It’s a beautiful day out. The sky is bright, the clouds pleasantly passing by, inviting dreams from the world below them. Today it seems that every child is out playing and doing what children do best. That is every child except one.
“A ray of light is incident on a boundary between vacuum and material that, at that particular frequency, has dielectric constant ε equals negative one and magnetic permeability μ equals negative one. The incidence angle is θ. What can you say about the direction of the reflected and the transmitted rays?”
A man in an extravagant black suit sits on a public bench with a small child watching idly as the world around him passes by. The boy is staring into the crowd of kids playing in the park across the street.
“I wanna go play with the other kids.”
“Jonathan you have to focus it is very important that you answer this question.”
“But dad I wanna go play-”
“Do not call me dad; you will call me Bruce just as I have told a thousand times over.”
Jonathan’s life has never been normal. While giving birth to him, Jonathan’s mother passed away. This left his father, Bruce, with nothing but his son. Bruce viewed Jonathan as the last remaining portion of the woman whom he had promised to spend the rest of his life with, and never let him out of his sight. Ever since Jonathan was born, his father recognized something special inside of him.
Unlike most other cases where a parent sees something ‘unique’ or ‘special’ inside their kid, Jonathan actually was special. He possessed a superior intellect and a knack for solving problems. The only problem being that somewhere along the way, Bruce’s possessiveness became obsessive. Bruce took advantage of his son’s intellect at the earliest possible age and Jonathan has spent the last three years bending to his father’s will. Today Bruce was being especially demanding.
Today Jonathan is scheduled to be interviewed to be accepted into Hoagies’ school for the gifted. As with most things in Jonathan’s life he had no idea what any of this entailed, just that he would do what Bruce or anyone else told him.
“Now answer the question.”
Jonathan sighed. “Shouldn’t they have imaginary parts?”
Bruce let out a small smile. “Assume they are very small.”
Another sigh. Jonathan hated assuming. It was inconsistent and seemed to take on the role of a missing symptom between diagnosing a fever and the Bubonic Plague.
“The angle of refraction is equal to the angle of incidence. Presumably however,” Jonathan paused, “the refracted ray is on the same side of the normal as the incident ray. The reflection angle would be equal to angle of incidence that is in the ‘normal’ direction if the material properties would be slightly different. So…”
Jonathan stopped in thought for a moment.
“For the given values of ε and μ we would have a perfect transmission. That would mean that there is no reflected wave.”
The father remained silent for a moment before an enormous smile crawled across his face.
“Good,” he said, “very good.”
“Why can’t I go play like the rest of the kids?”
“Because you’re not like the rest of the kids.”
Jonathan frowned. “Oh.”
“You’re better. You’re smarter and with that you will go farther than any of the other kids you see around you could ever hope to be.”
This answer didn’t make Jonathan feel any better. He hated being different. Nothing could make him feel more alone and more isolated than when his father called him different. It was like being born with a tail, except no amount of surgery could help him.
“Come on,” Bruce said, “It’s time to go in for the interview.”
He followed Bruce across a side walk and into a dull cement building. The front door was a rotating door that was surrounded by daunting Corinthian pillars guarding the inside. Jonathan stopped just short of the door. He looked up.
“I can’t do this.”
“Yes. You. Can.”
“N-no I can’t.”
“And you will, now get inside that door.”
Broken Jonathan entered the turning panels of class.
The inside of the building was just about as colorful as it was outside. The same boring white covered every inch of the walls and ceiling. The floor was something between cold steel and synthetic rock. It smelled like a hospital. Inside the middle of the lounge sat a large crap-wood desk where a single overweight woman sat typing away on an iMac.
Bruce and Jonathan approached her.
“We’re here to see Mr. Fowler.”
The woman didn’t look up from her computer.
“Take a seat, he’ll see you shortly.”
They both looked around, no chairs. So they stood.
Six and half minutes later a fat man with a beard walked through a door and stopped at the woman’s desk and stared at a sheet of paper hidden behind a clipboard. He was wearing a grey suit that didn’t very little to hide his immense girth. His head was balding; the small amount of hair that remained was a small clip that seemed reminiscent of Alfalfa from a Little Rascals short. Jonathan thought he resembled a snowman.
Bruce stood up. “Yes?”
“I’m afraid I was talking to your son.”
Jonathan took a step forward.
“If you’ll come with me, we have a few tests we would like you to take.”
Jonathan followed the snowman.
They entered a smaller room and the snowman closed the door behind him.
“Okay. What I’m going to do is have you take this test.”
He handed Bruce a packet and sheet of paper filled with bubbles labeled with letters of the alphabet.
“Everything is already filled out just go ahead and read the book and answer the questions to the best of your ability and come get me when your finished.” The snowman handed him a pencil before he opened the door and left.
Jonathan opened the book and stared at the first page:
Question #1: Two men, starting at the same point, walk in opposite directions for 4 meters, turn left and walk another 3 meters. What is the distance between them?
Jonathan had taken these tests before. They never got any easier. No, it wasn’t difficult, but they were completely pointless. Why would two men do something even remotely similar to that? It made no sense.
Closing his eyes, he put his pencil to the bubble filled paper and colored in a circle. Looking down he noticed he had filled in question bubble A.
