Saturday, August 22, 2015

The piñata

It's Dane's birthday today.  He's eight now, or six, or something.  It's on all the cards, I can look it up.

I didn't want to name him Dane.  I wanted Dan.  A nice, solid, normal name.  My wife, who wasn't my wife at the time, wanted something more unique.  I told her there's no such thing as "more unique," there's only unique and not unique, and if there are two of something, it's not unique.  She told me if I felt that way then we should name him Haoivjnasdlrigh2424 (she was typing this, in an email).  Then she told me to fuck a dictionary next time (this was shouted, not typed, later at breakfast).  Dane was a compromise.  I thought, at the time, that I wouldn't hate it, but I do, I really do.

He looks like a Dane too.  Icy blue eyes and an emphatic sweep of Nordic blonde hair.  He doesn't look a thing like me, or my wife for that matter.  Not that anything happened.  He just took all our greasy, mottled, recessive genes and built something better out of them.

It's a Saturday so we had his birthday party today.  He invited a bunch of kids from his class, like 20 of them.  I was in charge of the piñata.  My wife gave me a piñata and a big bag thing of candy and told me to fill it up.  This is all you have to do today, she said, so don't complain, which, I hadn't.

The bag was huge.  I thought, I don't want all those annoying kids to get all this candy.  What have they done to deserve it?  What have they achieved?  What pain have they lived through?  None of them had even been alive for 9/11.  I'd been there, I mean, in Connecticut.

The piñata was a donkey.  I was the one who picked it out.  Just your normal piñata.

I opened the candy bag.  I took out one candy thing, a Dubble Bubble, and put it in the piñata and sealed the thing up.  I hid the rest of the candy under a pillow on the couch.

The kids were already outside running around by the time I brought the piñata out.  They all stopped dead when they saw it.  Dane hadn't known it was coming -- he looked like he was about to burst with joy.  He ran over and grabbed my leg.  "Daddy, can we do the piñata now?" he asked.  I laughed and waved a finger at him.  "No no," I said, "the piñata comes last!"  I gave him a little wink.  "Besides, it'll be even more fun if you have to wait!"  He trotted off, disappointed, but quivering with specialness.

All afternoon, the kids kept coming back to look at the piñata, which I'd hung up on the branch of the biggest tree in the yard.  My wife kept trying to organize games and activities, but all anyone wanted to do was run around and scream or stand under the big tree and look up at the piñata.  "Is it full of candy?" one of the younger-seeming ones asked me.  "We'll just have to wait and see!" I said, and patted her on her little head.

We'd set up a couple card tables and folding chairs for eating cake and unwrapping presents, but the yard was uneven and the kids kept tipping over, so I suggested everyone sit in the shade of the big tree, under the piñata.  They sat and ate their cake reverently, gazing up at the piñata like it was an icon.

Someone's parents came to pick him up early.  He looked at the piñata and burst into hopeless tears.  His mom asked him what was wrong and he couldn't even speak, so they just grabbed a party bag and dragged him away.

Finally, after everything else was done, it was time to break open the piñata.  I brought an aluminum softball bat out from the garage.  "Be very careful when you're swinging this," I said.  Dane gave me a serious look, like he wanted me to know that he took the responsibility seriously.

I gave him the bat.  "Everyone stand back," I instructed.  "Now Dane, you get three swings.  If you don't break it in three, then it's the next person's turn."  He nodded.  "Everyone, when the candy falls, grab as much as you can, but be careful of everyone else, and make sure everyone gets some.  No fighting and no trampling, this is supposed to be fun, right?"  My wife smiled at me, taking charge like I was.  I stepped back and said, "all right, Dane, when you're ready."

He took one big whack.  "Whoooaaa!" everyone yelled.  He put a dent in the donkey's side but nothing more.  "Good swing!" I said, encouraging my son.  "Try again!"  He took a second swing, very quickly.  "WHOOOAAA!"  He got the foot, it was dangling.  "One more shot," I told him.  "Make it a good one!"  He gathered himself this time, took a breath.  He didn't want to give up that bat.  He swung so hard he came off his feet.  He caught the piñata flush and it burst right through the middle.

