1 9 9 4

"And so if he sign rosebud. It just a game.”

Jupiter had not recovered from the “solar spear” when a comet-series called Shoemaker-Levy 9 struck the planet in the same, badly dented solar plexus. Astronomers calculated that Earth would have been destroyed many times over if the multiple warhead of Shoemaker-Levy 9 had hit Earth instead.

Was the comet responsible for the latest noticeable shift in the giant planet’s orbit? While astronomers all over the world investigated and hotly debated the question, a life none of them knew anything about drew to its close, demonstrating that the power of the powerless could shape human destiny far more than Shoemaker-Levy 9 changed Jupiter.

To: Holland House From: Debra Dinwiddie

Co: Hennepin Co: Hennepin

Dept: H Phone #: (654)234-9204

Fax #: 18/15/19/5/2/23/4 Fax #: 18/15/3/5/9/5/4

I. Identifying Information

Child: Gabriel Tall Chief

Birthdate: 8/19/79

SSN: 954-34-5435

Ethnicity (check all that apply):


X Native American




Principals Involved Are: (Name and Address)

Mother: Iona Tall Chief 1827 Lois Lane Minneapolis, MN

Grandparents: Ethel and Larry Little Soldier 1827 Lois Lane Minneapolis, MN

Father: Sam Tall Chief, c/o Rosebud Reservation, SD

DSHS Worker (s): Debra Dinwiddie

Others: N/A

II. Responsibilities of Holland House

Respite Care:


III. Current Information/Social Summary of Child/Family/Other Information (Include information about: (1) the medical conditions that require this child to have the level of support Holland House provides; and (2) the timelines for the child's return home.)

Gabriel is a 50-pound, 15 1/2 year old, non-ambulatory male with a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. He has total care needs: feeding, diapering, bathing, dressing, positioning, etc. He eats a normal diet but food needs to be mashed (not pureed) due to significant tongue thrust and swallowing difficulties. Gabriel is a bright boy (biological parents tested very high 1/8/89 ) and communicates by blinking his eyes for yes and no and a number of nonsense words he has devised himself, which he sometimes wants put on a special reader board, which can take up a considerable amount of a nurse's time. Medication: Tegretal 100 mg 2 tablets 3x per day (controls seizure disorder). Even though he is small and fragile looking, Gabriel does not like to be treated that way. He prefers normal physical interaction and especially enjoys an outing when convenient to any video arcade to watch the action. Oldies--PAC-man, Asteroids, and so on, are his favorites.

GABRIEL TALL CHIEF CARE: He needs his Meds. at 6:00 AM 2:00 PM and 9:00 PM. He needs to changed. He needs to be feed everything. He can eat anything that he can swallow with out choaking on it. but does not like poureed food just mashed. he eats three meals a day and snacks inbetween he loves banananut ice cream and Reese peanutbutter cups. He needs to be stroaked if possible his legs while he listens to Ravaels balero or Gilburt sullavun. He needs to be interact with people. He loves baloons, watching people, animals all kinds, TV gameshoes, lost worlds in space (put his poster up over his bed) and needs a bath everyday. He loves to be read to and see the pitchers in books. Bible with him his dad Sam gives him. He likes going on walks in his wheelchair and being outside. But dont take him near any roses cuz his best buddie in CP ward at downtoun City CP clinic got plenty roses when he dyed. He likes to play a little game he has made up. Nurses will know why hes blinking. There signs. Its his own sistum. When they learn the sistum they can make up Gabriels message boards. the sistum goes A two eye blink, B two eye blink twice, C two eye blink three times, D two eye blink once, look up, E two eye blink once, look down. And he teachs nurses the rest like he did me. Then they set up his board. Use the black purpal blue vilet colored letters. he dont like orange brown gray pink or red. Leave them in the box. red in partikular he dont like and perfum too that smells roses. PABIKKABARD ABARGABO II DRABAGABON ABAHABEABAD WABAABIT ABAT LABANDABING. that was one message board. Its his own talk sistum. Now some times Gabe dont feel good about something or homesick and it maybe look like he cry. Then he signs rosebud. Always same rosebud. But he knows he cant go back to our contry. he dont remember it cuz he was a baby when he left. he dont know our language eyether. not the weay he is. And so if he sign rosebud. It just a game. This was his mother talking.

