Monday, August 15, 2016

Ted-Ed frog riddle is wrong, and shockingly so

The frog riddle is a lie.
 
My daughter watches the Ted-Ed videos with riddles in them. They are a good way to exercise your brain, unless you don't actually pause the videos to work through the answer. It is way too easy to just watch passively and not think about the correct solution.
 
In the frog riddle (which I've linked the analysis, and the video), there are two frogs behind you and one of them is a male and one is a female. The female frog is identical to the male frog except she has a lifesaving antidote on her skin. If you choose to go to the unknown, silent, frog in front of you then you will have a 50% chance of surviving. If you go behind you to where two frogs sit, but one of them is known to be a croaking male, then you will have a probability that may be higher, lower, or the same of being saved.
 
The article chooses to pick another dimension which is not directly addressed in the original riddle: whether the males croak with more or less frequency than the females. I assume this would be on average: some males would croak more than other males and some females might croak more than other females, and even more than some males! I rule this one out because it would average out or could be figured with slightly more messy math, and anyway, it wasn't addressed in the original problem.
 
Can you see the error in both the original video and the incorrect explanation of the article? The probability as stated in the original problem is not 2/3, it is still 1/2 or 50% for the two frogs behind you.
 
Pause your screens and go figure it out. I'll wait.

No, really, I'm waiting for you to figure it out, asshole.

Okay, here is my take: The problem lies in the truth table used to calculate the probability. If there are two frogs, we assume there are four probabilities:

Male Male = dead
Male Female = alive
Female Male = alive
Female Female = alive (but not possible, because one is male).

However, the middle two options are actually only one outcome! It doesn't matter which order you pick frogs from the population and arrange them in the forest. A male/female pair is exactly the same as a female/male pair. Here is the real calculation with question marks (I'm preserving order just to show the calculations. In reality it doesn't matter. But imagine you take the first frog, lick it, then take the second frog, and lick it too. What is the outcome for each trial?)

Male / ??
?? / Male

Or

Male ?Male? = dead
Male ?Female? = alive

?Male? Male = dead
?Female? Male = alive

The probability is exactly 50% as it should be. The video makes a reference to the whole population of frogs, however. So I investigated that to see if there was something I missed. Let's take a look at a population of three frogs. What are the possible combinations of male and female frogs (with equal probability of male and female)?

MMM
MMF
MFM (dup)
MFF
FMM (dup)
FMF (dup)
FFM (dup)
FFF

Taking the unique assortments, there are three pairs of each population. You would have pair 1,2 and pair 1,3 and pair 2,3. For each, there must be one male, and if there are any females, you live. For each population there are the following pair outcomes:

MMM = MM-dead, MM-dead, MM-dead
MMF = MM-dead, MF-alive, MF-alive
MFF = MF-alive, MF-alive, FF - impossible
FFF = No possible scenarios with the male restriction

So the results are:

MMM = 3 dead
MMF = 1 dead, 2 alive
MFF = 0 dead, 2 alive, 1 impossible
FFF = 3 impossible scenarios

So in this sample population, there are four outcomes where you died and four outcomes where you lived. That's a 50% probability.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Python List Access

If you have to use python, this is the kind of bullshit you have to put up with:

$ python
Python 2.6.6 (r266:84292, Jul 23 2015, 15:22:56)
[GCC 4.4.7 20120313 (Red Hat 4.4.7-11)] on linux2
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> a=[1,2,3,4,5]
>>> a[2:]
[3, 4, 5]
>>> a[:2]
[1, 2]
>>> a[-2:]
[4, 5]
>>> a[:-2]
[1, 2, 3]

Sunday, October 11, 2015

They Were Dolphins, Chapter 8

The boy’s foster parents were nice-seeming elderly people with greying hair. The boy thought they stood entirely too close to each other. The elderly man seemed like he had his arm permanently around his wife’s shoulder as if she might escape one day and he needed to hold her.

They smiled a lot and spoke slowly, as if the boy couldn’t understand them. The boy could understand them, but they spoke with the kind of formal diction that the boy heard on the radio and television. The boy himself became conscious of his patois which a kind of pidgin spoken by the locals. The boy knew how to speak in the formal dialect, like he did in school, but at home he was used to slipping into pidgin. He did not want to always feel like he was at school, even when he was home.

The foster parents greeted the boy warmly. They stiffly introduced themselves and awkwardly bent down to give him faint hugs. The woman smelled of jasmine (jasminum sambac) and hibiscus (hibiscus arnottianus), which the boy liked a lot. He had never met a woman who wore perfume before. The man smelled of dust, smoke, and dry leaves. He did not like the man much.

