Storyglossia Issue 37, December 2009.

The Mathematical Theory of Elasticity

by Isadora J. Wagner





Between any two points there is a line. Gregory and Katya at the dance hall. Or you and I. An example.


The General Theory of Stress and Its Difference From Strain.


Stress is caused by external forces of pressure. Example: A hippopotamus sitting on a line that is suspended, delicately, between two people. Picture a rope that binds, held taut. A hippo upon it would cause the rope to collapse.

Strain is natural friction. It is caused by the connection of A to B. I hold side A. You hold B. The tautness of the rope between us is the strain, our pulling.



              A Hypothesis on Strain.


Sometimes the rope is too slack, and sometimes it is pulled too hard. I pull. You yank. Soon we are at tug of war. But when it is left too slack as at the dance hall when I left you with Gregory to go to the punch stand with Katya, whom you know that I do not like, what is that? It is my fault. I should have known that Gregory was not a point, but a zero that would surround you.

Hypothesis: None. When I threw the punch in Gregory's face, you left. You said I pulled too hard. I said I had let us slack. I did not know that you hated my apartment, or ridiculed my socks, or could not stand the way I walked to class. You screamed until the birds woke in the parking lot. They clamored and heaved up, then landed in a beech tree. The moon was clear. Your shirt had been misbuttoned. Katya took you home.



         The Elasticity of Solid Bodies.


Solid bodies are not rigid as one might think. The property of recovery of an original size and shape is called elasticity. The changes of size and shape are signified by expressing strains.

My elasticity is strained by the weight of the hippopotamus upon us: Gregory in the corner. Your chopsticks in my spoon drawer. The nylons under the bed. Your hair on the couch. The plant you left behind with the note, draught. Katya helped you pack. What remains is the after of where you left it.



            Time Effects, Plasticity.


Katya does not in fact smell of cabbage. Actually, she smells of cinnamon gum. She has also changed Laundromats. I see her more often downstairs, on the street. Also, at the bookstore, library, sandwich place, and coffeeshop. She wears your ruby sweater, and green leggings, yellow socks. Yesterday we had dinner; Katya had dahl and one of those wheat pockets you loved so much, the pastries with potatoes and mushrooms. Nepalese tea. She says you are in Detroit again. I did not know what to think, except Detroit. You are a stretched-out shape, moving backward in time. Imagine the effect of eternity on a hippo, the plasticity of skin. How is the zero?



            The Problem of Shells.


Katya has a scar on her left thigh. She sends you her love. Your plant is dying.



Copyright©2009 Isadora J. Wagner

Isadora J. Wagner lives and writes in Chicago. Her story, "The House the Thompsons Bought," was nominated for Best American New Writers by the Sewanee Writers' Conference in 2008. This is her first publication.