Science Fiction Adventure

Sensei Bob pays me 'nother visit in my dreams. He ain't dead or nothin' like that. I just ain't been answerin' my phone.

"Billy-san, destiny call. Why you no pick up?"

I act like I'm dozin' in my dream, hopin' that old bastard'll finally leave me be. But Sensei Bob's still floatin' above me when I crack open my right eye.

He's wearin' that black gi and givin' me that blind soulbreaker stare. And when he pulls out that damn short sword and points it at his pot belly, I know he's fixin' to commit Seppuku, that fancy Japanese way of spillin' your guts real slow.

"Ohhh Billy Billy-san. You bring shaaame, great shame, to all of Mexico."

"I ain't from Mexico," I say to stop him 'cause I already done seen Sensei Bob commit Seppuku eight times this week.

"No, you from Mexico. Why else you take so many siesta?" Sensei Bob knows my granddaddy's from Puerto Rico, so he gets a kick out of tellin' Mexico jokes, like there ain't a difference between the two.

"Quit sayin' that shit. Speak normal."

"You no like my English?" He leans in so I can see them milky white eyes up close.

"Speak English, you dumb bastard." And don't think I'm bein' prejudiced here. Nah, Bob's an old white man, born and bred in Biloxi, Mississippi, but he likes to talk like Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid 'cause, if you ain't guessed yet, Sensei Bob's an asshole.

"Aw c'mon hoss, where's your sense of humor? Why won't you teach the boy? Ain't you never heard of affirmative action?" Sensei Bob says in his normal drawl.

And he done mentioned teachin' that boy eight times already, but I can't see no point to it, so I stare straight ahead at the land and sky. All tiles, changin' color faster than a chameleon slipped LSD. Always colored tiles when Sensei Bob sneaks his fat ass into my dreams, and I can't help but be lookin' for patterns.

"C'mon boy, you think I like astral projectin'? You think I like sprayin' blood all over your face?"

I don't think. I know for a fact.

"You gotta be the one to show that boy cubin', Billy, or it's end of days, son. You need me to spell that shit out for you?" Sensei Bob sighs and grabs the sword handle with both hands, a sure sign he's goin' for Seppuku numero nine.

"Hang on, hold on now. Tell you what. I'll teach the boy if you cut off that stupid ponytail—and I mean for real back in Biloxi—then send it to Cleveland first class express."

"You talkin' about my warrior braid, son?" Sensei Bob flicks his ponytail over his shoulder. His hair's been runnin' all its life from his ugly face and tryin' to escape down his back, so that ponytail's just about all he got left.

"Call it what you want. I just want it on my doorstep."

Sensei Bob stops floatin' and drops his ass to the ground. His sword flashes, then he's holdin' that ponytail like some sorta dangerous snake. "Call it a gesture of good faith, Billy-san." He drops the cut hair, and them white strands blow across the flickerin' tiles.

I almost feel sorry for him. Almost. But then I see that good old boy grinnin'. Sensei Bob sticks his sword in his stomach, then cuts sideways.

"Naw, Sensei Bob. Naw!"

He pulls out the sword and sprays me right when my fool mouth is wide open.

I wake up gaggin' in my leather recliner in my house that came off the back of a truck, the house that's fixin' to be hauled away by 'nother truck when my workman comp runs dry. But it ain't so bad gettin' to sip beer and nap til that happens, cept for Sensei Bob interruptin' my dreams.

Bob keeps sayin' the day of reckonin' is almost upon us. He says the reckonin' comes 'fore the end of days, which may or may not happen dependin' on how things get reckoned. And how it all gets reckoned depends on me teachin' some little kid to cube. Or so Sensei Bob foresaw.

And Bob can't teach the boy 'cause he gone blind, though he seems to get by just fine with astral projectin'. He can also swing a sword like a madman and whirl a bo staff like a windmill, but he didn't teach me none of that.

Naw, what Sensei Bob really taught me was cube-fu.

Call it a Rubik's cube if it makes you feel smart, but you probably ain't. I'm talkin' about your classic 3x3x3 cube though I been known to dabble in that devil's playground of 6x6x6.

And I used to be the fastest there was around.

Now, the official record of 3.13 seconds belongs to an autistic Asian kid, but I'm tellin' y'all that I, Bill Suarez, a one-quarter Puerto Rican, three-quarter redneck, fully unemployed grown ass man, used to be able to do that shit in 3.03 seconds.

And I suspect it ain't physically possible for a human to solve a cube in under 3 seconds, though I'm the one who came closest.

But the cubin' community don't want to hear none of that, and the Guinness Book of World Records is rigged—though that don't matter now without my left hand. I done lost it a couple years back when some fool in his Ford sideswiped my mail truck right when I had my arm hangin' out the window.

