Dragoncon was over, and Josh and Anomia slunk home on Monday with a couple of $25 t-shirts, a lightsaber, and an outrageous hotel bill. They spent a couple of days recuperating.
Anomia kept thumbing thru her notebook. It sucked how little they knew. The angel’s quest might have been doable if he’d given it to an established videogame developer, but of the two of them, only Josh had ever programmed a game, and it was an asteroids ripoff way back in high school. Anomia knewPhotoshop and Flash, but that was just scratching the surface.
Josh chatted up his hacker friends to see if they’d be interested in helping, but when he mentioned the game’s parameters, they shook their heads and said they were busy. They kept pointing to Kurt, an esoteric coder who was too bright to hold a steady job, and who’d worked on lots of programming teams for twenty minutes before walking out over some disagreement with the project manager. Kurt was working on a quantum computer, and everybody thought he’d be perfect for a videogame designed to give players realworld superpowers, with about the same chance of success. So they went and talked to Kurt.
Kurt lived in his van, and spent his non-programming hours riding the subway and hanging out in foodcourts all over town. They met him at the Suntrust foodcourt, in the heart of the Dragoncon hotel district, recovering nicely as the costumed hordes receded into memory. The place was mostly empty, in fact, the office droids having returned to their cubes from lunch and the vendors busy closing up.
Josh and Anomia sat at a table under the skylights and explained their idea over coffee. Kurt drank and listened, fidgeting for a cigarette.
Nathan Rotenhals watched them talking as he waited for his third fast-food manager to tell him he wasn’t old enough to get a job there. But he simply had to, so he was prepared to go thru the same speech with all 196 vendors in the two block area. He could weasel his way into a job a lot closer to home, if it was only about the money, but he needed to be right here, where even if his dad wouldn’t let him go to next year’s Dragoncon, he would be in the middle of it anyway.
Caroline Street watched the group as she wandered around pretending to be a shopper. There weren’t too many pickpockets or merchandise boosters in the mall today, and she noticed right away that the chick at the table was the same girl she took notes on at Dragoncon. So she loitered and listened, but mainly watched, enchanted. What a spoonful of jelly the girl was.
The middle-aged fat guy had a patchy beard and a ratty ponytail that was graying at the top. He had granny glasses that kept slipping down his greasy nose; he kept pushing them back up with pudgy, nicotine-stained fingers. In contrast, the boy was almost unbearably handsome, with chiseled features and fashionably tousled hair. They were both programmers, but one was the very picture of a socially inept geek, while the other looked like he could play one in the movies. The girl was just plain gorgeous, with smooth, coffee skin, an athletic little body, and her hair in dreadlocks. Caroline was in love.
“Yeah, i’m working on a quantum computer,” Kurt was saying. “There are still a few kinks. But once I’ve got them figured out, videogames will never be the same again.” He paused, considering their polite looks. “I know you won’t understand it,” he began, “and it’s okay. I’m used to dumbing it down for people.”
“Thanks,” said Anomia. “I like to think of myself as blonde.”
Caroline, lurking behind a potted plant, suddenly walked away to spend some quiet time thinking of the girl just like that.
“To begin with,” Kurt said, “a bit in a classical computer can be either one or zero, so there are two choices per bit. But a quantum bit can be one and zero, or any number of states in between. A classical computer might seem like it’s doing a bunch of things at once, but it’s really only one step at a time. With quantum computing, you can branch out into parallel universes, and run endless calculations in linear superposition.” He sat back, looking happy. “Do lots of steps at once,” he explained, seeing their pupils shrink. “The 64-qubit quantum computer I’m working on will be 18 billion billion times faster than a 64-bit classical computer.
“Whoa,” Josh said, turning to Anomia. “That means you could have really complex objects in the game, and tons more of them, and they could do lots more things.” She rolled her eyes.
“And you’ll be generating actual random numbers,” Kurt continued, “so gameplay will be a lot more realistic. Your AI and NPCs will have much broader capabilities, and they’ll be smart enough to teach you what you need to know without your having to ask. Your sound and graphics will be incredibly rich and lifelike. And, oh yeah, you’ll never have another security problem.” Kurt reached into his jacket for his cigarettes and rose from the table. “That’s just off the top of my head,” he said, heading for the smoker’s balcony.
