"Death certificates are only twenty bucks a pop," I heard Mother tell Mrs. Blather over the phone one day. I was only five years old and still trying to figure out if I was a boy or a girl. Midgerette was pretty sure I was a girl because I liked to draw a lot, and from what she'd observed that was something mostly girl-people liked to do. Midgerette was all about the odds. Everything was a calculation for her. She was always "twenty percent" this or "eighty percent" that. I did like to draw, especially her silvery-tipped wings. I wished I had wings but that was something surely zero percent of people-people had. I didn't know what "a pop" was and neither did Midgerette, though she was "seventy-two percent" it was a sort of candy and "fifty-eight" percent it was a drink and neither one of those made sense and that is what I told her.
"Gull-people know what gull-people know," she shook her tail feathers and muttered. "It's all about context with your kind."
I wondered if Mother was buying or selling. Mrs. Blather did most of the talking and I only heard Mother get a sentence in now and then, and usually what she said meant nothing at all to me. One time she shouted at Mrs. Blather the following words:
"Chad robbed a campground!"
I was "ninety-percent" that Mother was not the best person in the world. She used to complain that I spent too much time with my other-people friends. She thought they were less than useless.
"If they're even that," she'd say while brushing her hair and admiring her face in the mirror.
"How come they never built no cities? Tell me that," she'd say.
I'd have to sigh for the billionth time and explain that THEY never NEEDED cities because they were already ADAPTED to their environments and lived where they BELONGED, and of course she never listened which is why the billionth time and all that.
"I've got nothing to say to them and they've got nothing to say to me," she used to say. She didn't believe in "the talk", which is what Midgerette called it when different kinds of animal-people were able to understand one another. Mother said that was something out of ancient fairy tales and was just as stupid now as it was back then. She would see me talking to Midgerette, and come charging at my friend with a broom and pull me away by the elbows.
"I know what you need, young lady," she'd lecture me. "You need more friends of your own kind, and you know what I mean. Stick to your own kind and don't give me none of your lip."
"Yes, Mother," I'd mumble with no intention of doing any such thing. I had enough friends of my own kind already. There was Random Williams for one. Random was the boy I liked best in school. Joker Variety was also a friend if you call it 'friend' when they steal your stuff and push you down on the ground and then say sorry they were only joking. Mother was all about boys learning boy things and girls learning girl things and "figure it out because it matters," and "do what I say or else you know what."
"I used a hairnet," Mother said one time on the phone and that was pretty confusing because there was a bald guy and he was apparently dead in a bathtub, and I was pretty sure I must be missing something.
"It's a living," was another wisecrack she enjoyed on multiple occasions.
Midgerette saw things panoramically. When she was up and away the magnetic lines were red and features of interest were blue and gold. Food was something that four-dimensionalized, and depending on how many facets it displayed she would figure the odds to swoop or not to swoop. She could see a french fry in several layers. The competition was fierce for those. Mostly she made the usual rounds and did quite nicely for herself. She used to play this game with me called "can you see that?" where she would point her beak in some direction and I could never see what she described was there. She said I was as good as blind, that all people-people were.
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How My Brain Ended Up Inside This BoxScience Fiction
"When I was born I was so small I was mistaken for a french fry. I was never an ordinary child. My best friend was a seagull. I was also illegal. Artificially intelligent people like me had been banned ever since that thing with the Twelve Elevens...