“Where does it all go?” he asked.

Instead of trying to answer I stared at my newspaper with vicious intent in the hopes that he would think I hadn’t heard him. It sounded like he was talking to himself anyway, and he’d just happened to mumble a little too loud.

“It’s got to go somewhere,” he continued, in that half-to-himself murmur that I could hear but didn’t want to acknowledge. “Laws of conversation of energy and all that.”

I sighed and snapped my paper shut. “Conservation,” I said. “It’s conservation of energy.”

“Sure,” he said. “The energy’s got to go somewhere, right? Ultimately, I mean.”

“Maybe. Why?” I asked.

“Why does it have to go somewhere? How the hell should I know, I’m no astrophysicist.”

A regular every-day physicist could have given us an answer, but I wasn’t about to split hairs. Besides, that wasn’t what I was after. “No,” I said, “why do you care? Why does it matter?”

“Because. It just does.” He fumbled in his breast pocket for a package of cigarettes that wasn’t there. They hadn’t been there for over a decade and whenever he did that I knew that something was really bothering him.

“Okay,” I said, “if you knew where it went, then what?”

He stopped groping his empty pocket and stared at me. “Then we could go get it,” he said, his voice so clear and rational I couldn’t just reject it as an episode of the crazies.

“I tell you what,” I said. “I’ll do the dishes tonight.” I patted his hand, cleared the table, and forgot all about it.

Two weeks later, he disappeared.

2014.11.23 – 2023.06.27

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