Anyhow, Rufus Jones's the name of the boy I gotta teach. He's over on the East Side of Cleveland—not your silly ass Cleveland up in highfalutin Ohio, but the real one down here in Mississippi—a side of town I got no business bein' in now that I ain't drivin' no mail truck.

Still, I'm a man of my word. So I hop in my Chrysler Town & Country and cross them railroad tracks over to the East Side.

I bring one of my cubes and a Bible so no one be thinkin' I'm there to buy drugs. Only problem is it's my granddaddy's Bible, and I can't read no Spanish.

I try listenin' to the news to pass the time and hear the Pentagon panderin' to the public with some report on UFOs, cept they callin' them UAPs now. And I can't listen no more to them VIPs in their big black SUVs changin' UFOs to UAPs 'cause who gives a shit? Just say aliens if y'all mean aliens.

So I switch to my favorite tunes. Now y'all probably assumin' somethin' else, but I'm listenin' to Coltrane 'cause jazz is like snowflakes in music. No one way about it with Coltrane improvisin' and chasin' that dragon. Even recorded he don't sound the same way twice.

And the way of the cube's just the same. You got your Sune, Anti-Sune, Sexy Move, Reverse Sexy plus your T, H, Z Perm algos, and that's not even breakin' a sweat. You also got your Checkerboard, Sledgehammer, Hedgeslammer, Bottlecap, Six-Spot, Slash, 4-Wires, Ron's Cube in Cube and so on.

And I'm twistin' that cube one-handed while listenin' to Coltrane float through his Giant Steps, when I see Rufus comin' down that sidewalk. I know him from the images Bob's been beamin' in my mind. Rufus's wearin' a black hoodie over a black cap plus black jeans, and that boy's swaggerin' Black as night when he sees me watchin' him from my van.

I'm thinkin' about how to make a good first impression when Rufus cuts a beeline straight for my van. I unlock the passenger side and he slips into the front seat without a word. He looks at my missin' left hand then at the cube in my right 'fore puttin' on a pair of tiny headphones. Looks like Sensei Bob's been showin' up in his dreams too.

Rufus obviously don't wanna talk with them headphones in like that, so I'm 'bout to pull out when some little old lady starts knockin' on my window.

"You listen' to Miles Davis," she says.

"Well, actually that there's Coltrane, ma'am."

"No, I know me my Davis—hey, where you takin' my boy? Where he takin' you, Rufus?" She leans in the van.

I look over at Rufus for some help, but he got his eyes closed, just noddin' along to whatever's on them headphones. So, I thrust my granddaddy's Bible at her.

"We goin' to Big Brother Bible Study and… Math Camp."

"How you spell that?"

"Uh, triple B SMC."

"Well… okay, but you best have him back by 10:53. You hear me?"

"Yes ma'am."

I cruise off real slow 'cause she's still sorta standin' there in the street. I stop down the block when Rufus holds up his hand. We both look back until she walks back into one of them pill box houses.

Rufus has his headphones off so I figure now's the time for talkin'.

"Hey, why your ma bein' real specific about havin' you back at 10:53?" I ask.

"She ain't my mom. We all look alike to you?"

"Naw, it's just she—I'm a quarter Puerto Rican, you know."

"Yeah, I bet you one-fourth Cherokee too."

"Yeah yeah, but I know you somethin' to that woman."

"She my grandma, man." Then he rolls down his window and hangs his right arm out the van.

"Hey now, don't you be doin' that, son. That's dangerous." I hold up my empty left sleeve for him to inspect.

Rufus stares at it for a second, then he bursts out laughin'. "Oh shit, you for real, Billy?"

Yup, Bob been in his dreams if he's callin' me Billy.

"You call me Sensei Bill," I say.

Rufus just pops his headphones back in then keeps lookin' my way and snickerin' til my ears are burnin'.

So, I drive the van off road and up gravel 'til we on them railroad tracks.

Rufus pulls out them headphones yet again.

"What you listenin' to anyway?" I ask, like there ain't nothin' unusual about my parkin'.

"Drift funk," he mumbles.

"And why you even here?"

"That old man in my dreams. Says I'm supposed to save the world."

"And you believe him?"

"Not til I saw you just like he said."

"Well, I don't know about that. I just know cubin', so F, U, R, B, L, and D. Like fur bled, but there ain't no e. Front, up, right, back, left, down. Them's your moves. All clockwise. Then you got your apostrophes. All counter-clockwise. You got all that?"

He gimme a nod, then just looks back and forth between the cube settin' in his lab and them tracks.

"Well, c'mon then. We ain't got all day. Train be comin' any minute now."

