Out of the Blue

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Authors: Sarah Ellis
theory that it was an asteroid whacking into the earth that caused the big land mass to break up into continents. Of course the geophysics mafia are resisting the theory like mad.”
    â€œWhat’s a theory?” said Betsy.
    â€œSort of like a story about what might have happened.”
    â€œBut is it true?”
    â€œWhen it’s proved, it’s true. But until then it’s a theory.”
    â€œHow big are these asteroids?” asked Mum.
    â€œHuge. The continent smasher one was probably about six miles across.”
    â€œWhat would happen if one landed on you?” said Betsy.
    â€œOh, you don’t need to worry about that,” said Natalie. “The chances are extremely rare. This all happened about two hundred fifty million years ago. Most of the bodies that enter the earth’s atmosphere just burn up; that’s what shooting stars are.”
    â€œBut what would happen if one
did
land on you?” persisted Betsy.
    â€œYou would be well and truly squashed,” said Natalie.
    â€œDeath by asteroid squashing,” said Dad with relish. “That would be a good tragic end.”
    Natalie looked a bit surprised. Mum laughed. “I should explain, in case you think we’re a family of weirdos. Jim and the girls are very fond of stories in which someone comes to an unusual end. It doesn’t turn my crank, but they seem to love it.”
    â€œWhat kind of things?” asked Natalie.
    â€œOh, kidnapping by aliens, going through a car wash in a convertible and being vibra-shined, being recycled, that sort of thing,” said Dad.
    â€œMegan does a wonderful ‘Sucked by a Leech,’” said Mum. “Come on, Megan.”
    No way. Megan shook her head. “I don’t remember it.”
    There was a little pause. Megan didn’t look at Mum.
    â€œI think I do,” said Dad.
    â€œI’d love to hear it,” said Natalie.
    â€œOkay. Little Hortense, poor little Hortense, such a good child she was. She was kind to helpless animals and guppies. Never a cross word passed her lips. One day she was wading in the river, gathering watercress to make a nourishing soup for the poor, when she was attacked by leeches. Poor little Hortense, she was never a sturdy child to begin with, having given all her meals to stray dogs and birds, so before help could arrive, she was sucked dry, absolutely dry, like a beach ball before you blow it up.”
    Natalie was giggling. She caught on right away. “So, this asteroid, who does it squish?”
    â€œKevin,” said Betsy. Her victims were always called Kevin.
    â€œI thought Kevin was killed by a computer virus,” said Dad.
    â€œThat was a different Kevin.”
    Natalie laid down her knife and fork. “So this Kevin is squashed by an asteroid, as flat as a pancake.”
    â€œFlatter,” said Dad. “He is so thin he disappears if you turn him sideways.”
    â€œTwo-dimensional,” said Natalie, “no depth of character.”
    â€œTalks entirely in cliches,” said Mum, “like ‘today is the first day of the rest of your life.’”
    Megan thought of Mr. Jessup, her soccer coach. “A team is only as strong as its weakest member.” But she wasn’t going to say it. How dare Dad tell Natalie the leech story? That was their story, not something to give away to strangers.
    â€œWhat does 2-D Kevin think about art?” said Dad.
    â€œHe doesn’t know much about it, but he knows what he likes,” said Natalie. “Here’s one—when 2-D Kevin loves something what does he do with it?”
    â€œHe lets it go,” chorused Mum and Dad.
    â€œHang on,” said Dad. “What does 2-D Kevin think about Christmas?”
    Betsy had been following this conversation like someone at a tennis match, watching the ball move back and forth across the net in a long rally. She pounded on the table. “He thinks that it’s

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