072. Returning. Christina Holbrook

He pushes off from the beach, steadying himself as the canoe glides through the water. On the opposite shore sits the lake house, patient as stone.

The child he once was, all skinned knees and elbows, runs from house to shore to meet his middle-aged self. Before his parents died. Before their house was sold to strangers.

Bare feet step into the shallows, seeking solid ground. How long has he wished for the day the usurping strangers, too, would succumb to the passage of time, death, or family dispersing?

He’s waited all these years. To climb the steep path, the wide stairs, to stand before the front door in which—there—reflected in the glass panes he sees the child he left behind.

He pulls the key from his pocket.

071. Hope. Karen Walker

I hope that’s water I’ve stepped in.

Flick on the bare bulb. Nope. There’s a yellow puddle on the cracked linoleum.

Daisy will hold it through the night soon. My furry white roly-poly will have a backyard, grass someday. I’ll build a tall fence. Until then, I shiver in the black alley at 11 p.m., 2 a.m., 5.

What’s a little more pee down here behind our low-rent? Stinks. I pull her away from garbage, watch for needles. Rats.

There’s one in a doorway: Slick John. Sold me nightly when I was a pretty pup. “Hey, cutie,” he says.

Daisy growls.

070. Monkey Theorem. Brett Abrahamsen

The infinite monkey theorem states that an infinite number of monkeys, at an infinite number of typewriters, for an infinite amount of time, will almost certainly type the complete works of William Shakespeare.

Absurd, he thought, they’re devaluing what it means to be human, to have brains as big as ours. The monkeys wouldn’t get anywhere. It would be gibberish for infinity.

He had even tried the experiment himself, merely to prove there are certain instances that simply cannot and will not ever occur. He took a monkey from an expedition and sat him at a typewriter. sjflngdssjfwepapfpa, it wrote.

He eventually decided that he had to find out what the distinct qualities were that made Shakespeare such a genius – that is, what made him such that no monkey could replicate him. Not enough was known, as bardologists may note, about his physical appearance, his sexuality, perhaps his brain structure, and so forth – all of the things that might have identified him, distinguished him, separated him. There was only one logical way to find this out. He proceeded to fly to England and dig up Shakespeare’s corpse.

He waited till night, when there were no police around – then began to dig. After several feet, he stumbled upon a faded note lying in the soil between him and the corpse. Perhaps it was the bard’s self-composed epitaph, he thought, or a sonnet of some sort, long lost – until now.

He stared at the note, scarcely legible in the fading moonlight. It read:

The human race has existed for ten quadrillion septillion years. When the species first appeared, it was just as evolved as it is now, in the present day. It was aware from its inception that something in the order of great literature could theoretically be created. Regrettably, it had neither the time nor the motivation to conceive of it itself. It elected instead to run an experiment, an experiment that would take infinite years and an infinite number of resources. This experiment was called the “infinite monkey theorem.” Every monkey in the world was employed at a typewriter for the duration of its life. The results were, at first, dismal, but then at random the monkeys hit a patch of rather incredible luck: Beowulf, the Odyssey, the Canterbury Tales, and so forth. A scant several hundred years later one monkey hit upon an extraordinary wealth of words: it banged out Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Othello, and so on. The last of its kind. If you happen upon this 500 years later, around the year 2000 perhaps, I can forewarn you that there shouldn’t be much of anything good to read – you’ll have plenty of mediocre books, certainly, but nothing at all worth your time.

Below the note was the corpse, brown and furry, with something that looked like a long-decomposed banana hanging out of its mouth. Next to it was a plaque that read:

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
BELOVED APE, ACCIDENTAL GENIUS
1564 – 1616