Monday 6 May 2024

Scientific Attraction: Iridium – Epilogue by Jim Bates, black coffee

The story so far:

In Chapter One, Gadolinium, we were introduced to Sherry a sixteen-year-old girl who has withdrawn due to the loss of her father in a tragic car accident. Chapter Two, Terbium, we were introduced to Zeke who has been in the child welfare system for six years and is having mental health issues. They both like science a lot. In Chapter Three, Dysprosium, we are introduced to Mary who is one of the mental health professionals caring for Zeke. We are also introduced to her boyfriend Len. In Chapter Four, Holmium, Len, and Mary meet Leroy a homeless person, and befriend him. In Chapter Five, Erbium, Leroy and his pal Riley attempt to rob a store, and the result is better than they could have ever expected. In Chapter Six, Thulium, Leroy and Riley end up going home to Leroy’s parent's farm and are welcomed with open arms. In Chapter Seven, Ytterbium, Riley has returned to Minneapolis and is working at Café Enya where he has an interesting encounter with one of the regular patrons. In Chapter Eight, Lutetium, after leaving the coffee show, Sherry and Zeke are hassled by Zeke’s former drug dealer and later on open up with each other about their past lives. In Chapter Nine, Hafnium, Len is in an accident and while recovering in the hospital, Mary asks him to attend a meeting where Sherry and Zeke are going to present a science report. He agrees to attend. In Chapter Ten, Refractory Metals. Sherry and Zeke spend part of the morning working on a report in their favorite café Mud Bound while Sherry’s mother Kari is at home dealing with personal issues. Later, Sherry brings Zeke home to meet her mom. In Chapter Eleven Osmium Sherry and Zeke give a presentation at the Midwest Science Fair. It doesn’t go as planned.

 Now for the conclusion of “Scientific Attraction.”

Fall, 2022

“Coffee?” Zeke asked as the two of them walked through the front door of Mud Bound and were immediately blasted by the aroma for freshly roasted beans.

“Oh, yes!” Sherry said, rubbing her hand through her short hair as she sat down at a table by the window, the one where they usually sat. “I stayed up all night reading in my Intro to Chemistry book.”

“Got it. Two coffees coming up. I’ll be right back.” He was walking to the counter to place their order when he stopped and turned, a sly grin on his face. “How about some muffins? I see they’ve got pumpkin.”

Sherry grinned. “For sure. It’s that time of year.”

“It is.”

Zeke placed their order and chatted with Ben one of the baristas they were friends with. He told him about iridium, the densest rare metal known to man. “It’s even found in meteorites,” he said. “Pretty amazing, huh?”

“It is,” Ben smiled as he prepared their order. It was one thing he liked about Zeke. And his girlfriend, too. They were interesting people to have around. When the coffee was ready, he put the two mugs and two muffins on plates and put them all on a try. “Here you go. Enjoy.”

“We will. Thanks.” Zeke wove around a couple of tables on his way to where Sherry was waiting. “Here we go.”

“Fabulous.” Sherry placed the coffee and muffins on the table while Zeke returned the tray.

When he sat down, he said, “Yeah, I hear you about studying a lot.” He took a sip of his coffee. “I’m still getting used to the pace. Way more studying than high school. And the material is covered so much faster.”

Zeke was enrolled in the School of Engineering at the University of Minnesota. His focus was on computer technology. He wanted to go into solid-state electronics.

Sherry nodded in agreement. “I know. And then there’s the labs. My chemistry lab on Monday was three hours long.”

She also attended the university. Her major was chemistry and she was going for a bachelor of science degree. She also planned to take education courses. She wanted to become a teacher. “Just like Mr. Jorden,” she’d told Zeke that summer. Of course, he was all for it.

Zeke took a sip of coffee. “Your chemistry labs remind me the ones I have for physics. Really long and lots of work.” Zeke winked at her and grinned. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love it.”

“Me, too.” Sherry smiled. “Wouldn’t change a thing.” They were both quiet for a moment, sipping their coffee and munching on their muffins. The companionable silence felt nice after the non-stop hectic pace of life on campus. After a minute, she took Zeke’s hand. “You sure you’re holding up okay?”
            Zeke looked at her. He could see the serious expression in her eyes and was touched by her concern. They didn’t talk about it too often, but it was nice to know they could if they needed to, and this was one of those times. “You mean about the drugs? Do I have any desire to start using again to take the edge off, like I used to?”

“Yeah. That’s exactly what I mean.”

