Archive for January, 2016

Fecal Analysis.

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Ape shit
Red-hot, with a white, pulsating core that blisters skin and raises the hair on the back of the neck. Lumpy in apparent texture, but closer palpation reveals the ‘lumps’ are actually jagged spines. Smells frenzied, with a nose of piss and vinegar. Frequently used in fertilizing grudges, outbursts, and maniacal sprees, as well as tanning hides. Will cause harm in a private residence without trained supervisors present.

Bat shit
Messy and haphazard, often found in over-complicated winding patterns that suggest several plans went wrong at once. Consistency varies wildly from feces to feces, as well as within that same feces. Smells like primal scream therapy funneled through the nostrils, with a warm, nutty finish. Sometimes used to grow fruits in loops, but largely considered hazardous for human consumption. Do not touch.

Bear shit
Robust, solid and earthy in form, texture, and heft; indubitable in its firmness. Looks exactly like you’d expect it to and nothing else besides. Incredibly strong smell renders it obvious to even the most cursory of inspection. A common and everyday sort of feces that can often be found right where you’d expect it to be – in fact, so often that most people never even bother to verify its presence at all.

Bull shit
Insubstantial and chalky, crumbles at the slightest skeptical touch. Possible formations can include: mounds, mountains, heaps, reams, tons, wads, and truckloads. Scent is arbitrary, but you’ll know it when you smell it. No common household use, but can ‘hive’ inside a willing host, acting as a form of symbiosis: the host animal provides a warm, safe nest, and the feces, when spewed violently, offers a form of basic defense. Signs of bull shit habitation tend to include: slight browning of the sclera, nose tip, and, when smiling or grinning, most exposed teeth. Reviled publically, yet overwhelmingly popular.

Chicken shit
Fleeting and trickly spatters, prone to running. Often deployed in place of urine. Is a key ingredient in many forms of industrial lubricant, but unadulterated usage can result in jerky, awkward movements. Exposure can be fatally embarrassing in serious adults or people who want to be serious adults. Spreads by word of mouth.

Horse shit
Similar to bull shit but more explosive and volatile. Can erupt at any moment when exposed to skeptical inquiry. If left to ferment longer, can detonate into subcritical apeshit. Use tongs, dispose of in a calm, neutral environment and allow a cool-down period before re-exposure to the source of the feces.

Storytime: Fairy Tales of the Great and Powerful.

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

Once upon a time, in a faraway castle, there was an elderly and respectable giant of great size and luxurious, flowing hair. Many were his impoverished, plucky subjects, and enlightened and benevolent was his paternal rule over their short-sighted and selfish whines for charity, even if he did have to punish them now and then for their own good as was his just and manifest right.
Then one day, as the relaxed giant was having his morning bowl of Cloudflakes in his breakfast nook, a fearful great stretching and scrunching sound arose from beneath his feet, growing louder and louder faster and faster until WHOOM a great beanstalk burst up between the cobbles of his floor, vigorous and virulent.
“Goodness gravy,” said the genial giant, putting down his pitchspoon. “I didn’t think I told the gardeners to use that much fertilizer; I’ll have to have their families deported. Now, who’s this then?” he asked of the tiny, fuzzy creature clinging to the side of the beanstalk. It chittered at him and bared its tiny, simian teeth.
“Ah! It’s a young urchin,” deduced the clever giant. “How utterly peculiar! Mayhap I can train it to shed the most irksome of its wild and savage ways and lead it upon the path of prosperity and right-mindedness! Here, m’boy, try a mouthful of this pate. It was made from the finest and fattest marrow-bones of the most upstanding paupers I could grind. Then we can wash you up, chain you in the dungeon, and put you to work weeding my driveway, waxing my limousine, and earning an honest day’s minimum wage, minus expenses on my part for housing, education, food, drink, and oxygen.”
The urchin gently reached out and touched the bowl, then flipped it into the air and atop the generous giant’s face. As he stumbled, cursing, it plucked his silver pitchspoon from his paw, his novelty golden egg dispenser from his table, and last and most audaciously his second-favorite golden smartphone from the charging station on the kitchen counter.
“I’ll grind you alive!” reproached the wounded, tender-hearted giant, but alas, he discovered to his chastisement that the urchin was far nimbler than he, and was already halfway back down the beanstalk. The bereaved giant shook his fist at the retreating thief, went back inside and found his eighth-favourite golden smartphone, and dialed up the mayor, police commissioner, and governor to complain, all of whom were his golfing buddies.
Two weeks later a tough-but-fair series of bills to cut down on crime, lawlessness, youth delinquency, and smartphone theft rolled out, and the weary giant sat in his nook with a sigh of contentment as the paper proudly informed him that the incarceration rate for peasant, urchin, and impoverished children had skyrocketed. Some of them were being arrested even faster than they could charge them with anything!
The gentle giant sat back in his chair with a satisfied smile and idly glanced out the window, where he was satisfied to see the foreclosure on the tiny, unkempt cabin far beneath his castle had finally gone through. At the press of a button on his newest, favoritest smartphone, a foreman pressed another button and it was knocked to flinders and cinders.
And he lived happily ever after, particularly after his fourth martini.

