Bald Tube


(I sincerly apologize for this, especially to those of you who read to the punch line at the end)

It all began innocently enough one spring morning when Leonard’s teenage daughter, Ariel, on her way out to school, asked Leonard if he knew what the weather was supposed to be like.  Before Leonard could answer that he hadn’t seen a forecast, his daughter stared at him.

“What’s that on your head?” She was looking at the top of his bald head.  “Oh, my God!”

“What?”

“Your head!”  she said.  Colors, including vibrant reds and blues, started appearing on Leonard’s head, moving and bleeding into one another until they took the shape of a weather map of the corner of southeast Wisconsin where they lived, with a smiling sun and the words “Hi 57, Low 41”.  “How are you doing that?”

“Doing what?”

“Your head!”   She led him into the bathroom mirror, but by the time they got there, the image was gone.

“Very funny.”   His kids loved to make fun of his bald head.

He finished his morning rituals, kissed his wife, and drove to work.   After reading thru the e-mails in his in-box, he went to get a cup of coffee.   He nodded to Jenkins and Williams, fellow managers in I.T. at  Pipcorn Industries, who were in a typical early morning debate.

“Leonard”, Jenkins said, “maybe you could help settle a debate we’re having.  Who threw the pass to Christain Laettner when Duke beat Kentucky?”

As Leonard started cycling through his memory banks, Williams pointed at the top of his bald head and said, “Look.”

Again, colors started to bleed on Leonard’s head, and soon a video of the famous play was playing.  Both men stood with their mouths gaping open.

“What?”, Leonard asked.

“Ha!  I told you it was Grant Hill!”  Jenkins raised his hand for a high-five.   Nobody responded.

“What?”  Leonard was getting impatient.

“How’d you do that?”  Williams asked

“Do what?”

“Play that video.  A video just played on your head,” Williams responded

“Let me see”, Leonard said, looking for a mirror.

“It’s gone now,” Williams replied.  “But it was a video, a replay of the Duke Kentucky game.”

“A video?”  Leonard asked.

“But there wasn’t any sound,” Jenkins contributed.

“That was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen”, Williams said.

Leonard told them about his daughter seeing the weather map earlier that morning.  Being IT professionals, they quickly used their trouble shooting skills to determine that the visuals appeared on Leonard’s head in response to questions.  “Let’s try asking it another question”, Williams suggested.   Leonard agreed, but insisted they go into the men’s room first and stand in front of a mirror.  He was eager to see what everyone was talking about.

They ventured to the men’s room, debating what question to ask, when Williams said, “Don’t worry, I know what to ask.”

They entered the men’s room and stood before the big mirror, Leonard in the center.  “O.K., we’re ready”, Jenkins said

“All right, “ Williams started, smiling and exchanging a glance with Leonard and Jenkins.   “Here goes:  what was Selma Hayek’s role in From Dusk till Dawn?”

“Oh, for cripes sake,” Leonard complained.

“What?  It’s the greatest scene in movie history!” Williams replied.

Before they could say another word, colors appeared and started bleeding into each other on top of Leonard’s head.  Soon the bikini clad image of Selma Hayek, with a snake draped around her shoulders, started gyrating on top of Leonard’s head.

“It’s unbelievable”, Williams exclaimed in delight.

“What the Hell?” Leonard’s jaw dropped.

“You’ve got a fucking Youtube on your head!”, Williams proclaimed.

“But there’s still no sound,” Jenkins complained.

“What’s wrong with you?”, Williams looked at Jenkins.

“I’m just saying.  It’d be better with sound,” Jenkins replied.

“Shut the fuck up!”, Leonard said, panicking.  Selma Hayek was still dancing seductively on top of his head.  “What the Hell is going on?”

“Let’s ask it another one, “ Williams said.

It?   ‘Let’s ask it another one?’”  Leonard replied.

“Yeah.   What’s wrong?” Williams asked, perplexed.

It happens to be my head!”  Leonard was upset.  “Listen, no more questions.  And please, don’t tell anybody about this, not until I figure out what’s going on.”

They went their separate ways, back to their offices, back to work.  Pipcorn industries were the leading manufacturer of shoelaces in the Midwest.  There had been a lot of stress lately, with sales down due to the popularity of sneakers that used Velcro straps instead of shoelaces, and there were rumors of restructuring.  Leonard realized he had a management meeting at 9:00, and he knew lots of questions would be asked.  He knew that he wasn’t as prepared for the meeting as he should be, but any worries about that paled in comparison to the distraction his head would cause.  Leonard did not like being the center of attention.  Opening his center desk door, he found a baseball cap that had been given to him as part of a promotional campaign for SL-17, the company’s new product launch, a shoelace designed to not come untied, targeted to compete with Velcro shoes.  Leonard decided he’d wear the cap to the meeting.