IV. Other people to contact for questions or for personal "rad" items Gabriel might request:

Horace Brave Scout (cousin/surrogate brother/”warrior”, accompanies Gabriel to arcades) 1827 Lois Lane Minneapolis, MN

2 "A lot of 'mind games,' yeah?"



Randi, this is strictly off the record for the rest of the gang at DSHS. I'd appreciate that you shred this. Why make us all look like space cadets or something?

Anyhow, you know that Tall Chief boy with CP I referred down to Holland House a couple weeks ago when he showed signs of improving? Ronnie, Iolanda, Stephanie, and the others on the team have done a lot of wonders down there, as you know, and I was hoping for one more.

Well, he had a relapse. Not really unexpected, however. I need not repeat a lot of stats. They're all in the report you'll get by Thursday at latest. Well, I got a call from Ronnie at Holland House Friday a.m. Gabriel Tall Chief was not doing very well and they'd let me know if his vital signs deteriorated any further. Now you're not going to believe all this. The whole clan showed up at Holland House--grandparents, biological father, aunts, uncles, cousins--most direct from the Rosebud Indian Reservation--the one near Mount Rushmore Memorial in the Black Hills, I think. His mother called his grandparents in town. Holland House also sent a fax about him to the nearest fax in Rapid City, SD, in case relatives could be reached--JUST A HALF HOUR BEFORE THEY ALL SHOWED UP.

I'm sorry. That's what happened. Is there really something to this body aura/frequency garbage going around? I still can’t get on that bandwagon, however. Just too spooky for me, I guess. Anyway, put a coat over my dressing-gown and drove right over there to talk to them. I found Holland House full of people in native dress.

It was the most ethnic gathering you could imagine. Not all were family. Some I asked about said they were Iroquois chiefs! And I thought I read somewhere the Iroquois were extinct! But maybe I am mixing them up with the Nez Purse? Others volunteered as Payoote, Blackfeet, and Aloot (sp?), as if they had come to do homage to someone they all recognized as one of them. I think they even called him "Keeper of the Ancient Oracles" or something really wild of that sort. Anyway, the family made their decision. No more life support. Poor old Ginger must have gathered something was up, for she went bonkers, yelping and running around rubbing her ears on the ground, but Gabe went very peacefully, so I supposed they knew what they were doing.


They had a short service at Holland House in Physical Therapy--the PT Room. He was wearing his special Classic PAC-man tee shirt Ronnie got for him. Then the family and clan took him to the Rosebud. I asked his mother where they and their chiefs were taking him, and she said "Rosebud." It was 8:30 then, just after the service. That's all I could get from her. I presume they meant the reservation. What other "rosebud" is there?

Then his things. They took only his Bible, his Lost Worlds in Space poster, a Greta Garbo movie video, a CD of Gavin Bryars' "The Sinking of the Titanic," a picture of the assassinated Czar Nikolaus and his family, and another of Black Elk, and...yes, Leo Tolstoy of all people. Even one of a “White Buffalo,” some sort of primitive fetish they have.

Then a video of Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST, the beaded medicine bag with the black rock, and the blue carousel-musicbox horse and left everything else. I advised the staff to keep the message board, magnetic glow-in-dark lettering, books and other things for a while, then if his family doesn't come back and claim anything, let the other children use them. It was a lovely but strange time we had--I mean, Gabriel's going to his tribe's Happy Hunting Grounds, wherever that may be. He was gone at 7:37 a.m. when we checked his vital signs, about an hour after he last signed to us with his special eye-blinking language. When he couldn't sign anything more--after giving his message that a "red dog star" was attacking the Sun and planets--he looked pretty distraught. Since muscles in the eyelids collapsed causing intense lid flutter syndrome, there was this extremely urgent look in his gaze I'll never forget.

It tears me up even now. Then when his eyelids stopping playing butterfly, two tears appeared, which his mother insisted on collecting in a tiny vial she had. His eyes always were his most remarkable feature anyway, dark but with violet highlights in direct sunlight, the result of some very rare recessive gene. But please shred this. You know what I mean.

It'll be a relief for nurses at Holland House and elsewhere not to do his message boards. But he will be missed. You would have to know him as long as I have, of course. In his memory, we all got together and had to wake the local nursery to get them, explaining how it was an emergency, but we got long stem roses for the service at Holland House. Because of some past grief trauma, he was supposed to hate them, but somehow nothing else seemed appropriate. Daisies just don't click with me as deathbed flowers! Shred. Why not use the machine in the basement, the one the IDS maintenance dept. has forgotten they have.

