seven years of age, Quince had been living with a world filled with
aliens for half his life. Some of the other kids at school were
collecting Visitor Trading Cards that featured elaborate paintings
of various alien races on the front, and tidbits of information
about their physiology and culture on the back. When Quince asked
for a pack of the cards at the toy store, his dad told him that
he wasn't going to spend good money on cardboard. Surreptitiously
and methodically, Quince had been trading away the desserts out
of his sack lunches to friends to get some of the cards. He had
fifteen so far, out of a total of fifty.
Quince never thought twice about the fact that there were other
worlds out there with intelligent life. When he'd watch an old movie
on TV and there'd be fake aliens, he'd laugh at how silly they looked,
since he knewfrom the cardswhat real aliens looked
so, he'd seen only a few of them in person. Once or twice on the
street when his dad took him into Seattle for a Mariner's game.
A Lily came to his school once for a special Alien Awareness Day.
The thing was big and wavy and really pretty, like a drip of oil
trapped mid-splash, with the sun shining off of it in a million
colors. Quince and the other kids listened to the Lily make a big
speech, which was okay. Then they got to ask questions.
old are you?"
you have any brothers and sisters?"
Quince got his chance, he asked, "Do Lilies have pets?"
The visitor said that, no, Lilies never kept animals as pets. They
were allowed to roam free on their home planet. Quince politely
thanked their guest for answering his question, but he was still
really wanted a pet. His dad, who had an answer for everything,
it seemed, said that he wasn't going to spend good money on something
that would poop all over his house. Even after Quince's heartfelt
and entirely sincere insistence that he would totally take care
of a pethe wanted a doghis dad didn't budge. A half-hearted
attempt to get his sister Sarah and his mom on his side of the issue
didn't help either. His mom didn't want to have to wash a dog. Sarah
just thought they were gross. What did she know? She was only five.
always brought Quince and Sarah to school in the morning, and their
mom always picked them up after school to bring them home. That
Thursday, Quince was surprised to see his dad's Volvo parked in
the driveway. He almost never came home early. There was another
car parked there, too, a big black limo.
got a meeting," Quince observed.
that?" Sarah asked, kicking the back of Quince's seat as she
it!" Sarah obeyed. "Dad's talking to someone from work."
both need to stay out of Daddy's study until his meeting is over,"
their mom warned.
followed Sarah up the walkway and into the house. Sarah ran up the
stairs to her room, little legs pounding on the carpet. Quince stopped
at the first step, crouching to tie his shoelaces, which seemed
to always come undone all by themselves. He tied slowly, carefully,
waiting for his mom to go into the kitchen to put away the two bags
of groceries she picked up at the store.
crept across the hall to the door of his dad's study. The door was
delightfully ajar and Quince peeked in. Dad was talking with a Snake.
properties you're looking for," the Snake said. He sounded
like he was from another country.
I'm not paying good money for this unless I know it'll help with
talked to the Snake just like he talked to Quince. He found that
worries, mate. There is no better species in the galaxy to study
for electro-biochemical transfer and mass transference."
didn't know what they were talking about. He was more interested
in watching the Snake. The alien's back was to Quince, but he could
see most of his furry body coiled on the chair. He held a small,
metal box in his strangely human hands.
dad stared at the Snake for a moment. Quince knew that stare. He
used it on his kids when he thought they were being bad and lying
He pulled his checkbook out of the desk and wrote the Snake a check.
The way he pursed his lips, Quince knew he was paying a lot of money
for that box.
Snake took the check, glanced at it to confirm the amount, then
slipped it into a pocket that seemed to be hidden in his clothes.
"It's been a pleasure, Mr. Almeda." The Snake slithered
out of the chair as Quince's dad got up from behind his desk. Quince
scampered away from the door and ran up the steps far enough to
hide from Dad's view.
Snake left the study with Dad following. They said their goodbyes
and the Snake left. A couple of seconds later, Quince heard the
limo drive away. Quince's dad turned to go back into the study,
but he was stopped by Mom's voice.
Is your meeting over?"
Just a second."
could use your help out here."
recognized that tone just as well as his dad did. Ignoring that
tone was perilous. Dad dutifully went down the hall to the kitchen.
Quince saw his opportunity and flew down the stepscareful not
to make any soundand snuck into the study. The metal box was
still on the desk. He undid the latch and flipped up the lid. Inside,
the box was padded with dark gray foam. There were twenty little
holes in the foam. Ten of the holes were empty, but the other ten
had stoppered test tubes nestled in them. Quince gingerly pulled
one of the test tubes out. Inside, floating in a little bit of water,
was a small, gray seed. Or at least it looked like a seed.
you know I don't like beets," his dad's voice wafted in through
the open door.
the only vegetable I can get the kids to eat," his mom complained.
Quince knew his dad would be back soon, but he wanted to get a closer
look at the seed. He pulled off the stopper and dumped it out into
his hand. The water splashed onto the floor, but the seed caught
between two of his fingers. He held it between his thumb and forefinger.
It was a little squishy, kind of like a Brussels sprout, but smaller.
put the stopper back on the test tube, pushed the test tube back
into the foam, closed the lid on the case, and swiped at the water
with his shoe to spread it around and make it less noticeable on
the wood floor.
I have a salad just once in a while?"
want me to spend good money on salad ingredients when you're the
only one who"
do that," Quince's dad said. He sounded a little bit mad. Quince
did not want to be in the study when he got back. He checked the
hall and saw his dad was right there, turned around, still facing
the kitchen. Quince opened the door and slipped out into the hall.
dad took that exact moment to turn around.
go into my study when I'm not there. You know better than that."
wasn't," Quince protested.
waved a hand at Quince, the standard gesture he used to tell his
kids he wanted them to go to their rooms. Quince obeyed, careful
not to crush the seed in his hand as he ran upstairs.
in his room, away from prying eyes, he opened his hand and looked
again at the seed. He needed better light so he brought it over
to the window to get a good look at it in the sunlight. Quince set
the seed down on the windowsill. He got down on his knees to get
close to it to see what it really looked like. In school once his
teacher showed the class a picture of a pig embryo when it was really
small. It looked like a sea creature, but with closed eyes and with
all its legs pulled in like it was sleeping. The seed looked a lot
like that. Quince realized it wasn't a seed at all. It was an animal!
it moved. Not a lot, but a little. It shivered, squirmed, tilted
over just a bit. Quentin watched with clear anticipation as one
of the little creature's legs stretched out. Quentin gingerly brought
one finger down to touch the waking creature.
fair," Quince complained. He spoke softly to the little animal.
