At least, most forms of life need water. Indeed, most forms of life are mostly made of water.
Water is some amazing stuff. It’s one of the few things that ordinary people in ordinary circumstances see in solid, liquid, and gaseous phases. One thing that’s unusual about water is that when it freezes, it expands. It also has a high “heat capacity.” This means that water takes a lot of heat energy, relative to most materials, to increase its temperature. It also means that, once heated, it takes a long time for the water to cool to the ambient temperature. It’s why land areas that are near the oceans tend to be more moderate in temperature than similar places inland.
A hundred miles inland from where I live is a place called “Palm Desert.” The average night temp in the coldest month is 41 degrees Fahrenheit while the average daytime temperature in the warmest month is 107 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s a difference of 66 degrees! I live near San Diego, a few miles from the ocean. For San Diego, the average coldest temperature is 51 degrees and the average for the high is 77. That’s a difference of 26 degrees. Quite a difference. That difference is due to the high heat capacity of water.
Water is beautiful in many forms: rivers, springs, waterfalls, clouds, rainbows, dew, rainstorms, ocean waves are just a few of the many ways that water strikes us as beautiful.
A well-fed adult human can last weeks without food but only a few days without water. I wonder whether we also need the beauty of water. It shows that the region we’re in may be survivable. It also indicates there is other life as well nearby. Perhaps as a corollary to these, water may remind us as well that what is “out there” and beautiful to look at is also “in here” — inside us.
Water also plays with and transforms light. When water shows itself as droplets, as shown in the pictures here, it demonstrates two aspects of its nature: it adheres to other surfaces and it coheres to itself. A drop of water on a flower or leaf demonstrates its dual nature. This is also our own dual nature. We must play our part for a time as a separate droplet, but such a droplet does not keep that form forever. Each one of these water droplets has been part of a cloud, part of a river, part of an ocean. We too change. We too need to be coherent. But we also need to interact with and adhere, at least for a time, to aspects of our environment.
A drop of water does not obscure the form of the leaf or petal it finds itself on. Rather, the droplet enhances the form of the leaf or petal upon which it rests.
The den’s dark paneling reeked oppressively of cigar smoke. The room seemed decorated for intimidation rather than comfort. Keisha imagined what it must have been like for Lila to grow up surrounded by trophy cases filled with daddy’s accomplishments. Apart from trophies, the only other “personal touches” were the myriad mounted fish. She had agreed to follow Lila’s lead in their conversations with Mr. Jordan.
Lila, however, sipped sherry silently, focusing on putting precisely correct amounts of brie on every cracker. She seemed subdued, even cowed, by JJ. Keisha smiled as she realized that this obese, balding CEO with hairy forearms was now her father-in-law. She chuckled inwardly wondering how he’d take that news. Keisha pointed to one of the many mounted fish. “That’s an interesting one. Looks like something from the Age of Dinosaurs! Where did you snag that guy?”
JJ’s voice was harsh and raspy. Keisha decided he loved projecting pure virility. “That’s a coelacanth. They appeared about 400 million years ago. Paleontologists thought they died out 65 million years ago. Guess what? Coelacanth are still here, hiding deep below the surface. I caught that one off the coast of South Africa. Takes patience. Bring ‘em up too fast and they explode.”
Keisha blinked. “Explode?! How do they taste?”
JJ barked a laugh. “Like crap. No real value. Slimy. Tasteless. I caught it to prove who’s king of the food chain. Same in business. Win. Everything else is bullshit.”
JJ grabbed the remote and clicked on the wall-sized TV. “Watch the Patriots if you like. But set your alarms for five.”
Keisha shook her head. “No thanks. Lila’s going to show me her latest results.” Her father-in-law shook his head sadly. Keisha added. “It’s for work. We’re developing a textual analysis program.”
JJ’s waved his hand dismissively and muttered, “FBI – glorified cops. Badge and gun. That’s all you need. Not a fit job for girls anyway.”
Keisha bit her lip so hard, she nearly made it bleed, but kept her silence.
Once the pair were alone, Lila apologized for her father. Keisha shook her head. “It’s okay. You warned me. I thought you exaggerated. But no. Anyway, I’d love to see your results.”
Keisha scanned them quickly. “Can you get me on the wireless here?”
“Sure. But why?”
“Lila, I’m not sure. But — I’m sorry to say so, but I have a bad feeling about JJ. Do you mind if I access the records and apply your algorithms to his old police statements?”
Lila frowned. “What? Why? Do you think…?”
“I just think if we’re going out in a boat alone with the guy….”
Lila snorted. “JJ’s my dad, for God’s sake. I know he’s a boor but … surely, you don’t think —“
Keisha shook her head. “Lila, I know he’s your dad. You always refer to him as JJ. Anyway, it won’t take long to run some tests. Think of it as practice. Maybe nothing will show up. Probably, nothing.”