No one from DSHS bothers to go down there either, so you can sign anything you like on the user sheet and get away with it. You could copy off the whole Encyclopedia Britannica and get away it. Oh, I nearly forgot. Randi, this is ME speaking.

You know how careful I am about every little thing. Well, I know perfectly well Gabe had a black rock in his medicine bag. It was gone when his mother looked. Instead, she took out a white stone I had never seen before. I have no idea how on earth it got there. She didn't seem a bit surprised though. It was as if it had ALWAYS been white to her. ALWAYS! That's a mother for you! But she had handled it a thousand times, I know.

I watched her get it out for him many times. Yet there it was--white as a lily! Those people! There's always something just a little mysterious going on with them around, I swear! It isn't bad. Don't get me wrong. I'm part Cherokee myself and multi-cultural and pluralistic all the way! But life is not a mystery.

I prefer facts I can get my teeth into and really chew. Don't you? Life is difficult enough, I think, without mixing in a lot of foggy-bottom Hound of Baskervilles mystery and Star Trekian stuff. As far as I'm concerned, that kind of thing doesn't mean diddley. Mark my words. If the trend continues, Randi, our society becomes utterly destroyed! A lot of "mind games," yeah? Heaven help us!

3 Kamamoto's Mind Game

Where gameplaying was concerned, Kamamoto was brilliant--to a point. But there his best strategy fatally unravelled, teaching him a lesson that would cost 400 million yen, and more..

Toshigawa Kamamoto's pupils darkened even against the glare of the video screen as he leaned into it, his teeth gritted behind tight lipped shock. Seven miles over the Challenger Deep site in the command ship, Kamamoto was viewing the deepest trench in the world through Kaiko, a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), when a red-glowing object crossed in front of it, then halted, circled the ROV, and zoomed out of sight. The shock wave from the encounter threw up such turbulence that for a time the screen showed a blank, then gradually cleared.

"Fresh coffee is ready, sir," said a technician.

Kamamoto nearly jumped from his chair. Muscles in his neck swelled and made his collar and tie almost choke him. "Thank you, I must keep monitoring the ROV," he said, and the technician went to the dining room. This was, after all, the most important stage of the probe--they had reached the bottom, and now this! Here the pressure was eight tons per square inch. If anything went wrong, all was lost.

The senior technician on the project of observing whether there was life at the bottom of the trench remained glued to his array of screens. But the ROV transmitted no more signs of the "red thing," for in the few seconds Kamamoto observed it, he could tell it lacked fins, mouth, head, any discernible body parts of a living creature. An anemone or sea urchin would have spines. This object was smooth but fiery, glowing like a red, hot coal in 31.2 degrees F. water. "Could it possibly be an American probe, one from Scripps?" he wondered. He was always bumping into their research people.

After minutes passed and still no sign of the red object, Kamamoto decided to continue with the program. He ordered the ROV to go down even deeper, so that it could take a sample of material at the bottom. Everyone was hoping that he would not only find life but be able to bring a specimen back by using the ROV's mechanical arms. When they got back to port, the photographers would be on hand, of course, to do justice to the latest triumph of the Japan Marine Science and Technology Center's deep-sea research vehicles.

But search as he might, Kamamoto could not locate anything on the gray, gently undulating, muddy bottom that might be a life-form. He did come across twisted hunks of metal and some glass and what looked like rubber, but that could only be remnants of some World War II sea battle. Since he wanted to test the ROV's arms and grasping capacities, he retrieved two pieces of the metallic material, then after testing for water temperature (which was lower than the projection), began the procedure of retrieving the ROV and connecting fiber optic cable.

Retrieval was a lengthy, routine process--but for Kamamoto it still was the greatest game in the world. Someone brought him his meal, and he ate at his workstation as he observed. Having overseen development of Kaiko, the project was mostly his since he first designed the ROV using his own graphics-game software, and he had no wish to delegate responsibility. That had created some misunderstanding, of course, but it could not be helped. He had been trained at UCLA and wasn't quite the teamworker his co-workers seemed to think he should be. Perhaps he had played too much chess, alone, growing up.