And I just set and stare while Rufus struggles over that cube. He ain't half bad. I can see he got the intuition but then he starts panickin' when he hears the train whistlin' round the corner.

After that boy twists himself into a corner, I grab that cube from him and it takes me 'bout 30 seconds to finish on account of my one hand, but we still got more than 5 seconds to move 'fore the train come.

When we back drivin' on the road, I let out a whoop 'cause damn if I didn't miss that shit. And Rufus starin' at me.

"That's the way of cube-fu, son," I say, thinkin' maybe one day he gonna be in the Guinness Book of World Records if I train him hard enough. "Now you keep that cube 'cause you earned it."

But Rufus already jumpin' out of the van when we come to a 4-way stop.

"Where you goin'? I can drop you by your home."

"Naw, I'm good."

And there ain't nothin' to be done if he don't wanna ride.

I hear this thump when I'm drivin' off 'cause Rufus done thrown his Rubik's cub at my van.

So there also ain't nothin' to be done if that kid don't wanna learn.

I get a few days of peace without Bob botherin' my dreams none 'fore a box comes to my door.

And curled up in that box like some dead baby ferret is Sensei Bob's ponytail.

And man, I tell you, I feel dang lousy about it. But ain't nothin' to be done there neither.

Still, I start investigatin' that drift funk to get a sense of Rufus's warrior spirit. Google corrects my ass and gives me "pho" instead of "fu." Aggressive drift phonk. Memphis beats and Moscow bass. It's not Coltrane, but I can still hear cubin' takin' shape. Choppy and heavy, but cubin' all the same.

Then my Motorola start buzzin'. It ain't Sensei Bob, so I pick up.

"This Sensei Bill?"

"Depends on who callin'."

"Man, tell that fat old fruitcake to stay outta my dreams."

"Aw man, he commitin' Seppuku in front of you too? Now that's this fancy Japanese way of—"

"Naw man, he keep tryin' to rap at me."

Aw, what in the hell, Bob? Then me and Rufus are hemmin' and hawin' on the phone. I can see he's anglin' for me to give him cubin' lessons at home. But I don't know 'bout that.

Then a flash of insight hits my dumb ass. It ain't about invitin' me to his home. He just don't wanna leave Grandma Jones alone.

I bring two cubes this time in case Rufus throws 'nother one at my van.

I guess 'bout now I'm supposed to detail our trials and tribulations, but there ain't much to say there.

We practice in the basement to stay out of Grandma Jones' way. And sure it's hotter than the devil's ass crack down there, but cube-fu ain't for the faint of heart.

The first week I show Rufus all them algos, but then he starts combinin' them in ways I never seen done.

So I start throwin' shit at him to test his concentration and speed. We start small with me throwin' pennies, but after a month I'm hurlin' encyclopedias at him. When Rufus catches encyclopedia A, throws it back, and completes that cube one-handed, I start bringin' my bo staff.

One of them days, when the phonk is driftin' and the staff is swingin', Grandma Jones sneaks down the stairs and we finally notice her there starin'.

"We doin' math," I say.

"Yeah, we doin' algorithms and shit," Rufus say.


"He said 'and lit' ma'am. We also doin' a literature review."

And Grandma Jones, God bless her, just shakes her head and walks back up them stairs without a word.

I start callin' Rufus "Kid Cube" and he don't seem to mind. And sometimes he insists on cubin' with his eyes closed, like he knows somethin' I don't.

As he gets faster, I buy us a real precise stopwatch, and we start to show off his skill to the online community.

When Kid Cube beats the world record of 12.78 seconds for blindfolded cubin', I got to film him a second time 'cause my hand was shakin' too much first time around.

And the Guinness Book folk pretend they ain't noticed, but the Bolivar Bullet newspaper here does a feature on him.

But I gotta be honest. I'm scared 'bout how fast Rufus be gettin' with his eyes closed. Once he decides to do it with his eyes wide open, he gonna beat my 3.03 seconds easy. Sure, I got my pride, but it ain't that.

I know Kid Cube's gonna shatter that impossible 3-second barrier, and it brings to mind Sensei Bob's day of reckonin'.

Now I don't pay much mind to the news, but the Pentagon done released a second report on them UAPs. Supposedly they everywhere now, driftin' like phonk from Memphis to Moscow.

I ain't seen Sensei Bob in my dreams for months now, but he pays me 'nother visit the night 'fore my last day with Kid Cube.

In that dream he just bows real low then leaves. No jokes. No tiles. No nothin'.

I wake up with cold fear in my gut 'fore I even see it hangin' over Cleveland, Mississippi.

UAP my ass. It's either a mother ship or some kinda alien whale.

I gotta find Rufus.

He's on his doorstep when my van squeals to a stop.

"You got that stopwatch?" he asks.