"I'll be right back up, Junior."
* * *
was, in fact, not right back up. Dinner was, as always, a long and
boring affair. Quince generally ate as fast as he could and then
spent the better part of an hour trying to convince his parents
to excuse him from the table. Sarah had decided lately that mimicking
Quince was the best fun possible, so she wolfed down her meal as
well and pestered their parents just like Quince. The net effect
of this was to have both Mom and Dad insist they stay at the table
and act like a gentleman and a lady.
a burst of brilliant clarity, Quince decided to start calling Sarah
"Pigface". This had the first effect of making Sarah mad,
then it made his parents mad, then Sarah complained, making his
parents even more mad.
to your room, young man!"
Quince said, and ran up the stairs. He made sure to shut the door
so he could check on Junior with no interference from anyone. He
went back to the windowsill
but Junior was gone! He
checked the little trough where the screen slid back and forth.
Nothing. He got down on hands and knees and looked on the floor
under the window. The sun had dropped behind the houses across the
street, so he had to turn on the lamp to get more light in the room.
are you?" he whispered.
answering clatter came from inside his closet. The light in there
was already ona bad habit that his father had little success
breaking him ofbut the door was almost closed. Quince went to
the closet and slowly opened the door, peering at the floor. If
Junior made it all the way over here, his legs must have been working
was not prepared for the surprise inside the closet. The clatter
had been a huge tub of Legos tipping over and spilling everywhere.
Standing in the middle of the sea of multi-colored blocks was Junior.
At least, Quince had to assume it was Junior.
the little "seed" had been smaller than the fingernail
on Quince's pinky, this gray creature was the size of a football.
It still looked a lot like a pig, with a pudgy body and a round
head. It even had a short snout like a pig, though at the end, instead
of two nostrils, it had a funny bunch of dark, wet wrinkles. It
had two eyes, set wide on either side of its head. Its eyes were
quite large, almost like a horse would have. Junior's legs were
kind of like a pig's, too, thick and short. The ones in the front
were larger, more muscular than the ones in the back
ones in the middle. With six legs, it was clearer than ever that
Quince was looking at something from another planet.
turned its head toward Quince and made a loud snort.
Quince whispered, pushing his way into the cluttered closet and
closing the door behind him. He squatted down to get closer to Junior.
"If my parents find you, they'll kill me!"
sniffed at Quince. He took a couple of steps toward the boy, little
hooves knocking aside the scattered Lego blocks. Quentin slowly,
carefully lowered his right hand to the creature. The snout came
up, smelling Quentin's hand somberly.
he did. Junior rubbed his wet nose against Quince's hand. Quince
let him do it, even though his nose was kind of gross and snotty.
With his other hand, he petted Junior across his back. His skin
was soft, which made sense, since Junior was just a baby. It had
some very fine hair as well, which Quince liked. It made Junior
seem more like an Earth animal, like a really weird dog or something.
are so cool!" Quince concluded.
* * *
an evening getting acquainted with his new pet, Quince finally had
to get to bed. Tomorrow was a school day.
he woke, Junior was already up and perched on the windowsill, butting
his head against the glass. Outside, the sky was cloudy, and looked
like it might rain. Quince hopped out of bed and lifted Junior to
set him down on the floor.
can't go outside yet. I'll try to take you out this afternoon after
looked up at Quince with his wide, dark eyes. He looked like he
understood, but with pets did you ever really know? Quince planned
out in his head how he would stuff Junior into his backpack and
then go out for a walk after he got home. Maybe he'd take him down
to the park. He hoped Junior would get along okay with the other
dogs in the park.
voice intruded on his planning. "Quince! Sarah! Up and at 'em!"
set about getting ready for school.
* * *
almost didn't have recess. Just like Quince had expected, it did
rain most of the day. Thankfully, there was a short break, and the
sun even came out briefly. All the grades in the school decided
to take the opportunity to let the students out, so the playground
was really crowded. Quince didn't mind. He pulled his best friend
Barry off to the side of the playground to talk to him in private.
found a pet."
dog?" Barry asked. Barry had a profound desire to get a dog
himself. He wanted a husky.
It's an alien pet."
call him Junior. He grew really fast. He's about this big."
Quince held out his hands.
I see him?"
you come over to play after school today?"
face fell. "I can't. We're going out to the mountains for the
can see him when you get back."
* * *
day dragged like no other in Quince's memory. He realized he hadn't
fed Junior. The little guy had grown from seed sized to where he
was without eating anything. He was an alien. Maybe he didn't have
to eat at all? That'd be weird, Quince concluded.
in class after lunch, Mr.Weiland showed them a PowerPoint of the
Blues' home planet. The pictures looked like something out of a
movie, with bizarre cityscapes and some natural rock formations
that looked kind of like Earth, but with all wrong colors. This
seemed like a perfect opportunity to do a little research.
Weiland?" Quince asked, his hand politely raised.
all aliens eat?"
all aliens eat what?"
they all have to eat food?"
think they do."
Quince was a little worried. He glanced nervously at the clock on
the back wall of the classroom. It was more than an hour
until class let out.
* * *
prayed that his mother would be there to pick them up on time. She
wasn't usually late, but it had happened a couple of times. Quince
prayed that she wouldn't have some kind of errand to run on the
way home. That was more common, but today, amazingly, luck was on
Quince's side. Mom drove him and his sister straight home.
hit the front door at a run.
want a snack?" his mom called after him.
entered his room, worried that he'd find Junior sick, or dying,
or maybe even dead. He really didn't want Junior to die.
wasn't dead. Junior was doing great. He had figured out how
to pull open Quince's dresser drawers and had pulled out all of
Quince's clothes. He had yanked all the blankets and sheets and
pillows off Quince's bed. He had strewn not only Legos, but all
the pieces from every board game Quince owned all over the floor.
Checkers and Monopoly money and little white plastic organs from
Operation were everywhere.
Quince entered the room, Junior was nosing a glob of Silly Putty
around the floor with his snotty nose. He looked up when Quince
came in and gave him a friendly snort.
What are you doing?" Quince closed the door and went over to
pick up the animal. He seemed really heavy. Maybe that was just
Quince's imagination. He seemed to be bigger. He sat on the
end of the bed and held Junior, who squirmed a little in his arms.
He was bigger. Not a lot, but definitely bigger than this morning.