Lila frowned again, “No, I’m telling you.” Here Lila broke off as a disturbing image loomed into her head.
Keisha spoke softly, “Lila? Are you okay? You literally like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Lila’s voice became flat. “Let’s run the tests.”
Being a CEO, JJ had excellent bandwidth wherever he went: home, limo, yacht. The algorithms spun their magic and trolled the text. By morning, they were exhausted but convinced. They also agreed that proving it in a court of law would be an entirely different matter. Textual analysis didn’t have decades of precedent like DNA testing. Convincing a DA to open up such an old case? Impossible without more direct evidence.
Keisha said, “We need a plan.” Lila agreed.
The morning fog lifted. They were soon underway. The women leaned out into the salt spray which made rainbows in the rising sun. Meanwhile, JJ hunched in his dark, dank electronic cockpit below, searching his screens for signs of fish.
From below decks, over the slapping waves they heard JJ growling, “Where the hell are you, stupid fish?!”
Keisha stared down into the cabin at the hulking back of her father-in-law. Once, he had been athletic. She wondered how athletic he might still be.
Dark clouds loomed on the horizon. Lila reported, “Father! A storm’s coming!”
She could see him shake his head. “No rain in the forecast. Just clouds. Doesn’t mean anything.”
“Father. I have to talk with you.”
JJ growled, “Nothing to say. We’re fishing!”
Keisha had never heard Lila’s voice sound so cold as she said, “I remember what really happened to Trevor and mother. I saw you.”
JJ laughed. “You were a girl! You don’t know what you saw. Anyway, nobody’ll believe you — especially after ten years of silence!”
Keisha said, “We have other evidence. We accessed your original statements to the police and ran them through our analysis programs. They are strongly indicative of fabrication and misdirection. We have your own words. It’s now admissible in court as textual evidence.”
JJ screamed, “Bullshit! You don’t have any sexual evidence. I made sure of that. You don’t have anything that would stand up in court. I’m the biggest fish out here. Face it. I’m wealthy enough, powerful enough, and smart enough to get away with murder. So I did! It’s the way of the world, Lila! Time to grow up! No-one will believe you or your so-called colleague.”
Keisha held up her cell phone. “Even with your confession streamed to our FBI colleagues?”
JJ stammered, “But I’m … “
For the first time in her life, Lila interrupted and finished his sentence for him: “A coelacanth, dad, a coelacanth.”
A traditional sonnet has 14 lines of 5 iambic feet each. Each iambic foot has 2 syllables for a total of 140 syllables. This form gives the poem a “rectangular” look. But let’s suppose instead that we try a form that is triangular in form. That’s still an underspecified design constraint, but let’s try one that is 14 lines ending in a single two syllable foot. We will start with 28 syllables and each successive line will have two fewer syllables; thus, lines of: 28, 26, 24, etc. ending with 6, 4, 2.
Human auditory memory being what it is, 20 or more syllables is a long time to “wait for” or perceive a rhyme. I may put internal rhymes in some of these lines. Let’s see how it goes.
As for topic, October 10th will be celebrated by some as “Columbus Day” and by others as “Indigenous People’s Day.” That tension seems like a good way to begin.
Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred ninety two; enslaved and killed for profit, fame: The Glory Game.
Columbus knew the world was round; his sense of distance — not profound. He called the natives Indians (so wrong!)
So wrong about so many things — the Europeans of his time; believed a King’s most holy name
Had rights conferred by God Himself alone to do just as they willed so killed with God’s own song.
Enlightenment was yet to come. The ages then were still quite dumb. The Greed for Gold:
A tale of lies and flies and platitudes; of guns and groundless attitudes.
As ages passed, humanity began to see a bolder bold:
Room 22A. Lila inhaled deeply; glanced at her program guide and Rolex. Three pm. Her slot. No use putting it off.
Go on, Lila. It’s just a practice run, for God’s sake.
The voice in her head was her father’s. Her cheeks reddened. His “encouraging” words always belittled. She heard another voice from inside the practice room— a warm voice.
Lila turned the cool brass knob and pushed. At the podium stood a tall, athletic, young black woman with large penetrating eyes and shiny dreadlocks. She immediately smiled a large radiant grin at Lila.
“Hi! Come on in. I just finished. I’m Keisha. It’s my first professional talk as well. Don’t worry. I’ve warmed up the audience.”
Lila glanced around at the empty chairs. “Audience? Ah.” She laughed. “Joke. I get it. I’m Lila. Nice to meet you. How did you…?”