He grinned. “Well, first of all, thank you for asking.” She smiled and squeezed his hand in a show of affection. “And, secondly, yes, I do. I feel a desire every day. Pretty much all the time, in fact.” He leaned across the table and gave her a one-armed hug. “But, no. I’m not going to start using again. At least not today.” He smiled again. “Like they say, ‘Take it one day at a time.’ And that’s what I’m doing.”

“You’re doing, good, Zeke,” Sherry said. She took his hand, brought it to her lips and kissed it. “You’re doing really good. I’m proud of you.”

Zeke smiled at her. “Thanks. And I’m proud of you, too.”

“I appreciate it. Doctor Gannon says that as far as he’s concerned, I’m done with therapy. I only need to come in to see him if I feel like talking.”

“He’s a good guy.”

“He is. And it’s nice to know he thinks I’ve gotten my act together enough to trust my own instincts.”

“Your instincts are good. You’ve even helped your mom.”

“Yeah, I guess. But Jan, Leslie’s mom, has been the one that’s really helped. It’s cool to see the two of them together.”

“They do yoga, right?”

Sherry laughed. “Yeah. They go to a lady’s home. Her name is Gwen and she runs yoga classes for victims of traumatic events.”

“Well, that fits them to a T.”


Zeke was quiet for a minute, sipping his coffee and munching on his pumpkin muffin. Then he said. “What a strange night that was last spring.”
            “The awards?”


“I know. I’m glad it had a happy ending. Who knows what would have happened if Leroy hadn’t been so on the ball?” She laughed. “I still can’t believe he moved so fast.”

“Like a blur.”

“Like the Green Hornet.”

“Absolutely. Zeke took a sip of coffee and savored it. It was so much better than the vending machine stuff on campus. Then he said, thoughtfully, “It’s interesting about that security guard. Rad. I’m glad he’s getting some help in prison in Stillwater.”

“Fifteen years is a long time.”

“From what I heard, he’d had a rough life. Both him and Spike.”

“I know.” Sherry shook her head and sipped her coffee. “I hope he gets better. I think it was cool that he had a job and a place to live. You know, he was trying to make something of his life.”

“Yeah. Spike’s death just pushed him too far.”

Sherry put down her coffee and took both Zeke’s hands in hers. “Life works in mysterious ways, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah. Two years ago, I was going down the drain. Doing drugs. Turning my back on my foster parents. Turning my back on everything really.”
            “Yeah. I was withdrawing, turning inward. Turning my back on my mom.” She looked him in the eyes. “Like you, I was turning my back on everything.”

Zeke smiled. “When I saw you in Mr. Jordan’s chemistry class, I have to say, that’s when things started to turn around.”

Sherry grinned. “You’re sweet. I remember you as really troubled. I was frankly kind of scared of you.”

“I was scared of myself.”

Sherry let go of Zeke’s hands and had a sip of coffee. “Thank goodness for Mr. Jordan.”

“Joel. He wants us to call him that, remember.”

I remember.” She smiled. “It’s hard though.”

“Yeah.” Zeke took a bite of muffin. “Man, these are good!”

Sherry smiled. She loved being with him so much. And she loved him, too. Deep down and with all her heart. They’d gone through so much together, especially surviving the near-fatal incident at the awards ceremony. But all was well now. They had good, stable adult friends like Len and Mary, whom they saw regularly. And Riley, who Zeke saw three or four times a week at work. And Leroy, of course. Their lifesaver. She’d never forget him. She and Zeke made it a point to get together with him whenever he came to town to visit Riley and his young family.

So, life was good. She wouldn’t change a thing.

Not even me? Leslie asked. She was perched on the ledge by the front window. She grinned as Sherry bit into a muffin and started chewing.

No, Sherry smiled back at her. Never.

Why’s that?

Because you’re my best friend.

Sherry’s thoughts were interrupted by Zeke when he asked. “You know, these muffins are so good. Do you think Leslie would like one?”

“Good question. I’ll ask.”

You heard the man, Sherry said, looking at Leslie and pointing a Zeke. What do you think?

Leslie grinned. What I think is that it’s about time. I thought you’d never ask.

I take that as a yes.

Absolutely, girlfriend. Absolutely.

Sherry looked at Zeke who was standing up. Okay, I’m on it, he said. I heard her loud and clear.

About the author

Jim lives in a small town in Minnesota. He loves to write! His stories and poems have appeared in over 500 online and print publications. To learn more and to see all of his work, check out his blog at: Did you enjoy the story? Would you like to shout us a coffee? Half of what you pay goes to the writers and half towards supporting the project (web site maintenance, preparing the next Best of book etc.)

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