But Vernor was bored with his Computer Speak & Spell. He was much more interested in the rotten stump outside. Yesterday he'd broken off a piece of it with a rock and found some neat-looking bugs in it. The neatest ones had big long pincers, and his Dad said they were called earwigs.
"It's M-O-O-N, Vernor," the Computer Speak & Spell said. "Perhaps we can try better next time." Vernor wandered out of his room and into the kitchen. His mother had left a few slices of watermelon on the counter, and Vernor picked one up, slurping it and crunching the seeds.
He walked back into his room. His Computer Speak & Spell sensed his return. It was getting very concerned for Vernor's welfare, and especially his spelling ability. The child seemed to have a very short attention span. It tried a new ploy to get his attention. "Earwig. Can you spell earwig?"
Vernor eyed the machine warily. How did it know he had been thinking about earwigs? But, after some thought, he said, "E-E-R-W-I-G." Then he wandered out of the room to play on his Big Wheel, while the Computer Speak & Spell was patiently explaining the correct spelling to him.
Now the Computer Speak & Spell was even more worried. He would have to try more drastic tactics. Earwigs. It checked the Encyclopedia file for earwigs. There was a picture, of an insect 0.6 to 2.5 cm long, with long pincers. It noted that the name, "earwig", was given because of a mistaken belief that earwigs nested in human ears. It ruminated on this concept for a while, failing even to notice when Vernor returned, pressed a few buttons experimentally, then went to beg some batteries from his dad.
That night, a small creature, approximately 0.7 cm long, crept out of the innards of the Computer Speak & Spell. It crept up Vernor's bedspread and onto the pillow beside his head. Just then Vernor rolled over, temporarily trapping it between his head and the pillow. But eventually he rolled back, and the tiny creature was able to crawl up the side of his face and enter his ear.
As the last of the creature disappeared inside Vernor's ear, he suddenly sat bolt upright, wide-eyed in the night. He saw the light of the Computer Speak & Spell across the room. Then he fell back onto his pillow and slept.
The next morning, Vernor's father was surprised to find Vernor sitting before the Computer Speak & Spell saying, "Occupant. O-C-C-U-P-A-N-T. Boomerang. B-O-O-M-E-R-A-N-G. Nucleic. N-U-C-L-E-I-C."
"Vernor?" he said incredulously.
His son's eyes turned to him. "Vernor. V-E-R-N-O-R." Then he turned back to the Computer Speak & Spell. The Computer Speak & Spell hummed happily. It should have thought of this long ago.
<Wavey Davey gave me four words typical of himself:
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The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey / email@example.com