Thursday, December 30, 2004

Today's Word: Egg

Willa laid an egg. It was black and it wiggled. She watched it break, horror petting her mind like a kind master. A babe lay there. A boy. His hair and eyes were black as the egg's shell; his teeth large and brilliant white.

"You've been a bad mommy," said the boy.

Willa gasped.

The egg boy jumped from his crib to stand naked and slimy before his horrified mother.

"Name me punishment," said the boy, "for I am yours."

Willa fainted away.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Today's Word: Despotic

Thank God for despotic pride.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Today's Word: History

Beware, there is history in your future.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Today's Word: Channel

Adrift in a sea of black and star
Man reaches out for what is far
He wishes to travel the channel of time
To break all seasons, cycles, and rhyme
But man with his mind trapped in white bone
Knows not the answer though the answer is shown
Time travelers all his teeming race be
Fleeing from the now to infinity
He races off to dream his dreams
Of raucous plans -- time cheating schemes
And realizes not the great irony
He traverses time like a ship at sea

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Today's Word: Rodomontade

After Wilford had lost the bet, we found that his red-faced rodomontade, much like the man himself, contained no spine; nothing to shore up his slick boasts, for he wouldn't go near the Seine, let alone drink a glass of its noxious water.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Today's Word: Smile

Tight sit Summer and Spring
At either end of the school year
Like the curly ends of a long smile

Monday, September 06, 2004

Today's Word: Stupid

Below is an email I received this afternoon. It is an example of pure stupidity. This is a message to all criminal minds planning to commit some crime that involves convincing your fellow human beings that you are affiliated with a professional organization: LEARN TO SPELL AND USE PROPER GRAMMAR. Commucation is key to crime.

WARNING: This is obviously NOT an authentic letter from Yahoo! But, just in case someone reads this and decides they should send the criminals behind it their PINs, I have removed the fake weblink at the end of the email.

Dear Yahoo! Member,
We are pleased to announce you that our Yahoo! Wallet has been improovedand that from now security will be our number one priority. As part of ournew upgrade you will be requested for a PIN verification for your creditcard. We are doing this because of the number of fraudulent transactionsvia our servers has increased dramatically and we are taking measures thatthis will not happen from now on.
Your PIN verification will be necesary for only one of your credit cards.Failure in making your verification will lead to suspending all servicesthat request Yahoo! Wallet. You can start this process by clicking the linkbelow. Your information will be sent via our 128 bits encrypted connectionand you can rest assured that this information will not be shared to any thirdparty.
Click here to go login to your Yahoo!

Friday, September 03, 2004

Today's Word: Woman

Poor woman. She is the saddest half of humankind. On her shoulders she bears all the burdens of the species: menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, quiet worry for overgrown children and childish husbands.

From birth she is told to be frilly and sweet, yet she is expected to bear the greatest pains in life, far beyond those leveled on man.

Woman deserves every consideration man can afford her, because, good God, what if you were one?

-- david j.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Today's Word: Copse

Trace spied the dogs and men from atop a hillock. They were ten men and twelve hounds, all stout as if fed from the same house and hand. All of the men, save one, wore the black uniform of a Puleese. The one, their captain, and a man of some renown, wore a similar suit, but his was forest green with a golden badge shaped like the sun at dawn stitched onto the breast.
Trace listened to the hounds bay for a few moments, watching as the men leaned back against their insistent tug so that they might inspect the ground for prints or disturbed scree. Then he rolled over and sprang down the opposite way toward a copse of elm and ash and freedom.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Today's Word: Unexpected

An unexpected turnabout is fair play.

-- david j.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Today's Word: Petrarch

Petrarch pointed at the river and said, "The water is the past, which we pour into this gourd -- that is today -- so that we might drink tomorrow."

I shook my head, bemused. "It's all Greek to me."

Petrarch frowned. "To the Greeks their Greek. I speak Italian."

Friday, August 06, 2004

Today's Word: Final

No story today. Just a comment. Summer finals are upon me. How can something be such drudgery, and yet, somehow, fun?

-- david j.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Today's Word: Gravity

Gravity loves my pants.