He couldn't fit Junior into his backpack now. He'd look like he
was carrying Sarah in there.
are you eating?" Quince wondered. He went through the clothes
that were strewn everywhere. Nothing seemed to be missing. He must
have been eating something.
here. I'll be right back." He set Junior down on the bed. Junior
folded his six legs under him and sat.
Quince went into the kitchen and started to gather up things that
Junior might like to eat. He got a fruit (some grapes) and a vegetable
(a zucchini) and a bread (two slices of whole wheat) and a dairy
(a hunk of blue cheese that Mom liked to put on salads).
I thought you didn't want a snack," his mom called from the
dining room, where she was working on her laptop.
just getting a drink," Quince said. Thinking that was a good
idea, he got a bottle of water from the fridge. It was tough to
carry all this stuff, using both arms and his chin to keep it from
falling. But he didn't want to make two trips and maybe have to
answer more questions from Mom. Back up to his room he went.
was still waiting patiently on the bed. Quince sat next to him and
methodically offered each of the foods to Junior. The alien sniffed
each of them, seeming to like some, but not others. But he didn't
try to eat any of them.
was puzzled. He opened the bottle and prepared to feed some of the
water to Junior when he realized something that he should have seen
all alongJunior didn't have a mouth. Under his shout,
where a pig's mouth would be, was just smooth, solid flesh. He looked
all over Junior's head. Nothing. Maybe there was a mouth hidden
inside the nest of his wrinkly nose? He hoped not. Eating through
there would be really sick.
kind of weird, aren't you?"
responded by jumping onto Quince's lap and pushing his forelegs
onto Quince's chest. Quince laughed, rolling Junior off of him and
tickling his belly. Junior loved that, squirming around and making
a surprisingly low-pitched grumbling sound that had to be laughter.
That was Dad. He was home early. Quince quieted Junior down, then
went downstairs. Dad was in the living room with Sarah and Mom.
what's the big surprise, Dad?" Mom asked.
held up four tickets and handed one to Mom. Mom laughed. "You're
Quince asked. He took another ticket from his dad. The ticket was
for something called the Chevrolet Cup. "What's that?"
the hydroplane races. Out on Lake Washington. We've got a spot right
on the I-90 bridge. We're gonna watch the speed boats from right
there on the water!"
is it?" Quince asked. Dad pointed back at the ticket. Quince
read the date: Saturday, August tenth. "Tomorrow?"
much for sneaking Junior out to the park on the weekend. Still,
this was going to be great!
* * *
spent the eveningafter another interminable dinnerin his room
playing with Junior. He knew Junior had to be just an animal. If
he was an intelligent alien, like an Eel or a Vampiretwo of Quince's
favorites from his card collectionthen that Snake wouldn't have
sold the little baby Juniors to his dad. That'd be wrong.
anyway, since Junior didn't have a mouth, how could he talk? Some
aliens had strange ways of talking, like Rope Men and Skeletons,
but Junior hadn't even tried to talk. Well, he was just a baby,
though. Maybe he'd talk some later? That'd be really cool.
knock at the door startled Quince. Junior snuffled. Quince shushed
him, then led him into the closet.
Dad?" Dad opened the door and looked in.
What happened to your room?" Dad looked at
the devastation with wide eyes.
yeah. I was looking for something."
the floor, I guess. You need to pick this all up."
leaving at eight sharp tomorrow."
still have that Mariner's cap I got you?"
Quince cast his glance around the messy room. He saw the cap and
pulled it out of a pile of underwear. "Yeah, I got it."
gonna need it tomorrow. It's supposed to be sunny all day."
looked around the room again with a concerned frown. "Night."
sighed with relief.
* * *
the morning the family went through their normal getting out of
the house routine. It was loud and frantic and confused. Sarah insisted
on wearing two different colored shoes. Mom was horrified, but Dad
finally asked her what the big deal was. They had to go.
still hadn't figured out what Junior ate, so he snuck a box of cereal
up to his room for him. Junior didn't even turn from the window.
He had his nose pressed against the glass, leaving a gooey smear.
Quince made a gagging noise, petted Junior once, and ran out of
the room to join his family, who were already getting into the Volvo.
his haste, Quince left the door to his bedroom open.
* * *
Washington was a community of great wealth. Not ostentatious
wealth, generally, but obvious nonetheless. Virgil Cho was edging
his lawn as the Almedas trooped out to their brand new Volvo wagon,
the mother with her Prada bag, the father with his Ray-Ban sunglasses,
the two kids in colorful Gap Kids clothes. He waved and was waved
to in return. He'd spoken briefly with Vance, the patriarch of the
Almeda family, on a few occasions. He was nice enough, but he was
one of those men whose every move is calculated to advance his career
in some way. Redmond was a destination for Virgil, headed for retirement
from a merchandising position at Microsoft. This place was just
a pit stop for Vance Almeda.
family drove off prepared for a day in the sun, probably something
to do with Sea Fair. Virgil'd last been to one of those parades
back in '19 or '20. He was too old to deal with all the kids now.
He preferred to spend his Saturday on his lawn.
Almedas never worked on their larger, more impressive garden. They
had people come in to do it. When Virgil went to the dry cleaners
and was helped by a kindly old Chinese gent, he felt a little pang
of jealousy that he was paying one of his countrymen to wash his
jackets and ties. Did Vance feel the same when he paid his Latino
gardeners? Probably not. People so concerned with advancement didn't
feel emotions like that.
annoyance with the Almedas was aggravatedor perhaps even causedby the fact that their house was so perfectly positioned for that
garden of theirs. The light their front lawn got was stunning,
at least on days like this when the sun was out. Their front roomwhich Virgil had never been invited to see, incidentallyfeatured
wide, tall windows that let the sun stream in.
edger buzzed angrily as Virgil overshot the end of his lawn and
ran it up against the street curb. He cursed loudly and shut down
the machine. Enough woolgathering, he thought. He went back to the
garage to get the hose and set up the sprinkler. Best to get the
grass watered before the sun rose over his house and started to
shine on his lawn.
he opened the faucet on the side of his house, Virgil heard a scary
rumbling sound. Were his pipes that bad? The house was only
built in '07! He hurriedly turned the wheel back, shutting off the
water flow, even before any of it made it as far as the sprinkler.
sound remained. It grew in volume. Virgil went around to his front
yard to see where the sound was coming from. It rose again, then
fell, but didn't disappear entirely. He thought it was coming from
was something moving in their house. Virgil took a few steps across
his dry grass. He couldn't really see into the Almedas' front room,
but there was a shadow shifting across the glass. Who was that?