Josh and Anomia followed him outside. Josh began a long-winded attempt at recruitment, but he was awed by Kurt’s programming chops, and Anomia could see he was never going to come to the point. “We need someone to program a game that will give players superpowers,” she said, “and people told us you might be interested.”
“Not ‘might be interested,'” Josh protested. “They said you were the only one who could do it.”
Kurt considered this, staring out over the traffic. He took a couple of drags and slowly shook his head. “You don’t need me for that. You can do everything you want with a classical computer. Two reasons – it’s child’s play to simulate quantum reality with a computer, and most of your superpowers boil down to some version of nonlocality, which is an intrinsic feature of classical computers – so you don’t have to look any further.”
They made him explain nonlocality. Otherwise called action at a distance, or teleportation – where an object jumps instantaneously from point A to point B, or entanglement – where two particles separated by as much space and time as you want still act in unison. “You want to fly, you just write it that way.”
“No,” Anomia insisted, “we want to do it for real. Everything you can simulate in a game, we want players to learn to do for real.”
“F’real?” he said, taking a long drag and staring at the traffic below.
“We’re not talking about a game that you can fly in, we’re talking about flying in the real world.”
Kurt took another quick puff and ground his cigarette under his shoe. He thought about having another. “A nonlocal real world,” he mused. “A world where everything’s entangled. Are you sure you want a fart on the other side of the world to affect the taste of your coffee?”
“You’ve got me,” she said after a moment. “How does being able to fly affect my coffee?”
He shrugged. “Everything’s connected. Mostly we don’t notice it. But if you start enabling people’s awareness of it, you could change everything. In the world according to quantum physics, what you expect to find is what actually happens.”
Josh and Anomia exchanged glances. “That’s kind of where we were heading with this,” she replied.
They went back inside, and Kurt led the way to a lunch place in the far corner, where the day’s leftovers were cheap.
Nathan was trying to talk the manager into hiring him. He’d been making a case for how hard he could work and how the customers would love him. And the man hadn’t said no yet, so he was still there.
The manager was busy fiddling with the frozen yogurt machine, so he said hello to Kurt and nodded to Nathan, “Okay, here’s your trial run. Go ahead and help these folks.” Nathan grabbed a styrofoam box and waited for Kurt to choose, gulping back his nervousness. Anomia and Josh stood apart, discussing their game.
Kurt watched the kid ladling his salad and wondered. “You play videogames, right?” he asked.
“Sure,” Nathan said, and shut up, wondering if he should be talking to customers.
“What do you play on, console, handheld?”
Nathan closed the box and looked at the manager to see if he minded, but he was ignoring them. “I can only play on my desktop. Downloaded games, mostly, or online,” he said, handing Kurt the box. “My Dad doesn’t approve of videogames. And my computer’s old, so only a few games will run. Are you going to make a videogame?” he ventured as Anomia moved to the counter.
“Yes we are,” she answered, looking at the food. “A quantum videogame. We’re going to change the world.”
“Quantum’s cool,” Nathan said. “I want to play.” She ordered a box full of salads, and then it was Josh’s turn.
Nathan offered them cookies, and got them bottled drinks, and the manager was happy to ring up such a healthy sale so late in the day.
“The kid’s good for business,” Kurt commented. “Better hire him.”
Back at their table, they ate quietly for only a moment before Kurt put his plastic fork down. “Why you can’t fly in real life,” he said, “is partly because of the consciousness problem.” Josh and Anomia looked obligingly blank. Kurt gestured at the nearly empty foodcourt. “We assume that space, time, and matter are fundamental. We trust our senses, which tell us that the world we experience is real, with solid objects that exist outside of us.” He waved his drink bottle. “And everything works according to fixed laws, like a machine, and we could master it all with enough knowledge.” He took a drink and picked up his fork. “But it’s not like that at all.”
“Everyone knows that. They teach it in high school.” Josh indicated Nathan, sitting nearby filling out papers. “The table is really empty space, you could put your hand thru it, we’re nothing but vibrating energy in flux. All that shit.”
“But that’s not what I was saying,” Kurt said, twisting his fork into a pile of curried spaghetti salad. “Consciousness is the fundamental principle. Space and time and the material world arise from that.” In the silence, he ate the salad in three bites and studied the container, trying to decide which one to eat next.
Anomia finally swallowed. “I thought they’d decided consciousness turned on and off like a switch at some level of brain activity,” she said, taking a drink. “You’re not conscious when you’re sleeping, and when you wake up you suddenly are.”
