It was science day at Woodrow Wilson grammar school in Seacaucus, New Jersey, and June knew her subject inside and out. She stood in the front of the room. She was well rehearsed. She didn't even have to hold her paper. There was no stopping her.
"Without friction there would be no anything," June said.
One or two of the kids wondered what she was talking about. Most of them were too busy passing notes or wishing the clock would tick to noon so they could eat lunch.
Mrs. Campbell smiled. She didn't know what June was going to say--just that June was her best student and sooner or later she'd make sense. Right now June seemed kind of lost.
"Let's start with cars," June said. "If there was no friction when you pressed on the gas the wheels would just spin and you wouldn't go anywhere. Or if you were going and pressed on the brakes, they'd just slide and your wheels wouldn't stop. But that wouldn't matter because even if the wheels stopped, you'd just slide, like on ice."
William Peula hit Gina Costagna with a spit ball. Mrs. Campbell made June stop while she sent William to the office to be talked to by the principal. When William was gone and the spit wad was out of Gina's hair, she told June to go on.
June said, "But if there was no friction, you couldn't even have a car. Because my dad said none of the bolts would stay on. All the screws would come out and the engine would fall apart. And the machines you use to make the car parts, they'd all fall apart except for the welded pieces."
Martin Bierwoznick yawned so loud it made the class laugh. Gordon Stewart's stomach growled. Everyone was laughing and it made June blush. Mrs. Campbell called for silence. She made Martin sit in front. She told Gordon to drink some water. She was going to tell June to go on, but she was having trouble with the child's epistemology. A cogent question wouldn't form in her mind.
June went on without waiting for Mrs. Campbell to say it was okay.
"And you wouldn't be able to get in the car because you'd just slide. Your hand would slip off the door handle. And you'd have to velcro your clothes to your body. You'd be like a hockey puck on the ice, my dad said."
June was starting to get agitated. The class began to take notice.
"And your blood would whiz through your veins and everybody would have high blood pressure and have strokes. The whole human body would have to be different. And we wouldn't stick right to the earth. The wind would be really strong all the time. Any little thing would push us into the ocean and we wouldn't be able to swim out because the water wouldn't stick enough to our hands when we paddled."
Now June was getting upset. Her face got red and she clenched her hands next to her hips.
"June?" Mrs. Campbell said. But June wasn't listening. Her young brain was having its first philosophical melt down and Mrs. Campbell didn't have enough professional training to recognize it, as she was being paid less than a trash collector to teach fourth grade to the city's children and didn't have enough money to feed her kids and go to night school.
So June freaked out without the help of a professional physicist or theologian.
Somewhere around the time she realized that in a frictionless world there'd be less entropy she lost a bit of her mind.
The fourth grader, June Pierson, realized that in a world without entropy, there would be constant order, and that a fully ordered world allowed no room for creativity.
When the ambulance came to take June away she was mumbling that if everything was perfectly ordered everything would be built, there would be nothing left to build, and so no room for new ideas, and so entropy was critical to the element of free will that brought creativity to the world. And that was life itself.
Mrs. Campbell, not having the proper training because of her afore mentioned impoverished and overworked situation did not realize one of her fourth-grade pupils had just derived a meaning for human existence from a short essay on the value of friction. Instead of jotting down some notes and suggesting June speak with counselors about advanced training, she made sure June's breakdown hadn't affected the other children.
William Peula returned from the office, having been sternly spoken to. He had been spared June's breakdown and so wouldn't need professional counselling later. Gordon's stomach was still growling and to his glee the clock struck twelve and it was lunch time.
Most importantly, it was pizza day.