Then we shakin' hands and my throat's closin' up.

"Sensei Bill. I got this," Kid Cube say.

I can't do nothin' but nod and get outta the way like a Sensei's supposed to.

Then Rufus be twistin' that cube faster than lightnin'. And the world be twistin' too.

The stopwatch says Kid Cube done it in 2.72 seconds.

And I say he done it with his eyes closed.

And Kid Cube says nothin' 'cause he's gone, same as them aliens that was pressin' down on Mississippi and the rest of the world.

You ain't gonna read bout all that in Pentagon UAP report numero three.

That's why I'm tellin' this. I want y'all to know that on the day of reckonin' a boy named Rufus Jones saved y'all from the end of days.

I set with Rufus's grandma the other day. We heard some Coltrane while she called him Miles Davis and I told her 'bout the great thing her grandson done. She listened real close then asked me to make sure Rufus come back by 10:53.

And maybe he will, 'cause Sensei Bob's callin' again.

He's sayin' his blind ass gonna leave Biloxi and come to Cleveland on account I gotta stay here for Grandma Jones. Bob's sayin' it's time for the real trainin' to begin, and that he's gonna fix me up with some sorta robot hand. I don't know bout that last part, but I suspect we'll be pavin' the way for his return.

I'm talkin' bout the one, the only, Mississippi's own Kid Cube.

September 30, 2023 03:57

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Andrea Corwin
04:14 Oct 13, 2023

Such a great job on the dialogue! Are you going to fill us in on the 10:53, or am I the only dense unknowing one? 👏😀 Sensei Andrea


Robert Egan
00:37 Oct 14, 2023

Thanks for reading Andrea! There's no special meaning behind 10:53—I just liked the way it sounded in that moment. Maybe Grandma Jones is saying it because she has learned that you have to be specific with teenagers. Saying be back by 10:00 is too early (and then you have to punish them), and 11:00 is too late (they won't come home until nearly midnight), so maybe 10:53 is the perfect middle ground for that situation?


Andrea Corwin
04:47 Oct 14, 2023

Yes, makes sense!! And it began a conversation, didn't it? 😄


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Kevin Logue
13:50 Oct 06, 2023

Wacky, funny, brilliant! This had such a strong voice Robert, and that voice had a real accent. The start is straight up comedy, a little non PC but ain't the best comedy that way, then you get me curious about the end of days, a reckoning, aliens. I've no idea what the Kid actually did but I loved it regardless. Had pangs of The Last Star-fighter. This line is one of many had be chuckling >> changin' color faster than a chameleon slipped LSD. Excellent work Robert!


Robert Egan
20:38 Oct 07, 2023

Thanks for taking the time to read this one Kevin! I'm not sure what Kid Cube did either. Maybe by completing that impossible Rubik's cube challenge with his eyes closed, he twisted himself and the aliens into another dimension? Perhaps the aliens came to judge us on that day of reckoning and would've found us wanting if not for Kid Cube? Anyway, I think he's probably on a cosmic journey at the moment and may return one day to usher in a strange new era. And yeah, probably went a little too non-PC in the opening and turned off some potentia...


Kevin Logue
21:10 Oct 07, 2023

Twisted himself into another dimension sounds good! I don't think you would have turned anyone off, it was clearly humourous and I've honestly read a lot riskier on here ha.


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Nina H
19:29 Oct 05, 2023

Oh my, what a character! The dialogue was great in this, and the tone and voice of the MC!


Robert Egan
21:17 Oct 05, 2023

Thanks Nina. Glad you liked the dialogue!


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Michał Przywara
20:50 Oct 04, 2023

Love it - and it's a huge adventure you managed to pack into such a short story! Karate Kid and Independence Day, set in the south. All four characters come across as distinct, and we get some good growth in the narrator and in Rufus. And it's funny too, despite the serious mood. Makes me wonder just how many everyday-heroes go completely unrecognized. One of the key things that sells this is the voice. The irritating persistence of Sensei Bob, tirelessly pulling the strings in the background, also helps :) Thanks for sharing!


Robert Egan
23:07 Oct 04, 2023

Thanks Michal! Your comment made my day, and I wanted this one to be about those overlooked characters. I was waiting until this story got approved to streamline the opening (and clean up some typos), but I hadn't known we're not able to make changes past that point. So guess there ain't nothin' to be done 'bout that, but thanks for giving it a read!


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Mary Bendickson
01:14 Oct 03, 2023

A real square deal.🆒 Thanks for liking my Where Wild Things Aren't


Robert Egan
22:50 Oct 04, 2023

Thanks Mary!


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06:10 Oct 02, 2023



Robert Egan
22:48 Oct 02, 2023

Thanks Anne!


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