Back at that curious cottage somewhere up along a hill:
``I see in the paper,'' said Clio, who actually had seen it a while ago but was struggling now to have an opinion, ``that we're in for another round of making the universe larger. It's been too long. I was wondering when we'd have another growth spurt.''
Pierre humphed. When Claire began to say how she found it interesting, he concluded the subject hadn't been adequately resolved and said, ``No good reason for it.''
Cynthia, who to this point hadn't had much of a role, said, ``Well, I'm excited. If it isn't all uniform it should shuffle who's taller than who, and it'll be months of ---'' here she caught sight of her father and found as a new ending, ``--- slight awkwardness on top of seeing people.''
``And why are we in for a round of bigness,'' asked Pierre. ``If we got everything bigger evenly nobody would know.''
``I like holding my breath through it,'' said Cynthia. ``I made it almost all the way through last time. And that first full breath of this year's Big Oxygen is ...''
Clio tutted, ``You're not supposed to do that. It encourages uneven biggening.''
``Never seen anyone suffering this intolerable condition,'' said Pierre, since that was the easiest way he could be contrary.
``I've seen people with very small lips compared to what they were growing up,'' said Clio, ``and some thumbs that were too large for practical use.''
``You know what this really comes to,'' Pierre said, and tugged at his belt in case you did not.
Clio shook her head and said, ``I'll go buy you a new belt in case yours doesn't biggen right.''
``Never. You don't know how to buy belts.''
``You haven't bought a belt that fits in the last twenty years.''
``I have bought many successful belts, as my track record of pants-on-ness demonstrates.''
``All of them at least two sizes big.''
``I still think it's fun,'' interjected Cynthia, who knew the conversation had forgotten the fun-ness of holding her breath, but couldn't bring herself to have an opinion on belts.
``Exactly,'' said Pierre. ``One of life's joys is finding your belt is almost too big. I'm not going without.''
``You don't even need your belt,'' said Clio.
``I don't need to be bigger, either, but apparently.''
Cynthia said, ``You aren't excited to breathe the new Big Oxygen?''
Pierre shook a finger at her. ``That attitude's why you're doing lousy in cynicism class. The belt manufacturers figure a big payday from this. Who else?''
Clio said, ``Make sure you list everyone. List them multiple times if they get several things from it.''
``And I was just going to look it up in the cynicism class study book.''
Pierre said, ``Attitude of someone who's never seen through the study book racket.''
``Why can't we have a bigger universe for the fun of having a bigger universe?''
``Big Oxygen it's called now,'' said Pierre. ``Remember couple decades back it was OXYGEN, all caps? Ever think why that?''
Clio said, ``Oh, good grief,'' and bemoaned the state of the universe as Cynthia made a tolerable response.
``Everything was smaller back then.''
``What's used in OXYGEN in all capitals that's not if you don't?''
Cynthia rolled her eyes and said, ``Capital X's.'' Pierre drew nearer a smile when she said, ``Meaning they don't use lowercase x's. So if you're setting metal type and run out of lowercase x letters you have to go to capitals, making it look obviously bigger, and so everything has to get bigger to look like it belongs.''
``Uh-huh,'' said Pierre, ``And you conclude?''
``The Linotype guilds were responsible for making everything bigger right up till computers started setting type.''
Now he unambiguously smiled. ``Right! You'll ace cynicism class yet!''
Cynthia said her thank yous, hugged him, and trotted off to recover from the assignment. After a moment's peace Clio set a hand on Pierre's head.
``That's all fine for up to a generation ago, but she still hasn't done the part about modern biggenings.''
Pierre shrugged. ``Belt industry. And it's fine she leaves some homework till after dinner. Learns better that way.''
Trivia: An early 1900s study by the Royal Commission on Care and Control of the Feeble-Minded determined the number of mentally defective Britons had increased by 21.44 percent between 1891 and 1901, compared to an increase the previous decade of just over 3 percent. Source: Thunderstruck, Erik Larson.
Currently Reading: The Global Village: Transformations In World Life And Media In The 21st Century, Marshall McLuhan, Bruce R Powers.