the fixed point of Asa Zook/paul pietsch -- copyright 1996 by Paul Pietsch

chapter 22 Lovey

Nor... [more and more Joyce found herself choosing Asa's usages ("My feet automatically sought out impressions left by his," as she would write many years later)...whenever she could]...were they part of each other solely in allegory. She'd known it that evening after they'd set aside their first good day's work. Known it, loving madly around and about and between and, finally, right smack down the middle of his aches and agonies. Known it from the diaphragm left in the pocket of her jeans within the universe of the floor. Millie knew it almost as soon as Joyce herself was sure; their visages sent the signal, entre nous. Now Asa's general theory was truly real and really alive: as Joyce chose that it be. Naturally, Asa was the very last to know.

Oh she was thrilled! Pants- peeing thrilled! And then a thought struck her, something about which she duly formulated a working hypothesis (she'd earned the right to formulate propositions, infer corollaries and reach logical conclusions, hadn't she -- what with having become the tensor capacity of a philosopher's furious tensor density [she'd have to play some with the possibilities of these multi- entendres]; entitled to good clean ontological fun with her thoughts, now that she knew something of how thought itself was put together, wasn't she?): Why had Poppa decided to add a new wing onto the house? He and Momma Zook had initially planned on nine children, which the house had been built to hold. But "Asa prin'near killed Loretta. Even after the wait, Raymond'd been too close a call." Although Millie and Ray started off as though shooting for fifty, they'd decided to hold at six (after [it did not escape Joyce's attention, at all] Joyce and Asa were married). Factoring in Poppa's minute planning, Joyce arrived at a net yield of three very spacious quarters for any newcomers to the Zook household. Analyzing the morphology of the new wing, Joyce concluded that Poppa was creating space for another family. Then, checking the critical dates, she concluded that the Grossdawdy's certitude antedated her own. The old stinker! He'd known what was going to happen even before Joyce believed it could or would. "But try this one," she said to herself: "Poppa knew when what existed before it occurred [and how was that for a shtick of idealism, Missus Asa By- the- G- Sassafras Zook!]."

Oh she was happy! So happy! Another term in Congress was completely out of the question, she told a tearful Pam Peterson. True, she conceded to Bill Griffith, she could handle both, "In theory." Yes, she owned the place in Georgetown. Admittedly, Asa would live happily in a pup tent on the White House lawn if Joyce crawled into his sleeping bag each night. No, certainly not, she didn't want her seat to revert to the cesspool. That was one ancillary reason why she was making her decision so early. She'd make a feint for either the Senate or the governorship and scare the scheist out of the party's state central committee. As a peace overture, the state party would stay out of her district during the primaries and let her pick her own successor in the House. The county chairmen (God love them!) would back Bat Man if she asked them to. Nor (Heavens! Philosophy was even creeping into her political style)...Nor would the local pols risk pissing off a future senator or governor. By the time her real reasons for stepping down were visible, the party's ticket would already have been punched. "But," and she looked each and every staffer directly in the eye, "not a word of any of this must leave this room." She'd make the announcement herself. "Come on," she then told them. "Don't look so glum." She wasn't quitting, but merely pausing....Pausing to fill in a blank in her life.

Pausing to stay in bed until nine o'clock. Pausing to tarry in the kitchen over a cup of...Not coffee! Never coffee. Or booze, either. Or tobacco. Tarry over a glass of milk, then. But pause. Pause to brush the natural oils into her tresses; pause to be cuddled and babied and silly and pretty in a shortie night dress. Pause from rushing to the airport, from smelling Havana cigar, from having the gut- knotting tensions of a monumental decisions on too short a notice. Pause to sit on the porch and be with Millie; or go shopping; or play the piano again; or read bedtime stories to children; or wash her own stockings or sew a button on her husband's shirt (it didn't look all that hard). Pause to read poetry, novels, Dr. Spock. Pause for a sun bath on a blanket in the back yard on a weekday afternoon. Pause to sleep in her own blessed bed every blessed night of the entire blessed week. Pause to be Missus Asa Zook.

She'd learn to cook, to bake, to iron: Well, at least scrambled eggs, baking powder biscuits, handkerchiefs. But she did learn to knit.

Before she could take her pause, though, Joyce had several important chores to see to. The general theory had to be turned into a coherent manuscript (which they eventually published as a monograph). Then there was Annabelle Crowe. And there was Asa's job at Havering.