The one piece of Dubble Bubble fell to the flattened grass.  All the kids dived on it, instinctively.  One of Dane's older cousins got it.  Only after he stood and held the candy up did everyone else realize that something was not what they expected.  They all looked up.  The piñata was ripped through, emphatically open and empty.  Dane forlornly poked it with the bat and the legs fell.  One kid got on his hands and knees and started frantically feeling around for more, like he thought the rest was invisible.

Dane looked up at me.  My son's heart was broken.  The planes had flown into the twin towers of trust and innocence that once stood in his heart.  "Dad?" he asked.  I started to laugh.  My wife threw a plastic cup at me and cursed and stomped inside.

I told the kids the rest of the candy was in the trash.  They went digging through the garbage until their parents came and picked them up, one by one.

After everyone left, I took the candy out from behind the pillow -- no one had found it -- and walked down to the bridge down the road from us and threw it all in the creek.

The end result of all of it was, everyone's mad at me, and next year Dane's having his birthday at the mini golf course.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Candy canes

I recently came into a large shipment of candy canes.  Legally, let's say.  Well, there was a box of them just sitting out in the rest area parking lot.  Small ones, wrapped in plastic.  Maybe they were for the rest area, but they were closer to the woods than anything, so I figured, up for grabs.

Now I'm no abstainer, I like to snack on a bag of corn bites just like anybody else, but I've never been one for the sweet candies, so my first thought was finding a way to sell them.  I knew I didn't really have room at home and that Beth would not like it, so I drove over to Scott's place.

Scott works at the front desk at the lumber mill, and I was thinking he could sell the candy canes out of a little box at the desk to all the guys who came in there for lumber.  He was watching wrestling with his girlfriend when I got over there.  I knocked on the window.  His girlfriend screamed, she thought I was an intruder or something.  Scott waved me over to the side door.

I told him about my plan to offer candy canes for sale exclusively to patrons of the lumber mill he worked at.  He said he didn't think it was a good idea.  He said he couldn't sell things at the front desk of the lumber mill without his boss Cheryl's permission, and that she was unlikely to give it for candy canes from a box found in the woods.  I told him, well, skip that part when you're telling her, this is a cash payout we're looking at probably approaching three figures, which you'd have to be a fool and a coward to turn down.  He said he didn't want to and that I was making him miss wrestling.  I said, fine, I'd take the candy canes somewhere else.  He suggested I try Kevin, who works at the bank.  It was a very good idea but I just said I'd think about it, because I didn't want to give him any satisfaction.  But as I was walking off Scott said he wanted a 10 percent fee for every candy cane I sold at the bank because he'd directed me to Kevin.  I told him fine and he should go watch his precious wrestling and he said thank you, I will.  I kicked a front-yard flower of his as I was walking off, which felt good.

I figured I'd bring the candy canes to Kevin in the morning.  In the meantime, I brought the candy canes home and figured I'd keep them in the garage or something until I brought them over to Kevin's, but as soon as Beth saw me carrying the box in the door she stopped and said, no.  She said she didn't want me bringing anymore trash into the house, since I had already been storing a bag of old rags I'd also found, thinking that they'd come in handy down the line, and I didn't have anywhere to leave them but Beth's office, which she took to be some kind of provocation.  I told her that this wasn't trash, it was just a box that had been abandoned in the woods, but she didn't want to hear about it, and she said I would not be sleeping in the house as long as that box was around, so I said fine and drove off to Kevin's place that night.

Kevin was asleep or something so I had to pound on his door for a very long time before he answered, at least thirty minutes.  He asked me if it was emergency and I told him no, I just had this idea for selling a box of found candy canes at the bank where he worked.  He also said his boss wouldn't let him, he said they'd tried to have a little plate of cookies next to the deposit slips for a while but then the health inspector said that made them technically in the eyes of the law a restaurant and then he found a bunch of rats in the vault so now they can't have any food, even during lunch breaks they have to eat in their cars.  I said a candy cane is different from a cookie, it's packaged, it's more like a consumer product or an appliance whose utility is you eat it, so what's the harm in at least asking, and he said fine, because he was tired, but he wanted 50 percent.  I told him he wasn't getting 50 percent when I was providing the candy canes at cost and he just had to sit there and sell them.  He said 50 percent or nothing.  I said he could have 45, same as me, because I'd already promised 10 percent to Scott as part of a side deal, but he said that any side deals I'd made didn't apply to him, he wanted 50 percent or he'd walk, so I had to agree, even though it killed me and I was now a minority partner in the box of candy canes I'd found and still had to lug around, because Kevin said that I should just bring them to him at the bank tomorrow morning.