-- david j.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Today's Word II: Brain

Silly body, tricks are for brains.

-- david j.
Today's Word: Yay

I'm 29 today. . . yay?

-- david j.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Today's Word: Billingsgate

"I'd knock up every whore in Billingsgate to get my hands on that silk ship out of Yedo," said Bill, then spit into the scuppers.

"I'd drink ten gallons of slime and piss from the Danube for them pickings," said Jan, nodding his lice-ridden head.

"Shut your holes," said the Captain-General.  "Silk's for women like you.  I'm taking us after that golden city in the Americas.

"Madonna," muttered Bill.  "Not that dream again.  Fools gold city, they call it."

"Aye," agreed Jan.  "Better we should find that fountain of youth in Florida.  Living forever's better than searching for gold that don't exist."


-- david j.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Today's Word: Habit

The older missionaries in the village had that habit of speaking about their spouses in the third person Amish even if the person in question was standing right there.

Doc would say, "Sister Jenkins and I worked in Guatemala for ten years before this assignment."  Then he would take her weathered hand in his own -- a wholly unconscious action I think -- and smile, waiting for one of us to ask the question that meant he had leave to tell another story. 

It was a good two years; hard and happy.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Today's Word: Wheeee!

My son, Alex (5), and daughter, Grace (3), watching the Hot Wheels™ movie:

Grace:  That’s a bolcano.
Alex: That's not a volcano, Grace, that's a loopy-loop.
Grace: That's not a loopy-loop, that's a car.
Alex: (GameCube controller in hand, controlling nothing but his imagination) That's my car, I hit the boost.
Grace: (Begins to sing nonsensical song) Forever. . . day (gibberish)
Alex: What?
Grace: (Goes on singing) Every-day you (gibberish, quiets). . . Cars, cars, clang, clang, clang. . . the bridge on the happy going house.  Going to the house? Yep.  Use the bridge.
Me: What's Grace talking about, Alex?
Alex: (Laughs) She's talking about nothing
Grace: Fire, fire . . . vroom!  (Various car sounds, eyes glued to TV)
Alex: I'm saving the girl
Grace: I want to go to the girl's house.
Alex: We're not going to the girl's house.
Grace: Not going?
Alex: That's a big girl. (Attention turns back to the movie)  You're number eight (eight is last place in his favorite racing game).  Duh, you're losing.
Grace: (Now bored with movie which is on one of its long talking stints) Wheeeee!  (Slides off the arm of my easy chair several times).


-- david j.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Today's Word:  Exciting

"So what part of the movie were you in?" she asked, her sexy green eyes flashing.
"Well, you know that part where Rainslar says, 'Finally, a worthy opponent'?"
"Oh my God, that's the best part."  She leaned closer, intent, completely wrapped up in his story.
"Yeah, I was the opponent defeated just before that!"


-- david j.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Today's Word: White
It's too hot to be sad.  Sad is for a white world; a frigid time when cold winds wrest the tears from your eyes.  Sleet, like stony white cheeks, drizzles the earth, beating a soft tattoo that is all the sadness of man striking the earth with unrequited frustration.     

-- david j.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Today's Word:  Apostate
I'm apostate and I have a headache.
-- david j.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Today's Word:  Smallpox
And to think, our current climate of terror might have been very different if smallpox hadn't killed the Christians besieging Mecca a few hundred years ago. 
-- david j.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Today's Word: Tired

Writing while tired is a frustrating experience.

-- david j.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Today's Word: Deity

Camben Sorrowspriest fingered the crystal medallion which hung against his chest. Another month without incident and he might have retired from his position as royal advisor to the king of Selerous. Two weeks at the least and he could have been well away south, enjoying some spring festival in one of the larger villages along the Seedcatcher valley. But no longer. Never, in fact, would any of those dreams become reality.

Eighty-three years a priest in the order of Odane, only to find out that cursed deity actually existed. Why couldn't the king of gods hold his tongue? What was so special about this girl that made Camben's liege lord want her dead and the king of all gods want her alive? And which, if either, should the old priest follow? The god he had never truly believed in or the boy king in whom he had no trust?

