Manufactured Goods

This October day in 2011, Rob was sailing the inherited Kairos out of New London where he had lived for a quarter century with Isaac, who like Uncle Theo’s Laura, was black. Isaac, ten years Rob’s junior, was a professor in the Art Department at Connecticut College where Rob was emeritus in English. Isaac was leaning back warm in the sun as memories of Uncle Theo prompted Rob, “He built a model plane with a real engine mounted behind a real propeller and said, ‘We’re going to take this baby out and make her soar!’ And we did…”

Rob squinted at the autumn sun. “Ask Ptolemy and Copernicus what the Sun’s relationship is to Earth, you get two different answers. One’s a false, failed assumption about reality. And Henry Adams’s essay on energy and economy: The Virgin and the Dynamo…was Great Grandfather Hayley a dynamo and we’re – what are we now, batteries?”

Isaac, familiar with Rob’s rhetorical wanderlust, kept his eyes closed and enjoyed the swell from the wake of the Cross Sound ferry lift and lower the Kairos. Now he opened them and followed Rob’s celestial squint. 

“Never bad weather out of a Watteau sky,” Isaac admired.

“My father was married seven times,” Rob said. “And us – not even once.”

As the sailboat heeled over, Isaac fingers glossed through small white-cresting swells.

Rob saw Isaac’s gesture. “Foam’s an accidental excrescence of the sea, probably another one of those fractal iterations of the 3 – 5% percentage of the Universe that we’re supposed to be.”

Isaac raised his hand and flicked water at Rob. “Ashes to ashes, foam to foam.”

Rob brought the boat about; Isaac assisted. Heading home, they were quiet, listening to the sails, water, and seabirds. Close to the marina, tightening his grip on the tiller, Rob continued his interior monologue out loud.

“The summer I was 15, I was on the Kairos, right at that cove,” Rob pointed, “with Uncle Theo. He told me about Lord Byron and Lukas. He quoted, ‘Love dwells not in our will./ Nor can I blame thee, though it be my lot/ To strongly, wrongly, vainly love thee still.’ Byron let meter force a lie,’ Uncle Theo said, ‘Nothing wrongly there, kid.  It’s just the times.’”  

“Was that a proposal before?”

“It’s about time.”



L. Shapley Bassen

A native New Yorker now in Rhode Island, L. Shapley Bassen was the First Place winner in the 2015 Austin Chronicle Short Story Contest for "Portrait of a Giant Squid." She is s a poetry and fiction reviewer for The Rumpus, etc., as well as the Fiction Editor at She is a prizewinning, produced, published playwright, and a has published four novel/story collections, the latest being What Suits a Nudist (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, 2019). Her poetry and collected works are at L. Shapley recommends the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Sunday, August 22, 2021 - 22:20