Kurt made his choice and speared a hunk of chicken salad. “That’s because they’re still trying to treat it like classical Newtonian physics, where consciousness isn’t real and doesn’t affect reality.” He took a long drink. “But ‘objective reality is a flawed concept.’ Quantum physics is based on the observer – which is consciousness – and that makes them nervous, so they try to keep it out of their equations. But they can’t.” He wiped his mouth and smoothed his mustache with two fingers. “The material world is an illusion. The universe is a giant mind.”
Fairy, occupied with her own pursuits somewhere else entirely, commented in their heads. That’s what my guru says.
Anomia and Josh looked at each other. Who else is in here with us? they wondered, and voices sounded enthusiastically from all over, with grumbling from the skeptics.
Kurt worked thru the chicken salad and started on the coleslaw. “And okay, physicists have sort of made their peace with quantum reality, but people in the macro world are in total denial. They continue to insist that there’s one true reality – one right way – even if nobody can agree on what it is, and if you don’t conform to it then there’s something wrong with you, ignoring the big huge glaring anomalies in their lives in order to do so. But there’s not just one reality. It’s a subjective universe.”
“We want people to accept quantum reality on the scale of,” Anomia looked around, “sitting here eating our food, and not just down at the level of our atoms?” she asked doubtfully.
“Right. Then people could fly.” He shrugged and drained his drink. “All it requires is a paradigm shift. You think about the world differently, a new way of looking at it becomes clear, and different things become possible. Wishes come true in a quantum world.”
“Like in dreams,” she said.
Kurt tilted the box and scooped up the last bits of salad. “Where do you go when you dream? Is it a real place with solid things? They feel solid. You take it for granted that they’re solid. But they’re just electrical activity in your brain, just waves and clumps of energy.”
Josh shrugged. “So what? Dreams aren’t real.”
“In quantum physics, the possible and the actual worlds exist at the same time. My point is that when you become aware that you’re dreaming, you don’t have to follow the script anymore. The dream world is nonlocal, and there you are inside it, awake. You can do whatever you want.”
“So we want people to be like they are in dreams, but in real life.” Anomia was puzzled. “Are we talking about trancing people out, or putting them to sleep?”
Kurt held the box up and drained every drop of dressing into his mouth, then snapped the lid closed. “No, just the opposite. We want them to think quantum while they’re awake.”
“That’ll be a big change.” The thought scared Anomia. What about bad dreams? “Maybe people would rather believe things are solid than live where everything’s magic.” She turned to Josh. “Remember the constant effort it took in our game? We had to make the sun come up every day.”
Josh patted her arm. “Don’t forget, we’re the ones who are betting people will want to live in a magical universe.”
Kurt stood up and gathered his trash. “Once you get people out of the rut of least resistance, and teach them to catch themselves when they backslide into unconscious habits, they can achieve quantum mastery. It’s that easy.”
Josh and Anomia sat there with glassy eyes. Kurt got up and walked over to a trash can, leaving them to think about it. It would take awhile for them to assimilate it, of course, but they had his number if there were any questions.
He walked by Nathan’s table and stopped for a moment.
Nathan looked up and smiled. “I got a job.”
“Good for you,” Kurt said. The kid looked about twelve years old. “Aren’t you still in school?”
“Yeah, well, I can do work study. If I can talk my teachers into it.”
They looked at each other for a few moments and hesitated, not sure what to talk about. “Well, see you around, then,” Kurt said, starting toward the subway.
Immediately, he started thinking about the quantum computer he was going to build. As he cut thru the hamster tubes and halls, he thought about the various substrates he could use, not sure if he wanted to use quantum dots or electron spins as his base.
Walking the last block outside so he could smoke, he thought about how to fit quantum nano-oscillators into classical computer chips.
As he tapped his transit card and pushed his bulk thru the double doors, he fantasized about conscious computers, and about making a computer out of a brain.
Sitting on the swaying subway train, he thought about links between the thalamus and cerebral cortex, where consciousness might be anchored. He thought about synchronizing those neurons with his quantum computer. Plugging in memory sticks. Hooking up smartphones. Wifi.