The foster parents’ house was quite large and fancy. It was even fancier than the hotel room that he had stayed earlier with his mother’s friend. The boy felt uncomfortable in the big, clean, cool house. He had no earthly possessions except his dirty clothes, which they promptly took from him unwillingly.

They showed him the bathroom (his own bathroom!) and urged him to take a shower. They showed him the amazingly white and large cotton towels he could use to dry himself. They laid out neatly pressed and folded clothing for him to put on. They apologised too much for not knowing his size. They promised they would get him clothes that fit better once they knew what he liked.

The boy looked at the shoes they had placed on top of the neat pile of clothes and was discouraged. He had never worn shoes except on Sundays at church. So not only was every day at home a school day, he presumed, every day would be like a Sunday in a stuffy church as well.

They left him alone, naked, in the bathroom. He decided he couldn’t escape easily yet, so he went along with the charade. He tried to fiddle with the confusing faucet in the tub and couldn’t get it to come on. He spent a long time with the knobs, turning them every which way but couldn’t get the water to come out.

He called out for help and they answered almost immediately. He assumed they were listening outside the door. The kindly an showed him how to operate the shower and apologised for not showing him earlier. The boy was sick of all the niceness, but he put up with it for now until he could come up with a better plan.

The boy did not have to go to school for a while since he was only temporarily at the foster home. Their house was in the city where there was a lot of noise from cars and people moving around constantly. The boy’s room was extremely quiet at all times, and he missed the bubbling white noise of the neighbour’s tank.

The foster parents took the boy to a carnival to win the boy’s favour. The kindly man won a plush banana and gave it to the boy. The boy was so grateful that he teared up and hugged the man with genuine feeling. He clung tightly to the banana for a long time and took it with him wherever he could.

The boy ate a lot of sugary and fried foods at the carnival. When they were sitting under a tent to watch an animal show, the boy felt ill. He told the foster parents he wanted to yak. They didn’t know what he meant, but something about his body language must have indicated what he meant.

The man pointed back toward the top of the aluminium bleachers. The boy walked up and heaved the contents of his stomach over the railing. It fell quite a way and splashed noisily on the cement below. Several people turned around, but tried not to notice once they figured out what was happening.
Feeling much better, the boy trotted back and sat with his foster parents to enjoy the show. They marvelled at his candid unselfconsciousness. Even though they secretly marvelled at the boy’s nature, they feared it.

They went to a restaurant the evening after the carnival. The boy had never been in a restaurant before, that he knew of. He was confounded by the menu and having to use utensils. He had held a fork and knife before, but not ones that were made of metal and weighed so much.

After pretending to enjoy a salad and his plate was taken away, he noticed a piece of lettuce sitting in a spot of dressing on the table. He aimed his finger carefully to shoot the lettuce off the table. He flicked it so fast that he couldn’t see where it went. He immediately forgot about it.

He noticed the foster mother was reacting strangely and the foster father took a napkin to clean her face. She was shocked and offended and kept looking accusatorily at the boy. He couldn’t figure out what her problem was. He saw another piece of lettuce on the table and flicked it into the restaurant aisle. This time, he tracked its flight as it landed on a waiter’s pants as the waiter rushed by. He thought that was hilarious.

The foster father wiped down the boy’s side of the table to remove any debris. The boy thought that was being a spoil-sport.

The boy had kicked off his uncomfortable shoes underneath the table. He got up to go to the bathroom in his socks. The foster father noticed and told him to put his shoes on. They boy did so, but took them off and hid them under a booth when he turned the corner. Coming back, the boy got lost and couldn’t find the seat. The boy wandered around and went into the kitchen to see what was going on in the back where all the waiters hustled and bustled.

There was a panic in the restaurant, but fortunately the boy was reunited with the foster father who was anxiously looking for him. They went on a search for his shoes, which were now inconveniently placed under a distinguished couple’s table. The foster father apologised profusely and seemed very embarrassed. The boy was glad he got his shoes back, not to wear them, but to have them. He was not used to owning a lot of things.

The boy realised that evening in bed that he was getting used to the silence of the big house. He also noticed that he didn’t mind being clean and having new clothes to wear every day. He was becoming more human, and more “normal”, if “normal” was like the foster parents. The boy saw lots of people who walked around the city who resembled the foster parents, so he agreed, they must be normal.