The maid? He saw the whole family leave just a few
rumble expanded into a full-fledged roar. The whole bank
of windows on the front of their house exploded outward. Out of
the house came a bull! Virgil instinctively backpedaled, tripping
over the hose and landing on his ass. Through the trembling ground
he felt the creature approach, its hooves audible on grass, and
then quite loud on the street between their houses.
raised his head, almost scared to look. The large animal snuffling
in the street not ten feet away wasn't a bull. He had thought that
because it was so much thicker in the front than the back. Its front
legs were nearly as big around as Virgil's torso. Its gray skin
reminded Virgil of an elephant. Its face was piggish.
massive head twisted toward Virgil, the two huge, wide-set eyes
stared at him. Virgil tried to crabwalk backwards. The creature
took that as an invitation, and it rushed forward, crossing that
ten feet in no time flat. Thick, dark hooves crushed into Virgil's
lawn on either side of his head. The other four legs straddled
his body. A wet, noisy nest of wavy fleshthe creature's nose?lowered to Virgil's face. Sniff. Sniff.
it was his smell or his plaintive cry, something about Virgil was
lacking, and the creature slowly backed away. It turned in a wide
circle and went back out onto the lane. The nose came up to smell
the air. It turned, faced west, and galloped away.
said a quick prayer of thanks that he hadn't been killed or eaten
by the creature. Then he fainted.
* * *
Andrea Slagle cruised around town in search of illegal parkers.
A lot of her fellow officers on the Redmond Police Department tended
to be lenient about that kind of thing. They told her they preferred
to investigate crime. Screw that. Parking illegally was a
crime. Not a destructive or sexy crime, no, but something
she hated. People were a little too lax here in the North West.
Angela was from Texas, Austin in particular, and she was just bringing
a little bit of her home's law abiding history to this breezy, touchy
where are you?"
tapped the mic at her lapel. "This is Bravo Six Zero. I'm traveling
north on 148th Avenue. Over." She followed procedure, even
when the dispatchers didn't.
we got a call that there's a rhinoceros on Redmond Way, headed for
Kirkland. Are you close to there?"
A rhinoceros? Must be some kid tripping. She'd keep an eye out for
reckless drivers. If this kid was tripping and driving and
talking to the police on a cell phone, he was about to win the trifecta.
She was only a couple of blocks from Redmond Way, in the middle
of a quiet suburban neighborhood. When she pulled up to the intersection,
the light was red, so she came to a full and complete stop. She
peered to the right. She tapped her mic.
this is Bravo Six Zero. I'm on Redmond Way. I don't
voice trailed away in a very unprofessional way.
SUVs and a man on a motorcycle blew past Angela's squad car going
west. Traffic from the east came to an abrupt halt, with half a
dozen vehicles doing very illegal u-turns in the middle of the intersection.
creature running down Redmond Way didn't look like a rhinoceros
to Angela. It looked like a dump truck. A big dump truck.
This thing didn't really even fit into one lane. As it ran past
Angela, she felt the ground tremble. The beast had to shoulder aside
a Mercedes that hadn't finished its impromptu u-turn. The car's
air bags deployed as it crunched into a stalled Honda.
I'm in pursuit!"
flipped on her lights and sirens and peeled out onto the stree,
turning left from the right lane, following the wide swath left
by the passing animal.
pursuit of what?"
followed. More cars ahead scrambled to get out of the way of the
oncoming monster. From the rear, it looked a lot less dangerous,
since its backside was smaller, though still freakishly large. "It's
an animal, six legs, at least ten feet tall." The beast's rounded
back brushed up against a hanging traffic light as it moved through
another intersection. "Make that twelve."
to her speedometer, sheand the beastwere doing between forty
and sixty miles per hour. This section of the street was marked
by sweeping curves. She saw the creatures' dark hooves skid a little
on the turns, forcing it to slow down. It picked up speed again
on the straightaways, sunlight filtering through the tall pines
that lined the road, painting the beast's light gray hide in striped
the 405 interchange. Please advise, have Kirkland police been notified?"
we're working on that."
muttered something really unprofessional under her breath.
the 124th Ave intersection, the monster didn't simply brush against
the traffic light. It bashed directly into it with its nose. Angela
tried to remember if those two lights were hung at the same height.
She couldn't be sure, but she thought they were. During that
moment of reflection, the creature slowed down, shaking its head,
as if annoyed by the collision with the signal. Angela had to slam
on her brakes, feeling giddy with the knowledge that she was about
to collide with an alien monster in the bright, summer sun.
creature started to move again, and Angela managed not to crash
into its rear. As they passed from Redmond into Kirkland, the land
began to slope down toward the lake. Now, with a wider street ahead
of it, fewer trees to hedge it in, and gravity on its side, the
beast edged up to nearly seventy mph.
the motorists were giving the beast a wide berth. Angela pulled
into the oncoming lane to look ahead at the busy intersection that
was coming up just before the 405 overpass. There were a lot
of cars stopped at the light. The creature was wide enough to fill
three lanes. This was not going to be pretty.
lanes? Was the monster growing right before her eyes?
seemed to understand that these obstacles needed to be removed from
his path. Rather than simply trampling the carswhich would have
meant instant death for most of their occupantsit lowered its
snout near to the asphalt.
closest car in the left lane, a Porschethankfully one with a
hard toptook the brunt of the creature's blow. The little sports
car bashed into the rear of a minivan, pushing the van into an ancient
Ford. The abused Porsche was edged to the side to join a line of
violently sidelined cars in the right lane. The truck in the turning
lane on the far left tried to escape by pulling out into traffic
and got sideswiped for its trouble.
minivan continued forward, butted roughly by the monster's huge
snout. It was now locked in an awkward embrace with the Ford. Both
carswhich looked less and less like vehicles each momentlaunched
into the intersection and directly into the path of cross traffic
which was blithely unaware of the danger galloping down the hill.
squeals from abused tires and brake pads filled the intersection.
When the beast caught up with the carnage he'd caused he battered
against all of it, sending a dozen vehicles careening around like
had to slow down significantly to negotiate the aftermath of the
multiple collisions. She called in the scene to her dispatcher while
trying to snake her way forward. Ahead, the beast reached the 405
overpass. It couldn't run under it, being just a bit too tall. It
had to crouch and crawl through. This gave Angela a chance to catch
up, just as it came through to the west side.
past the interchange and still traveling west."
