’t absorb anything except
small objects like his cell phone.
Word leaked quickly (oh, the irony), and Riley’s bachelor home was besieged by
reporters. Afraid to lose his tranquility, he almost ignored the doorbell when Beth
O’Toole rang. Bred to be polite, Riley opened the door and found a chestnut haired
woman in her late thirties.
“I’m sorry to bother you, but I teach sixth grade at the elementary school, and I’d
love to show my kids your black hole. Is tomorrow convenient?”
Beth O’Toole ran a tight ship. “Buddy system! Link arms! Not too close!” Not
a single child got sucked in during the visit. Riley was impressed.
Riley received a handwritten note of thanks the following day. Beth O’ Toole’s
script was precise and perfect.
In gratitude, the sixth grade students at Braeburne
Elementary School cordially invite you to their class play,
The Wizard of Oz, which will be performed next
Saturday at 2 p.m. in the school auditorium.
Riley’s romantic history was nasty, brutish and short, but after he took in the play (which
was nifty), he blurted, “Would you like to have dinner with me?”
“Why, yes, I would,” said Beth O’Toole.
The steakhouse he took her to boasted a gigantic neon sign that sizzled like the
black hole. She looked as crisp as a newly starched shirt.
Riley proposed over the mixed berry tarts.
“But I just met you,” she protested.
“I feel like I’ve known you forever.”
To show her he was serious, they drove to his house and stood in silence before
the black hole. He gripped her tightly around the waist to stop her from being sucked
in, marveling at how thin she was. Deep in the black hole, somewhere near the
beginning of time, flecks of light danced.
“Why, it’s magical,” she exclaimed. “Yes, I’ll marry you.”
As thrilled as she was to be married, Beth quickly realized that the black hole
had captured her husband. She couldn't pry him away. “I made a mistake, I’ll never have
your full attention.”
He was disconsolate but understanding when she asked for an annulment. After
all, he still had the black hole and she had nothing. A month after the wedding, he
helped carry her things to the car.
She kissed him on the cheek. “Goodbye, Riley. Be well.”
He awoke in the dark of night. The first blow was remembering that Beth was
gone. The second was the silence – he couldn’t hear the familiar sizzle from the living
He bolted downstairs. The air between the Barcalounger and TV was unruffled.
With a howl, he embraced where the black hole had been. "Take me with you!" he moaned.
Riley tried not to take the disappearance personally, but it was hard.