Camben Sorrowspriest fingered his crystal medallion and pondered.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Today's Word: Write

Never ask the writer how the book reads. Rather, ask how the book writes.

-- david j.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Today's Word: Stalk

The eye, which was actually a mechanical iris attached to a springy stalk, turned to gaze at Leslie. She tried not to shudder, but it was no use, her body was no longer slave to her will. The eye moved closer, green light spilling from around the black pupil onto Leslie's nude figure. With her arms, legs and head held fast by strong metal wires, the young blonde woman could not turn away. She could only shut her eyes and scream.

Three loud pops, issuing from the darkness, roused Leslie from her horrified stupor. She opened her eyes in time to see the springy eye drop to the spaceship's metal floor with a crash. A man appeared below her. He was dressed in a trench coat, fedora, and black pants. In one hand he held a smoking revolver -- a Saturday night special -- and in the other flickered a cigarette.

"You're safe now, dollface," said Rock Malone. "I'll get you down."

Despite the situation, or perhaps because of it, Leslie felt an absurd fit of infatuation steal over her as she gazed down on the tall figure's broad shoulders and slim waist. She knew she shouldn't feel such excitement by the mere presence of a man, especially when hanging naked and helpless above him, but the raw power of her passion could not be denied.

Be sure to tune in next week for the exciting continuation of _The Adventures of Rock Malone_ and the exciting conclusion to this episode.

-- david j.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Today's Word: Motivation

Somewhere along the line (if a finite creature's life can be compared to an endless, pointless etching, created by no one) I lost my motivation. It must have been sometime after high school, though you would never have guessed that from my grades. I was motivated then. I could run five miles, do five hundred sit-ups, and twenty ten-count push-ups. I could date and work and go to school, all without a worry about deadlines. Forget an appointment? Never. I kept it all in my head. Now those days are melted -- fried in the South Carolina heat -- and I'm stuck in Georgia, trying to remember what day it is, and what paper I was supposed to write.

-- david j.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Today's Word: Prognosticate

The body cannot prognosticate. It doesn't understand "later tonight" or "aftter this run". It doesn't care about the pizza that's in the fridge at home, or the tall glass of water you promise it after mile three.

The body does, however, remember. It remembers the three months of knee pain that only cleared up after you bought new shoes. It remembers how your ate donuts for breakfast and are now demanding another mile under the hot sun. And it remembers two days ago, when you almost vomited from the heat and lack of hydration. It remembers you walked home after that.

-- david j.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Today's Word: Scrawl

In the third stall of the second floor restroom, where most men cannot go, there is a message scrawled across the inside of the army green door. It reads: "Longarm strikes again".

-- david j.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Today's Word: Posthumous

. . . and thus former President Reagan became the first ex-president to be posthumously elected Vice President, securing George Bush's bid for a second term.

-- david j.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Today's Word: Shampoo

Every little boy should learn that if you lather your head with shampoo, then beat it like a drum, it creates artificial snowfall. Likewise, every boy should teach this to his little sister.

-- david j.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Today's Word: Necessity

If necessity is the mother of all invention, then financing is the sperm donor.

-- david j.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Today's Word: AL QAIEDA

Poor Al. Nothing has been the same since those terrorists got popular.

-- david j.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Today's Word: Fixing

Jeb was fixing to fix the truck, but just then the water heater let loose with a sound like a hissing turtle that like to made every fainting goat in the yard kill over. Mama fixed some tea while we closed up the main valve, making sure to fix the wheel with a bungee cord so as to keep it locked in place. We was just fixing to bail out the basement when Cal came by, bragging on his new television with the flat screen and 3D sound. Jeb just fixed that old boy with a stare for a long moment, then we left for Cal's house in Cal's new pickup. Wrestling was on.

-- david j.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Today's Word: Mug

Turk didn't like my ugly mug, but what was that to me? If he wanted coffee then that was the best we could do.

-- david j.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Today's Word: Perorate

Seven clean-cut men -- seven suits of varying shades of black -- filled a small section of the auditorium chairs, listening to Peter Wesell pontificate on the matchless benefits of Wesell Global's univeral marketing strategy. At the end of forty minutes, one of the suited men raised his hand and stood when Wesell called on him.