After a week, the social worker showed up at the foster parents’ house and told the boy his relatives had been located. His grandparents on his mother’s side lived on the mainland and he would go live with them. The social worker explained that she would take him to the airport and he would fly in a big airplane over the ocean and meet them.

The boy didn’t understand words like “grandparents” and “guardians” very well. He only knew familial terms like “mother” and “brother”. Beyond that, these terms were a mystery. The boy asked if he had to wear shoes on the airplane. The social worker laughed and said that he did have to wear shoes all the time on the mainland. The boy was extremely upset at this news.

She asked him to get his things (the two changes of clothes in a backpack and his plush banana) and they got into her car. They drove to the airport and waited for a long time to get on the airplane. The boy was calm only because he had no idea what was going to happen. The boy was comfortable not knowing what was going to happen. He was only uncomfortable and scared when he knew what was going on.

The social worker sat with him the whole time and laid her hand on his shoulder. He felt uncomfortable with the close contact and imagined her long fingernails were talons that would dig into his skin.

As he boarded the plane he was escorted by a flight stewardess. He held her hand and walked climbed the stairs onto the DC-10. He felt strong holding his banana but his feet were still uncomfortable in the confining shoes.

As he sat buckled into his seat, the boy noticed that he hadn’t thought of himself as a dolphin recently. He was satisfied that he no longer wanted to be a dolphin. He realised he didn’t want to die. His invisible armour was thick and indestructible and he welcomed whatever would come.

Friday, October 9, 2015

They Were Dolphins, Chapter 7 part II

He walked past the library and went to school, pretending as though nothing had happened. He had become the very acme of a good student: he paid attention, answered questions, and completed his cursive copying. He could use his dominant hand again and his handwriting was legible and quick again.

He looked for Robert and Mia during recess but they could not be found. He climbed into the space between the hedge and the building. He drew a face in the dirt with a stick. He tried to draw Mia but couldn’t remember her features. He drew some lines of long hair and thought that he had captured her essence fairly well. He wiped the dusty drawing away with his hands.

It was too painful to face the fact that he was terrible artist and that he couldn’t remember what she looked like. He came out of the hedges and moped until the last bell rang.

He took the slowest route home, via the shopping centre in the back of the library, and past the park. He spent a lot of time at the Pizza Hut, but he would “play” for a little bit at the games, then exit. He would wander around the back of the grocery store, then come back.

A stranger who saw him pretending to play gave him a precious quarter. He was so grateful that tears welled up in his eyes and he wanted the man to become his father. However, the generous father figure only smiled and left. The boy took a while to decide which game he would actually play with the treasure.

He played Space Invaders because it was easier to get to higher levels. The rhythmic pulses of the levels as the aliens moved one step at a time either to the right or the left, then down was soothing at first. As it sped up to a breakneck speed and the fortresses had all been bombed out, the game became too difficult quickly and it was over.

When he was sure the employees at the Pizza Hut were eyeing him closely, he left and wandered around the park. He sat for a long time watching a little league baseball game that was being played in one of the diamonds. He found comfort in sitting near activities and people that were the same size he was. Even though he didn’t identify with humans, he found that they were tolerable. Hanging out with them was preferable to going home at least.

The images of the morning played out in his mind and he couldn’t quite decipher what they meant. He wondered what was under the sheet in the stretcher. He didn’t wonder who was under the sheet because he would have to have guessed who it was. Instead, he pretended it was the sandwich rotting in his desk drawer, or perhaps a broken piece of glass or a mirror that was being carried into the ambulance.

He wondered who the woman was who held his brother protectively by the shoulder. He wondered, too late, what his brother was doing and where he was. This led naturally to him trying to recall where he had left the vampire blade. He would need to make new ones with Robert, he decided. He rubbed his rabbit’s foot unconsciously.

Dark clouds had formed and it was quite late. The baseball game broke up and the boy found himself alone in the darkening valley. A rain storm that was much heavier and later than the afternoon showers had moved in. The sky opened up and the boy realised why the park had become deserted so quickly.

He trudged home in the rain and rivers of water running down the streets. He stepped on something sharp and his foot bled. He stopped at a street lamp and examined the cut. It was small and his feet were tough from not wearing shoes, so he hobbled on.

He was glad it was dark when he passed by the house with the pagodas and koi pond. He relished the idea of the fish living under water, unaffected and uncaring about the rain pouring above them. To them, all was tranquil and smooth. He knew that it would be soon, very soon, when he would join his fellow dolphins in the sea. He would rest under the ocean calm and serene while the skies above and the people on earth raged on impotently.