"You take too much upon your own shoulders," they said. “You would increase your own efficiency if you shared more of your difficult work. ‘Many shoulders make the heavy log a feather,’ they quoted from the ancient sage, Yao Li Ping.”

Of course, he bowed to the wisdom of the ages, however irrelevant he thought it. "Well, MY shoulders can take the log, and you can take the feathers if you wish!" he couldn’t resist adding, then went right back to doing things his way.

An hour later, the ROV, launcher and rover, had ascended successfully to a mile from the surface. His support ship had taken up most of the seven mile cable attached to Kaiko. Just then a dozen screens filled with the same object, a torpedo-shaped research robot that could only be an ALACE, or Autonomous Legrangian Circulation Explorer, used to monitor oceanic temperatures beneath the surface and report them back to satellites every twenty five days. Concerned about the world-wide oceanic cooling trend, over three hundred highly cost-effective ALACES costing $10,000 a piece had been deployed in the world's oceans by the Americans, who had highly strategic polar defense stations to think about, wanted to confirm the 6 millimeter drop per year already reported.

Behind Kamamoto's back the command station suddenly became deathly still. The technicians who were monitoring dials and equipment all turned to the screens. It was an ALACE! Kamamoto decided. But it was only designed for 3,300 feet. Below that it would explode. But what was it doing at 5,757.8 feet? Definitely, it was a check!

He had to make his moves fast. If the ALACE exploded now, it would take out the 400 million yen ROV and possibly his reputation in Japan Marine Science and Technology Center. Kamamoto could feel the muscles of his face twitching as he took over the ascent manually and fired thrusters meant to propel the ROV craft out of any identified danger zone.

The thrusters fired. The very expensive ROV was moving away from the deadly ALACE. Unfortunately, the screens filled with yet another ALACE. Then two ALACES appeared on once screen! Checkmate!

"AH!" Kamamoto burst out. He could not help himself, the pressure was too great to hold in. The command station was a hubbub of excited talk and a hundred, conflicting "suggestions" on how to cope with the emergency. Kamamoto's stiff, trembling hands went toward his face. They never quite got there. Two ALACES exploded right in front of his ROV.

For numb, mute minutes afterwards, Kamamoto's shoulders noticeably slumped under the weight of responsibility for four hundred million lost yen. Yet it wasn’t the money, nor even the loss of face he mourned so much. Losing a game on the now unforgivably stupid assumption it was science--that was what really hurt a professional.

4 Butterfly’s StartUp

Big things can turn on some very small things. At least Archimedes, premier Greek philosopher and inventor of the fulcrum and a much-used water screw, had thought so. “Give me a place to stand,” he is supposed to have boasted, “and I will turn the world.”

The world, the Solar System, the Universe itself depended for their existence on small things--atoms, electrons, protons, quarks. As for quarks, they were entities so small that many scientists had trouble thinking they could be real rather than constructs of pure theory.

Without academic hang-ups, native cultures in widely distant regions of the globe treasured small things too and held them vital to life. They preserved accounts of how the world in olden times was saved at various points by such little things as a raven, a fish, a turtle, a blade of grass, a butterfly...

A butterfly?

Ussherwood Estates, Bellevue, Washington State.

The caterpillar gorged and gorged, just as it had been designed to do. A Monarch caterpillar, it would have dined on more traditional milkweed, not Fiddleleaf Fig, but few if any milkweeds grew wild in the area (you might find a 100 years old specimen, dried almost to powder, in the University botany archives, after a lot of digging through archives' protocol to get permission from the head librarian and a key to the glassed-in specimens of Milkweed).

Finding the Fig tasty enough, other Monarch offspring, two dozen or so green and white, black-striped larvae, munched on one big leaf. The only problem with that was the Fig could not supply milkweed toxin, the Monarchs’ main chemical defense. Without milkweed, all they had were warning markings--a distinctive gold and black pattern that said “Eat this and you die” to the world. The toxin was also thought vital for coloration differentiation, as it acted on the genes that decided whether the butterfly would emerge traditional monarch black and gold or maybe hot pink.

Just then a starling (Sturnus vulgaris) alighted on the potted Fig set at the edge of the patio. Something of a loner, this aspect of the bird caused it to forage on its own rather than congregate with his gregarious brethren. Oftentimes, there is less advantage in going it alone, but this particular bird had learned to capitalize on a sure thing and needed nobody. Giving a call that pricked the ears of all the dogs in the neighborhood, the bird ruffled its feathers contentedly, its stomach bulging after a recent meal at a local fast-food restaurant.