So I brought the candy cane box back home and stuffed it in the kids' old treehouse where Beth wouldn't find them.  I hung a sign that said, "KEEP OUT," which animals wouldn't be able to read, but I hoped they would instinctively understand the meaning of my angry, slashed handwriting.

I woke up in the morning without the enthusiasm one would expect of a man with a box of candy canes soon to be put up for sale.  Beth was angry with me because I'd been out late and wouldn't tell her why, and she chewed me out viciously for a significant part of the morning.  A 40 percent stake was hardly worth the toll these candy canes had taken on my time, health, friendships and marriage.  On the way to the bank, I called in sick to work because I knew this candy cane thing was probably going to take a pretty big chunk out of my day, but as soon as I made the call, I came to a sad realization.  Taking the candy canes from the woods had been an honorable try but it was time to admit that I'd failed.

So instead of meeting Kevin at the bank, I drove the candy canes over to town hall and got a meeting with the Mayor.  I told him I wanted to donate them to the children of the town during a Candy Cane Festival.  The Mayor agreed immediately, and said that the Festival would be held that weekend, in my honor.  I asked him if I could store the candy canes at town hall until then and he said, thankfully, "yes."

---

The Candy Cane Festival was held on the town green.  It seemed like the whole town had come!  The Mayor held a little ceremony where I was honored with a ribbon and a medal and a large photograph of my face, in recognition of my generosity.  All the signs that were hung read "Chris's Candy Cane Festival," identifying me by name.  My good feelings increased after seeing Scott and Kevin, standing with their arms crossed at the edge of the crowd, chagrined they could claim no percentage of my glory.

"And now," called out the Mayor, "let's dig in!"

With the Mayor's signal, the box was opened and the kids swarmed, pulling out handfuls of candy canes, laughing and smiling.  Beth took my hand.  "Isn't it nice to see something good you brought to the world?"

But it wasn't nice.  It made me feel sick.

I saw the kids biting into their little canes, sucking them down, waxy red slime spreading across their faces, and I saw what I'd done.  Those candy canes hadn't belonged to me.  I'd stolen them.  By giving them away, I'd hoped to chase the evil off, but all I'd done was stain the children -- I'd made them complicit in the wrong I'd done.  And now the consequences would be visited upon innocent kids.

So what I did is I started yelling.  I yelled at the kids to put the candy canes down, and when they didn't, I ran around, knocking the canes out of their mouths and onto the ground.  They certainly cried a lot, and in aiming for the candy canes I accidentally struck a child or two very hard, but I didn't stop until all the candy canes had been knocked into dirt, even as parents tried to pull me off and knock me down and assault me.  Then I grabbed the box and drove off.

When I got home there was already an angry message on the machine from the Mayor, calling me a lunatic and other such names, and demanding I return the medal I'd been given that afternoon.  But they'll have to take it from me.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Bags Bunny video game proof of concept

Bags Bunny is a bunny (rabbit) who is always up for a good time.  He loves to deceive others and eat his favorite food: tomatoes.  But a hunter steals all his tomatoes and holds his girlfriend hostage and threatens to blow her brains out if Bags does not surrender himself.  Now it is up to Bags to swoop in and save the day and collect back his tomato collection, which was stolen.

Here is a photo of Bags munching on his favorite food: tomatoes, in stunning 3D.

The game starring Bags is a 3D platformer.  That means that Bags is basically just walking around collecting tomatoes and defeating enemies in a cartoon-like world.  Bags is originally a cartoon -- well, he wasn't originally anything, because I made him up, based on nothing, but he kind of looks like a cartoon.  He looks like a cartoon in the sense that he is a tall rabbit who talks.  He has a fresh demeanor and a bad attitude but in a humorous, relatable way.

Here is what Bags would look like walking through his eye-catching 3D world.


Note the tomato on one side of the world and the enemy on the other.  This is an example of the gameplay choice players would face: should he eat the tomato (sustenance) or pursue the enemy (vengeance)?  This sustenance vs. vengeance dichotomy would be at the heart of the gameplay.  Note also the tree, which demonstrates that the game takes place outdoors.

Here is Bags throwing a book in the trash, because he is too cool for reading.