Police are on their way."
know, Angela didn't say. She could see down 5th Avenuethe new
name of this street on the west side of the highway. Three Kirkland
squad cars, lights and sirens going, were speeding toward them from
the city center. The beast ignored them and continued west. When
the creature ran past, the drivers of the three patrol cars panicked
and each attempted to do a high speed 180 degree turn to follow.
Not one of them accomplished the maneuver. Angela glanced into her
rear-view, hoping that they would pull out of their ridiculous spins
and join her in the chase.
the first time, Angela wondered what she planned to do when she
reached the beast. This wasn't a dog or a cat or even a stray
deer. It was three lanes wide
no, check that. Four lanes wide.
the thing is growing."
not talking about a beard! It's getting bigger. It's twice the size
it was when I first saw it!"
growled into the mic in response. She wasn't the one who had called
about a stray rhinoceros strolling through town.
into Kirkland, the traffic was thicker. The creature slowed a bit.
It still knocked carsand one busaside as it went, but
it was down to a sedate forty mph. Then thirty.
the thing is slowing down."
not growing as fast?" She swore she heard laughter
on the other end of the radio.
slowing down. Moving slower."
the heart of the Kirkland shopping district, the beast couldn't
help but slow down. It barely fit on the street, taking up both
directions of travel, crushing trees and signage on the narrow median
with its low-hanging belly. Occasionally it brushed up against the
shops with its flanks. Following it now at just a little faster
than jogging speed, Angela noted how smooth its skin looked. She
saw a handful of scratches on its haunches from cars and trees it
had scraped against on its journey, but no blood.
reached the end of 5th. The creature made a sharp left, trotting
down toward a small park with a boat dock on Lake Washington. The
beast slowed to a walk as it approached the water. Now Angela had
the time to hear the terrified citizens screaming. Joggers and bicyclists
and parents with strollers all hurried out of its path. Many people
evacuated their cars in the middle of the street and ran. When the
mammoth beast was within only steps of Lake Washington, it came
upon a row of stopped cars. Angela killed her siren and stopped
her car. She hopped out and brandished her weapon.
she yelled. The handful of onlookers brave enough to watch from
the sidelines looked at her like she was crazy. In her defense,
she didn't know if the creature knew English. It was an alien, after
beast ignored her as it surveyed the obstacles. It chose a stylish
BMW convertible that had its top down and stepped onto the car,
strangely gingerly. The German automobile groaned and crunched in
a final death rattle as the monster used it as a stepping stone.
Free of the gridlock, the beast trundled forward to the edge of
the water. Angela followed, stepping between two sedans to get over
to the park.
creature lowered its nose into the water and sniffed. Its head reared
up and it sneezed out a great gout of lake water. It shook its head,
as if it didn't like the taste. Angela, her pistol still out and
unsafetied, approached. She tried a different take.
there, big guy?"
the beast turned around, massive hooves tearing up manhole sized
chunks of earth. It took a single step forward and was upon her,
standing over her like a three story building made of gray flesh.
Her training fled. Really, what training did she have that could
contend with that? "Uh
" she mumbled again.
if bored by her, the creature did a strange little circular dance
on its six legs, sniffing at the air. But it didn't seem to like
what it smelled. Then, it saw something to the southwest. It did
a little hop, causing the ground to quake so roughly that Angela
nearly lost her feet.
took off to the south, following the lake shore road. Angela looked
where the creature had. She could see part of the 520 floating bridge.
She activated her mic.
it's heading for Seattle."
* * *
applied sunscreen liberally to his head. Every time he'd said something
to Elaine about getting plugs, she'd run her fingers over his scalp
and say something about how sexy he was, ending the discussion,
at least until the next time some young punk of a clerk confused
him for Quince and Sarah's grandfather.
do they start?" Quince asked.
told you, it'll be a while."
broad span of I-90 was shut down for the day. This served the dual
purpose of avoiding gaper's block onto the bridge during the races,
and also allowing certain ticket holders a place to park and watch
the action. Vance had thought he'd brought the family terribly early.
As it turned out, he'd been part of the main rush as hundreds of
vehicles were waved onto the bridge by uniformed attendants and
shown to their parking spots. Everyone had left their cars and wandered
around the floating section of the bridge, enjoying the water, the
sun, the cool breeze, and even just the novelty of strolling across
an interstate freeway.
kept a close watch on Sarah and especially Quince. Those two could
generate more trouble than any three kids he'd ever met before.
He tried to be a disciplinarian with them, but he knew in his heart
that anything less from them would have disappointed him. He was
like that when he was a kid, and he'd turned out alright, hadn't
Sarah called out. "Look!"
turned to the south to see if the racers were doing a trial lap
of the course. He couldn't see anything more than he'd seen when
they first parked a couple of hours ago.
Daddy!" Sarah yanked on his arm, pointing to the north. "Lookit!"
the race is gonna be over here."
Elaine said. That wasn't her admonishing tone, or her sexy tone.
That was the tone she used when Sarah stopped breathing one horrifying
night when she was seven months old. That was the tone she used
when Quince stumbled into the house, white-faced and wide-eyed,
one end of a croquet hoop plunged rudely into his thigh. Vance's
blood went cold at the tone. He turned.
first, it didn't make any sense. They were looking at the 520 bridge.
There was a truck on it.
way!" Quince shouted, his small binoculars glued to
his eyes. Vance raised his own binoculars and looked closer.
was no truck. It was far too tall to be a truck. For a few
moments Vance simply watched, like a theatergoer enjoying a particularly
nifty bit of special effects in a film. The thing, whatever
it was, was so heavy that the entire bridge was bobbing in the lake
Vance had driven over that bridge a hundred times, sometimes in
terrible downpours with gale winds blowing, and it had never felt
like anything other than a solid span of concrete. Now, it was rolling
with longitudinal waves caused by the mammoth creature galloping
down its length. Even at this low altitude, he could see waves churning
in the water from underneath, spilling out on the lake, rolling
in concert with the motion of the bridge.
thing slowed a bit as it reached the middle of the bridge where
there were two slender walkways that allowed maintenance people
to get from one side to the other without risking the always busy
roadway. The thing butted its head up against the first walkway,
once, twice. On the third hit, the walkway shattered. The thing
stepped forward a few feet and repeated the action on the second
walkway. Then it started to run again.
westernmost part of the bridge wasn't floating, but elevated, with
a tall ironwork structure over the lanes. The structure wasn't tall
enough to admit the gray creature, though. The thing would have
to batter it down. It didn't though.
going to jump," Vance muttered.