It was the Monarchs’ condo, though the bird didn’t know that. Seeing the bird, the now tasty, non-toxic Monarchs were certain they would all be devoured. But the starling was stuffed with Wendy’s burgers and buns and not interested in eating caterpillars. Rather, its gig was mimicry. It spent a lot of time hanging around the neighbor’s place and could repeat everything it heard. The neighbor was a professor and worked at the U. of W. everyday, and so the bird sounded off the same way to an astonishing degree.

“Now--(sound of a raspy throat being cleared)--where was I? Oh, yes, the categorical imperative of the Absolute and Relative. Ladies ands gentlemen, let’s proceed with Upton-Chomsky’s analysis of the relationships governing the dynamism and philosophy of the question, ‘What do we mean by Absolute, and what is meant by Relative?’--”

The old professor must have been a philosophy instructor who liked to watch video reruns of his class performances, for the starling rambled off a lot of things nobody else could possibly make sense of. Having frightened the Monarchs, the starling made a single flap of wings and flew off to snoop again at the neighbor’s. Watching the bird go, one Monarch--in a squirming, inchoate way--thanked his lucky stars as he hung from the Fig by his tail feet, mouth agape.

He wasn’t thinking. No caterpillar could do that, of course. Rather, he was feeling the family’s narrow escape from being devoured. “What did the flying monster mean?” he wondered (though it wasn’t a question as human beings know it). “‘Absolute’?” “‘Relative’?” “‘Philosophy’?” The startling’s statement was the most intriguing thing he had heard in his chaotic, formless life. First, to make sense of it, he had to think. That presented the caterpillar with an enormous difficulty, since no caterpillar on the planet before him had ever done so. It took some minutes before the first thought slowly dawned on him. The caterpillar thought slowly, since a caterpillar required an entire body to think, but otherwise the process was not insuperable.

In an instant, as he clung to his leaf still eating away the caterpillar’s whole outlook changed and took on at least the possibility of design and meaning.

Wielding the key to Wisdom and the hall of the seven pillars, he would never be the same caterpillar again as he began spin off thought after thought. “What am I?” “Where am I going?” “What purpose do I have” were some of the questions. He was still philosophizing when the starling flew by, mouthing something else it had just heard.

“‘You must speak to somebody immediately. They can’t cut your department out, Chester! I can understand their axing Slavic Languages--why shouldn’t those people over there be better off speaking English anyway? But not Philosophy! You’ve earned far too much tenure to let it all go now! Let them downsize somebody else--in those nasty, oily industrial sciences, for instance! If you don’t stick up for your job, you little worm, I’ll have to--’”

The ominous threat hung in the air even after the starling was out of sight.

The caterpillar processed the starling’s latest statement as well, gradually making sense out of it. His memory was phenomenal for a caterpillar. Now that he had discovered Absolutes and Relatives, Philosophy, Slavic Language, and English, he naturally assumed there was nothing more to be learned. He soon found he was mistaken. The starling, while roaming back and forth between the professor’s window sill and the Dumpster at Wendy’s, swept by the Monarchs once again, shedding a single metallic green and purple feather and several more words of wisdom.

“I’ve--Cough Cough--spoken to the chair, dear, and he said he’d petition the president. Review will take the process several weeks at least. We should expect a decision then in a matter of six to nine months, if things go smoothly. What more--Cough Cough-- can I--”

The Monarch quietly put away President, Chair, Review, Process, Weeks, Decision--all items indispensable to academic committee work. This process went on for some days, well into September. Aided by the big-mouthed starling, the Monarch’s knowledge of the academic world vis a vis Philosophy grew by leaps and bounds, not the usual crawls, clings, slithers, and molts. Meantime, the family went on without him. They all ate and ate and expanded to twice his size. The larger members liked to shake brothers and sisters off, without a qualm as to what happened to them in their long fall to the ground.

While the philosophical caterpillar (or PC) pondered the clever starling’s second-hand wisdom, everyone else was so busy eating no one noticed the shedding of leaves from the nearby maple tree. The air had grown nippy at night, but with so much body to insulate them, the Monarchs experienced little discomfort before day returned and warmed things up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

More days passed, and it was November--a cold month, even in the temperate Northwest (which, still receiving the last gasps of the warm Japanese Current, had so far eluded the renaescent glaciation of the Global Warming Trend).