It was Fish Adrian who called her. "Asa did the right thing," Joyce insisted when Fish tried to slip the hook. Annabelle's rank and salary, he protested, had nothing whatsoever to do with her gender but with documentable accomplishments. Asa, after all, had two doctors degrees, over two hundred publications and he'd been out of school longer. "Bullshit," Joyce hammered back. Well, anyway, Fish then tried, Annabelle didn't have anybody else to support. (Now enters the ugly truth!) Did Fish dock an unmarried man's salary? Ah! he insisted, there was a practical difference; a man had to bring a secure financial base to the marriage, which meant building up equities early on in his career. If a professional woman never married, obviously, she'd only have to provide for herself. The confirmed bachelor? Joyce came back. And the divorcee? Well, these were the tough or lucky breaks, Fish attempted weakly. "Polemics," Joyce countered, "arguments full of holes. Women just get fucked," she said over his attempted reply. "And the most insidious fuckers of all are the do- goody gang who try to make sexual inequality come out as the Platonic idea of justice itself -- the .Fisher Adrians of the world. "

Fish shifted to Annabelle in particular. Yes she was worth a lot more than he paid her, he finally confessed. But it was not exactly news at Havering that he and Annabelle were more than just friends. (Joyce really hadn't known and her uncharacteristic nescience momentarily amused her.) And how would it look if suddenly Annabelle came up with a promotion? Joyce said the solution was right under his dissembling nose: "End all sex discrimination with one fell swoop. One simple, direct order from the boss!" Things like that took time, he pleaded. "Your tone is becoming lugubrious, Fish. I've heard all the arguments a hundred times over."

Fish abruptly shifted to Asa. The consummation of his life's work depended on a place like Havering. Jobs like his were exceedingly rare. "Well, then," Joyce replied, "Society will be the big loser." And she quickly got in another lick: philosophy was something Asa Zook could do while swinging like a monkey in a tree. He didn't need a job at all. It was science that needed him. [Not knowing what the outcome of the Havering problem would eventually be, Joyce did not tell Fish of the general theory. God the poor old guy'd go to his grave marinated in his own juice if he thought his own intransigence kept cancer out of Asa's system -- as out it surely would be if the fixed point remained pure philosophy.] Some sort of accommodation would have to be sought, she agreed. She'd work on it, she promised. But she stressed that in no way would she, Joyce Zook ever attempt to deceive Asa into returning against his conscience. [Never, Joyce decided, would she say anything to Fish about the sea.] Were they still friends? Of course, she answered. And just to prove it, she'd let Fish buy her lunch at Mama Leone's when she was in New York in a couple of days to close down their apartment.

When they met for lunch, and when Joyce waved off alcohol and spicy foods, Fish grinned at her. She grinned back. And early on, Fish joined the knowledgeable coterie.

Annabelle Crowe. Damn that woman was stubborn. When Joyce managed to catch up to her, Annabelle and Ap were making a sincere effort to drink New York dry. Joyce hated to be a snitch, she said to Ap, but simply had to call and let him know about Annabelle's heart.

Joyce went to Annabelle's apartment. She wasn't going to be reasonable, Joyce immediately apprehended. Okay, then, she'd try a little shock therapy for openers. Sans gêne, Joyce told of almost leaving Asa because of his and Annabelle's little chassé in Minneapolis. Annabelle broke down and cried and begged Joyce's forgiveness. Besides, "He really didn't do anything."

"How in hell do know? You were pie- eyed drunk."

"Well, he didn't," Annabelle insisted. What made her so certain? "Well because..."

"Because he's Asa Zook." Joyce couldn't resist finishing the sentence.

How did Joyce know all the details?

"He tells me everything, dear. Absolutely everything!"

"Then why did you want to leave him?"

"It had nothing to do with Asa," Joyce said. "Nothing, as such." Yes, she'd been seized by insane jealousy when Asa tried to tell her. She'd always been jealous of Annabelle's relationship with Asa, she conceded. Yes, she'd elected to believe Asa had been screwing Annabelle all along, that the drunk line was mere cozenage. But she was simply looking for excuses. The true cause of her jealousy was identical to what evoked Annabelle's uncharacteristic behavior in Minneapolis. "As is your self destruction right now."

