The Chins really had these snakes; my mom had seen them. It had taken me all afternoon to conjure up just the right vivid, walloping fact that would blot out the fictions in its shadow. I handed my mom the phone. "Thank you so much," she said, as the phone kept buzzing. "I really appreciate that. You know, I'd invite all the boys over here, but the basement's all flooded and the house is a complete mess." An unexpected low, sinking feeling overcame me as my mom went on, getting chatty with Mrs. Chin about her other kids, the Chins' family restaurant, and some local school board brouhaha. I felt like Oppenheimer, both thrilled by and afraid of the awesome power of my new, terrible weapon.
All of a sudden, my little brother Peter popped into the room. He sized things up for a second--my mom yammering away into the buzzing receiver. "What the hell's going on?" he demanded.