Bags would face a number of enemies in his game/life.  For example, Ducky Duck, a duck who is always arguing with Bags about the time of the year.  There is Almar, the hunter who has captured Bag's girlfriend and tomatoes.  Almar is of Romanian descent.  And finally, there is Old West Sam, a man with orange hair and a large hat.  Bags also has some friends, like Ducky Duck helps him, sometimes (he's an enemy sometimes and a friend sometimes) and Porkpie Pig, which is a clothed farm animal.

The special skills of Bags reflect the kinds of things bunnies do in real life, such as walking, shuffling around, punching, making sarcastic remarks, and holding a flashlight to illuminate dark areas.  Bags cannot jump because his legs were broken in an accident.  This is because it is difficult to program a video game bunny to jump, so I decided just to not bother with it at all.  Every time I tried something would go wrong, like Bags would jump in the air but never come down, or he'd get stuck under a ledge, or the game would shut down and my computer would melt.  Several computers melted in this manner.  But I feel like my difficulties with programming jumps are actually a positive because that means we only have to worry about stuff on the ground.  Many tomatoes will be placed just out of Bag's reach and so the player will spend many hours of fun trying to figure out how to jump or climb or reach, but in fact the tomatoes will be unreachable, ensuring that their fun never ends.

Here is Bags standing beneath a tomato he cannot reach in glorious 3D.


Bags is an original creation of mine, based on nothing.  I had the idea for a sarcastic bunny who is enemies with hunters.  If there is another bunny like this, well it is just a strange coincidence, but I truly have no idea that there is because I am not aware of all the characters that were ever created, that would be insane.  The idea for Bags came to me in a dream.  I was walking through a strange forest world (in the dream) when suddenly I heard a crunching behind me.  I turned around and saw a tall, slender gray bunny with big ears and buck teeth.  "My name is Bags," he said with a wink.  "Would you like to fuck me?"  How could I, I thought (but I knew he could hear me), when you're not real?  "You'll just have to make me real!" he said, and he slid down into his bunny hole.  I jumped at him and grabbed his back legs just before they slipped out of view and squeezed them as hard as I could.  "I don't know how to make you real!" I called out to him, "please tell me!  Come back!"  But Bags was screaming, "aaah, my fucking legs!  You broke them!  You fucking idiot, you broke my fucking legs!"  I pulled him out of his hole.  He panted and a tears clouded his eyes.  His legs were twisted backwards -- bone stuck through the skin.  "Well?" he said, looking up at me.  "Are you going to fuck me now, or aren't you?"  Then I woke up.

Here is a picture of Bags from my dream, thinking, I am a bunny with broken legs, what is left of me? and how much longer can I be expected to live?


I want to make it clear that this video game has nothing to do with fucking Bags Bunny, or any hypothetical desire on my part to do so.  There are no levels or abilities that enable you to fuck Bags in the game or even simulate fucking him, or simulate him fucking you or anyone else.  That was just the genesis of the idea.  Ideas can come from many unusual places, including dreams.  One time I dreamt that I lived in an orange bedroom.  The walls hummed with light, and I felt safe there.  I woke up and went right down to the paint store (after I had showered and dressed) and bought a couple cans of orange paint and painted without rest until my bedroom looked just as it did in my dream.  My bedroom is still orange and I hate it.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Snacks I Found

Feel free to read Snacks I Found, some kind of story written for the latest issue of online snack-mag Snacks Quarterly.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The Father's Challenge

Something a father will do sometimes, to amuse himself, is take his very small child and toss him into the air.  The child is thrown above the father's head, as high as he can be thrown, and the father attempts to catch the child on its way down.  This is called the "Father's Challenge."  It is a test of the dexterity and confidence of fathers.  The Challenge is most often performed in the company of a young woman other than the child's mother.

The Father's Challenge has been observed across all human cultures and societies.  Some tribes, in times of low birth rates, perform a version of the Father's Challenge as a fertility ritual, in which a tribe member tosses a local melon, usually followed by a feast.  This is echoed in "Melon Day," an unofficial holiday celebrated since the early 19th century in western Vermont and northeastern New York, on the last Sunday in April, in which men would traditionally hurl melons in the town square, with the man who hurled his melon the farthest receiving a calf (the holiday is still celebrated in several towns today, but the competitors are now principally children, and the prize is a vat of ice cream).