The answer was completely inane. Just like the question. As Bruce had said, “Turn-around is fair play.” He read the next question. He filled in another random bubble. He chuckled. This was fun. In fact, he might even do it again. And he did. Again. Again. And again. He filled in bubbles, making funny little faces and things resembling diamonds.
By the time he was finished he was quite happy with himself. He grabbed the answer sheet and left the room. He found the snowman standing next to his father.
“Hey,” Jonathan said, “I’m finished.”
“My, that is the quickest I think I’ve ever seen someone take that test.” The snowman looked at Bruce. “You’re son must be quite the scholar.” Bruce smiled, overflowing with insincere modesty.
The snowman took the piece of paper from Jonathan and walked up to the desk where he picked up clipboard and withdrew a piece of paper with innumerable holes punched into it. He placed the paper over Jonathans and stared.
His eyes seemed to widen as he set the clipboard down and let out a sigh.
“Sir, I’m afraid you do not have the skills required to attend Hoagie’s school for the gifted.
“What?” Bruce gawked.
“As I said, your son does not have the intellect required to attend this institution.”
“Let me see that piece of paper.”
Bruce grabbed the clip board and looked at the sheets paper. Three shaded dots shone through the answer sheet.
Bruce stepped back. “But…this. It can’t…it isn’t.”
“I’m afraid I have other matters to attend to. Now if you’ll excuse me.”
The Snowman left.
Bruce turned to Jonathan, his face ablaze.
“Do you realize…do you have any conceivable idea what you have just done?”
Jonathan took a step back.
“Do you realize what you’ve done? You have compromised your entire future. Do you want to end up as one of them?” he pointed towards a couple sitting outside.
Jonathan studied the couple sitting outside. They were dressed in casual clothing, smiling and sharing what looked to be a Rueben sandwich. While he didn’t care for Reubens he would happily have eaten one regardless, if it would get him out of here. Jonathan didn’t say anything, but he wanted to.
Wanting. Jonathan has spent as long as he could remember doing what Bruce wanted. He continued to stare at the couple outside. They seemed perfectly happy not being ‘exceptional’ or any of the other words people had used to describe Jonathan’s ‘condition’.
Happiness. It was something Jonathan had seen in small doses his entire life. Normally deriving from a belated birthday present, from a relative he had never met, that his father hadn’t managed to send back. Bruce had told him that the presents weren’t appropriate for him, that they were too ‘childish’ and ‘simple minded’. Jonathan hated it.
He hated what Bruce made him do. He hated Bruce. He was tired of being forced to do things against his will. As much as Bruce insisted to the contrary, he knew he was no different than any of the other kids. He didn’t care about math or science. He wanted to play, and with his father controlling his every move, he knew that he would never get the chance. With that thought in mind, he ran, past his father, through the rotating door, and into the city outside.
“Jonathan!” his father cursed, stopping at the door.
Jonathan ignored him. He continued forwards into the street. He had to get as far away from this as possible. Barely missing the oncoming traffic, he ignored everything around him.
Eventually he got tired and decided to stop. He was surrounded by greenery; trees, brush, poison ivy, and something resembling a raspberry bush. Jonathan had never seen something like this. He liked it. It was fantastic.
Jonathan stumbled forwards for a couple more steps before falling into the grass beneath him. It felt good. He rolled onto his back and stared at the sky. Dozens of clouds stared back at him. Some rabbits, others creatures that he had never seen before.
If time continued to pass, Jonathan didn’t notice.
Eventually Jonathan caught the sound of a wispy cough off to his side. He turned towards it and saw a boy staring back at him.
“You want some candy?”
The boy that stood in front of him was his age, but seemed totally different. His face was covered with dried chocolate, while his left hand had a half opened package of Smarties and a flattened Fun-sized Snickers bar.
Jonathan stood up.
“Sure.” Jonathan took the molten Snickers and began to unwrap it. The liquid chocolate smeared onto his hands. Jonathan grunted and began to wipe the chocolate onto the grass.
“That’s not how you do it,” the other kid said.
“Huh?” Jonathan asked.
“Like this.” The boy proceeded to put it of his fingers and suck of them delicately each one making a slobbery pop as it left his mouth.
“Oh, okay.” Jonathan repeated what he had just been shown, but failed to make the pop when he was finished, leaving him feeling slightly dissatisfied.
They both stood in silence.
“So what’s your name?”
“Jonathan? That’s a weird name.”
The child thought for a moment. “How about Johnny?”
Jonathan thought about this. His entire life he had been known as Jonathan. Never once had he been called anything else. The idea of having another name left him both uneasy and intrigued.
“Okay, I guess.” He finally murmured. “And what is yours.”
“My name is Steven Walker Demitri, but you can call me Biscuit.”
“Yeah, you know. The food.”
“Yeah, I know…it’s just…I’ve never called anyone-”
“You’re weird.” said Biscuit, suddenly.
“I’m sorry?” Jonathan said, semi-apologetically.
“You wanna go play on the jungle gym?”
Jonathan closed his eyes and smiled. “Yeah, I think I do.”
It was too late; Biscuit had burst off into towards the swings.
“Last one there is a rotten egg,” he screamed.
Johnny sped off after him.