"Your marketing success is fine, I'm sure, Mr. Wesell, but what does this have to do with a cadre of former CIA assassins like us?"

Wesell smiled, not an altogether pleasant expression when formed on his face, and said, "Why, my dear fellow, every good draftsman owns erasers."

-- david j.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Today's Word: Stress


-- david j.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Today's Word: Anathema

Sometime around midnight we saw the first of them. Anathema. Winged reptiles the color of wet sand their elongated snouts bejeweled with seven rows of serrated teeth. They swooped and dove toward our ship, several even striking the cockpit window with leathery wings. The sounds they mad were unearthly. They brayed warbling songs like the cough of an aged man losing a lung. Simpson guided the ship close to the canyon walls, our exterior lights picking out myriad crevices where the anathema made their homes. We might have caught sight of a broodling nusery, had the fool not moved too close to one of several dozen queens attached to the wall like an old-style jumbo jet suction-cupped upside down on the stone. The giant lifted its maw and bit through our nosecone. With its boulder-sized teeth still embedded in our now dead ship, the queen gave us a good shake and sent us tumbling toward the canyon floor.

That is where my memory grows hazy.

-- david j.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Today's Word: Roll

We rolled in on a green wave that sparkled at the edges where sunlight drizzled it with shine. The longboat bumped against the beach -- slid a bit on the sand making a gritty swooshing sound -- then came to a restive stop, seeming eager to be about its voyage; annoyed at this forray onto dry land. Men debarked, forced the bow higher onto the beach with stout ropes and stout arms, dragging it inches then feet, assuring the ocean wouldn't take hold of our ship and suck it into void. Savages appeared. First among the nearby green vines, then high up on the only hill, among the thick-plated trees there, seeming for all the world like monkeys, the way they took to the upper canopy. We burned them out of their havens, took their heads for trophies and some of us even ate of a few. Even their taste was savage.

-- david j.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Today's Word: Wizened

Old King Card gripped his sword with a wizened hand, lifting the blade above his head where it shook like dry leaves on a windy day.

"To me!" he cried, and started down the green hill at a gallop, only to topple from his horse and roll into the enemy's front line.

For a moment there was silence on the field, as men on both sides watched the golden lump of ornate armor lie still on the grass. Then a cheer rose, from both sides of the battleground. Card's Lord General, Faragain, rode forward, cast his sword before Castel, his heretofore mortal enemy, and said, "Thank God that man is dead. We surrender."

-- david j.
Today's Word: Puzzle

Don't eat puzzle glue. It gives you zits.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Today's Word: Content

We traveled towards the ocean across hot sand that spilled into our shoes like water. The wind was cool off the waves and it smelled of something dead. I posted an umbrella, one of the large kind that shades a spot large enough for a wooden lounge chair and two towels. Naddie read her book, some romance deal, while I reclined in the shadows, content to let the ocean rumble before us, and the wind pass us by.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Today's Word: Trust

Daddy held out his hand. "You don't have to trust me," he said. "I was never a father to you, Joey, so I know you probably don't trust me. But I'm here for a second go. I'm lucky, test pilots don't get many second chances."

To be continued

Monday, January 26, 2004

Today's Word: Pseudo

"I don't want you," I said. Was I growing shorter? Was this pseudo father growing larger? I looked at my hands, they were tiny. I was tiny. I was a boy.

To be continued

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Today's Word: Amazed

"Whoever you are, you need to get the hell out of my yard before I call the sheriff." Again I was amazed at the sound of my voice -- so young, so like the eight-year-old I had been when daddy died.

"You got a bum deal, Joey. I'm back to fix that. I'm back to make up for some of the hurts."

To be continued

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Today's Word: Reminiscing

Daddy was standing in the backyard. He wore his old jeans, the ones he donned for painting or mowing grass, and a scruffy football jersey I hadn't remembered till that moment -- a Dolphins jersey.

I was shaking, but I didn't run. I stepped out the screen door and moved closer. It was nighttime. Maybe this was some vagrant come to beg food, just some schmoe that caught me reminiscing and happened to match my dad's build. The man did not move, or disappear.