Annabelle stopped crying. What was the true cause? "Fear, Annabelle. Fear of unworthiness. Intractable doubt about adequacy. Adequacy at the most important thing in one's life. In your case, your career. In my case, Asa Zook." Without telling Annabelle of either the general theory or the sea, Joyce said that, by luck, she'd found herself to be quite worthy. "Or else I'd not be here today." Did it come from being a woman? "No," Joyce replied. "Men suffer the same woe. Society merely grants them more options. Men can be more creative in how they destroy themselves. I see it everyday in the Congress. Moral impotence is a malady of a complex society."

Annabelle talked freely and at length about her life, and about competing with men. "It sometimes seemed as though they were waving their dicks and laughing, 'Where's yours kiddo?'" Asa had been totally different.

It was a Zook attribute, Joyce asserted, "Women as well as men. But what the Zooks are is a force extant in the world as a whole, dear; and it's part of all of us, if we choose. Recognizing the force within one's soul is like hearing the song of birds despite the noise of traffic. We must be artists at living if we're going to know our true capabilities. But Nature always makes us work hardest to discover what's most worth finding out."

Annabelle shifted to talk about the realities of life as a working scientist. Joyce conceded that science, of course, was people. What did Annabelle expect? Competition was built into the species. Still, Joyce observed, "More than in the law -- or even philosophy for that matter -- no other human institution rivals science when it comes to setting the objective fact ahead of the personal belief. Of course, science has its pigheads, cheats, self- servers..."

"And assholes," Annabelle added.

"And assholes. But something novel emerged from the human character when modern science evolved."

"What?" Annabelle asked.

"The reassignment of the source of truth from God to Nature."

"But scientists don't deal in truth," Annabelle insisted. "They deal in facts, in data Facts and truth are not the same."

Joyce conceded the point, but: "Nature's truth is the real, if unmentioned, deity of science. Expunge the prospect of reaching truth and Annabelle Crowe and all the rest would close their labs for good. Without truth, the incentive would vanish from scientific pursuit.

"But to espouse the philosopher's truth is to find the poet's justice. Which means that unless Annabelle Crowe just ups and quits, she'll eventually wring grudging acceptance from her peers...If you live long enough, dear."

They walked arm in arm to the door. Annabelle kissed Joyce. "I love you too, Mrs. Zook," she said. Five days later, Annabelle underwent open heart surgery in Dallas.


On the general theory, Joyce thought Asa was far, far too conservative, that with a little teleological wiggle here and some literary finessing there they could convert the H model into a metaphysical statement about Nature as a whole. "And maybe even toss in the ethical cosmos to boot (he winced).

"Take a fleshed out, 3-dimensional H, sweet," she said. "Suppose it to be hollow [which he'd said himself would be an excellent postulation for any topological construct]"; couldn't they organize ethical 'goodies' on the exterior? "Then we can put the nasties on the inside in a sort of antiworld -- like antimatter, antispace and antitime. At the fixed point in the crosspiece of the H, the goodies and nasties would become each other." Hadn't he recently been running as excited as aroused tomcat because some mathematician had said an ideal hollow sphere can be turned inside out? And after stretching the hollow sphere into an H? And didn't such an inversion demand they must find the very singularity their fixed point actually constituted? "Besides, doesn't it really take the merging of good and bad and right and wrong -- the synthesis -- to make an Hegelian ethics? Come to think of it, Asa can't we put GOOD and BAD and RIGHT and WRONG on THESIS and ANTITHESIS arms? Our fixed- point theorem looks like the key to it all"

Asa countered. In the first place, it wasn't their fixed- point. It was Brouwer's. Second, the inverted sphere still had no proof; it was still only intuitively valid. He did not believe he personally could formulate the proof. Third, they couldn't assert that the general theory literally depicts Nature. Yes he could demonstrate its internal consistency; yes he could and would prove the underlying theorems. But -- fourth -- the general theory would acquire scientific validity if and only if they restricted themselves to the subject of interest to them, namely to life. "Science cannot treat everything that is, Joyce."

"What's off limits, Asa? Give me a for- instance?"

"Science cannot deal with the composition of Kant's realm of noumena, which by definition is a domain we cannot enter. Science cannot treat the existence of God. Science cannot tell what lies beyond death. A science of everything, dear, is a science of nothing."

She became intrigued by the simultaneous treatment of local constants -- the quirks -- and the universals -- the function [which Fish eventually went ape about]. In a memo to herself, she wrote: "The local constants determine whether the guy's head is red, blond or bald. The functions gives him a head in the first place."