Keisha laughed warmly. “Hey, we’re both forensics experts for the FBI, right? You’re young. And, frankly, you look a little — terrified.”
Lila strode up to the podium, unslung her backpack and retrieved her laptop. Her eyes swept the baseboard for the nearest outlet.
Keisha spoke again, now imitating a Carnival Barker. “Come on up, young Lady! This podium’s got all the power cables, internet connections, and Karma you’ll ever need.”
Lila laughed and held up her hand like a surgeon, “Power Cord!”
Keisha immediately cottoned on to the game and held it out for her, repeating “Power Cord!” Lila felt Keisha’s fingers lingering. So what?! This time, it was her own voice, strong & defiant.
Once Lila’s computer was connected; she relaxed and asked, “What’s your talk about, Keisha?”
Keisha said, “I thought you’d never ask. The title is Syntactic and Rhetorical Cues to Guilt.
Keisha smiled and laughed her maddeningly warm laugh. “You come to my talk tomorrow and learn more. What’s yours about?”
“I’ve been using statistical analysis of texts — rhetorical, syntactic, and lexicographical — to predict criminal patterns. It’s just a start — but — it’s really promising. I’m building on the work of Hart at UT Austin and Foster at Vassar. So far as I know, this is the first application to criminology.”
Lila studied Keisha’s face. What she read there was genuine admiration.
Keisha smiled. “Oh! You’re Lila Jordan! We’re in the same session tomorrow! You know, maybe we could work together. If we could combine our two approaches, that would be awesome!”
Lila blurted out: “I’d love to work with you!”
“Great! I’ll let you practice! See you tomorrow. Maybe we can grab a bite before the afternoon session. Here’s a tip. When you start your talk, look out at the audience and imagine them all buck naked! I’ll be in the front row and I’m already hooked. I’m hungry to learn more about you and your work.”
Keisha smiled again and strode down the aisle. Lila’s eyes lingered on Keisha.
The next morning, Lila decided to take Keisha’s advice. Although Lila’s eyes moved about the audience, she really focused her talk on her new friend. She enjoyed picturing her naked.
Keisha suggested they order room service since her room had a view of the harbor. She ordered entrees and desserts for them to share in celebration of their successful presentations. Lila objected that she needed to lose weight. Keisha smiled and said, “You are perfect as you are. But if you want to lose weight, I have just the ticket. A blindfold picnic.”
Lila’s breathing quickened. “What’s that?”
“Close your eyes, Lila. Just leave everything to me. No talking. You just let me feed you. Just follow my orders.”
They missed the afternoon session and the next morning’s as well. Infatuation grew to passion and eventually, passion grew to love. Over the next few months, their relationship deepened. It seemed, for a time, to be perfect.
Until the issue of marriage came up.
Which led to the issue of “coming out.”
Which led to the issue of “honesty.”
The very strength of their love made their disagreement that much more difficult to bear.
They said the same things repeatedly, with increasing heat but no more llight. Keisha found it impossible to understand Lila’s resistance to complete openness, explaining that it was the twenty-first century for God’s sake. Finally, even the Supreme Court recognized gay marriage. Keisha had known she was gay since she was twelve. Her parents had known and accepted her for who she was.
Lila came from a different world. “You don’t understand, Keisha! My big shot CEO father JJ won’taccept my being gay! He’s the only family I have left. If I lose him too.…”
The fifth time they argued, Keisha decided to take a different tack. “You’re right. I’m luckier than you. But just because my parents accepted me doesn’t mean everyone did. There’ll always be cruel people. We both know that. But the one who matters most to you is your dad. How about this? We get married. I go and meet JJ. I get to know him. We don’t start by telling him everything. Instead, we make it clear that we’re colleagues and friends. He’ll like me!”
Lila considered. “Okay. It’s worth a try. Say! Have you ever been fishing?”
“Fishing? Yeah, a few times. Uncle Stan showed me how to fly fish.”
Lila laughed. “No, not like that. I’m talking about Deep Sea Fishing. Every year, my father takes time off for an extended fishing trip.”
Keisha blinked. “Really? I thought you said you never wanted to go boating again. Does he…?”
Lila ground her teeth, “Father went back on the boat the next day! He even tried to get me to join him! Imagine! I’d just lost my mother and my brother. He said get aboard right away or I’d be afraid forever.” She sighed. “Maybe he’s right. Boats don’t bother him. Every year, he bugs me to join him and bring a colleague along — by which he means a potential husband so that I can leave the “Glorified Police Department” — his name for the FBI. Okay. Once we’re married, I’ll wait a few weeks and call father and tell him I’m bringing a colleague along on his next excursion. I will watch for the best moment to break the news. I’m still not convinced it will work, but maybe nothing will. He’s very set in his ways. Like with the boat. Even a tragic accident…”
Keisha tilted her head. “What’s wrong? You’re thinking back to that awful day?”