His home was dark when he approached cautiously. He didn’t see any policemen or ambulances, but he could never be too careful. They might be hiding to catch him. Under the cover of the dark and rain, he snuck into the back yard and came in through the back door. The house was completely empty and silent.

He made a mayonnaise and bologna “wich” and munched it in the dark. He drip-dried standing in the kitchen. He went to the living room when he was finished and listened on the party-line. There weren’t any conversations, however, and it was too depressing to find out the time from the lady who repeated it so exactingly.

He was starting to see the world as more and more dreary. His world view was beginning to expand, and he was realising more things and seeing connections everywhere. His view was expanding and the world was shrinking. He was scared. Instead of sharks, he imagined vampires that looked like his brother coming from the shadows.

He went to bed and covered himself under his sheets. The sound of the tanks was comforting, but not enough to calm him completely. He tried keeping his body exceedingly still until he couldn’t help but fidget and turn. Then he would try to keep his legs straight and point his toes up until this muscles burned and he had to relax them. He believed he could work out a deal with an unknown force that if he stayed still long enough, he could have his mother and brother back, and everything would go back to the way it was.

The way that it was had been bad too, but at least he hadn’t been as scared of what was going on. The adults all seemed to know what was happening and how everything was. They talked to each other in strange sentences which he could parse the words, but not understand the meanings. They had a secret way of passing information and knowing everything. He wanted to know everything.

He started awake with a jerk and panic: he didn’t know where his vampire knife was. He was too afraid, so he had to stay under the sheets for a long time. His heart beat loudly and his breath was ragged from the nightmare. He listened intently to all the sounds around the house. He reasoned that it was better to die than to wait around for his transformation into a dolphin. He was too fearful to go to sleep and stayed up until the light brightened imperceptibly by degrees.

He went out in the dawn and walked through the thick fog that covered the whole mountainside. The white mist was so dense that he could barely see the chain-link fence in front of Mia’s house. The boy enjoyed the anonymity of the fog and walked toward the trivium, even though he couldn’t see it. He didn’t know that the risk of inheriting schizophrenia from a single parent diagnosed with it is a little more than ten per-cent, and with both parents is nearly fourty per-cent.

He turned around before he reached the trivium and walked back to Robert’s neighbour’s house. He opened the door and poked his head in. He listened for a while at the front door and finally entered quietly. He sat in the recliner and rested for long time until he could see the sunlight outside the windows.

He was getting hungry so he skip-walked to school and snuck into the cafeteria in the middle of the recess breakfast. He took three small hotdogs from discarded trays in the trash and ate them. He grabbed a coffeecake square from some kid’s tray as they turned their back.

He lived in this way for several days until the weekend. He established a routine of sleeping in his house after dark and going to school during recess and lunch to eat, then staying in the park or the shopping centre until late.

The weekend was the hardest because the school wasn’t open and there wasn’t any food in the refrigerator. He considered going to the woman’s house with the koi pond, but decided against it. Her house was too fancy and he didn’t want to make a mess.

He made a fatal mistake on Monday by going to class. The teacher cast worried looks at him and he knew he was busted. However, he thought he could pretend like nothing was happening and act casual until she would not notice him anymore. He rubbed his rabbit’s foot for good luck.

An assistant to the principal came in and called him by name. Not his Usagi name, he noticed, and knew that meant he was in trouble. He was escorted to the principal’s office and wondered how many swats on the bottom he would get from the paddle.

Instead of the paddle, the boy spent a long time sitting in silence in front of the principal’s desk. The man seemed nervous and distracted. He pulled out a few slender jars of medication from a drawer. He used a letter opener to chop some of the pills in half on a book. The principal sighed and cast worried glances at the boy over the top of his large glasses. Finally, he gathered the broken pieces of pills and shovelled them into his mouth, drowning them down with a glass of water.

They stared at each other for several long minutes. The principal asked the boy some questions, which the boy only nodded, shook his head, or mumbled answers to. The principal asked the boy where he’d been the past week, and the boy answered with half-truths about having played baseball, flying kites, and building forts in another country.

The principal listened and seemed to run out of questions to ask. A woman came in and sat down on a chair next to the principal. The principal introduced the woman as a social worker from the state. The social worker smiled and introduced herself. She asked similar questions to the ones the principal had asked and the boy answered. He was over his initial nervousness, however, so his answers were more embellished and exciting this time.