At 8:58, Williams and Jenkins stopped by Leonard’s office and picked him up on the way to the meeting.  They noticed the cap, and Leonard again reminded them not to say anything about the weird videos.   They entered the meeting room, already half full, and found a seat at the long rectangular table.  Everyone was waiting for Davis, the Vice President, to arrive.  All eyes were on Leonard, and he could hear the soft murmur of whispers and feel the stares of his colleagues around the table, when Davis entered.  He stood at the head of the table, put down his stack of notebooks and papers, and looked up.  “Good morning”, he started.

“Good morning”, the rest of the team replied in unison.

“We’ve got a lot to …”, he said, looking around the room, when he caught site of Leonard in his baseball cap.  “Leonard, what the Hell is that on your head?”

“It’s the SL-17 cap”, he proudly replied, “I thought I’d wear it to show my support of the product launch.”  He smiled.

“Leonard, this is a professional environment.   With all due respect ….”

Leonard sheepishly removed the cap.

“Now”, Davis started, “Are the latest market trend figures available?”

Wilson from Marketing rose and started to give his report when Davis glanced at Leonard.

“Excuse me”, Davis interrupted.  “Leonard, what the Hell is that on your head?”  Colors had started to bleed and before Leonard could respond, they had formed a bar graph of the latest shoelace market trends.

“Without looking,” Leonard said, “I’d guess it’s probably a market trend report.”

Sure enough, on Leonard’s head was a graph showing the trend of the different product lines in the shoelace market.   Everybody gasped and stared.

“Um, I think the paper copy in your portfolio is easier to read”, Wilson said, trying to regain control of his presentation.

“Leonard, what is going on?”  Davis demanded.

“I don’t know, sir.  Since I woke up this morning, my head has been answering questions.”

“Your head has been answering questions?”  What the Hell does that mean?”

“It’s true”, Williams replied.  “I saw it this morning.  It answers whatever you ask it.”

“But there’s no sound,” Jenkins added.

“But really, ask it a question,” Williams said.  “Some sort of fact based question.”

“Let me try,” Ferguson from engineering volunteered.  Ferguson was an ass, always looking for an opportunity to display his superior intellect and to make others feel stupid.  “What”, he started, a smug expression on his face, “is the equation that describes how the quantum state of a physical system changes with time?”  He sat back and smirked, satisfied that no one else in the room would have any idea of what he was talking about.

The room grew silent as everyone watched the colors materialize and start to bleed on Leonard’s head until they formed:

i \hbar \frac{\partial}{\partial t}\Psi = \hat H \Psi

“Is that right?” Davis asked Ferguson.

Amazed, Ferguson said “That’s almost right.  It’s the Schrodinger equation but I didn’t specify …”

Before he could finish, the words “the general time –dependent Schrodinger equation” flashed on Leonard’’s head.

“.. time dependent or non-relativistic” Ferguson muttered.  The room broke into applause.  “Leonard,” Ferguson said, “I had no idea you were a mathematician.”

“I’m not,” he replied, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“This is amazing,” Davis exclaimed.  “Who was the 16h president of the United States?”, he asked.

Sure enough, an image of Abraham Lincoln appeared on Leonard’s head.  The room broke into applause again.  “Will Jeff ask me to marry him?”. Henderson, the pretty blonde from accounting, blurted out.  The room grew quiet and stared at Leonard’s head in anticipation, but nothing materialized.

“For crying out loud,” Davis said.  “It’s not a magic eight ball!  It can’t predict the future!”  Davis was a take-charge type.  “It only answers factual questions.”

Davis adjourned the meeting early, and asked Leonard to stay behind.  “Leonard”, he told him, “how long has this been going on?”

“Since I woke up this morning.”

“Any idea why?”  Leonard shook his head.  “Did you do anything different this morning?  Eat anything unusual before you went to bed last night?”

“No sir”   Leonard was starting to feel nauseous.  He felt cold and dizzy.

“Leonard, you don’t look so good.  Maybe you should take the rest of the day off.”

Leonard agreed.  He went home, and shut the blinds to his bedroom and got under the covers and quickly fell asleep.   He woke up about a half hour later to the sound of his doorbell ringing.   Peeking through the blinds, he could see a crowd had gathered in front of his house, and there were television news trucks and cameramen in his driveway.

