Other Stories in this issue

The Two-Body Problem

by Josh Pachter

About the Author: Over the last fifty years, Josh Pachter has contributed almost a hundred short stories to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, and many other publications. In 2018, one of his stories finished second in the EQMM Readers Award balloting, and another was a Derringer finalist. This is his third appearance in Mystery Weekly.


“So how are you going to handle the two-body problem?” asked Stacey, draining her beer.

I emptied the pitcher into her glass and signaled our server for a refill.

“Do we really have to talk about that now?” Shellie said, taking my hand. “This is an engagement party, Stace, not a wake. Bottoms up!”

The “two-body problem,” for those of you who don’t inhabit the Halls of Academe, is a plague that afflicts married couples in many fields, but particularly doctoral candidates in esoteric disciplines such as, oh, let’s say marine biology.

Cynics have long pontificated that those who can, do, while those who can’t teach. Some academics really want to teach, though, rather than dedicating their careers to mere lab rattery, and when two of those in an esoteric discipline get hitched, the two-body problem rears its ugly head. With the job market the way it is, it’s tough enough for one let’s say marine biologist to find a tenure-track position at an R1—which is, for the uninitiated, a top-level university that values teaching but also supports faculty research, i.e., the best of both worlds. When there are two of you in the same competitive field, the challenge is exponentially compounded.

Story Comments

Oct 13 - Susan Rickard

Best flash story I have ever read!

Oct 13 - Joan Goede

Makes me think of my niece and her husband always professing at a different university. Hopefully they don't run into this problem though! Nicely written!

Oct 13 - Bill Engleson

A delightful little mystery, witty, slick and smart. A great twist of an ending.

Oct 13 - Barbara Brennan

Love it! Obviously as a MysteryWeekly story and not an article in an academic newsletter I knew it was going somewhere - but that was not the somewhere I was expecting! I love the lightness of the tone - the story made me smile and the ending made me laugh.

Oct 13 - R. Krauss

Great story, Josh! Love the twist ending, wordplay, and all the jargon.

Oct 13 - David Berger

Frankly, I though the twist ending was improbable. And the final sentence is total trite.

Oct 13 - Jill King

Smart, entertaining, and the perfect length.

Oct 14 - Jim Courter

As a retired higher-ed academic, "Frankly, I though[t]" it was fun. I especially liked the breezy voice. And the "twist ending" leaves us wondering what Mr. PhD might be capable of. Nice work.

Oct 15 - Earl Staggs

Enjoyed the clever story, Josh, all the way to the surprise ending. My solution to the two-body problem? Dig a double-wide hole.

Oct 15 - Frances Dunn

I enjoyed this story but, truly, couldn't see the mystery in it. However, I loved the betrayal ending.

Oct 16 - Tina Jude

Smart, witty, clever are the words that come to mind while reading this fast-paced story. Well written and an unexpected ending, although we know who will really get the position...only one body.

Oct 18 - Jude Roy

You slammed the ending. Very nice.

Oct 19 - Elizabeth Varadan

I thought this was quite clever. Loved the play on words (two-body problem).

Oct 23 - Josh Pachter

Thanks to all who have commented! When my stories appear in other publications (EQMM, AHMM, various anthologies), I rarely get feedback from readers, so this is a welcome and refreshing change. And of course it's especially gratifying to see that so many of the commenters enjoyed the story! If you want to read more of my stuff, check out the Jan/Feb 2020 issue of EQMM and the new THE EYES OF TEXAS and DENIM, DIAMONDS, AND DEATH collections, both from Down & Out Books. Happy reading!

Nov 13 - Cindy Hospador

Great story. Love the play with the title and the problem.

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