I need to talk to you!"
thing ran, hard and fast. The rolling, bobbing motion of the floating
sections of the bridge caused a couple of them to crack, concrete
and steel flying in the thing's terrifying wake. It reached the
upslope section and put on even more speed.
thing reached the top of the upslope and instead of continuing forward,
into the lattice of steel, jinked to the left and leapt.
High and far, massive front legs reaching forward, smaller middle
legs and smallest rear legs pinwheeling behind.
not gonna make it," Quince warned.
gonna make it," Vance said.
think smashed snout first into a ten-story block of condos right
on the water. For a moment, all they could see was smoke and dust
and spray from where chunks of the building's face had sloughed
off into the lake. Everyone on the I-90 bridgenot just Vance
and his familybut everyone watched in hushed anticipation.
dust began to clear and a large, dark-snouted, gray head emerged
from the rubble. It climbed out of the pile of shattered brickwork
and concrete, shook off the dust, and trotted out of sight, into
finally, turned to look down at his son.
have to tell you something."
* * *
Atwater had overcome a whole host of obstacles to become the mayor
of Seattle. He was the first black mayor in the city's history,
which even in this day and age was no small feat. He had come up,
not through the ranks of lawyers or self-made entrepreneurs, but
as a university professor at the Dub. Above all, he had done it
with the lame-ass name "Marion".
surprised him, when he started, how little time he'd get to actually
spend in the city he governed. Visits to neighboring major cities,
conferences, speeches, fact-finding missions. There were times he
felt like all those virtual employees that infested the coffee shops
and diners and parks all over town. Virtual Mayor Atwater. That's
what he felt like most of the time.
today, today was different. Sea Fair was an institution, one that
pretty much every Seattleite bought into in one way or another.
He couldn't not be in town this weekend. In fact, he was
up in the city's most enduring landmark, so retro it was cool again,
the Space Needle. Today he hosted a special luncheon. Half the observatory
level was cordoned off for the influential and powerful members
of Seattle's elite to have a nice meal, while looking out at the
nearly cloudless and fantastically beautiful day.
the host, Marion got to spend precious little time eating, instead
wandering from table to table to shake hands and make small talk.
He would never admit it in an interview or even to his aides, but
this was a part of the job he actually liked. In a profession that
was all about people-people, Marion Atwater had perfected the skill
of small talk. More than one pundit commented on it, since no one
expected an English Lit professor to be able to connect with anyone
who hadn't written a scholarly treatise on James Joyce.
chance would have it, Marion was speaking with the man in
the room when he was interrupted. The not quite retired billionaire
was nearing seventy but still maintained a boyish nerd-charm, pulling
Marion into a fascinating discussion of the challenges of marketing
his company's wares to the alien community.
frowned and turned to Linus Swindol, a short, heavyset, hirsute
young man who was also Marion's chief assistant.
Linus," he said, his eyes adding the addendum, and this
better be important.
think we should talk in private," Linus added, his nervous
glance at Gates not subtle in the least.
let you guys get back to work," Gates said. "We'll talk
later." He shook Marion's hand and moved off to talk to his
is it?" Marion snapped.
there's a dinosaur loose in the city."
interrupted me for a joke?" Linus strengthened his grip
and pulled Marion away from the luncheon tables into a corner of
the observatory level. On the wall a series of illustrations compared
the Needle to a number of other, much taller towers around the world.
gotten three different calls, from the police and fire departments
of Seattle, Redmond and Kirkland. No one knows what it is, but it's
big and it's alien and it just entered Seattle."
or what's left of it."
put up a hand. He tapped the phone it his ear. "Yeah
scream from the other side of the room distracted Marion for a second.
His instinctive worry was that one of the kids at the party had
ventured over the railing outside and spooked his mom. Marion wasn't
really fond of heights. More shouts of alarm rose.
on!" Linus shouted, physically pulling Marion out to the windows.
They faced north west, toward Capitol Hill.
" Marion didn't finish. He understood now. The
dinosaurwhat else could you call something that sizehad just crested the hill. It dwarfed every other building in the
vicinity, except for St. Mark's Cathedral a few blocks away. At
this distance it wasn't very clear what kind of damage it was doing
to buildings, streets, vehiclespeoplebut it had to be tremendous.
Call me back." Linus ended his call.
can we tell them?" Marion whispered into his aide's ear.
much. We" Again, Linus took a call. Marion really wanted
to snatch that thing out of his ear and throw it over the edge of
the observation balcony.
started to turn to Marion. These weren't random people who came
in off the street. These were the most powerful players in the city,
individuals with nationwidein some cases globalinfluence.
They were watching a disaster unlike any in history unfold directly
below them, with their mayor standing right next to them. Marion
wondered if any politician had undergone scrutiny quite like this.
He took a deep breath.
and gentlemen, I am in contact with local law enforcement. At this
point, we know next to nothing about the situation. When I know
more, you will. Please, stay calm."
seemed to mollify most of them. The colossus continued to crunch
its way down the hill. Its most obvious victims were trees; the
usually green hill now had a wide swath of gray-brown destruction
sliding down from the ridge. When the creature got to the steep
cut in the hill that fronted I-5, it paused, considering the situation.
It walked north and then south, bits of the concrete wall crumbling
under its titanic feet.
we just got a call from a man who has information about the creature."
moved back to Linus instantly.
is it? Where did it come from?"
" Linus looked away, clearly still talking on the
little phone. "He claims that it's his son's pet."
That's a pet?"
thing finally decided to jump down, immediately snarling traffic
on the interstate in both directions. It blithely disregarded the
carswhy not, since it had to be at least fifty feet tall and
twice that in length.
them here. Now!"
locked in over on the I-90 bridge. Nothing's moving. Traffic's nearly
at a standstill on that side of the city."
have helicopters, don't they?"
* * *
felt guilty, because he'd stolen Junior from his dad, and that wasn't
right. He was scared, because Junior was probably going to get killed.
(He'd seen "Godzilla" for the first time just last month.
The parallels weren't lost on even his seven-year-old mind.) But
bubbling on top of all that was sheer excitement. He and
his dad were riding in a helicopter from the bridgewhere
they left Mom and Sarah behindover to the city. He kept an eye
peeled for Junior.
he is!" Dad called out. Quince jumped out of his seat and climbed
into the seat behind his dad.
buckling in." They were passing over Lake Union. Junior was
right below them, looking even bigger than before! He was
walking up to the lake shore, trampling a whole row of restaurants
on the lake's edge. He dipped his snout into the water.
thirsty," Quince said.
pulled his head back up and sneezed out the water, sending the spray
halfway across the lake.
he doesn't like it," Dad said.
helicopter landed in a parking lot near the Space Needle. Quince
had been up in there once, when he was little. The elevator operator
took him and his dad and their police escorta big guy named Daveup to the restaurant. Quince remembered that the restaurant usually
spins, but it was shut down for now. It was empty, except for a
couple of tables where some people were talking and working on computers.