The social worker woman asked the boy if he knew that his mother had died. The boy was shocked and slumped in his chair. He had to confront an idea that he had been dodging for a week, namely that he could not find any signs of his mother or brother in the house this whole time. He had thought that he had grasped the situation of the world, and knew how everything worked. He was disappointed and upset that he had been blindsided by something that he should have known.

The social worker woman handed the boy several tissues, which he was grateful for. The principal seemed very uncomfortable and kept making coughing noises and shifting in his seat. The boy stopped sobbing after a while and asked if he were in trouble and if he would get the paddle.
Both adults were surprised and immediately moved to comfort him. The social worker took him out of the office and told him she would take him to a “foster home”. The boy didn’t know what that was, but nodded as if he did. She said that he wouldn’t be able to stay with his brother yet, due to “limitations” with the “fosters”.

The boy told the social worker that he did not mind being away from his brother since he was a vampire anyway and they were not related. The social worker was shocked and frowned. She took the boy to her car and told him they were going to drive a bit of a way to the “foster home”. The boy got into the car apprehensively and looked around him one last time.

The boy would learn later in life that change was violence. Change was inevitable. And therefore, violence was inevitable. He learned that fighting never accomplished anything, so he didn’t fight. When life asked him if he wanted beef, he would decline and ask for chicken. Death was also inevitable, and so death was just change. It was also violence, of course. The boy would wish for death but it only came slowly, dallying in front of him like Christmas.

He waved goodbye to the valley as it receded out the back of the car window. He bade farewell to everything he knew and bravely faced forward. He tried not to cry, not because he was brave, but because he had to ration his tissues and did not want to run out. He reused the tissues as much as possible but ran out of squares anyway. He used up all the tissues and then began wiping his nose on his sleeves.

He farted a long plaintive note, like the opening bassoon in The Rite of Spring. This is the sound a heart makes when it breaks: the wind whipping by the car window, a fart of moist, stinking air, and an outburst of grief.

*****

I think the dolphin was you, dad.
No, they were dolphins.
I said, I don’t understand.
Here is what it means. It wasn’t me. I wasn’t there. It was someone else. They were dolphins.

Chapter 8

Thursday, October 8, 2015

They Were Dolphins, Chapter 7, Part I

The boy woke up in Alani’s house. Her house was appointed with a tropical Asian fusion motif. He had slept surprising well in the Star Wars sheets. The house was very cool and pleasant, almost cold, with an invisible air conditioning system. He was surprised and delighted when she presented him with a hot breakfast of scrambled eggs and breakfast sausage.

He felt like her house was more like a hotel room, although he had never been in one. He had seen hotels on television and had heard about how nice hotels were. So he imagined how a hotel room would seem, and then attached his experiences in her nice house to being in a hotel room. He associated all of the fancy things in her house as being fabulously wealthy: air conditioning, toilet paper hanging from a dispenser on the wall, towels folded neatly and laying in baskets in the bathroom, and curtains over all the windows.

After breakfast, he decided he would take off his sling. The doctor had said he only needed it for a few days. The television was on in the living room so he sat in a comfortable recliner and watched an episode of Wheel of Fortune. Alani came out and asked him how he was feeling. He nodded. On the screen, a puzzle phrase was listed with some letters and blanks that needed to be filled in.

O_T  O_  T_ _  _ L _ _

The boy spoke clearly, saying the solution and Alani started. She looked at the boy and marvelled at his intelligence. She was about to correct him for guessing too soon, but happy music and bright ringing tones blared from the television. The boy was correct.

OUT OF THE BLUE

She marvelled more at how he had figured it out and wondered what else he knew, even though he acted like a complete space cadet most times. She told the boy it was time to go to school. She asked him if he needed a ride to school. He declined because he preferred to walk.

He jumped up and solved another puzzle as he nearly ran out of the door.

THE LONE RANGER

He moved quickly up the street toward his house. He was suddenly impelled by a guilty feeling to return home. He had been living in the lap of luxury while his other had probably been lonely all night. He also wondered what had happened to his brother.

As he rounded the corner near his house and descended the incline, he saw pair of police cars and an ambulance with its lights flashing in front of their driveway. He walked casually on the other side of the street as if that wasn’t his house.

Two men lifted a stretcher covered with a white sheet down the stairs in the front of the house. There were two red straps that held something down firmly on the stretcher. The boy slowed down to watch as the stretcher was set down at the bottom of the steps. It was then wheeled down the driveway and loaded into the back of the ambulance.