"Who are you?" I asked. My voice sounded young.

"I'm your daddy, Joe." His voice was right. It was keen and full of happiness -- it was light daddy.

"You're not my dad. My dad's dead."

Daddy smiled and held out his hands like a man saying, look here, do I look dead to you?

"I'm not dead, Joe. I'm just a little more. . . spread out."

To be continued

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Today's Word: Barometric

Last week, while sitting in the kitchen beside the old kerosene heater, eating a bowl of cereal from mom's stash in the pantry, something caught my attention outside the window. It wasn't a sound, nor a light, but more a change in atmosphere, as if the barometric pressure had suddenly dropped or risen.

To be continued

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Today's Word: Journal

I began this dateless journal a week ago today. That was the first day daddy came to me.

To be continued

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Today's Word: Boneyard

Mother died seven weeks ago. We buried her in Alabama, not in the plot beside daddy -- the empty plot that bears his name and nothing else -- at the Washington military boneyard. I didn't think she would want that.

To be continued

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Today's Word: Notoriety

I'm thirty years old. The world has mostly forgotten my father's name, as it does most people who die tragically. Killers -- human or natural -- gain notoriety, not victims.

Even I had mostly forgotten him, at least in all the ways an abused child might forget his abuser. But the good times are still with me. Is that so strange? To remember him only as a good man, a strong man, a pilot, fearless and sure? These are my only memories of the man, dim though they may be. I know that he was abusive, but those memories seem faded, dulled to gray in my mind. Mostly, I remember light daddy, the who left us for space.

To be continued

Monday, January 12, 2004

Today's Word: Legislation

We moved, but not back to Greensboro. Mom packed us off to live with Grandpa and Grandma Sacks in Alabama. From then on my childhood was quiet. I graduated high school and went on to study biochemistry at USC (you can't lick our cocks!). After a few years it was rare that someone would hear my name and ask if my father was that astronaut, you know, the one that attempted light speed before the government signed legislation banning further experiments. Most times I said yes, which led to further tedious questions. But sometimes I lied. No, we just share a name, I'm not related to him.

I wished it were true.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Today's Word: Distortions

Daddy won his slot during spring break. He took mom and me to Miami and Disney. He was happy daddy then -- light daddy, that's how I thought of him.
Light daddy took us on vacation. And it was light daddy that boarded the shuttle Adventure wearing his gallant orange pressure suit, bound for the Matyoshi space station. I imagine it was light daddy too, that departed Matyoshi aboard the Envoy, Earth's first and last attempt at faster than light travel. We received no live transmissions and any recordings were burned up in the wake of crashing time wave distortions. In fact, if the telemetry from Hubble III is too be believed, most of the nearby spacial debris and large portions of Pluto's atmosphere were sucked away by the subsequent black hole that lasted three milliseconds after the disaster. I doubt any man will ever know what really happened. Time distortions at the site make it impossible to investigate beyond long-range radiation and radar probes. Suffice it to say, daddy was gone.

To be continued

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Today's Word: Aces

I didn't know the smell of hard liquor back then; I had never been to a pilot bar, never seen the aces poisoning their fine brains with stupid penny bets.
Daddy put me in the hospital that day. All the while I could hear mom screaming, "Joseph, no! No, Joseph, that's your son for God's sake."
I had to tell the nurses I fell down the stairs. We didn't have stairs in the Pensacola house.

To be continued

Friday, January 09, 2004

Today's Word: Titan

Florida was hot. I didn't make many friends because it was summertime, but I stayed out of the house as long as possible every day, because daddy was coming home exhausted from testing. That made him mean. . . everything mad daddy mean.
School started and mom packed me off with my TITAN5™ lunchbox. Kids in Pensacola didn't like TITAN5™, they said it was too last year. I begged for a new one, and when mom said no, I begged all the more. Too much. Dad heard me one night, begging for something new -- he didn't care what it was: toy, clothes, lunchbox -- it was reason enough.

To be continued

Thursday, January 08, 2004

I'm starting a new serial story. Enjoy

Today's Word: Atomized

They said daddy was atomized, smeared across the cosmos like a thin paste of jam. I was eight years old.

