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.
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Importance of In-Person Interaction

Our daughter’s desk collapsed on her the other day, pinning her to the ground in a pile of rubble consisting mostly of magic markers, erasers and books of a most considerable heft. 

We had had to fashion an office for her, when it became clear there would not be in-person classes. Desks, my wife informed me, were sold out everywhere. So, after a little thought and a lot of rummaging, we repurposed an old piece of furniture whose provenance and initial intent is a mystery to me. It looks kind of like an inebriated table, an emaciated desk or a postmodern bureau. 

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Death of a Firefly

Late last night, sitting by the side of a snapping fire in a clearing in the black woods, my daughter hopped out of my lap, ran across the damp grass, and caught a firefly in her hands. She trotted back, tenderly opening her dirt-encased fingertips, just a little, to reveal the strange creature inside.

“Look, dad, a firefly!” she said. 

We gazed at it for a moment. We had no vented jar in which to put this being, so I urged her to let it go. She opened her hands completely, like ten pink drawbridges easing down from a fleshy castle, and the bug ascended and hovered in front of our faces in the night for a moment. 

“Hadley,” I said. “Because he was trapped, and then you let him go, this will be the greatest day of his life…”

As I finished my sentence, the firefly took off and plunged directly into the leaping flames of the fire around which we sat. 

“…Oh!” I said. “Never mind.”

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Anthology of Anger

Today, I read an anthology of anger in the form of Yelp reviews. A single person had rated a dozen businesses, and she had never given out anything higher than a single star, which is the lowest possible score. In addition to her ratings, she offered delightful accounts of her various experiences. She was like the keynote speaker at an outrage symposium. 

“I needed a right brake light replaced and had the misfortune to stop at [this mechanic]. Whilte the price of the light bulb was reasonable at $4.57, they then had the audacity to charge me $5.40 for two minutes of their precious time to replace it.  Oh, well, at least I know where NOT to go in the future. ;-)”

You might notice a few typos in these reviews, but I believe she is not a fan of my editing, so I’ll leave them as they are here. 

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Summer Days

I was driving in my new old pickup truck yesterday, blasting “Land Down Under” and occasionally petting the plush, rust-red fur of the tiny puppy on the seat next to me. He looks like a little bear cub, and his squeaks and grunts have an ursine quality to them. 

Through the windshield, the sky was an ecstatic blue, with an unfettered July sun so bright the edges of the clouds gleamed as if imbued with magical power by a celestial deity. 

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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.

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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.

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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. 


“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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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. 


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