A long time ago, in a cave far, far away, there was a wise, rich, beautiful, magnificent, powerful, and wealthy dragon of discerning and sophisticated tastes. In particular, it deeply enjoyed consuming lovely maidens, and it was the pleasure and benefit of the local lands that this was so, for this habit supported a thriving throng of jobs in the maiden-sacrificing industry. Truly, it was a pillar of the community; nay, without its blessing, could any community be said to exist at all? Such is the generosity of the great, from whom all money and goodness – but we repeat ourselves – flows.
On this particular day a lot of blessing was flowing; the dragon’s stomach was rumbling most fiercely. It had been feeling fiercely peckish for the past few weeks, and was beginning to suspect its wards had been shortchanging it on maidens, or perhaps their maidens were subquality. Perhaps it would have to raze a few of their cities and take its business – and jobs – elsewhere. It would be hard on them, but that was the free market, after all.
A wavering scrap of silk peeked over the edge of the valley, and the dragon’s mood improved. A princess! It had been a while since it had eaten a princess. Perhaps it would be the sugar-sweet blood of royalty that would elevate its moo-
Then its hopes fell silent as sunlight glinted from the spearhead embedded in the heart of the fluttering fabric. Hooves echoed in its ears. The smell of armour polish and ferocious flop-sweat filled its nostrils.
A knight. The unruly little ungrateful bastards hadn’t been trying to make it happy after all. They’d been organizing on it! Going behind its back! And after all it’d done for them! The thousands of feet of city walls it’d motivated them to fruitlessly build! The hundreds of promising careers as a guardsman it’d launched and subsequently ended! The millions of hours of crying, weeping, and moping it’d inspired! All for what? SOME GRATITUDE.
The dragon was, of course, properly bred and brought-up, and so did not display any of this inner turmoil overtly. Instead, it simply snorted venomous fire once, laughed as the puny spear clanked off its impenetrable armour, then waddled back towards its cave for a nap.
A faint chewing sound followed him, then there was an unpleasant clang as a sword bounced off its thick, noble skull. The dragon spun about in disbelief – then its eyes flew to its prize-winning orange tree.
The little bastard had stolen it. Stolen its precious, juicy, best-in-state fruit with antitoxidant properties, the only green thing that could grow in its valley. It could SEE the moistness on his filthy stubby-fingered trade-working lips as he swung his stupid clunky sword at it. Then it huffed and sputtered and spat horrible toxic embers all over his stupid body until all his armour turned green and came off.
Another orange. ANOTHER ORANGE! The dragon couldn’t believe what it was seeing as the impertinent little weasel dared eat its fruit in front of it, defiant as you please. This was the last straw. Not only had its (pampered, beloved) subjects dared to express dissatisfaction with its kindly, supple regime, not only had they conspired against it, not only had their emissary stolen the fruit right out of its mouth, but he was defying it to its face, standing against the tide of its poison, eyes blazing with gall.
The dragon puffed out its chest, dug its claws into the ground, lashed the mountain bare with its tail, and threw strikebreakers at the knight until he was buried under a pile of pummeling, hairy fists a thousand knuckles deep.
Then it burned down three or four of its poorest cities too, just to show them who was boss.
And it lived wealthily ever after.