Faster than light travel was within our grasp, all the news programs said so. We moved from Greensboro to Pensacola so dad could compete for test pilot slots in the new ISEO (International Space Exploration Organization). I didn't want to go. All my friends were in North Carolina, so I stayed in my tree house, keeping so silent my nostrils sounded like a clogged vacuum. When dad found me he boxed my ears till they bled. I had made us late and put the movers behind schedule.

Today’s Word: Deflower

My internal critic deflowered my muse.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Today’s Word: Eschew

Marty was never one to eschew the more dishonest means of earning a living -- it was a choice expected in the lower burrows of Geo Tokyo -- but the day he decided to pick the pocket of a quiet, square-shouldered man passing through one of the eastern slums was the first time Marty had had any contact with the new sect of Zen Taoist Samurai Elitists now building a temple in the Matyoshi district.
The Samurai, after breaking Marty’s left arm (fingers still reaching into a coat pocket), dropped him on the ground and systematically broke his collar bone, three ribs, and four of Marty’s tea-stained teeth. When he was done, the Samurai turned quietly on his heels, and walked slowly away as if he’d had nothing to do with the disturbance. For his part, Marty slipped off into a pain-induced coma, only to awaken sixteen hours later to a new life of studying to become a Zen Taoist Samurai Elitist.

Yes, this is a repeat from some months ago, but I figure few enough people read my blog to notice, and I like this one, so there.
Besides, the novel is eating up my time. It's a monster.

-- david j.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Today’s Word: Pejorative

Linda has prerogative; she's rich and I need her.
Rachael has priority; she's a natural redhead.
Kelly has presence; men look when she's on my arm.
Lucy has promptness; she's always on time.
Regina has pejorative; she's smart enough to dump me.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Today's Word: Crotch

The only thing worse than hives on your butt is hives on your crotch.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Today’s Word: Endue

My little girl tripped and fell, climbing the steep, grassy hill just before the finish line. She had been in third place, but several children passed her up as she lay sprawled, her grass-stained palms digging into the soft earth, struggling to rise on tired legs, wobbling a bit as she gained her feet. How I wanted to run to her, to lift her up by the armpits the way I had when she was a toddler. But I couldn't -- she would refuse me; she would push me away, wrinkling her nose at the very idea of help from her father, from anyone. I had endued her with this self-reliance, this determination to prove her worth in a world that would churn her under at the first sign of weakness. Never had I experienced such a mix of pride and pain.

She was daddy's girl no longer.
Today’s Word: Score

Late at night, when the sun is equidistance from dusk to morn, the scratching people come. They are wispy white souls with hands like balled up pieces of notebook paper. Long mouths and long eyes dominate their faces, wavering like disturbed water, while baby-fine hair dances about their heads on invisible currents of static.

The scratching people come in the house -- no lock stops them, no dog hears them. They slide in through cracks in masonry or window seals. On your bed they sit, these scratching people, scoring your back and belly, left elbow and right nostril with dry, itchy fingers. Their sound is your sound; the sandy susurration of nail on skin, slinking in the dark like cat claws.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Today’s Word: Sullen

The sulky seventeen year old lounged back in her oversized, plush-cushioned chair, letting her socked feet dangle over the carpet.

"But why do we have to die, Dad? I mean, our cells renew themselves for years and years, why can't they go on like that forever?"

Her father regarded the girl, catching her with an instant smile that made her grin despite her sullen mood.

"I suppose our cells could go on forever. They have it in them, if you will. But that's not how mother nature works. Like all things, not just living things, but all substances in the universe, we must evolve. We must move on, and the only way to do that --"

"-- is to die." The girl made a rude noise with her soft mouth.

Her father just smiled all the broader. "Yes," he said. "Yes, dear, that's exactly right. Evolution isn't about great strides in development like some engine being redesigned on a drafting table."

"So life is really just about bearing the next generation. A generation that will be better then you. . . that will be the death of you, really."

Her father nodded. "That's the hope of every parent, sweetie."

"I can't understand that. I never will."

Her father only grinned in that infuriating way of his. He was so last generation.