During one discussion, Asa suggested a useful way to think about local constants. "Imagine the H to be magnetized. Now to simulate local constants, we sprinkle iron filings on the surface of H. The filings cling because of properties inherent in the H. But the H has nothing to do with the shapes, the sizes, the numbers or even the charge on the filings and whether they actually stick or just fall to the floor. The local constants -- our iron filings -- represent an existential necessity for our system. Yet the local constants enjoy independence of the H. Appreciate also, the character and distributions of filings can vary enormously from one H to another, even among identical Hs."

"Baldy versus redhead, again?" Boy this was getting to be fun.

In a few days, she returned to the physical universe. "Look, dear. We can employ phase. Phase has to do with physical reality. At the same time, phase is the unifying notion in the general theory. Couldn't we organize the entire physical universe around phase? Wouldn't the Möbius H be a good theoretical shape for the cosmos?" Heck, they could coat the outside with space- time and spray antispace- antitime on the inside. Then at the singularity in the crossbar they could let the universe and anti- universe sort of slip in and out of existence -- creation and anti- creation -- during an eternity and an anti- eternity. The memory of the anti- universe would be built into the phase spectra of the universe; and vice verse the memory of the universe would exist in the phase spectra of anti- universe. Wouldn't such a model also have the advantage of dispensing with the problem of where the universe comes from and is going to? "I mean, Asa, with ALWAYS and ANTI- ALWAYS to play around with, doesn't the question of the origin of the universe take on descriptive instead of conjectural implications?" When she said that, he wanted to pause and make love. But she wasn't...finished yet, she said...around a kiss. She wanted to...take up mass- energy...first. He backed away and smiled as she continued. "Look at the uncertainty principle, Asa. Isn't it virtually guaranteed by the unprovable set containing the fixed point?"

"You are an irresistible temptress," he declared. But intuitively, he wasn't sure they could make the colossal energies and distances fit the limited range of biological systems. "I'd have to try a few calculations."

"Never mind." Joyce gasped. She'd concede physics to the physicist.


She eventually brought up the question of Havering with Asa. She had no intentions of talking him into a return against a clear conscience. Sexism was indefensible; she'd spent most of her life battling it. In principle, she was proud of him for telling Fish where to go. In principle, that was the only way to deal with injustice. But Asa needed access to a first- rate computer (she shivered at the thought of his doing calculations again). He required collaborators of Annabelle Crowe's caliber. And then there was the clinic. He had no credentials at all in oncology, and he knew how xenophobic specialists are. He'd need an intimidating go- between like Fisher Adrian if and when his predictions involved cancer treatments.

Yes, she knew Asa would have to solve the problem for himself. And she knew the solution could entail neither rationalization nor cognitive dissonance. He should know, however (and she'd not con herself on this either), her comments (to him at least) were not unphilosophical.

"I know that, my love," he said drawing her close.

"Wait!" she insisted. One more point before she maneuvered around his still- painful rib cage. She was a politician. And in her world, it was most often a question of which alternative bore the least undesirable consequences; often a question of what you could get out of harsh reality.

"The essence of mathematical game theory," he declared: "not a strategy of winning, but of avoiding defeat. That is what you urge upon me, my dear. And it is a favorite strategy of Nature, too. The oldest extant species -- the most successful ones -- employ it. Nature rewards humility with survival. Our Möbius H actually resembles a diagram of game threory, incidentally, one I published in a review of Von Neumann and Morgenstern's, Theory of games and economic behavior."

"I want to hear more about that, sweetheart, but after we've figured out what to do vis-à-vis this Havering thing."

His resignation had been a hapless gesture, he went. "But to be a knowing participant in a clear and open wrong is simply unphilosophical. Yet to deny the world the benefits of the general theory would ultimately be even more unphilosophical."

The general theory had not existed when he resigned, Joyce stressed. "At the time, you did the philosophical thing. And I'm glad you did." Well, he said, there was little he could do about it now. "Nonsense," she reacted. Mending an imperfect world was what her political life was all about. If he didn't object, she'd work out some kind of a deal. He (of course) did not object. Oh! how she loved him. And philosophy had to take a recess.

Afterwards, and while she was giving him an alcohol rub, she confided about not standing for reelection; but he must say nothing to anyone just yet. He immediately expressed concern about her career. "You've given me compelling reasons for a pause, Asa." She did not elaborate and assumed that he assumed her reasons were confined to the birth of the general theory. Which, taking the existential view, she guessed her reasons most truly were.