Four score and seventy million dollars past, there was a just and charitable witch who ruled over an expansive private forest. It was the best forest in all the land, and it was coveted dearly by the hordes of unscrupulous, ungrateful peasants just outside its borders who wanted to ‘hunt’ or ‘pick berries’ or ‘just have a nice walk is that okay?’ inside it, the little moochers. The poor old witch, elderly though she was, had little choice but to spend much of her golden years in constant vigilance, ever on the look-out for trespassers. So when she came back from a walk one day to find a pair of grubby little children chewing on her mantelpiece, well, the witch did what any right-thinking person would’ve: she slammed the boy in the cellar and chained the girl to the wall and told them they’d have to earn their keep if they wanted to get out.
“How?” they asked her.
“She sweeps, you eat,” she told them, affectionately slapping them across their stupid little impoverished faces. And she bustled about gathering things to feed the boy, because she was really getting peckish and a nice plump child pie was just the treat to take forty years of crinks off of her spine.
The days went by, the boy was fed, the girl swept, the forest stayed silent, and day after day the nigh-blind old witch felt the little boy’s finger and it grew no plumper.
“It feels almost like a gnarled stick or a twig,” she said, dispirited, three weeks in. “Something you’d find attached to the end of a broomstick.”
“Definitely not!” said the children simultaneously.
The witch trusted them, softhearted old dear that she was, but a creeping fear tickled at her bra-straps as she went about her business. How could the boy stay so trim after nearly a month on an all-suet diet? He must be exercising in there when she wasn’t looking, doing some sort of calisthenics regime or somesuch. Amazingly disciplined, too, to keep the pounds off. But who would…
And the witch knew, she knew it with an icy terror that took all the moisture from her mouth and the strength from her knees. He was a G-Man, an FBI agent, a tax collector come to steal away the precious few coins she’d managed to scrape together for her retirement. A government crow come to peck the two ferryman’s-pennies straight from her eyelids, and the eyeball, too! It was enough to make her blood boil, but she settled for turning the oven on full blast.
“We’re cooking your brother a bit early, slave,” she informed the little girl. “Now lean over and test the coals to see how hot they are, there’s a good child.”
The little girl stared at her, radiating a thickness no brick could match. “How?”
“Just lean over the coals and hold your hands out near them.”
The girl wobbled around with her fingers in the air. “Like this?”
“No! Lean over the coals and hold your hands out near them! Palm-first!”
The girl did a surprisingly capable handstand, toes wiggling. “Like this?”
“No!” said the witch, puzzled and bemused by the strange habits of the badly-reared. “Just like this!” And believe it or not, just as the poor thing leaned over to show what she meant to the little hellion, she shoved her into the coals pointy-hat-first, without even time to swear. Five minutes later she’d pulled the key out of the ashes with the poker, let out her brother, and they were down the road a mile and moving more.
Mercifully, the law was quicker still. At that very moment the witch’s daughter received a notice of her mother’s untimely death – and, thanks to a timely repeal of the faraway land’s estate tax, her entire fortune, stocks and bonds included. She promptly and wisely invested much of her liquid cash in fortifying the gingerbread cottage into an apocalypse-caliber bunker, with enough left over to hire a bigshot lawyer to take the two little children for every worthless penny they earned from then unto seven generations.
And she lived very pleasantly vindictively ever after.

Storytime: Terrachondriac.

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

I think I’m coming down with something. It’s that time of year, right? It happens.
Accretion, that’s it. I’m cursed with accretion. My matter’s all clotted up and I’m forming large wads of debris. I’m coalescing day and night and none of my meds have done either jack or shit let alone both. If this goes on I’m going to clot up and who knows what’ll happen then? Swelling, that’s what. Swelling and bloating and balling, rolling around night after night until I’m the size of a thirteen-thousand-mile-diameter balloon.
Mom was right. I shouldn’t have moved all the way out here to the galactic rim.

I think I’m coming down with something worse. Can’t get a day or night’s rest by now, the grinding and tossing keeps me up all night. I think I’ve got tectonics, real, chronic, rock-hard tectonics, and it’s gotten so bad I can’t even bring myself to throw up most days; all the magma’s stuck burbling down in my guts and rumbling under my lithosphere. I’m seeing double and my cratons are grinding and chafing, and all this after I’d finally gotten over the leftover nausea from picking up a moon. And once you’ve got tectonics as bad as this, it’ll stay FOREVER. I’ll never get over this. Never.
Dad warned me about this. He said I was taking up with a real gadabout of a star, a yellow flickerer that was all promises but no novas. Good job, dad.

I think I’ve never been so sick in my life. I’ve got blizzards, I’ve got blizzards, I’ve got billions of blizzards, and they hurt real bad, thousands of open, festering blizzards all over my surface, from the poles right down to the equator. I’m pale white from tip to toe and frozen tight; locked down and shivering. It’s better than the tsunamis, at least. Lord I hated those tsunamis. Nothing worse than waking up with a wave popping off your seabeds; and now I’ve got seabeds, I’d forgotten that. All this water, all this loose and unseemly water, splattered across my surface and caking me and eroding me. It’s putting wrinkles on my face, doing what the tectonics haven’t already done – and that’s a real trick.
My sister told me this would happen. Oh, it’s all fun and games and dancing in the emptiness at first, she said, and then you just think oh, a casual swirl around that star’d be fun! The next thing you know, you’re stuck orbiting.