By now PC shivered at night. Spending so much of his time philosophizing, he hadn’t been eating as much as he should, and the thinness of his body was catching up with him in the damp chill. His two dozen feet were numb. He was close to dying from hypothermia. He could hardly cling to his leaf when a voice interrupted his misery. Having never heard a human voice close up, it sounded to him like a titanic force of nature.

“Time to take the Fiddleleaf in before it freezes!” the typhoonlike voice roared, calling to another hurricane, which bellowed an answer.

“Yes, dear. Soon as I finish this Ed Hume video on composting.”

Presently, two hours later, when things were truly freezing up outdoors, human hangs seized the potted Fig. To the slugglish, overstuffed Monarchs it felt like an earthquake, the end of the world, as they and the Fig were wheeled from the yard. With terrific jolts and grindings and tooth-jarring crashes, the Monarchs hung on for dear life as the Fig rode a wheelbarrow into a glassed-in solarium.

“Just in time!” declared the man as his feet crunched and made tracks in the dark blue grass. He offloaded the Fig and stood, shaking his head. “Wow! Are you ugly! Something’s been eating on you. I need to give you a spray.” But he couldn’t find the bug stuff he needed and went off to other tasks.

Warm, humid air soon revived the Fig and its parasites. Basking in summery conditions, they found their appetites revived and continued eating until they could eat no more. That meant only one thing. Without knowing it, it was time to enter the pupa stage, whether they liked it or not. Only one, poor PC, failed to pupate at the appointed time.

Days passed, the human household entered the Christmas season, and the Fig, having sprouted vigorous, new foliage, was whisked further indoors from the solarium. “Set it down over there by the buffet!” directed a typhoonlike voice. “Somehow Christmas isn’t Christmas without Mother’s plant in its usual place.”

Grumbling, the bearer set the heavy pot in a much warmer and increasingly festive environment. Savory aromas filled the air, wafting from the kitchen. The antique Golden Oak Buffet was soon loaded with thyme-flavored Yorkshire pudding kept warm in an electric warmer, a huge bowl of low-fat, eggless eggnog, various hors d’oeuvres, grapefruit-avocado salad with tangerine dressing,and--the Christmas dinner dessert--orange-rum cake with kumquats.

Suddenly, doors leading to the outside were flung open. Crooner Bing Crosby’s partridges in a pear tree, repeating endlessly on a CD, lost out to shrill yelps as human children scampered in across the rug, straight toward the decorated tree. PC the philosopher-caterpillar had never heard so much screaming, as the grandparents and parents tried to restore order.

“Dinner, first as always, before the presents!” typhooned the grandmother after she pulled off coats. “Then, after you’ve done justice to my Prime Rib with Garlic and Herb Crust, you’ll get what’s under the tree.”

Not knowing what Prime Rib meant, PC was left wondering if it had anything to do with Absolute or Relative, President or Review or Decision. Meanwhile, as the caterpillar struggled to fit it in with his other concepts, the family settled down to a sumptuous dinner. Twenty minutes into the dinner PC grew certain he was on track when he heard a lady gusting loudly, “Margaret, this Prime Rib is absolutely divine!”

“That’s kind of you to say so!” the she-typhoon remarked. “I thought I’d try something different this time, rather than the usual old ham or turkey.”

From that point things quickly took a down-turn. Screams from the baby now blasted heavens and the earth. Dishes rattled. Water glasses toppled here and there. Food no one wanted was slyly dropped to the floor by childlren. A glass of lo-fat eggnog splattered, hitting the Fig by the buffet. It was time for opening presents. Chairs were pushed and knocked together mercilessly as the permission was granted. Children sprang up on chairs, jumped to the floor, hooted and bawled as they began a stampede out of the dining room. The grown-ups were the last to abandon the devastated dinner table. Still mullng over Absolute and Divine and Prime Rib, PC clung to his Fiddleleaf. Soon he heard the calling of names as presents were handed out. Hearing a terrific ripping and shredding, PC endured the hour or so spent on the gifts. After that, there was the usual let-down of holiday spirits, signaled by outbursts of overheated children. More shattering protests from the baby. When the infant was diverted by a toy it promptly tore apart, the she-typhoon served desert, the long-promised orange-rum cake. By this time the family was settling down for the evening. Children began playing with new video games in an adjoining room. Baby nursed a bottle. Grown-ups were free to enjoy cake and coffee.