Joyce and Asa produced a working draft of the general theory in nine weeks. Then she invited the Adrians down for the weekend. And while the other Zooks, less Asa and Timothy, sequestered Mrs. Adrian in love and leisure, Joyce put Fish to work. She sat him down in the library, gave him the manuscript, and went for a walk with Timothy.

Fish was almost through with his second reading by the time they got back. "It is an utter masterpiece he said," and resumed reading. Joyce went to the kitchen for a pitcher of orange juice. Timothy joined the others. Fish had just finished as Joyce returned, and he exchanged the manuscript for the cool glass she offered. Asa entered quietly and sat in Poppa's chair.

"You're married to a remarkable person, Asa Zook."

"Of that I am certain."

Joyce felt herself blush. She gestured a kiss to Asa.

"Clearly," Fish volunteered, there had to be give and take on both sides if for no other reason than the importance of Asa's work "to humankind"; he stressed 'human'; then he reiterated Joyce's own frank assessment to Asa (of which Fish was never apprised): only at Havering could the theory truly come alive. On Fish's part, a life's work would be nullified in a stroke if he cleaved to the principle that an administrator can never back down to a subordinate. He admitted Havering's personnel policies -- for which he was fully responsible -- had no moral defense. And he'd not dishonor this glorious day by lying. On Asa's side, Fish posed the rhetorical question, "How can you refuse life where it begs to live?" But Fish faced a practical problem. And he sought Joyce's advice. How would she present his trustees with a radical turnabout on salary policy?

"Very easy, Fish." She'd send him the synopses of three pieces of legislation, currently in the works, each dealing with sexual discrimination. Fish could inform the trustees of the coming realities. True, the bills in question stood no chance of even clearing committee --"Today!" But just wait until the President's second term. The time would come when the bastions of Yankee liberalism would be blistering with public embarrassment. Not only that, but the federal grab bag would be closing tight around their greedy fists. In effect, Fish could flick the whip for the trustees , and then give them high- minded reasons for avoiding its sting. After all, Havering's policies didn't intend to violate justice, but to solve the problems of people. However, sex could no more justify inequality than race or religion. "I can see your press conference right now," Joyce said.

All this was above his head, Asa confessed. Admitting his ignorance in such matters, he still believed certain central truths could not be altered by whatever maneuvers Fish made. "We cannot dissociate intent from action. Nor may every consequence be connected, ad hoc, to any antecedent." He had faced many such dilemmas in his life, dilemmas that had been a function of his involvement with institutions. When he was a member of an infantry squad, the dilemma was fight and kill or else endanger the lives of comrades who depended upon him. Folly had placed him in such dilemmas, in the first place. Once in their clutch, choice vanished. Nor did he see a real choice now. The theory needed Havering. He would have to employ its facilities. But he could not take back his job. He would simply work without pay.

"How will you support a family?" Fish asked. Before Asa could uncork some preposterously cockameenie scheme about farming vegetables, Fish was already winging away (bless him): "You'd be forcing an old man to do something he knows in his bones is wrong, Asa. I believe a man...or a woman (he grinned at Joyce)...should be duly compensated for his or her labors. (The inconsistent old fart!) "But I anticipated your reaction, Asa. First of all, I have in fact formally accepted your resignation. You are no longer in the employ of Havering Institute. Another person has filled your vacated position. However, we do have a system of paid consultantships involving a modest retainer and a supplemental fee for actual services rendered. Asa, of course, would have unlimited access to Big Burr. Mrs. Rowan would be detailed, through me, to him and would maintain continuity between his visits." He'd be earning considerably less than his former salary, he should realize. Oh well, Joyce mused, a trip to Ceylon wasn't all that necessary. But on Asa's face, Joyce read the negative response he was just formulating to Fish's offer. And she moved to head it off.

"Please say yes, dear," Joyce begged.

Asa looked at Fish. "I accept," he said. "It is a very generous offer. Thank you." And the three went to join the others.


The Adrians and Asa went to church the next morning with Ray and the older children. Millie took the little ones up to Cranford. Joyce and Poppa had a long leisurely conversation. That evening, as the Adrians sat in their car, Joyce couldn't resist leaning through the front window and kissing Fish. "You're a good human being, Fisher Adrian. And I love you for what you really are." His eyes moistened and he tried to smile. Not until some weeks later, though, did Joyce learn directly from the source what he'd actually already gone and done -- without one solitary word to them, either! On the day before Annabelle left for Dallas, Personnel informed her that she'd been promoted to fill Dr. Zook's position -- and at a salary fifteen percent higher than Asa's. The old stinker!


