The Geiger Counter

Matt Geiger is a Midwest Book Award Winner, a national American Book Fest Finalist, and an international Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist. He is also the winner of numerous journalism awards. His books include “Astonishing Tales!* (Your Astonishment May Vary)” and “Raised by Wolves & Other Stories.” He once won an axe-throwing competition.
Fri
26
Jun
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Just Over the Horizon

Within a few generations, I’m sure our human species will populate new planets, starting from scratch in our infinite attempts to establish the perfect civilization. If you look back at the route we took to get where we are today, it is characterized by one thing: We are always moving, always searching, always being chased by predators or chasing prey, as we make our way through life. It is only the occasional island population that ends up staying put, in some cases, and evolving in place for a few hundred or a few thousand short years.

I don’t know where this urge to move comes from. After all, we usually feel safest right here, in a place where we are familiar with the terrain and the places where danger might lurk. Perhaps it is a result of the fact that we live out our lives dancing atop a spinning orb, and therefore we spend our time here always beckoned to by a horizon and the mystery just beyond it.

Thu
28
May
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Weather

My dad recently stopped watching the weather. When a retired farmer and avid gardener decides he’s done with these daily prognostications, it’s noteworthy.

He didn’t do it for the reason I initially guessed (that they are almost always wrong). Instead, he did it because of their relentless negativity.

Anytime there will be any rain, they inject their “report” with a splash of mopey personal opinion: “It’s going to be another dreary day out there,” they warn.

My dad, who is not one to go around picking fights on social media, even went so far as to contact a Madison meteorologist and explain to him that for farmers, gardeners, and anyone who cares about plant and animal life, rain is a gift. Throughout nearly all of human history, rain is something people literally prayed for. Not that long ago, they sacrificed people and animals to the gods whose fickle moods might bring them life-giving water from above.

Fri
08
May
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Llama, Llama, Quarantine Drama

This afternoon, a nice black var drove by my house. Sitting calmly in the back seat was a large white lama. As the vehicle went by, the animal’s glistening black eyes, shaded by lush dark lashes, met mine for a brief moment. 

I quickly grabbed my phone and texted a friend.

“Just saw a lama in a car.”

“What kind of car?” he replied. 

“Sedan.”

“What type of person owns a lama but not a better way to transport one?”

I wondered what type of decision led to the scene I had witnessed. Did someone impulsively buy a non-refundable lama, then think, like someone who purchases a king-sized bed or extra-large couch, “How on earth am I going to get this home?”

At some point, someone was faced with a decision, and cramming the animal in the back seat of a car was apparently the best option. 

This is life. Wandering from place to place, making decisions. 

Wed
15
Apr
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Lazaretto

There is an old Russian adage that people who are destined for the firing squad need not fear drowning. 

In the end, only one thing will get us, and all the thousands of other perceived threats we worried about during our rich and varied lives will ultimately fail to triumph over us. All these wolves that give pursuit will pull up short. All but one. 

There is also a famous parable about a poor beggar covered in oozing sores, probably a leper, who grovels for scraps that fall from a rich man’s table. His name is Lazarus, and from his name comes the term “lazaretto” or “lazaret.” A lazaretto was a quarantine station for maritime travelers, an island or ship where people at the end of a long journey would be locked up in isolation for a period before rejoining the general population. The crumbling ruins of old lazarettos still stand on islands off the coasts of the many countries that had bustling ports during the Age of Exploration. 

Thu
09
Apr
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A Day to Remember

We had to cancel our daughter’s sixth birthday party the other day. It felt villainous, but global pandemics do have a way of ruining plans.

I used to worry that we were making our daughter’s life too easy. That she always got what she wanted and never had to worry about anything, lose anything, or miss out on anything. That the easy nature of her existence would make her weak and soft. That was, in retrospect, a very silly thing about which to fret. Life will take care of us, in its strange way, and give us all the hardships, strife and opportunities we require.

Wed
25
Mar
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It's the End of the World as We Know It

As I sat at our dining room table Monday, trying to write stories about the global pandemic that is bringing out the very best, (and sometimes the absolute worst) in people, my daughter, who was coloring a picture of a fairy while repeatedly bumping my elbow, abruptly yelled: “Alexa, Play Christmas Carols!” 

The speaker behind us began blasting a pop/rock version of the Latin song “Gloria In Excelsis Deo” (in French) while I tried to write a serious story and the world outside, which usually bustles with life, was still and strangely silent. It felt uniquely eerie and fairly festive, sort of like the way I imagine a Batman villain spending a quiet evening at home. It also felt just about right considering the way the world is trending. 

Two days later, the snow started to fall and we made a snowman in the backyard, fitting him with a hat and scarf and a button nose, while I thought about the end of the world. 

Mon
03
Feb
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Let it Snow...

Snow brings with it newness, changing the world so completely in just a few hours that we are forced to actually see our everyday surroundings. And when we see them, we are so often amazed by their splendor. 

Fri
03
Jan
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Make Your Bed

Our daughter wanted bunk beds for ages. She loved the idea of having a guest bed in her room, and she was intrigued by the fact that it’s essentially a fort frame that’s ready to turn into a ship or a castle at any moment. There is also an undeniable primal safety to sleeping six feet off the ground. I admit I often fall asleep on the top bunk while reading bedtime stories to her. When I do, a little, atavistic part of my monkey brain always thinks: “I can sleep safely up here, just out of reach of the wolves.”

My wife purchased a used bunk bed, doing so with more faith in our marriage than was prudent. She went and picked it up, managed not to get murdered by the person selling it on Facebook, and returned home. 

“They lived in a mansion,” she reported back to me. “They were definitely rich, so I think this must be a good bed.”

Thu
26
Dec
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Charity

It’s become fashionable these days to chastise people for their charity. The critiques, which have accusatory titles and acerbic adjectives galore, spread like wildfire on social media. They allege that people who do charitable work are doing it wrong, or doing it for the wrong reasons.

The specific nature of the charges varies, but the idea is always the same; that holiday giving is a fraud, and the love people suddenly feel for one another is a fraud, as well. Each article asserts that people are all greedy, and those who appear to help others only  do so in their own self-interest. 

Sun
08
Dec
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The Hunt

I was reminded Wednesday of how fragile and thin the veneer of civilization is. 

This was not one of my quiet, plodding, vaguely philosophical realizations. It did not come with a slow nod or a breathy “aha.” No, this came with the crack of a gunshot slicing through daggers of sleet. This came with the thud of a dead body hitting the muddy earth. And just like that, I was up to my arms in viscera, having literally the most visceral experience of my life. 

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