The theme of the homecoming dance was “Wagnerian dystopia,” so all of the teacher chaperones were dressed as Valkyrie secret police, with winged helmets, shining, conical breast armor, and twenty-inch cattle prods. Tim had been hoping that Julia would ask him to be her date, but on Wednesday he learned that she had been asked by a syntactic cluster of abstract illocutionary nodes, and she had said yes. So he had invited Mariska Blankenship, a genetically-enhanced capybara, and she had agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to accompany him. And except for how she kept chewing on his jacket hem all night, she was good company.