Quince and his dad went in and met the mayor, Mr. Atwater.
told his story. He said he was sorry, but he didn't think Junior
would hurt anyone. From the frowns of all the adults in the room,
he guessed something bad had already happened. If Junior had killed
someone, it must have been an accident. He was so big now, it would
be easy for him to make a mistake like that.
mayor turned to Dad.
leveled a glare at Quince. "Quince and I will be having a very
long talk this evening." Quince felt his face get hot with
have been broken," Mr. Atwater said. Dad looked at him, surprised.
only seven years old."
Mr. Almeda. You're the one I'm talking about."
imported a dangerous alien animal into my city."
a second Dad looked scared, worried, even a little guilty. Then
Quince watched as his father stood a little straighter and looked
Mr. Atwater right in the eye.
didn't break any laws because there are no laws on this topic.
I can't import something from Canada or Japan or New Zealand. I
researched this, Mr. Mayor. There's nothing on the books in Seattle
about alien importation. Tacoma has talked about it, but
nobody wants to legislate the issue because they're all too worried
about missing out on the next big thing. I brought in the creature"
brought in Junior for some bioelectric research we're doing at Microsoft.
You can't tell me you wouldn't want us to find a breakthrough.
It would mean money for the city."
mayor looked angry. "Your boss is one floor up. You think he's
going to be pleased at what you did?"
Zucker is here?"
Mr. Almeda. I'm talking about Bill Gates."
" Dad paused, looked down at Quince, then back
at Mayor Atwater. "Tell him. I don't care. I made a mistake,
I'll admit that. You pass the laws and we'll abide by them. Until
then, you can't think I could have foreseen something like this."
A fat man, Mr. Swindol, called over from his computer. The mayor
wanted to keep arguing, but he had to stop to see what Mr. Swindol
was looking at. Quince and his dad followed. They gathered around
the small screen which was showing a live newscast. Quince looked
out the window. He could see the helicopter hovering below and he
could see Junior's path in from Lake Union. The dual tracks of the
monorail were broken where Junior had just passed. Quince couldn't
get a view of what the Junior was doing right now, though. He turned
back to the computer to see what the news chopper was broadcasting.
hundred feet below, Junior lumbered up to the base of the Space
Needle. His front hooves left holes in the valet drive big enough
to park a car in. He craned his head up to get a look at the tower
above. He sniffed at the base, his snout brushing up against the
gift shop, cracking several windows. Then he moved closer and started
to rub his side against the flared base of the tower.
trying to knock us down!" Mr. Swindol shouted. They could feel
the vibrations all the way up here.
just scratching himself," Quince said. After a few moments
Junior turned around and scratched his other side. "He's not
a bad guy, Mr. Swindol. He's just an animal."
does it want?" Mr. Swindol asked. No one had an answer to that.
big is he now?" the mayor asked. Mr. Swindol made a call to
somebody to find out.
mayor turned to Dad. "We need your help."
understand," Dad said. "But I don't know what I can do."
did you get him?"
Cancer Snake?" the mayor asked.
Quince said. "I saw him at our house." Dad put a hand
on Quince's shoulder, not even realizing he was doing it. At least
Dad wasn't really mad at him.
told me the species was adept at energy conversion, that it wasn't
sentient, that it came from a red giant system. That's all I know."
National Guard is on its way. Is there any reason to think we can't
kill it with conventional weapons?"
Quince shouted. "You can't kill him!"
grip on Quince's shoulder tightened. "Quince, this is serious.
Junior has already hurt people and done a lot of damage. We can't
let him roam free."
Swindol came back over. "Sir, the police have been reviewing
video footage of the creature. I think we know why it's growing.
It seems to only grow when it's in full sunlight."
were two intervals when clouds shadowed it from the sun, once for
sixty seconds, another for nearly three minutes. During those periods,
the creature did not get any bigger."
didn't shrink, either," the mayor snapped.
makes sense," Dad said. "If the creature feeds off of
sunlight, it would have adapted to a much lower luminosity star
back home. The sun here is overfeeding it, so it's growing at a
much faster rate."
had to let him loose in the summer," the mayor muttered. For
a second everyone was quiet, no one laughing at the thin joke. "Well,"
the mayor continued, "we can't turn off the sun."
we shade him in some way?" Dad asked.
don't see how," the mayor admitted.
should paint him," Quince said.
Cover up his skin. Then the sun wouldn't hit it." The adults
all stared at him. "He's probably hot anyway. He might like
Atwater ruffled Quince's hair. "You've got quite a kid there,"
he said. "Linus, get the Fire Department. They've got to be
able to fill up one of their engines with something we can use to
cover Junior's skin."
leaned over to Mr. Swindol, whispering intensely. Quince heard him
anyway. "Keep the Guard coming, too."
jumped when they heard a whistling, whooshing sound. Out the window,
three bright blue jets flew past the Needle. They went right over
Junior, who was sauntering down Denny toward the water. There were
still a lot of cars on the street that Junior was crushing flat.
Many people had tried to turn onto side streets, or simply abandoned
their cars to the beast's advance. Two more news helicopters had
joined the first, buzzing around Junior like flies. After the pass
from the jets, the helicopters pulled away
but not too far.
the hell was that?" Mr. Atwater asked.
think that was the Blue Angels. They're here for Sea Fair."
know who they are! What are they doing here?"
planes split up over Elliott Bay. Two swung out to the north. The
third did a tight looping turn and headed back to the city. A streak
of smoke flew from it toward Junior. The missile slammed into his
right shoulder, exploding. Junior was about seventy feet tall by
now, so the attack didn't kill him. It didn't even knock him down,
but he did stumble, sidestepping into a construction site, destroying
half of the naked steel framework. He howled so loudly they heard
him through the glass.
turned south and started to run down the street. Spurred by fear
and pain, he didn't weave so carefully through the buildings. He
smashed his way through Belltown, trampling everything in his path.
them off!" the mayor shouted.
the Army!" Mr. Swindol said. "I can't call them off!"
Navy," Dad corrected.
don't care! They're just making him mad!"
ran south east along Second Avenue, away from the Space Needle.