The boy grabbed his rabbit’s foot and rubbed it for good luck. He saw a woman standing on the grass, holding his brother by the shoulders. She was the babysitter, he guessed. His brother made a gesture to wave at him, but the boy raised his index finger to his lips to tell his brother to be quiet. He didn’t want to get arrested by the police. The boy pointed down the street to indicate his direction and where to meet. His brother seemed to agree.

The boy tried to walk as if nothing was happening until he was a safe distance away, near the trivium. The boy did not know that a fatal dose of arsenic was approximately one milligram per kilogram per day, and that women most commonly commit suicide by poisoning. He started to run pas the trivium the same way he raced away from the pool with sharks chasing him.

He ran down the hill to where the sidewalk started. He was out of breath by then and so he walked. The dump had lost all interest to him. He saw only a pile of twisted junk and unimportant trash. He turned left and walked to the bridge over the stream. He inspected each nook in the bridge carefully to find an egg or other magical object. He rubbed his rabbit’s foot furiously but nothing happened. He didn’t find anything on the bridge.


There was no magic, and no luck either.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

They Were Dolphins, Chapter 6, part III

When it was too dark to see very far into the trees, he ventured back to the shack and sat on the edge of an overturned metal tub. There was light and smoke coming from the shack, but he did not dare enter. When the woman came out, she seemed surprised to see the boy there, then caught herself and smiled. She took off a white apron and the silvered oven mitts she was wearing.

The walked back down the steep path in the deepening darkness until they got back to the car. It had rained lightly and the top of the convertible was down. The woman said that the car was probably full of water. She said that when the car doors opened, water would pour out and the fishes inside would flap and writhe on the ground. The boy believed her and tried to peek over the top of the window to see the water inside the car.

He opened the car door gingerly and was disappointed when water and fishes did not pour out onto the ground. It was obvious to the boy that adults lied, but he thought that strangers he didn’t know might not lie as much. He was wrong.

She drove the boy to her house and told him to stay the night. She said his mother wasn’t feeling well and needed to be alone. The woman said she had Star Wars sheets. The boy agreed to stay because he was excited about the sheets. But the real reason he agreed was because he was scared to go home. He was surprised to see that she lived at the house with the pagodas and koi. He stared at the pile of concrete and metal in the empty lot next to her house and remembered his prediction about an exploding spaceship.

The boy briefly wondered what his mother was doing. After he had left her on the couch, the boy’s mother swallowed the last of the toxic mixture she had created. She dialled her dealer and business partner, Alani. Alani had come over as soon as she heard. Alani had told the boy’s mother that the Korean was no good and not worth the air he breathed.

The mother waved all that away weakly. She had only a little bit of time. She asked Alani to take the boy somewhere safe while she moved the Korean out. Alani agreed and said she would call later the next day.

The boy’s mother had been born very ill. She was very intelligent, as evidenced by her advanced degrees and current studies. She was in medical school and only needed one more semester of study to graduate with her M.D. She had actually planned for an event of this magnitude. The voices that had always spoken to her in her head had told her to plan for such events, because one never knew what would happen.

She had access to arsenic in the school laboratory and had gathered eight milligrams in a small Ziploc bag. The voices had whispered for a long time in the background, conferring with each other about the correct dosage. The voices knew everything she knew, and they had guessed that four milligrams would work. But she had doubled it to be sure.

They knew that she was taking a larger dose than they had asked for, but that was what they had planned all along. They knew everything she knew, so there was no fooling them. Only one of the voices dissented. She knew which voice that was. It was the voice that had always protected her children. The two times that she had held her youngest son in the bath and the loudest, most obnoxious voices had urged her to drown the rat. The little calmer voice had won out and saved the little boy.

However, in this case, the loud voices were correct and the mother knew that she would follow what they told her. She had had enough of this world and life. She was fed up with all of the strange attention from men, and their constant prodding, grabbing, and digging with their fingers. If they just asked nicely, she would be glad to oblige, but they never did.

She was also disgusted with the expense and hassle of her two useless children, more worthless even than the men who impregnated her. And if she had only had a girl baby, she might have lived to raise it. As it was, she knew that she had raised, by gross neglect, resilient monsters. They would be fine. Especially the oldest one who spouted nonsense about being a dolphin and how he was going to live in the sea.

The voices clamoured loudly during the car accident. She had ignored them. They yelled and abused her when the Korean had hit her and her boy when they danced in the living room. She had nearly given in and done it then. She sent the boys out for the whole day to give her time to take action. The only thing that had saved her was a pre-existing study session and vivisection practice that she had arranged in her house. By the time they were done smoking from the hookah and cutting the cat brains, the children had come home.