10,000 nautical miles southeast of Atlanta’s subway system, 124 degrees around the globe, 17 hours of flight time and a six hour layover in Frankfurt; Radhu Trivedi was still mentally back at Dragoncon. The parade, people flying their geek flags, the intense discussions about videogames and possibilities, the women in superhero costumes – he’d felt really comfortable being in such odd surroundings, welcomed and appreciated. Loved. Best of all, he was returning from a boring telemarketer’s convention, not as a lowly employee who beat out all the other employees for this trip, enjoying a whirlwind boondoggle before resuming the shackles and trying to beat them again for next year. No, he was reborn, transformed, into a groundbreaking videogame developer.
So, he was going to realize his dream after all, Radhu mused as his taxi lurched from traffic jam to traffic jam on the way home from the airport. He’d gotten so close the last time, only to be let go with the others when the project finished. But now he had another shot. Finally, he could escape from his typical middle class Indian life in his typical Indian family with his typical Indian mother pressuring him to marry a typical Indian girl and his typical Indian call-center boss demanding typically impossible Indian standards for typically low Indian wages. To hell with all that. He was going to be a rich American game developer. Just as soon as he wrapped things up in India.
His cousin Muttu would be very happy to hear about his trip. Mattu’s ties to the gaming industry were as bona fide as Radhu’s – he sold pirated videogames from a market stall. But he was ambitious, and had high hopes for their future. He would see all sorts of possibilities that Radhu didn’t have the head for.
Muttu loved to talk about how fat the kids were these days, and how much money they had, and how their parents indulged them with smartphones and PCs and gaming consoles. He loved to fantasize about standing under them with nets to catch the money. The Indian gaming industry was growing exponentially. Independent developers were springing up all over the place, and they were increasingly co-producing big American games. India was already second to none in outsourcing; with a pool of skilled professionals to do the work, they would soon surpass Taiwan and South Korea to become the number one top videogame developing Masters (by proxy) of the Universe.
Muttu was torn between starting up his own gaming company, opening an internet cafe, or starting a technical institute. The school seemed the safest bet, but he wasn’t cut out to be an administrator, and Radhu wasn’t leaving his call-center job for anything less than a ticket out of there.
Meanwhile, in another part of town…
Nathan got home burning with curiosity, and rushed to his computer to start googling things the computer genius guy’d said. If only he’d been less hesitant to speak, they could have talked – they actually shared some interests. He stayed in front of his computer until they called him for dinner. Quantum computing, quantum mind, qubits.
Dad got home with work on his mind. Corporate doubled the amount of time he had to spend on paperwork, effective immediately. He now had to account for every five minute segment of his day, and assign a job code to each one. Some of the job codes came out of the corporate budget, and some of them came out of the retail budget, and it was a big fat hairy deal because it all got whanged with a multiplier and was going to come out of his paycheck if the numbers weren’t good enough. He was getting too old for this shit, because no matter what the numbers were, he was going to end up doing more work for less money.
Mom got home and put her things away, and scurried around making Dad comfortable with a couple of beers while she got dinner ready. Tonight it was FamishedFamily(tm) dinners for everybody. She left one in the freezer, because of course Sis was not home yet.
Dad was sort of watching the news, the remote in one hand, a beer in the other, his feet up on the coffee table facing the new plasma TV they’d financed just last month. His favorite newsreader was on, an old white guy with a booze nose. He told Dad that the Board of Education was unveiling a bold new initiative to deal with the worsening public school crisis. He flashed a picture of a one-story compound surrounded by razor wire. Study after study has shown that high school is the gateway to jail for millions of kids. A ticking timebomb. He showed a loud, confusing graphic that Dad ignored to guzzle his beer. Concentrate on job training, enable successful careers, make useful contributions. He made some recommendations Dad approved of. The institutional life – cheap and effective. Respect for authority – discipline – regular schedules.
Dad drained his beer. “I guess they don’t learn that at home,” he said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand and turning to Nathan. “Where’s your respect for authority, huh? What useful contribution do you make? Get me another beer.”
“It’s already like that at school,” Nathan observed, getting up. “The doors and windows don’t open, and you have to go thru metal detectors, and there are police patrolling the halls.” He handed the beer to Dad. “They use pepper spray to break up fights. Kids get dragged to jail in handcuffs for throwing paper airplanes and running.”
Dad popped the top and took the first deep draft. “You don’t want cops in the halls? Obey your teachers.”
“But school’s a gateway to college and a job, not a life of crime,” Nathan protested, sitting down.
