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art by Richard Gagnon

Intolerance

VG Campen, having read voraciously for decades, is trying her hand at writing. This is her first fiction publication. She lives in North Carolina and plans on keeping her day job.
CONVERT NOW--THE END IS NEAR. The sign, held by a tiny pink paw, bobs along a path that cuts through the ferns.
"They're everywhere nowadays," I say. "Used to be they'd run away, or at least hide in the shadows."
Steggie stares at the receding figure. "Heretic. I should've stomped him," he says. "We should'a stomped them all, first time one opened its pie-hole and started preaching their doctrine of true endothermal homeostasis."
I sigh. My husband can bellow about religion and politics for hours, and I recognize the beginning of a rant.
"And that 'miracle of living birth' business," he continues. "Keeping a kid in your belly like an egg-bound old lady. What's that all about?" Steggie looks at me like I should have an explanation.
I shudder. Pagans may have a right to believe what they want, but I draw the line where kids are concerned. "I hear they baptize their young at birth, with the mother's blood."
"Mammals," Steggie snorts. We return to grazing, stripping leaflets from ferns and munching cycad cones.
I start to relax, but Steggie can't leave it alone. "And don't get me started on the compromisers, the appeasers, those damn monotremes," he says. "Freakin' Platypus Party, trying to straddle both sides of the fence. Wearing hair but laying eggs, laying eggs but suckling their young. Lunatics. I'm definitely voting for the constitutional amendment to banish monotremes to the southern islands."
Steggie pauses for breath and I try to change the subject. "Wasn't that meteor shower last night amazing?"
His eyes light up. Steggie's a big kid at heart, and all male. Volcanoes, comets, lightning storms; he loves anything bright or explosive.
"Yeah," he says. "Supposed to be even better tonight. I can't wait."
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, September 20th, 2012


I wrote this story as voters in North Carolina debated amending the state constitution, to ban gay marriage.* Some of the arguments regarding the amendment conflated biology and morality, religion and legality, and I wondered how these arguments would read in a hundred years. That's the background; the story crystallized as I sat in a coffee shop, listening to (eavesdropping on) one conversation on religious tolerance, and another on dinosaur hearts.

*Unfortunately, the amendment passed.

- VG Campen

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