“My words, I do adore this cake,” said one woman to the hostess. “You must give me the recipe.” Meanwhile, a couple children lost interest in toys and video games, and some wandered about. Something struck the Fig. When PC regained consciousness, he found himself swimming in a rich slurry of eggnog, melted blueberry ice cream, and soggy orange-rum cake--a grandchild, in passing, had dumped his plate on the planter. Since it was all over him, the philosopher-caterpillar had to eat in order to clean himself up. Something of a sweet tooth, he ate and ate until he was gorged and filled out to his fullest extent. Looking like a minor version of a dirigible, he could no longer center his thoughts on the Absolute Prime Rib. Dessert had ruined the philosopher in him. He had ceased to be a thinker with the capacity of a Commodore computer and regressed to a mere gourmandizing machine--his original state.

Soon he felt very groggy. Stuffed with nog and cake, he spun a cocoon from sheer instinct and crawled in with a sigh of relief. Intending to take only a short nap, he slept on and on, week after week. Months passed in the dark as the pupa developed and completely changed in every organ of its being. Days grew warm again outdoors, and the Fig was returned to the yard. As dogwood trees burst into bloom in the surrounding woods, new life also stirred in Cocoonville. The Monarchs, one by one, emerged from their long hibernation. But they were no longer caterpillars, naturally. They had all metamorphosed. Instead of bulging worminess and multiple, wriggling legs, they stretched forth characteristically gold and black patterned wings of Monarch butterflies. Wherever it happened, it was always a splendid event, a kind of miracle in the relentless dog-eat-dog natural order.

Last to enter the pupa stage, the former philosopher emerged after the others. But something was wrong with the imago. That was apparent immediately. Perhaps, the orange-rum cake or the nog or the blueberry ice cream were responsible. With such a diet anything was liable to happen. He was not gold and black. Instead he stretched large, Morpho-blue wings, drying and stretching them in the sunshine as the other properly gold-and-black colored Monarchs, a step ahead, flitted about.

Finally, he was ready. He lifted off effortlessly from the Fiddleleaf like a piece of sky detaching itself from the heavens.

Spiraling upwards through the tall trees, he reached open spaces and kept flying. When he came down to earth again, he was in the parking lot of a certain Bellevue software plant. This was not a particularly safe venue for a butterfly with no experience of such places. Single moms out jogging on their company lunch break had been known to vanish in the thick woods in the vicinity (giving understandable rise to fears of yet more abductions of the local Green River Serial Killer).

Without knowing what was happening, he blundered into the open trailer of an off-loading truck. A Crown forklift operator was withdrawing a load and the mutant-blue Monarch imago was swept along, right into the building.

His eyes adjusting to the glare of the fluorescent lighting, the butterfly rode the load of boxes into the warehouse. People, on break, streamed past, and the butterfly flew back toward the open door of the building. The truck pulled away, the door was slammed down, and the butterfly circled. The unauthorized intruder turned down between the towering rows of boxes, and just then a rush of personnel from behind took him through doors into another area.

“Hey!” someone cried. “How did that icky bug get in? Someone help--we need a flyswatter or something!”

Heedless of the danger, the alien alighted on a workstation table, drawn by the warmth of the instrumentation in the bitterly cold room.

“Oh, don’t hurt it!” someone else said. “It’s so beautiful!”

“No, we can’t let it fly around here,” declared someone else with authority, knowing how sensitive the equipment in the room was. “It’ll damage the games program we’re working on, and we’ll lose trillions of Bill's money. So get that bug!”

Being crushed is never pleasant, however small the creature. The imago perceived something very bright was falling toward it--a scanner, it turned out to be, since no one could turn up a flyswatter.

Ah! Sharp pain! Then...an image of a blue butterfly was sucked up by the scanner, instantly digitalized into computer code before anyone knew it. Dropped into a wastebasket for bad components, the mutant imago, only a few hours old, ended its short career in the wondrous realm of flight. Yet, translated to another medium, the brilliant blue PC of Ussherwood Estates, Bellevue, Washington had only begun to fly.

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