Dad leaned over and loomed, wafting beer fumes in Nathan’s face. “Tell me you know better than hundreds of experts who say you kids are a bunch of psychopaths.” He snorted, his nostrils flaring. “You’re so full of it.” He sat back and took another drink. “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” He stabbed the remote to change the channel and waved at Nathan dismissively. “I should have hit you more when you were growing up, but your mother kept getting in the way.”
The beer went down and Dad motioned resentfully for another, glowering as his son slumped to the kitchen. “They’re talking about making the death penalty for rebellious children,” Dad said to his back. “You’d better watch out.”
Dad grew up watching All in the Family, and identified with the young rebel Meathead. But here he was doing a fair imitation of reactionary Archie Bunker. Back in the day he marched against the war and smoked pot and called for revolution; how did he get to be so conservative? If you asked him, he would point to his son and talk about the wrong headed attitudes kids have. No worries, tho, they’d grow up once they got any real responsibility, and end up just like him.
He popped the beer open and drained half of it. No matter how unique kids try to be, they’re just part of a herd, where it’s important to fit in and not go around thinking about things, because then you irritate people. His advice, should his shiftless son bother to ask, would be to blend in and be stupid. Dull and unambitious, that’s how you pass in today’s world. But Nuthin had gone back into the kitchen to help Mom with the food and missed his chance at enlightenment. Dad called him for another beer.
“What have you been doing since you got home, Nathan?” Mom asked as she sat down at the coffee table and handed the dinners around.
Nathan had forgotten about his new job, and opened his mouth to tell them about it, but realized that this wasn’t the time. “Studying,” he said, then lowered his voice and finished, “quantum entanglement,” and shut up, not wanting to talk over Dad’s conversation with the television. <
Sis came home in the middle of dinner and wanted to know where hers was. Mom got up to pop it in the microwave. “That way you can have it hot no matter how late you are,” Mom explained, bringing Dad another beer. Sis spent the time telling Dad how hungry she was and wondering if Mom had it on defrost instead of full power. Eventually she settled down with her dinner, complaining that it was too hot, but otherwise sitting quietly in front of the tube.
Dad’s other favorite news anchor was on, a chirpy little black woman with an ice-queen exterior that Dad saw right thru. She introduced an expert on the economy who explained the latest austerity measures, which were going to empower poor people to do better. Dad suggested a few examples of programs that needed cutting. He saw himself facing down some bum asking for a handout, or having the last word when his worthless family wanted something. It’s for your own good. It’s not revenge, I just can’t afford to carry your lazy ass anymore. He glared at his son.
“Daddy,” Sis said with her mouth full, “what’s austerity?”
“Oh, sweetie pie,” he said, “you’ll never have to worry about austerity, because you work hard and always do what you’re supposed to. You’ll go to college and get a good job and marry somebody who’s rich, and everything will be fine.” He waved to Mom, who got up and got him a fresh beer. He waited to explain until he popped it open and had a drink. “Austerity is for the lazy, dependent blood suckers who steal our hard earned tax dollars and buy plasma screens and smartphones. People who should be homeless, sucking the life out of hard working folks so they can sit on their butts and smoke dope. But with austerity,” he grinned, “moochers will have to work for a living like everyone else.”
He was on a roll. “We need to dismantle the nanny state and replace it with a pappy state.” Sis looked up at him adoringly. “It’s simple. We’ll just outlaw being poor, and send the bastards off to work camps. Kids and old people too. Hell, take them all, illegals, muslims, blacks, feminazis – the lot.” Dad and Sis looked darkly at Nathan, who might have taken this opportunity to mention his new job, but Dad continued without pause.
Mom hardly thought being poor should be a crime. “What if somebody loses their job?” she asked hesitantly. “Should they go to jail?” It was a ticklish subject because Dad was always afraid he was going to get fired.
“There’s no such thing as poverty in this country,” he stated firmly. “It’s a well known fact. Every so-called social problem can be traced right back to somebody’s individual screwup. Every single time, there’ll be something you should have done, and it’s only because you’re lazy – or stupid on purpose – that you’re in the hole you’re in. You’re responsible for the problems in your life.”
Mom took her tray into the kitchen. Dad yelled for her to bring him another beer.
I want to get a job,” Nathan ventured. “No way. You’re not allowed to get a job,” Dad said shortly.
“But you could use the help,” he protested.
