Inside ‘Quantum Physics,’ Part 2

We continue today with the story behind the story on the second piece of short fiction from my upcoming collection, Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure. To read previous installments, go here.


Backstory: This story, which is just a hair under 5,000 words, was inspired directly by a bus trip I took last fall from Billings to Missoula for the Montana Festival of the Book. I didn’t want to drive for a few reasons: First, I didn’t expect to need my car much during my weekend away, which proved to be true. Second, I wanted to travel as inexpensively as possible. Third, I didn’t have my car, because my wife was using it as she moved out of our home and we rode up to the brink of divorce. I’m not saying that flippantly; it was a horrible time in our lives, and as I’m wont to do, I was particularly attuned to inspiration in that crisis state. I found plenty of it on a Greyhound bus.

Here’s an excerpt:

Thirty-seven miles short of the mark, the Corolla belched forth a metallic grumble and died.

“Threw a rod,” the tow truck driver told him nearly an hour later, when he finally arrived and crawled under the nose of the car for a look-see. “Son of a bitch went right through the pan.”

“Oh, hell,” the man with the BlackBerry said as he relayed the news home in a text message. “I just had the oil changed this morning.”

“Yep,” the tow truck driver said, “and there it is.” He pointed back down I-94 a piece at the last dying cough of oil. “You get it done at one of those in-and-out joints?”


“I seen this happen a lot. Those guys there don’t take much care.”

“Bloody hell,” the man with the BlackBerry said. “How long to fix it?”

The tow truck driver whistled. “Long time. Expensive.”

The man with the BlackBerry rode the rest of the way in the cab of the tow truck, batting back her electronic invective (How could you not know you were leaking oil? How dumb are you?) with apologies and attempts at placation. In between, he attached a name to the tow truck driver, who hadn’t offered one.

Jeff Hobbs. 37 years old. On his third marriage. Works the graveyard shift at the refinery in addition to driving the tow truck. Former football star. Oh, and there’s this: He’s gay.

(Copyright © 2012 Craig Lancaster)

Trivia: The title of this story — This Is Butte. You Have Ten Minutes — comes directly from the mouth of the driver on my ride from Billings to Missoula. After hearing it, I promptly fell back asleep, so I never had a chance to put her on the clock once we arrived at the Butte depot.


Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure will be officially released on Dec. 6, 2011.

2 Responses

  1. Jim Thomsen

    So I expect a late-in-life book from you: “The Winch That Stole Christmas: The Lost Jeff Hobbs Stories.”

    August 16, 2011 at 11:53 am

  2. “This is Butte. You have ten minutes.” –I love that title!

    August 16, 2011 at 7:44 pm