I think I’m coming down with something new. I’d finally come down out of my chills and what happens but my oceans start filling up with… goop. Green, glurpy, glurgy glops of goop. Matted and thatched; domed and mounded, shovels and piles and heaps and seas of thick, syrupy goop, clogging me up and making my skies wheeze. And it’s RESPIRING at me, it’s sucking up all my good, honest carbon dioxide and replacing it with alarming levels of radical oxygen. I keep telling it I won’t have that nonsense claptrap on my surface, on my terms, but it just sneers at me and turns up the volume of air filtering.
My grandmother lectured me about this sort of thing. Never let people get anything off you for free, she said. Then they’ll come back and you’re stuck with them for life.

I can barely think at all now, I’ve got it so bad. I wake up groaning from an asteroid bouncing off my head or a major anoxic event and I find new lifeforms scattered across every possible piece of my biosphere – EVERYTHING’S a biosphere now, I’ve got no privacy at all. Swimming standing strolling sculling soaring sailing scooting scuttling sliding everywhere, absolutely everywhere. I’m infested; no amount of spraying will fix this now. Radiation, climatic shifts, earthquakes… nothing’s stopped them. Why can’t I be more like Mars? Mars is quiet and clean and dead as a bone; it had a bit of liquid water but it locked that up all tight a long time ago, and it kept itself clean of biology, and it has no atmosphere, no tectonics, no buzzing, humming magnetic field to keep itself awake at night with a pounding ache in its core. Just peace, pure peace, as mild and cold as can be.
My grandfather never shut up about that sort of thing. If you’ve got to go planetary, he said, go in style. Go big, like a gas giant, for showiness and beautiful swirls; or go small, like a planetesimal, and keep out of people’s way. I’m the worst of all possible worlds.

Oh god, it’s spreading, it’s breaking out all over me. It’s on the moon now. The MOON. I’m contagious, I’m a menace, the sickness was onside me all along. No way to avoid it, no way to excuse it. I’m burning up, I’ve got a fever on my skin as well as under it, and I’m choking and wheezing on the methane and CO2 in my own atmosphere. I never signed on to be anyone’s monkey bars.
I’ve had enough. I’m getting out. This corner of the Milky Way was a mistake. I never should’ve come here and I never will again. Five billion more years to get over this sickness, to watch stupid Sol go foom and burn me out, then I’m going to laugh in its stupid white dwarf face and go home and work as interstellar debris again. An honest, meaningfully meaningless life. None of this plague, none of this rot. I’m done, I’m through, I quit.
My family always told me not to get mixed up in this, or mixed up in myself in aggregate form until I formed a large mass. And you know what? They were a bunch of snide, nasty, microwhining jerks, but they were right.

I’m so sick of my life.

Storytime: Other Dogs.

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

Louise was on her third cigarette of the morning (the first two hadn’t counted) when she realized that the dog hadn’t stopped barking.
This was unusual. Dog (they had let Matthew name the animal, which really should’ve been something that happened next year, or the year after that, or at least once he knew more than sixteen words) had a very rigid and specific routine to his days: wake up, eat, bark for ten minutes at the raccoon family living in the tree in the backyard, wander off and piss somewhere, bark for six minutes, then break for a nap until Louise needed whatever he was sleeping on. He was a floppy sort of creature, but his scheduling was rock-rigid.
She moseyed to the back window – moseying ran on her mother’s side, and she liked to keep her hand in – and peered out.
There was Dog, head down, ass-up, tail whirling in friend-or-fight mode, ears wobbling with the force of each yelp, muzzle furling and unfurling like a ship’s sails in a gale. His face looked like the leftovers from a liposuction, but they’d been assured he’d grow into it.
And there, opposite Dog on the other side of the clothesline, head cocked in the classic pose of vertebrate confusion, stood a thirty-foot-long, two-ton Allosaurus. It looked as confused by him as the crows usually did, only scalier, toothier, and slightly bigger.