Here is former President Ronald Reagan at a 1984 campaign event: "And I want to thank Governor Kean for hosting today.  I know dealing with Secret Service today was a veritable 'Father's Challenge' but he's been up to the task," (hold for audience reaction).

The best melon to use for Melon Day or a fertility ritual or for anything really is round and heavy and rough around the edges like a cantaloupe.  The melon should be the size of an average cantaloupe.  If a cantaloupe is not available, use a different melon.  Native tribes have been known to use different melons.

An estimate for the percentage of fathers who attempt the Father's Challenge is 96 percent.  Although rates are high across the board, boys are more likely to be thrown than girls, by a small but statistically significant degree.  Of the 96 percent of fathers who attempt the Father's Challenge, 88 percent are successful.  Those whose fathers fail the Father's Challenge (i.e. those who are dropped) have gone on to become the most brutal criminals in the history of the species.  Dennis Rader, Jared Lee Loughner, Gandhi, Nicolae Ceausescu are some examples of children dropped during the Father's Challenge.  The theory that the derangement of these children results from head trauma has been debunked by extensive neurological analysis, leading researchers to speculate that the derangement comes not from the impact, but from the fall -- from the slipping-through-fingers.

Here is former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge speaking extemporaneously: "The challenges we face in this, aah, you might call it a 'new century of terror' amount to more than a simple worldwide 'Father's Challenge.'  Aah, by which I mean -- I don't mean to trivialize the threat, quite the opposite.  What I'm saying is, aah, this country must remain vigilant against, aah, all such threats."

Melons are found on six continents.  Melons on the five main continents are different but recognizable as melons.  Upon seeing an Asian melon, the typical North American would say, "what a strange melon" ... BUT HE WOULD RECOGNIZE IT IMMEDIATELY AS A MELON.  The Australian melon is blue and rectangular and tastes like ash.

Here is former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, again speaking extemporaneously at a separate event: "I, aah, listen.  I like good melon.  This is, this is, this is -- listen, just -- it's mealy melon.  I'm sorry, I don't want to hurt your feelings, I just ... listen, stop crying."

Recent study suggests that those who were NOT dropped but WERE raised by fathers who failed the Father's Challenge with ANOTHER CHILD showed milder versions of the same symptoms: alienation, anger, confusion.  These milder symptoms were also found in the children of the 4 percent of fathers who do not attempt the Challenge.  Suggesting it is not being dropped that is the cause of these problems, but something in the fathers themselves.  A lack of sureness.  They wear fathers' clothing and their voice drops into the register of fathers, but they are not Fathers.  And so the Challenge is not an event, or a cause, with consequences, but a test -- a revelation, of something already decided, inscribed deep inside a man's melon.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Monday, May 18, 2015

Christopher

They found my bird's body in the river, a few miles downstream from the bridge.  A team of divers had pulled it up -- weren't even sure it was a bird at first, that's how bad it was, they thought it might just be a rat or a box filled with tissue paper or something, but they brought it ashore and got a good look at it and, sure enough, bird.  Investigators ruled it a suicide.

---

That night I went on a first date with this girl Vanessa at some bubble tea place.  That's the tea with the weird colored bubbles floating in it.  I asked for tap water.  She asked why I didn't get tea and I told her I didn't like it, and she said she didn't really like it either, so we left.  I asked her what she did.  "Who the fuck knows," she said.

---

I still remember when the call came.  There was a knock at the door.  Technically it wasn't a call, it was a knock at the door.  It was a police officer, looking down, hat in his hand.  He told me they had found my bird.  My heart leapt.  But then he said she had been dead for days.  I fell sobbing into the door frame.  The officer put his big hand on my shoulder, and told me I should get back out on the dating scene, try to move past my loss --

---

We tried to figure out what we should do.  I thought, vaguely, maybe I'd be able to go home.

"Dates," she said.  "What do people do on first dates?"

"We could go to a movie," I said.  I didn't want to see a movie.  "We could ride a ferris wheel."

"Let's go to that Duane Reade," she said, pointing to a big one on the corner.  "I have to buy a pregnancy test."

---

They wouldn't let me see the body.  "Our investigation isn't complete yet."  The woman at the front desk stared through me with contempt.  Did she know something?  Did the police suspect that I had something to do with my little bird's death -- that it wasn't a suicide at all?  Or did she merely blame me for whatever despair had brought my bird to such a lonely end?  "I can't stay," I said, "I have a date."