Quince used his binoculars to get a better look. It seemed like
the ugly wound on Junior's shoulder was healing really fast.
Before he could be sure, Junior's path took him behind some tall
buildings. Quince had to turn to the computer screen to watch the
KOMO 4 news.
have to kill it, Mr. Mayor. How else to do you think we're going
to do that?"
many more people are we going to kill in the process?"
second plane swept in from the south and shot another missile at
Junior. This time he saw it coming and tried to roll out of the
way, entirely demolishing a twelve story block of apartments. Two
of the helicopters took that as their cue to fly higher and watch
the attack from a safe distance. The KOMO chopper stayed low, searching
the wreckage for signs of Junior.
can talk to him!" Quince said. "He knows me. I can calm
his dad cautioned.
man," the mayor said, "I am not letting you within a hundred
yards of that thing. It's not safe, not anymore."
is safe! He's just scared."
wrestled his way out of the rubble of the apartment building and
barreled his way toward the water. Quince remember seeing Junior
jump from the 520 bridge all the way to the shore. He didn't like
third plane took aim and fired at Junior. This one hit him squarely
on the rump, pushing him forward, across a block of shops and directly
onto a wide pier at the waterfront. Now Quince could see what was
happening through the window.
Quince called out.
tried to regain his feet on the concrete pier. The structure beneath
him couldn't stand the strain of his enormous weight. It shuddered,
cracked, then quickly imploded, dropping Junior into the deep waters
of the bay. Junior slipped beneath the dust clouded water. Quince
began to cry. It was just like Godzilla. They killed him. They didn't
have to kill him.
picked Quince up and hugged him close.
cried and cried.
* * *
didn't have the heart to kick the Almedas out of the restaurant.
He continued to coordinate with the police and with the militarywho finally returned his calls. The Navy said they were sending
divers into the bay to confirm the kill.
was also the terrible damage done to the city, most of which he
could survey from right here. Initial estimates put the physical
damageto various roads, bridges, buildings, and the new seawallat nearly five billion dollars. And then, there was the human
cost. At least a hundred seventy-five people had died. He knew more
would be uncovered in smaller buildings that the beast had destroyed
along the way. His very inappropriate reaction was relief. It could
have been much, much worse. He said as much when he went up to update
the bigwigs who still milled about in the Observatory upstairs.
dear God." Marion looked up to see Linus staring out the window.
Had more of the waterfront collapsed? Was a fire raging through
Belltown? He hurried to the window.
in the middle of the bay, a round shape bobbed in the water. It
disappeared, then bobbed up again. A familiar snout poked out of
the water, blew a stream into the air, then dove again.
Almeda boy heard that and immediately ran to his side.
calling the Navy," Linus said. "They have to have a submarine
in the area."
looked up at Marion, his eyes still red from tears. Marion imagined
in that moment that he would regret his next words, maybe for the
rest of his lifehis political life, anyway.
the creature any bigger than he was when he fell into the bay? It
was nearly an hour ago."
not in the sun," the child said. "He's not going to get
bigger. He's not going to hurt anyone."
already hurt a lot of people," Marion said.
aren't people in the water," the boy argued. Marion had to
laugh a little at a child's strange sense of logic.
say," Linus said, "that he hasn't grown
But we have to take care of this. He could damage shipping vessels,
pleasure craft, ferries. He could walk back up onto land at any
Almeda joined them. "The creature spent the entire day looking
for water. He didn't like Lake Washington or Lake Union, probably
because of the salt content."
have got to be kidding me," Linus spouted. "We can't just
let it swim around out there!"
then how about this," Marion said. "We've seen red tides
caused by a single dead whale. That is ten times larger than
a whale, and it's got God only knows what kind of biological chemistry.
If we kill it, we could be creating a toxic hazard of immense proportions.
At the very least, we would have to wait for it to move out into
Marion silence Linus with a look.
the Navy," Marion said.
them they need to help us keep an eye on him." Marion looked
down at Quince again. "If he causes more trouble, we will have
to put him down."
won't! I swear it!"
hope you're right. I really do."
* * *
he was. Weeks of careful scrutiny showed Junior to be interested
in nothing but swimming peacefully around the waters of Puget Sound.
He stayed beneath the waves and didn't grow, at least not that anyone
could tell, and he never tried to get back onto shore. He even stayed
comfortably far away from the shallows.
political firestorm that followed was bizarre and intense. Half
the people complained that the city wasn't prepared for the disaster,
and the other half complained that the response was too extreme.
(This was Seattle, after all.) The families of the two hundred seventy-one
victims of Junior's rampage sued everyone: the city, the state,
the federal government, even Microsoft. They won every case, except
the one against Microsoft. (Their attorneys were better than the
government's.) In the wake of these lawsuits, laws with strict language
about importation of biological material from off world hit the
books in Tacoma. Most other states followed suit within the following
larger, cultural battle waged on the internet over the incident.
Proponents of destroying the beast proudly posted their video clips
and pictures of the devastation to Seattle. Junior's defenders did
the same with the footage of the missile strikes and Junior's playful
antics in the bay. Some pundits claimed this was a referendum on
human-alien relations. Would humanity give in to xenophobia and
execute a guileless animal? Or would they ignore a proven threat
to their continued safety and allow it to attack again? The relentless
engine of the online media churned and churned over the debate for
months on end.
federal governmentparticularly the militaryquietly decided
to table the issue until further developments. They had seen Junior's
remarkable healing ability first hand. They were concerned that
perhaps nothing but a direct nuclear strike could actually kill
him. And if so, they were unprepared to deal with either success
so, Junior was left to swim where he would.
* * *
ran up and down the strip of grass between the parking lot and the
rocky beach. Her robot dogwhich she'd named Billfollowed her,
yapping in his tinny, electronic voice.
minutes, Pumpkin," Dad called out to her. To Sarah, five minutes
was an eternity of playing with her dog. To Quince, five minutes
would be gone in an instant. He continued to sweep the water with
Dad's binoculars. Dad came up and stood next to him.
probably way out in the Sound."
Quince kept searching.
you can't say goodbye to him. He'd have to come up on shore. You
know he shouldn't do that."
was quiet for a second, then he walked off to talk to Mom. They
packed up the stuff from their picnic. Mom went over to get Sarah.
Dad stayed by the car, waiting for Quince.
water slapped softly onto the rocks, so blue it looked like it had
been painted. Quince watched and waited, knowing deep down that
someday he'd see a dark nose poke out of the water and a big, dark
eye look his way and seem to say, "Thanks."