The first thing Louise did was go back to her purse and have a fourth smoke. Dog clearly wasn’t in any trouble, and if he was she didn’t think there was much she could do about it. In the meantime, she needed to think. There was obviously some reasonable course of action she could take in these circumstances.
After twelve minutes and four more cigarettes she hadn’t thought of it and kicked the back door open. Both animals flinched, and Dog’s tail started wagging in that sheepish way that sheep could not do yet dogs could.
“In,” she commanded, with a hard jerk of her head. And she was obeyed, although the Allosaurus could only fit its skull and neck into the kitchen. It looked curiously at everything, bobbing its head like a robin and flinching whenever one of the little hornlets on its brows bumped the ceiling. Louise lit her ninth cigarette and watched its nostrils twitch, then it sneezed.
It really was a pretty animal, she thought as she retrieved, wiped off, and relit number nine. Its skin was a hazy brindling of greens and greys, its snout smeared into a softer blur that made her think of (horribly discoloured) coffee and cream mixing.
“I will call you Lout,” she told it. Lout sneezed again, and this time Louise had to change her shirt.
When she came back, Lout wasn’t there and Dog wasn’t there and Dog was barking again. Further investigation found them both on the front lawn. Lout was sniffing the truck and giving her anxious looks.
Louise looked for number ten, realized she was out, and successfully throttled the urge to sigh. Her mother had sighed. Her grandmother had sighed. Sighing wasn’t going any farther in this family, she’d decided.
“Time for a trip then,” she said.
At that moment, Matthew woke up and began to cry.
Louise sighed.

The trip to the store took longer than usual, as expected. Then it took longer than usual longer than usual, which was a bit annoying. Then it got longer still and time began to lose all meaning.
Louise blamed Lout, who was fascinated with garbage cans. Their sight transfixed it, the smell intrigued it, and their texture seemed to hypnotize it. Honking the truck’s horn ceased to deter it after the fifth can, and Louise began to resort to walking up to the Allosaurus and physically whacking it on the side to get its attention. By the end of their street this, too had lost all power, and she gave up and just drove.
“This one’s as bad as you,” she told Matthew. He chuckled.
She sighed again, turned back to the road, and found that it wasn’t there anymore. She was driving along a flat floodplain without a mailbox, garbage can, or road in sight, ferns flying up from under her axles, and a good deal of gratitude for Michael having taken the car into town that particular day rather than the pickup truck.

The gratitude ran out in a mudhole four miles of careful, increasingly aimless driving on. Louise sat on a rock watching the pickup settle by millimeters into a newfound (and surprisingly well-hidden) puddle of mud and lit cigarette after cigarette after cigarette inside her head. Outside her head, she was attaching Matthew’s car seat to her back.
“Doug,” he said from behind her ear.
“Dog,” she told him.
“Doooouggg,” he insisted, the razor edge of the whine filling his little lungs.
“Dog,” she commanded. Then she remembered she’d left Dog back at the house and turned around.
It was Lout, who seemed much larger out here in the middle of the nowhere that had eaten their neighborhood and at least five miles of highway. Its green-grey semistripes fit nicely into the horizon, its back standing brightly against the blue sky and its hazy, lazy white clouds.
It snorfed at her. She glared at it.
“This is your fault, isn’t it.”
Lout made plumbing noises deep inside its chest, then sneezed yet again and chuffed to itself. On an impulse, Louise reached out and patted its nose. It was warm, dry, pebbly. The sort of texture you hoped to find on an elephant, but harder and less wrinkled.
“There, there. Mean ol’ smokes can’t hurt you no more. Because you’ve gone and stranded me while I was trying to get them. Asshole.”
Lout hunkered in front of her, head dipped in deference. Then it spun up and around, sniffed the air, and began to wander off towards the slowly-dipping sun.
Louise felt the metal and plastic of the car seat already beginning to edge its way into her more tender vertebrae, resisted the urge to sigh again, again, and set her jaw in rhythm with her footsteps. Leg length be damned, she wasn’t about to be out-moseyed.

