“We have reason to believe that the recent news of a talking ping pong ball is a hoax!” said a newscaster the next morning. “The talking ping pong balls have seemed to disappear suddenly and without notice! The entire thing could be just a puppet show, or computer generated images. I’m informed that causing cameras all over the city to malfunction in the exact same way at the exact same time is extremely difficult, but who knows? Perhaps the instigator of this plot was an extremely difficult person. More at thirteen—I mean, eleven. We also have news of the recent robbery of a rubber duck factory off the coast of Tennessee. We’ll be back with that just after this break.” The man looked busy for a few seconds as the camera zoomed out for effect, then got up and stretched, off camera. “Get me a coffee,” he ordered an underling. “Was that news true? About the ping pong ball?” His camera crew shrugged. The man who owned the ball had somehow lost it the day before. No one knew what to make of it.
“You know what,” said Gene the next morning after they were released. They were walking along a sidewalk in downtown Atlanta. Boswick hadn’t pressed charges. “I think we can use those two things against Boswick.” He pointed at Steve and Sam, who were resting on Cole’s shoulder.
“Can we forget about Boswick?” groaned Cole, looking up at the sky.
“No. We’re going to get famous instead of him.”
“Oh, that will be fun,” said Steve, giving the impression of shooting a withering glance at Gene. “I feel used already.”
“Stop it, Steve,” said Sam. “Just because you were abducted twice in a week doesn’t mean you should be nasty.”
“Maybe I’m not being nasty,” Steve shouted. “Maybe I’m being kinder than normal!” People across the street began to look for the source of the noise.
“Shut it, Steve,” said Cole. To Gene he said, “I think we should just stop chasing Boswick.”
“Well, aren’t you weak,” sneered his grandfather. “Why would we do that?”
“Because there’s no reason to go any farther.”
“No reason to go any farther,” repeated Gene in a high voice. “You heard what I was saying. You don’t think that’s reason enough?”
Gene grunted. “Well, I’m going to make those two things public.”
“Things? We are not things! Well, maybe Sam is. But I’m not! And I’m nobody’s claim to fame!”
“Maybe I’ll make one of those things public,” Gene threatened.
“You aren’t leaving me out of this!” yelled Steve.
“Maybe I’ll just destroy you!”
“Never mind. But I still want in on it.”
“We have reason to believe that the recent news of a talking ping pong ball being a hoax is in fact a hoax as well!” said the newscaster later that day. “Two other men have procured two more ping pong balls that also talk, though the original ball is still missing. Of course, we could be fooled again, so be on your guard! It is my opinion that this hoax about the news about the ping pong balls being hoaxes is a hoax as well. More at two.”
The sun saw it all. Boswick and Karen driving home, defeated; Gene and Cole (though mostly Gene) arguing that his ping pong balls were authentic and failing; the newscaster getting yet another plastic surgery operation. He saw as time went on and they all grew older. Gene died, Boswick died. Steve and Sam were lost, arguing all the way. Cole and Karen both grew older and eventually both died. Times changed, and whether it was for the better or for the worse, the sun couldn’t tell. He found the accelerator on his boat, sending massive winds over most of the earth for a few “days” as he sped across the sky, but he didn’t find any joy in it. Eventually he slowed down and defrosted parts of the earth that he had missed in his erratic course through the heavens, watching politicians argue about the wildly fluctuating temperatures. First global warming, then global cooling, then global warming again. Pretty soon they were going to be complaining about global equilibrium, when the temperature never changed from year to year.
In another hundred years he was relieved of his duty by a bouncy young lad, and went to retire in the retirement home for old suns, known to earthlings as stars. There he spent his days watching the earth below just as he once did, and watching the new sun searching for the gas pedal on the new boat they had given him last Christmas.
The sun was depressed, and he didn’t really want to live. So he decided to be the youngest star ever to go out with a bang.
About half a millennium later the sun exploded, sending the most depressing supernova ever to earth’s telescopes. His last thought was this: Fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
I apologize for the rather abrupt and potentially saddening ending, but the fact is that I lost interest in this story after about chapter four. The first chapter was the only good one, in my opinion, and the only members of that chapter were the only good characters: Steve, Sam and the sun. It might be a coincidence that all three characters have names starting with S, but possibly not. Anyway, I hope you liked this story at least a little bit, and I hope to give you better examples of my writing in the future.
Just a note: I always wanted to do a heartbreaking ending, where none of the characters (or the readers) get what they wanted in the end, a Shakespearean tragedy sort of ending. Unfortunately, I always wanted to do that with a story I actually liked, so that ending is still on my list of things to do in writing. The next thing on that list is to write something good, which seems to be failing as well.
I won’t be starting the Phil Phorce immediately, but probably somewhere in April or May I’ll begin that. Thank you for reading!