Ian McDonald On the day that Ethan Ring was conceived, West Germany won the World Cup to the refrain of Lucian Pavorotti singing 'Nessun Dormas' as Nikki Ring, twenty-something, unemployed, unemployable, engaged in five minutes of intense coitus in South Mimms Services car park off the M25 with a Dutch truck driver hauling a consignment of salad vegetables.

On the day that Ethan Ring was born an armor-piercing smartbomb hit an underground shelter in Baghdad and incinerated five hundred men, women, and children while Bette Midler sang about God watching us from a distance.

On the day that Ethan Ring kissed his first girl -- Roberta Cunningham at the back of Miss MacConkey's P2 class -- Europe very quietly, very unremarkably, without any embarrassing mess or fuss or anyone noticing, united.

On the day that Ethan Ring took his first date, Ange Elliot, age thirteen, to the local Pizza Hut for a double-cheese, diet Coke, and under-the-table footsie, Doctors ten Boom and Huitsdorp of the new, respectable, fully integrated, and racially harmonious South Africa won the Nobel prize for biology in recognition of their work on designing an artificial organism that coverted sugars into useful electricity -- to layman Ethan and his contemporaries, a living battery.

Too tall too early, red hair -- too much of it -- socially crippled by acne and self-consciousness, Ethan Ring would almost certainly have grown into neurotic teenhood but for the shelter, succor, and support of the Nineteenth House kinship. From the moral ruins of the HIV-haunted nineties, strewn with the desiccated bones of broken relationships, a new sociological order had emerged of clusters of single women -- separated, widowed, divorced, never partnered -- joined together under a common roof against a sea of free-floating males. The kinship: average size five point three: three point two generating the income to support themselves and the average two point one career mothers who parented the children. Men come, men go at the individual partners' discretions, but are never considered part of the family unit. 2003: the kinship achieves legal recognition in the European courts. 2012: one third of all permanent relationships are kinships. 2013, early May: Nikki Ring joins the Ninteenth House gaining a telecommuting designer of European farming magazines, a home-delivery sandwich Empress, a jewelry maker, a co-monther who has retired thankfully into parenthood out of Futures, two new daughters, one new son, a condominium on the South Coast (the eponymous Nineteenth House) with sun terrace and shared swimming pool, peace, stability, love, security; contributing: Ethan Ring. Ethan Ring gained roots; he whose prior experience of the New Europe had been Doppler blur of tail-lights punctuated by ten thousand radio jingles and the smell of scorched sunflower oil in a nation of bed'n'breakfast rooms. The fertile ground of the kinship germinated a long-dormant talent for visualization, for seeing ideas projected on the backs of his eyeballs and making them seeable to others. Nurtured by his ex-Futures co-mother, his talent took him through and out of Michael Heseltine Comprehensive to art college in some rainy day city in the north to study Graphic Communications. He suffered agonies of acclimatization. He contemplated leaving. He contemplated a bottle and a half of paracetamol. He found friends in time: a Japanese exchage student with a dark and secret passion for comic-book animation; a dark haired computer junkie from the North Country who taught Ethan the necessary skills of drinking rolling joints pulling girls; his girlfriend, a fellow Graphic Communications student who looked as if her name should end with a "y" but in fact didn't.

On the day that Ethan Ring met Luka Casipriadin, Leconte Bio in Lyons discovered a technique for loading human memories, emotions, and experiences from an implanted bioprocessor onto a mainframe AI template to create an interactive simulacrum of the dead. The first immortal since ancient Greece came from Santa Rose, CA, had Made It in sugar beet, but couldn't beat the carcinoma. Her persona was alone three years in cybernetic heaven before anyone could afford to join her.

Somebody had stolen Ethan Ring's shopping. He had gone back to lock up his rustbucket of a Ford and the bags were gone from outside his first-floor flat. Life in the rainy-day city had made him stoical: microwave TVchow-4-Is made him fat and gave him wind anyway. The next day there was a knock at his door. On the landing was the girl from first-year Fine Arts you could not help noticing because she had shaved her head except for a crest of black hair that flopped into her eyes all the time.

"You could at least have made some effort."


"Knocked on a few doors. Made a few routine inquiries. You could have tried a little."

"I'm sorry. Are you sure you've got the right flat?"

"Okay okay, I admit it. I took your food. me. Luka Casipriadin. I live upstairs from you. You didn't know. Ah. It's Georgian, originally. Casipriadin. So my father says. Can I come in?"

"You took my food? Why did you take my food?"

But she was already sitting on his curry-and-beer-stained sofa scrutinizing with the eye of first-year Fine Arts his soft-porn posters of airbrushed cyber-girls with chromium breasts. Shit shit shit piles of dirty underwear Chinese food cartons beer cans.

"One life furnished in early squalor. You know you are what you eat?"


"I'm beginning to think maybe I made a mistake with you. Syllogismic logic: if I am what I eat, and you are what you eat, then if I eat what you eat, therefore I should become you."

"So you ate my food."

"And got fat and farted a lot."


"Because you have fabulous hair I would kill for. Because you were never going to talk to me, so I had to get to talk to you. You hungry? Of course you are. I ate all your food. Come up to my place. I've got stuff on."

"My stuff?"

"My stuff. Eat my food, be me. You have a name?"

"Ethan Ring."

"Oh, classic name. I knew I hadn't made a mistake with you."
kelli crane with the index finger extended
cigaretted burns paper
rock crushes cigarette
scissors cut cigarette
epitome of incomprehensibility I like the random story. My own childhood friends made various additions to the rock-paper-scissors game: a gun could shoot paper and scissors, but not rock; a bomb could destroy everything. Which messed things up... a common result of the use of real guns and bombs but not (usually) of imaginary ones. 100206
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