Profit or Usefulness?

Moshe Sipper, Ph.D.
The Haven
Published in
3 min readAug 14, 2023


AI-generated image (craiyon)

I wrote this story a few years ago, as I came across Rubin’s Vase — the famous optical illusion, shifting between two faces and a vase:

Source: (public domain)

So what would you buy?🛒

A short story, excerpt from my book Fredric.

Figure and Ground

There was a large sign above the shop, written in calligraphic lettering, reading: Figure and Ground. The shop’s window held nothing but a small reproduction of Rubin’s Vase, the one that provokes a constant shift of attention between a vase and two facial profiles. I had nothing planned for the afternoon — not until my date that evening with Alona — and I was curious. So I entered the shop. It was empty.

Well, not entirely. Once my eyes had grown accustomed to the dim light, I noticed a small counter, behind which was seated the thinnest man I had ever seen. He had a stern look on his face.

“Good day, sir,” said the shop owner in a surprisingly kind voice, belying his severe poise. “How may I be of service?” I thought I’d detected a touch of an East-European accent, which I couldn’t quite place.

“Um …” I began hesitatingly, “to be honest, I’m not exactly sure what it is you sell here.”

“Ground,” he answered promptly.

“Sorry?” I must have misunderstood him.

“Ground,” he repeated with a grin. “Background. Figure and ground. Holes in Swiss cheese. Empty half of glass. Spaces between lines. Grin of Cheshire cat. Lint of pants. Soul in body. Alter ego. Back of mind.”

It was then I noticed a framed sign hanging on the wall at the counter’s end. Straining my eyes I could just make out the golden letters:

I turned to the owner. “I get it. So, for example, I can buy a bald spot?”

“Indeed you can, sir,” returned the man, his grin widening.

“Or the eye of a storm?” I continued.

“That too, sir.”

“How about a woman’s tacit consent?”

“I see you’ve grasped it, sir.”

“And your tariffs?” I asked.

“Quite reasonable, sir,” he replied readily, “quite reasonable.”

What could I buy? What did I really want? I cogitated for a while, there in the shop, until it came to me. That one thing I just had to have.

I bought a black hole. It came with a universe.

AI-generated image (craiyon)



Moshe Sipper, Ph.D.
The Haven

Swashbuckling Buccaneer of Oceanus Verborum 🌊 4x Boosted Writer 🚀