He opened the front door and three men stuck microphones in his face.  Cameras were aimed upon him.

“Leonard”, one of the men shouted, “who starred with Frankie Avalon in Beach Blanket Bingo?”

“What?” Leonard asked.  “Why are you …” before he could finish the sentence someone shushed him, and he realized everyone was looking at the top of his head.  The crowd broke into thrilled applause when the image of Annette Funicello appeared in her white one piece bathing suit, tossing a beach ball to Frankie Avalon.

Leonard made the local news that evening.  The next day all three of the network morning shows were at his house, with Matt Lauer asking him trivia questions about NBC television shows like The Biggest Loser and 30 Rock.  When it was time for the weather, Al Roker came on and asked for a national forecast, and the network broadcast the map that appeared on Leonard’s head.

Leonard’s head quickly became a national sensation, with late night comedians making jokes about it, and panels on CNN and MSNBC and Fox news discussing the political ramifications.  Meanwhile, all types of specialists and experts, from psychics to neurologists to phenomenologist were speculating on the cause of the videos, agreeing only on the point that Leonard’s head had never been wrong.  After his initial reluctance and his natural tendency to avoid attention, Leonard started cashing in on the mania, making millions of dollars and becoming a major celebrity.  He quit his job at Pipcorn Industries, and moved his family from their middle class suburban home to an palatial Bel Air mansion.   His head became a weekly feature on the Jay Leno show, with Jay asking a series of wacky questions, and once a month taking Leonard out for a hilarious man on the street segment.

Finally, a consortium of philosophers and theologians got tired of the trivia that was being asked of Leonard’s head and decided they had some questions of their own.  They scheduled an hour, to be broadcast on CNN, to ask Leonard’s head some weightier questions.  Leonard, who had no religious training and never spent much time thinking about his place in the universe, was nervous and apprehensive about the program.  He insisted that CNN run a disclaimer that the answers given by his head in no ways reflected his personal beliefs.   This plus the quarter of a million dollars he was being paid to sit for the hour were sufficient to gain his approval for the show.

The show was broadcast live on CNN.  Behind a desk sat a panel of a noted existential philosopher, a famous astrophysicist, and noted theologians representing the major faiths of the world.  Leonard sat alone in front of the panel on a chair, with a television camera focused on his head.  Wolf Blitzer, as the moderator, kicked the program off with introductions, then added, “we don’t know how or why the images form on Leonard’s head, we know only two things:  they appear in response to fact based questions, and, to date, after being asked tens of thousands of questions, they’ve never been wrong.”  He then laid out the format of the program, that each panelist would take turns asking questions.

The astrophysicist started by asking “how did the universe begin?”   A colorful and spectacular five minute video describing the Big Bang appeared on Leonard’s head, much to the astrophysicist’s amazed delight.  Then it was the philosopher’s turn, and he asked, “Is there a God?”  Colors moved about on Leonard’s head and then they all turned black, until Leonard’s entire head was solid black.   It stayed that way for about 10 seconds, and then vanished.  Wolf Blitzer intoned, “it didn’t appear to answer that one.”     Then one of the theologians asked, “What does the afterlife look like?”   Again, the same solid black pattern appeared for about ten seconds and disappeared.   Wolf interjected, “It appears we are having technical difficulties.   The head seems to be malfunctioning.   Let’s take a break for a word from our sponsors.”

As the commercial played, on the set, all Hell was breaking lose.  Wolf and his producer were screaming at Leonard, demanding an explanation, while the panel was violently arguing about the meaning of the answers.  One of the theologians stood up and threw his chair at another, while still another one punched the philosopher in the face.   Security rushed in and pulled everyone apart and whisked Wolf to his dressing room, while the network flashed back to an anchor in the Atlanta studio, who explained that due to technical difficulties, the rest of the show would not be seen.  After security gained control, everyone was taken off set, except for Leonard, who was left alone in the darkened studio.  He walked into the men’s room, washed his face, and stared at his reflection in the mirror.

“Why?” Leonard asked.  “Why did you choose my head to display your answers?

Colors shifted and bled on his head, and letters materialized and formed words, spelled backwards so he could read them in the reflection.

“I chose your head because,“ it said, “your dick is too small.”

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One thought on “Bald Tube

  1. Dave – I like this a lot! I appreciate the heads-up that there’s a punch line. The lead-up was great. A lot of good suspense. It made me want to keep reading. It’s so good that the punch line, for me, lessened what is a really good story. If you ever create an alternative ending for this, I’d like to read it. – Jim

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