Back before it was a four-novel story, the premise was Hung Lo’s Chinese Takeout. Lo would work there, as a very lazy waiter who took frequent breaks to go assassinate demons. You see, the restaurant was a front for his demon-hunting business. Get it? “Takeout?” “Chinese?” Oh, double puntendre. The Maitre d’ would be Emma, his girlfriend who was capable of moving through shadows. She’d essentially field all the calls, show people to their tables, and hop through the shadow world to advise him on an easier way to kill the werewolf that was chewing on his tibia. Their chef would be the borderline neurotic Puck. Every so often a demon would make its way back to the restaurant, wreck the place and leave him a babbling mess. It’s still beyond me how this turned into a four-novel story with no restaurant.
“Science can't make Pluto not a planet. They've had Pluto as a planet for centuries. You can't do scientific backsies. That's nuts. What if other things they've been telling us forever turn out to be untrue? What if that polio vaccine isn't a permanent fix? What if not all cholesterol is bad for us? What if the universe is expanding? What if... what if none of the stuff they currently tell me to believe is real? Not only does this destroy my worldview, but all those labs the government subsidized were just wasting my tax money! I could have bought porn with that money!"
Hers were small rebellions. She signed the petition, but did not wear the pins or flaunt the rules by putting on forbidden clothing. When Dolden Prep finally rescinded the dress code it seemed half the girls showed up in thigh-bearing skirts and every boy had a band shirt to sport. Not she. She wore the same navy blouse and skirt every day, and once again refused to wear their pins. All she did was undo one stitch at the bottom left of the skirt. She let it alone until another stitch came out by nature of wear and laundry. Then another. Week by week, and soon day by day, she let the tear climb up her leg in a naughtier way than any boy’s hand could. She did not mend for an appearance of style. She let the idiot revolutionaries gossip about her ragged wardrobe. She listened happily to the gossip, too, when the rip climbed higher than any liberated girl allowed her miniskirt to go. The teachers could do nothing, and her fellow students in their Grateful Dead shirts and Prada shoes gawked at her indecency. She let it climb her until she heard the rumor one morning that she had a boyfriend who liked seeing her this way. It made her smile as she finally took one of their now ironically sheik protest pins, and used it to clasp the tear in her skirt.
The human mind is a worktable, about four feet in length. Some superior intelligences are about six feet long. One time I was cornered by a culture critic at a benefit dinner who might have been six and a half feet. Regardless, all human minds are three feet in width.
On the table are a hammer, a chisel, a saw or two (depending on the versatility of your studies), sandpaper, screws, nails and sundry items. You can build things with these. You can fix things with these. Most people will also use these to break things in half and bang on them.
Altogether, this 4x3 table with various utilities is your mind. When ready, you drop the problems of the world on it.
When this happens they rip the roof off of your garage and drop a sperm whale on your table. It is not a miniature sperm whale, nor a baby sperm whale. It is a full adult female, hurtling down on your table-mind. The sperm whale here represents all the problems of the world, but they are complex and so it is difficult to anatomize what organ represents what problem. It would be silly to assign poverty to the liver or overpopulation to the reproductive organs. However I believe we are all silly and tired enough to agree that taxes are the blowhole. It is such a large thing that you cannot see if the problems of the world were dropped upon you by a skyhook or a crane. Your 4x3 (or if you’re lucky, 6x3) worktable is crushed beneath the whale.
I’ve thought it over with my roughly 3.5x3 mind, and the only flaw I see to this metaphor is that in real life you don’t get to set up your table before they drop the whale on it.
“I’m going to admit up front, not a lot of people would dig a mote around their RV. But that’s why they won’t expect it. Assassins will sneak up in the night, figuring on solid footing, and ba’am! Into the jaws of hungry baby alligators. They’ve got to be babies, since I couldn’t really dig a big mote on short notice. Plus, last time I tried digging a big one I sort of forgot to put on the break and rolled into it mid-festivities with my wife. Don’t know which was worse – paying for the new suspension on that thing, or the adult alligator getting in through the rear window. I miss my nephew…”
Going to the Good Battle Ron broke his fast at dawn. As he cooked the eggs he wondered murky thoughts. Why had he never dedicated that nightly period when he didn’t eat to the gods? Sleep made him fast anyway, so why not hand them the honor? While the men ate, he dedicated their meal to the gods. When he marched with the rest of the troops for Ral’Hom, to fight the good battle, he dedicated the walk to the gods as well. There was no prayer or symbol. The actions drifted into the ether like any others, save that they were earmarked by a thought.
Ron had always abstained from tributes, but that morning came a question – not a revelation, but a mere question. If the gods were good and necessary as he’d heard, then were not all his good and necessary actions for them? As the troop passed through a mill town, a girl gave him a dipper of water. He thanked her, and wondered as he marched on if he had not thanked the gods in that same sentence. Were not the gods served by the millers baking honey bread and sweet beer to joy up the nights? Were they not served with every meal? Back at Braintree, up the road from his house, where the scholars studied powders and cures, was not every laboratory test and attempted equation was not a prayer? Was father, the great mathematician, more religious than he knew?
His theological epiphany lasted until that afternoon’s good battle, which was not good or godly at all. Never, even in his agnostic years, had he felt so distant from the gods as when tore into another man. He lived, though, and there would be more questions.