The air was softer than it should’ve been. Warmer, stuffier. Packed with humidity. And bugs. Louise knew bugs, but these were positively homicidal, and built like trucks. Matthew complained until she pulled his hoodie over his eyes, then he complained about the dark. Then he realized that darkness meant he was asleep, and became so. She really hoped he didn’t catch on to that trick for a while yet.
Lout was still in front of her, just barely. Its strides may have exceeded hers several times over, but every few dozen of them it would smell something, or see something, or hear something, or just feel itchy, and would stop to investigate the universe at large. It would blink very slowly at those times, as if worried it’d miss something.
Well, enough was enough. It was getting late, she’d been moseying for miles, and the car seat had already carved through four vertebrae and was gathering itself for an assault on her spinal cord. She broke into a jog, came up to Lout’s hip, whacked it until it lowered its head to her, then whacked that too.
“SIT,” she sat, patting the ground.
Lout rumbled in ambiguous confusion. She stamped on its toe and it nearly fell over, then crouched, wurbling.
“Good doug,” she said, swinging a leg over its back. “Dog. Whatever.” Lout’s spine was bony and uncomfortable, but manageable, although she suspected her opinion would’ve been radically different if she’d been a guy.
They moved faster now – a kick in the ribs providing protest and speed whenever a different piece of the world caught Lout’s eye – but the sun was already sliding into a set, and she knew three things all at once: that Michael would get home before they would; that they might not get home at all; and that she seriously doubted she would be getting another cigarette any time soon.
“Shit,” she said.
“Siht,” agreed Matthew.
“And NOW you start listening to me.”
“Yes. You are, a little.” Her fingers twitched, her fingers drummed, and it took her a moment to realize that the lurch in her stomach was a lurch period: Lout had stopped.

They were standing on a slight ridge, a bump in the landscape’s long, dry carpeting, surrounded by encouragingly green plants. Below them, the confused and bumbled remains of something between a dozen creeks or one river sluggishly argued over who had whose banks. The water was soft, brown, and slurping, moving side-to-side as much as forward, which was to say, not at all. A floodpond.
Lout sniffed the air one more time, then began to walk into it.

By the time Louise could’ve protested, the Allosaurus was up to its knees and still striding along in a relaxed way, so she stopped worrying. By the time the water – which could just as easily have been described as clay – was slapping at her heels, Lout was snorkelling along with its nose sticking out at full speed, still entirely unconcerned about being mired in a sinkhole that by all rights should be strangling it by now. The only moment she felt nervous was when the nose vanished, but she followed almost immediately, so it wasn’t for long.

The clay was soft and cool and damp. It filled them all up. She could hear Matthew gurgling and babbling happily, then he began to snore.
She could understand the urge; this was the calmest she’d felt all day. Like a whole-body hug with a sunshade. Lout was underneath her, breathing deeply and slowly, at rest. They weren’t moving now, they were resting. The world was over top of them and it was doing the moving now, slipping and packing under the restless feet of animals, claws and toes and hooves. She knew from the weight they must be dinosaurs too, and she tried to look down at Lout, but found herself unsuccessful. Her head was being held in place, gently but firmly, by an entire continent.
Lout stirred a little, but quietly, easily, nothing of its old twitchiness and compulsive curiosity to its movements.
And then, slowly, steadily, as gentle as her trying to get out of Matthew’s room come bedtime, they tilted up. And up. And up and up and up and up and up and

Sod busted around Louise’s head, and somewhere between one blink and the last she was standing in a chilly woodland, still decorated with scraps of leftover winter snow. She coughed, and the air that sat in her lungs tasted fiercer and thinner, sharp and with just a hint of automotive.
Wherever they’d been, there they weren’t.
She turned her head to check on Matthew and nearly stumbled; her foot was caught in a pit. Tug, tug, tug, yank, and out it came, dirt clods trailing, along with a few specks and cracks of rock and fragments of something else, dark and glossy and smooth.
It took her a little while to dig up any other traces, but when they came, they were hard to mistake. She recognized those stubby little hornlets, even polished down to the bone by one hundred and forty million years and more.
Louise rested there on her haunches, listening to Matthew snoring, and for the first time in what felt like forever, she really, really, really wanted a cigarette.
Then she said “SHIT” as loud as she could and thumped the skull with her palm.
For a second it hurt like bejeezus, then Lout was there, softer and warmer against her skin, and blinking at her in its confused way.
“Siht?” asked Matthew.
“Shit,” she corrected him. “And YOU. You aren’t going anywhere, you listening? Don’t think you can do that and then go home like nothing’s happened. You just cost me my truck, my afternoon, and six hours without a nicotine twinge. You’re not sitting there in the dirt, buddy. You don’t get to rest there and watch me pretend this was a one-time-thing. You’re not getting taken to a museum for a nap. You’re taking ME home. And you’re doing it now.”
Lout twisted itself around and shook the dirt off its snout. Its skin was there again, the greens and the greys, clashing a little against the darker shades of the forest. It looked at her in confusion. Big eyes. Big brown, stupid eyes. Like a puppy.
She smacked it.

Michael came home late, tired, and hungry. He hadn’t had a good day, and that wasn’t very unusual.
But he had an evening that made up for that.