The Rustification of Raccoons

If the neighbors sit around on the patio of the Bed & Breakfast drinking beer and talking about raccoons and squirrels, it doesn't mean we're good ol' boys dreaming about shotguns: no, the coons are the bubbas, scooping for goldfish in Kay and Claudean's little pond out back and wallowing in the ivy beds of the house next door, cracking open bird feeders instead of beer on the front porches. And the squirrels: Ronnie describes planting a row of bulbs--"remember how we called them bub's in East Texas?"--and having a squirrel dig each one up and discard it as inedible. "So I was out of the bub bidness then and there." Well, we've set a humane trap for Bubba Coon in the back yard, with a pan of dogfood--a bed & breakfast surprise--and when we catch that ol' boy he'll get a free trip over the county line courtesy of the local posse. So we say as we contemplate cracking open another Lite bee.

Kick-Starting the Sun

At breakfast on the back deck I talk with Yoshi and Kazunari, members of a fusion team. They are microcosm and macrocosm, but I decide not to call them Mac and Mike. Yoshi works with plasmas in the lab, trying to make a star in a bottle. Kazunari is an astrophysicist, observing fusion on a real star, the one rising in the east. He says astronomers are eccentric, and we talk about the English idiom, to have your head in the clouds. Would I like to see an x-ray photograph of the sun, he asks, pulling a color snap from among the family pictures in his wallet. The fiery ball has a texture like the close up of a human skin. It ignited itself with the pressure of its own condensing mass. Yoshi, the microcosm man, tells me that plasmas are unnatural on the earth but make up most of the universe, and I can believe it: on the wall of the house the white star on blue of the Texas flag has faded a little from only a few Austin summers.

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