Lila nodded slowly. “Yeah. Kind of. I just — sometimes this horrible image flashes into my mind. I know it’s just my imagination. But still…”
Keisha took Lila’s hand. “Come here, love. I’m so sorry. Let’s just sit here side by side.” They sat and Keisha held her close in loving silence.
JJ loved the ocean. Out here, there was never any question about who was in charge. He glanced over at his son Trevor, fourteen, trolling astern. Port side, Trevor’s friend Billy seemed to have snagged something. JJ grinned. Opportunity knocks, he thought to himself. He scrambled down to help Billy.
“Whoa! You’ve got a big one! Better let me brace you.” For JJ, this part was well-rehearsed. He wrapped his strong right arm around Billy’s waist and gradually moved his body closer to the youngster’s backside. His left hand snaked around to guide the reel. “You have to play this guy! I’ll teach you. Follow my lead.”
JJ shouted, “Look at that! A hammerhead! Nice job!” The trick was to keep the boy’s attention on the difficult and demanding task of bringing in a dangerous fish. Meanwhile, JJ sidled up more closely to Billy’s backside and slowly slid his right hand toward the boy’s crotch. There was always a chance one of these kids would tattle, but that only added to JJ’s excitement. If he played this gig right, the boy would also be aroused before he even knew what has happening.
“Hey! What are you doing mister Jordan?!”
“Keep hold of the line, damn it!” JJ commanded. “Pay attention or you’ll lose him!”
“Bring him in yourself! Keep your hands off me! Pervert!”
The boy tried to squirm away, but JJ still had enough of his collegiate strength to hold him fast. Billy twisted and slipped just as the shark dove deep pulling the boy overboard.
JJ stared into the ocean and saw two other sharks, aroused by the chum and struggle, attack the boy. Trevor suddenly screamed in his ear. “What the hell did you do, father? Throw him a line for God’s sake!”
JJ pulled Trevor away. “Look away, son! It’s too late. He’s gone! I told you boys shark fishing was no picnic. You’ve got to do as I say!”
“Bullshit! I saw you! You were trying to put your hand down his pants! Is that why my friends never come back for a second fishing trip?”
“You’re crazy! I tried to save him!” JJ screamed.
Trevor’s vision narrowed and he charged his father meaning him to deck him.
Mister Jordan’s experience as a linebacker kicked in. He side-stepped and planted both hands on his son’s back, propelling him into the roiling ocean. The sharks starting tearing him to pieces as well.
JJ’s wife Pollyann had now come up on deck. She uttered a primitive, unearthly growl.
JJ pulled her back from the railing. “Don’t look! It’s too late. The boys are gone. They’re with God now. I tried to save them.”
Mrs. Jordan struggling to speak. “I saw you push Trevor overboard! What the hell! You monster! I will make you rot in hell!”
“Don’t speak to me like that!” JJ tried to think back. How much could she have seen? Where was Lila? Still below decks. If Pollyann dies, the whole company goes to me.
Pollyann screamed, “Don’t speak to you like that?! You just killed our son! What the hell?”
“Listen, Polly. He tried to jump overboard to save his friend. It was pointless. They’re sharks everywhere! Trevor’s a hero. I was trying to save him, but he wrenched away from me. I’m devastated too. Naturally. Come here, love. Come here.”
Pollyann narrowed her eyes. Had she misunderstood? She saw them struggle. It seemed like Trevor had charged him and JJ pushed him. She wanted to give her husband the benefit of the doubt. She shuffled back to him, trying to read his face. At last he held her tightly to him, comforting her. His hug tightened to a diaphragm-paralyzing bear hug. JJ didn’t relish the hassle of getting a new wife, but he saw no alternative. He chucked her over into the writhing sea. He watched the insatiable sharks destroy the last bit of damning evidence. He sighed. Damn. That was a close one, he thought. He turned back to see Lila staring at him.
JJ acted the part of a devastated victim quite well; well enough to brainwash Lila and well enough to hoodwink the local cops who were predisposed toward JJ in any case. Many still remembered his stellar college career as a middle linebacker at State. Of course, that wouldn’t put them in a frame of mind to let go a killer. But it did put them in a frame of mind to give him the benefit of the doubt. Being white and apparently well-to-do enhanced his credibility. Lila knew none of this at the time. For her, the fact that the police believed her father made it seem more likely that she had hallucinated. After all, as JJ constantly reminded her, she was understandably perturbed and caught off guard, dazzled by coming into the bright light suddenly from below deck. “Besides,” JJ asked Lila, “why would I kill my own wife and son or even a young friend? What possible motive could I have?”