---

We dashed through to the back of the store.  She seemed to know, if not exactly where the pregnancy tests would be, at least the general area.

She picked up a couple boxes and compared them to each other.  "Generic brand!" she said.  "Should I shoplift them?" she asked.

"I don't know."

"It would be a hell of a story to tell," she said.  "To whatever's in there, I mean."  She frowned.  "It wouldn't be that good a story."

We went up to the counter.  "Two boxes of these," she said, "and a pack of batteries."  I scanned the cashier's face for a reaction, but she looked dead, out on her feet.

---

The first thing I did was take a walk, to clear my head.  Every tree I walked under shed dozens of tiny brown birds up into the sky.

Down the block I saw a crowd of people pour out of a church and start running towards me, furious, screaming and shaking canes and hymnals.  I knew it was probably nothing to worry about, probably just the congregation's weekly jog, but I had the thought that they were coming for me, and I started to run.  I stumbled trying to take the corner and I fell into a pile of trash bags.

---

We stood around outside.  It was hot, too hot to loiter anywhere.  We walked into a bar across the street that we had just seen a tiny man sweating through a green shirt open up.  He gave us a dirty look when we walked in, like he wanted some time in the bar to himself before anyone came in to bother him.  Vanessa ordered a beer, then said no, a Sprite, then winked at me.  "Just in case!"

---

I lifted myself out of the trash.  I had reached the end of my reserves of goodwill for my fellow man.  The congregation had run past.  I picked up a rock and threw it at a parked car across the street, but I missed.

---

I asked her when she wanted to take the pregnancy test.  You could do it now, I said.  I'd want to know right away, if it were me.  She said no -- she felt alive with possibility, and she didn't want to let go of it just yet.  I asked, the possibility of what?

"Willful self-destruction," she said.  "The possibility that there is something I've done that has yielded consequences."

The man in the green shirt threw up into a sink behind the bar, then swayed, then fell over.  We took our tips back and ran.

---

I missed the car.  I struck a bird.

---

Her name was Vanessa.  She had yellow feathers.  She couldn't speak, but she tried, I could tell -- she wanted to speak so badly.  I told her all my secrets, except for the big ones.  She would curl up in bed next to me when I slept and scoot up so her little head was under my chin, and we'd keep each other warm through the long winter nights.

---

She said her friend lived in this neighborhood and offered to get me high at her place.  I didn't really feel like getting high, but I said all right.  I didn't really feel like doing anything but getting hit in the face with a cruise missile.

I don't remember the friend's name.  Vanessa told her about the pregnancy tests she'd bought.  I got the sense that the friend already knew the story up to that point, whatever it was.  They started talking about having kids and names and stuff like that.  The friend said she didn't want to have a kid because it would interfere with her career.  I asked her what she did, and she said she lived in filth, like that was the answer.

Vanessa said that if she had a boy, she'd name it Christopher, after me.  I thought that was a pretty funny joke.

"All right," she said, "enough suspense."  She took the tests into the bathroom.  Her friend and I didn't say a word to one another the whole time she was in there.

She came out, wiping her hands dry on her shirt.  "Well?" her friend asked.  "I'll never tell!"  She sounded too joyful to have gotten bad news, but if I guessed what she would have considered good news I would have only been projecting.

---

We agreed to go our separate ways.  People were streaming out of the subway stop.  An angry-looking MTA guy in a gray jumpsuit was saying the station was closed -- the whole line was down.  We tried to figure out another way to get back but she gave up and hailed a cab.  She offered to get me high at her friend's place.

---

I woke up choking.  I reached into my mouth and pulled out a feather.  How did -- ?  I ran it into the bathroom and threw it into the toilet and flushed.  The water drained but the feather floated on top, and rose again, with the tide, as the bowl refilled.  I flushed again but there was a rattling sound and a stream of brown water slithered up into the bowl, as if in revolt.

---

I saw Vanessa a few months later.  She was deeply pregnant.  I told her congratulations.  She looked miserable, just, miserable.  I asked if this was the pregnancy from our first date.  She said, "I don't know."  She spit a seed onto the sidewalk, right by my feet -- I hadn't seen before, but she'd been chewing on seeds.  "I never took the test," she said.  "I dumped them out and flushed them down the toilet."  I asked her who the father was.  She told me it was to be a virgin birth.