The voices were disappointed and they yelled at her and called her names. She didn’t care what they said, and she told them so. They retreated for a while and plotted revenge. They fed her poison about the Korean, her boys, her friends, her degree, and her status. She couldn’t bear to hear them anymore and she would yell at anybody around her to try to quiet them. She yelled at the Korean until he snapped and could nearly have broken her back.

The voices were smug and asked if she would finally take part in the medicine they needed. They knew that she knew what they knew, but they were better at hiding things than she was. She had agreed and mixed the scotch with the white metal. It didn’t dissolve, but she swirled it around and drank as much as she could. The voices were obsequious, needy.

The boy had come out with his ridiculous piece of paper and worthless book. She was supposed to feel better about a half-hearted attempt at a gift. The voices were offended. They shouted down the saviour voice, they even wrestled physically to shut the voice down. They demanded that the plan go through, the boy was just playing tricks with the written scrawl and tears.

She took the last gulp in front of the boy, as a symbol, a sign, a sigil that he would remember her and she would remember him. She had gotten the boys out of the house, the younger one was with a baby sitter during the day, and the older one was with Alani. The Korean wouldn’t be back for a few days.
The arsenic worked slowly, too slowly. Even the voices were doubtful. She knew that they were afraid. She knew that this was how she gained control of them. The parasites needed the host to survive, and she had attempted suicide a few times over the years to scare them, force them to leave her alone. She knew that they knew what she knew, but maybe she knew how to hide some things as well.

She was elated at their fear. She laughed at them. She even tried to laugh out loud. It hurt to do so. Her neck was sore and didn’t move much. Her eyes didn’t focus well and pointed in different directions. She nearly vomited and forced it down. She must not let the precious arsenic out. Some of it burbled up in her mouth and dripped on her chin anyway. She coughed.

The pain was intense and lightning flashed across the sky behind her eyelids. She jerked at the bright lights. Her arm swung and knocked the thick tumbler to the ground where it shattered. The coroner would make a note of the glass and would have it tested. She staggered unevenly to the bathroom. She filled a tub with scalding water.

Without even bothering with her clothes, she climbed in and soaked in the rising water. Darkness like clouds formed in her vision and moved in wandering circles. Lighting flashed again between the clouds. A light rain came in though a widow over the tub. The cool mist was refreshing on her face, flushed with the hot water.

The voices had stopped.

She slipped under the water briefly and jerked awake as if waking from a dream where one is falling uncontrollably.

She slipped under the water again and tried to smile, but it hurt. She winced and her eyes fluttered in the bright flashes of lightning.

*****

Don’t cry, little one. Nothing that is true can be sad.

Chapter 7

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

They Were Dolphins, Chapter 6, part II

When they got home, the harangue continued in the living room, the kitchen, and the bedroom. The boy sat frozen on the couch, unsure how to escape. He still wore the sling and was told he couldn’t play outside for several days. But listening to the argument was frightening and he wanted to leave.

The Korean finally stood up for himself and demanded answers to some question that seemed important. The boy didn’t know what the Korean was referring to about “trust” and being a “tramp”. The boy knew that the Tramp was a cocker spaniel, but didn’t know how it related to the argument. His mother seemed fearful about this last line of questioning and she threatened the Korean over the terms.

The argument had reached a fevered pitch on both sides. The boy got off the couch and hid under the table in the living room. From below the table, he could see the legs of the adults, alternately facing, spinning, and sparring each other. His mother turned finally to go to the kitchen and the Korean, who had been pacing back and forth, decided that yes, yes, it was time for violence.

The Korean executed a Tae Kwon Do kick to his mother’s back and watched her fall to the ground in front of him. Her head had twisted so her face looked to the sky and her arms formed chicken-like wings at her side. She collapsed on the ground and the Korean moved forward.

The boy darted out without thinking and extracted his vampire bark blade. He held it above his head in defiance. The Korean looked at the “blade” and slapped the boy’s hand so hard he lost sensation. The bark flew across the room and the boy stood defenceless in front of the Korean beast, who snorted and twitched. His fists worked through the air, trying to lock onto a target.

Finally, the Korean left and slammed the screen door. The boy turned to the heap on the floor and tried to find her arms. He gently pulled at her to get her up, but she was inconsolable. She lay on the floor crying as if she wanted to stay there forever. The boy ran to his room and wracked his brain to find something that could help.

His mother liked books, perhaps he could give her a copy of Secret Under the Sea, featuring a boy and dolphin on the cover. It was his most treasured possession, but he would be willing to give it to his mother. He needed to wrap it, though.