“Listen, I work because I’m a grownup, and I have to work for a living. Your job is to help Mom and go to school. That’s the rules.”
“But that’s not a real rule. We can decide to change it if we want to. If it’s better for us.”
“It’s always been like this,” Dad said flatly. “The only reason I let your Mom work is because you kids are so damned expensive.” Nathan started to object, but Dad wasn’t having it. “You can’t change it, so you better get used to it.”
It wasn’t fair. It was a sour taste in Nathan’s mouth, being forced to be dependent on his parents when he had the ability, however small, to buy himself a taste of freedom. “I can’t wait until I’m grown up and can do things myself,” he sulked.
“Nonsense,” Dad insisted. “You’ve got loads more freedom right now, just because you’re a kid. I’ll give you more privileges when your judgment improves.” He saluted Nathan with his beer can, then shook it and looked meaningfully at his son, who got up to get him another. “In the meantime, I’m keeping you down for your own good.” Nathan avoided his eyes, glowering. Dad chuckled over the can. “You depend on me for the bread you eat and the roof you sleep under, so I have nothing to fear from Nuthin.”
“I just think…” Nathan started.
“All you need to do is what you’re told. You don’t have a choice, because I’m not giving you one.” Nathan took his tray into the kitchen. Dad called after him, “Don’t take it personal. I win, and that’s just the way it is.”
Dad turned his attention to the latest important newsflash. The whole world was watching Honey Boo-Boo Child! Stay tuned for the most important moment of her life!. Honey Boo Boo’s Hollywood screentest! Dad rose from the couch, hoping he had enough time for a quick piss and calling to Nuthin to hurry up and get him another beer.
Nathan discussed his new job with Mom as he helped her clean up after dinner. They wanted him ten hours a week, mostly during lunch and PhysEd. It cut into English and World History but he could work it out with the teachers. It was on the subway line ten minutes from school. He found himself pleading with her. Straight A’s – work study – extra credit – looking great on his college application.
Mom asked him why he wanted a job. “Are you trying to help us with the bills?” He twisted his hands and confessed that it was only because he wanted to go to Dragoncon next year. “I think that’s a great idea,” she said, relieved, putting an arm around him. “It’s a very responsible thing to do.”
“He always thinks he’s right,” Nathan whined, “and he never listens to anything I say.”
“Yeah,” Mom sighed. “I know.”
“But he’s not right, is he?”
She paused for a moment, feeling disloyal. “No, he’s not,” she said. “A lot of the time he’s just reacting.”
Nathan looked at her. “He repeats what he hears on TV. He doesn’t even get the details right.”
Mom brushed his hair where it curled up on the back of his neck. “He’s too busy to do a lot of thinking about things, and I guess he just figures if it wasn’t true they wouldn’t say it.”
Nathan scowled. “But even the most basic search turns up a hundred different facts and viewpoints. How can he just accept everything when it’s obvious the authorities are lying?”
“Well,” Mom said after a moment, “it’s kind of easier just to accept what they tell you after awhile.”
“But does he really think the world is like that?” Nathan persisted.
“Probably not, but he sure wishes it was simpler. And he thinks if everybody follows the rules it will be.”
“I don’t want to follow those rules. They’re stupid rules.”
Mom gave a big sigh. “I know. But they’re all he’s got.”
This made Nathan angry. “No they’re not. He won’t listen to anything else. He’s trying to force us to be the way he wants us to be, and it doesn’t work like that. I know that, and I’m only a kid.” He slumped. “It’s like he’s hypnotized.”
“No,” Mom said, patting his hand. “He’s just tired.”
The cops called the house at 3 in the morning and asked them to pick up Sis at the jail. She wasn’t under arrest, but the car was in the impound. Mom drove down to get her. Sis flounced out of jail and kept ahead of Mom all the way to the car, then sat and stared out the passenger window the whole way home, and mumbled something about not having her license as explanation for why the car was impounded. She snarled at Mom the one time she just tried to make conversation. “You don’t care about me,” she sneered, fleeing the car the moment Mom turned off the engine.
By the time she put her things away and went back upstairs, Precious Snowflake was huddled miserably on the floor next to Dad’s side of the bed, weeping and being comforted. Dad was nearly asleep, stroking her hair and mumbling about all things he was going to buy her when he got rich. Sis kissed him goodnight and got up when Mom lay down, and stuck her tongue out at her as she left. Mom pretended not to notice.