“Tommy, don’t pick at your food,” his mother complained.
“I don’t like asparagus,” the blonde boy argued.
“You’re just being finicky. It’s good for you.”
Tommy grabbed one of the limp green spears on his plate and shook it at his mother. “I’m sick of it. We always have it. Every day. A thousand-million times a day.”
Mrs. Naughton frowned. “Don’t be rude and don’t exaggerate. We only have asparagus one or twice a month.”
“Here,” Tommy spat back, dropping the asparagus spear on his plate, “but everywhere else I have to have it, too.”
Mrs. Naughton’s eyes flicked to her husband who was busily chomping on his baked chicken. “George, would you like to help convince your son to eat his asparagus?”
Mr. Naughton smiled benignly at his wife’s exasperation. He finished his bite slowly, savoring the homey flavor. “Excellent meal, dear. I wouldn’t worry about Tommy. He’s getting plenty of asparagus.”
Her eyes flaring for a moment, Mrs. Naughton reined her anger. Strong emotion only seemed to amuse her husband, as if she were an impulsive child throwing a tantrum. She breathed deeply and responded calmly, “Only theoretically, dear. You don’t have any empirical evidence to support that claim.”
Mr. Naughton appeared momentarily wounded. He quickly recovered. “I’ll have that evidence soon, my dear. Though that is really secondary to the grandeur of my unifying theory that reality is but a given arrangement of particles. Once you’ve specified the particular arrangement you’ve specified everything, and every decision made is equivalent to a new configuration of particles. Just as we articulate ideas, we particulate realities. For example, by being picky about his asparagus, Tommy has spun a new universe into existence. It’s very gratifying.”
Tommy nodded enthusiastically.
Mrs. Naughton blinked back disbelief. She’d had slices of these conversations before with her husband, a physicist with the National Science Foundation. But, over the past few months, he’d begun gushing about his research and how close he was to making a seminal breakthrough regarding the nature of reality in an infinite universe of universes.
However brilliant or crackpot her husband had become, she wasn’t about to have her authority as a parent undermined. “Tommy needs his vegetables.”
“Certainly,” Mr. Naughton agreed. “All the Tommys in the metaverse need their asparagus, and by definition they get it—or they don’t. Everything good, bad or otherwise will befall all the Tommys out there.” He smiled at his son. “Isn’t that exciting?”
“Not the bad stuff,” Tommy protested. “I want a universe with only good stuff—like not having to eat asparagus and skipping to school to play Star Blazer online with my friends all day.”
“Certainly a possibility,” Mr. Naughton agreed. “By definition, infinity implies that everything occurs at some point. In the here and now, it’s up to the particles, the alignment of probability waves.”
“Which you said is based on decisions,” Mrs. Naughton seized upon her chance to co-opt her husband’s worrisome logic. “So, Tommy needs to make good decisions to have a good universe, like eating his asparagus and getting good grades in school. Now, that’s a metaversal theory I can get behind.”
“Possibly.” Mr. Naughton hesitated. “Decisions shape particle arrangements which form nexus points that spawn universes, though how those particle arrangements are perceived—the local reality—are more subjective. The particle arrangement of good in one universe isn’t necessarily the particle arrangement of good in another. That’s why I don’t get too worked up over moral imperatives.”
“Or asparagus,” Tommy added, thinking it must be akin to the dreaded vegetable he continued to push around his plate.
His father nodded. “Or asparagus.”
“Well, if that’s the case,” Mrs. Naughton said rising from her seat, “then the two of you can arrange your own particles for dinner in the future. And for that matter, you can make sure these leftover particles get put away and all the kitchen cleaned up of all these dirty dinner particles. I’m creating a new reality. My universe.”
She left the kitchen. The front door opened and slammed shut.
Mr. Naughton looked at the half eaten dinner on his wife’s plate. She had never before left her plate on the table. He looked to his son who seemed to be waiting for a cue to know how to react. Mr. Naughton managed a half smile.
“Your mother is right. She did just create a new reality. Somewhere in the metaverse, your mother is still cajoling you to eat your asparagus and one Tommy is giving in, while another is being sent to his room and another Tommy is pushing the asparagus up his nose in protest.” He picked up one of the green stalks.
“I guess we have to live in the universe we make.” He winked at his son and tossed the asparagus spear end over end towards the ceiling—which it never hit.
Higher and higher the asparagus lifted into the blue sky and crossed into the deep indigo of space transforming into a tubular spaceship while “Blue Danube” played ethereally.
Staring up from her lawn, Mrs. Naughton smiled and particulated, “My God, it’s full of stars.”