He opened the roll-cover on his desk and found the homework from a while ago. He shoved it aside and took a piece of paper out from a stack of blank sheets. He searched for a pencil and opened the top drawer. He found a fuzzy bed of grey-green mould growing on a white and black bed of squishy material. That was what happens to sandwiches and milk, he noted.

He found a pencil in another drawer and thought of what to write.

i luve you mom

He wrapped the book awkwardly with the sheet of paper that didn’t quite cover the paperback and took it to the living room. He was triumphant with his success. His mother sat on the couch holding a large glass tumbler of brown liquid. Her legs were folded under her. Her head bobbed up and down as if it were unsure of where it should hang.

The boy offered his gift to her and she took it and read the writing. She wept silently and hid her face behind her arms. The boy cried too, suddenly realising he hadn’t been crying yet. He leaned over the couch to hug her and she gripped his neck so hard he almost yelped. Her hot breath and sloppy snot landed on his shoulder.

He pulled away involuntarily and asked if she was okay. She shook her head and finished off her drink in one big gulp. She waved the boy away and he retreated outside. He sat on a branch of the plumeria tree waiting for something to happen. He tried not to cry, but couldn’t stop. He cried until he was aware he was crying, and he was aware that the crying wasn’t genuine anymore.

A convertible car with the top down drove up and parked in the driveway The lady with the seeds came up and waved at the boy. She came up to him and tried to smile at him. She said his mother had called. She asked if his mother were okay. The boy nodded but his hitching chest and wet face belied the motion.

She nodded with compassion and reached out to pat his shoulder. He instinctively pulled back because he knew his shoulder with the sling would hurt. She noticed the sling and switched hands to pat his other shoulder. He was grateful for the gesture.

The went inside for a few minutes then came back out. She breezily told the boy to come with her. They were going to have a fun time together. The boy was hesitant but something about the woman was comforting and confident. He nodded and walked to the car. She opened the passenger door and he sat down. This was the first time he had ridden in a convertible and was excited to look around and feel the wind on his face.

His mood lightened considerably as the woman drove deep into the back of the valley. The roads narrowed until the car could barely get by the cars parked on either side. Eventually, the pavement stopped and the car drove along a bumpy and muddy road. The lady pulled over under a canopy of trees where the path ended.

They got out and the lady told the boy they were going to a special place. But the boy couldn’t tell anyone where they were going, she told him. It was a secret place they could hang out and be safe with friends. The boy liked being safe, so he agreed. She instructed him that they would hike for a bit. He was not to step on any plants or break any branches, for they didn’t want to have anyone follow them. The boy nodded. The lady impressed upon him the fact that this was secret and safe and no one should find out. He nodded again.

The boy assured her that dolphins know how to keep secrets. In fact, even when they go eee eee eeek eeek, nobody knows what they are saying. The lady agreed without seeming to understand.

They hiked up the side of a mountain path for a while before they turned uphill where the climb became quite steep and there was no path. The boy’s arm hurt but he couldn’t move it because the sling restricted him. He stepped on some ferns and the woman chastised him for breaking the plants. She rearranged the leaves to make it less obvious that it had been broken and led him by his good hand to help him up the steep incline.

They came through some trees to a clearing with a ramshackle hut made out of spare pieces of wood and tin. All around the hut, there were various old pieces of rusting metal and wood piles. In the middle of this mishmash of stuff was a white bathtub and the boy immediately went to it. Unfortunately, it was filled with black sludge and mud.

The woman told the boy to play for a while and he agreed. He had never been this far back in the valley, nor this high up the mountain, so he was intrigued by the area. The woman disappeared inside the hut. The boy busied himself investigating the trees and detritus in the yard.

He forgot about his surroundings for a few hours and self-medicated on some lychee (litchi chinensis) and carob (ceratonia siliqua) trees he found nearby. He decided this place would be great to come visit and play, if he could remember how to get here.

After ingesting the fruit, a large pressure developed in his bowels and pushed against his bottom. He searched for a spot to defecate and decided the best place was the bathtub in front of the shack. The boy sat on the edge of the tub with his bottom hanging over the tub and dropped a huge pooh into the tub. The stench was incredible and the boy was immediately ashamed of the disgusting mess.


He hoped and prayed that no one would notice his poop but the smell was unmistakable and spread out over a large area. He tried some magical incantations and made special wishes with his fingers crossed. Nothing hid the smell or made the pooh go away. The boy decided there was no such thing as magic. There was only poop on the tub that everyone could smell and see.

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