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Reading to Jacob

- Abstract

Every night he reads to his beloved dead brother. Reads poetry, reads stories, and, accompanying himself clumsily on guitar, sings Jacob’s own songs to him. The odd thing about this is that Michael is a non-believer. Or no; he’s a believer all right—but in nothing—he has certainty that there is nothing beyond or within the material world. The material world is not a veil masking a deeper reality. It’s just what is. Not that Michael believes only in what we can see. He believes in a world best explained by impossible-to-see quantum mechanics and string theory, best described by equations—problematic, quirky, even irrational. He was a double major at Cornell, marketing and physics. Now he’s a successful businessman and a confirmed skeptic. However strange the world might be, it is not holy, not partaking of spirit, whatever that word means. And when we die, we die. Jacob is dead. That’s it, and he’s sure. He’s sure. Michael mourns, he weeps when he can’t stop himself—only when he’s not observed. But he doesn’t want to lie to himself. There are no bridges to another world and no other world to reach.

About the Author

John J. Clayton is the author, most recently, of the short-story collection Many Seconds into the Future. His latest stories in Commentary are “Light Gleams an Instant” (July/August 2012) and “The Name Changer” (March 2011).