When Asa finally discovered (when in truth she made it impossible for even a second year medical student not to discover), Joyce made a discovery of her own: the full range of Asa Zook's tenderness. For now Joyce had entered the exclusive sorority of Millie and Momma Zook. In a letter to Asa's grandfather, after he gave up his church to devote full time to the civil rights movement, Joyce wrote: "Forgive the potentially blasphemous implications in my remark. But I believe you, above all, should know my thoughts. I have discovered in the unbounded gentleness of my own husband, the transcending definition of strength. I believe I now know the historical necessity of an eleemosynary deity: Omnipotence becomes complete only when the God of Wrath matures into the Lord of Love. Jesus is not merely the Savior of man, but of the Lord himself. I shall not commit the hypocrisy of embracing the faith of my childhood. But I do comprehend now the human meaning of Jesus Christ. Thank you for the daughter who made my Asa Zook possible."

When Dad announced his intentions to retire from the bench, Joyce and Millie leased him, for a dollar a year, a place in Key West from which to pursue his passion for deep sea fishing. Neither sister had had the time or inclination to use what had been an inheritance from a bachelor uncle on their mother's side. [Neither the girls nor their mother ever quite trusted the innocence of the uncle's erstwhile solicitousness until his will was read.]

The first movements came on the floor of the House, moments after she cast an aye vote for a bill that went down to defeat. More so than the most intense orgasm, the momentary ripple soothed a fundamental necessity deep within the core of her. As she sat agape during the immediately ensuing moments, Joyce Zook congratulated herself. She'd fulfilled the promise of her being. For now her and Asa's love truly belonged to tomorrow.


As it grew and as she shared her restive little swimmer's kicks and turns with Asa, Joyce began to learn not merely about dependency, but of the sheer joy of being willing to surrender to it.

Yet there were times during the middle months when she'd awaken in horror. Suppose the God of Wrath actually existed? What if all this bliss was merely to set her up for: "Malachi 4, 6. 'And He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.'"

During one dream she pleaded with God, "First Kings 15, 11. 'Asa did what was right in the eyes of the his father had done.'"

But God called out from the darkness of anti- space. "This is not Judah, bitch." God demanded she tear up her diplomas, resign from the Law Review, throw away her Phi Beta Kappa key. "That was all too easy," God declared, after she had willingly complied. "My jealousy demands the incubus within you." Please, please, please, she tried to beg. And then she awoke. Her terror transformed into depression. She got out of bed and wrote in her diary:

Out of it now,
Failing fast,
Cross- linking quickly, too quickly
In the unseen glint of cosmic rays
Prune- skinned,
And with the horizon curving upward, over my shoulder:
Back into the just- passed future
Of my dead seed.
Asa awoke as she was writing, awoke, he said, as though he had heard her scream out for him. She told him about the dream. "Look, it isn't moving." It was asleep, he reassured her. "It sleeps, too? Oh, Asa!" He took her diary, and on the page opposite her verse wrote:

The node,
Calculable only where it is not
Because where it is is ineffable
Freedom in degrees,
Dimensions married ineluctably into life
On the biased curve of love's true chance.
He took her to bed. And his powerful Zook right arm cradled her belly into the safety of a new day. When she awoke in the morning, she smiled and, sotto voce, told some dancing sunbeams: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."

As her term neared, her brain became incapable of an aggressive thought. ["My god," she told Pam Peterson some years later, "I was a menace to the Republic loose on the Hill with all that raw power and without the ability to say anything emphatic -- especially, 'no!'"]

Her delivery was as routine as Millie and Asa had promised. (Page genes had served at least one important Zook purpose: a birthworthy female pelvis.) Even at her comparative old age, Doc Clever kidded, she was progressing through labor with the legerity of a veteran brood mare. She'd refused sedatives and anesthetics. For she wanted to remember the whole experience. And remember she always would.

Did Asa want to name her? Joyce was their poet, he insisted. Loretta would be too traumatic, she thought. "Lovetta," would accomplish it, she was sure Timothy immediately called his cousin, "Lovey." And so she truly was.

Copyright, 1996 by Paul Pietsch, all rights reserved. May be copied for personal, educational or other non-commercial "fair-use" purposes, as defined by U.S. copyright law.

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