The Most Frightening Animal on Earth

book chapter from Closer To Shore by Michael Capuzzo

Fortunately for everything else that swam, the great white grew slowly. Its body stiffened along three parallel muscles that ran from snout to tail. With the new bulk came a decline in speed, and the shark’s narrow teeth, once ideal for snaring fish, broadened out so that catching small fish grew almost impossible. Adaptation was not difficult. The shark’s size and strength were enormous advantages now, and its speed still remarkable for its size.

Like an infant child, the shark’s head had rapidly achieved adult size, expanding massively. Twenty-six teeth bristled along its top jaw, twenty-four along the bottom jaw. Behind these functional teeth, under the gum, lay successive rows of additional teeth, baby teeth that were softer but quickly grew and calcified. Every two weeks or so, the entire double row of fifty functional teeth simply rolled over the jaw and fell out, and a completely new set of fifty rose in its place. White and new, strong and serrated. Broken or worn teeth were not an issue of the apex predator. Continue reading “The Most Frightening Animal on Earth”

Excerpt from A Tale of Two Cities

Excerpt from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens:

The spectators saw in the two figures, a young lady of little more of little more than twenty, an a gentleman who was evidently her father; a man of a very remarkable appearance in respect of the absolute whiteness of his hair, and a certain indescribably intensity of face: not of an active kind, but pondering and self-communing. When this expression was upon him, he looked as if he were old; but when it was stirred and broken up–as it was now, in a moment, on his speaking to his daughter–he became a handsome man, not past the prime of his life.

His daughter had one of her hands drawn through his arm, as she sat by him, and the other pressed upon it. She had drawn close to him, in her dread of the scene, and in her pity for the prisoner. Her forehead had been strikingly expressive of an engrossing terror and compassion that saw nothing but the peril of the accused. This had been so very noticeable, so very powerfully and naturally shown, that starers who had had no pity for him were touched by her; and the whisper went about: “Who are they?”

Continue reading “Excerpt from A Tale of Two Cities”

Excerpt from “The Story of an Hour”

Excerpt from “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin

Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death.

It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing. Her husband’s friend Richards was there, too, near her. It was he who had been in the newspaper office when intelligence of the railroad disaster was received, with Brently Mallard’s name leading the list of “killed.” He had only taken the time to assure himself of its truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender friend in bearing the sad message.

She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.

Continue reading “Excerpt from “The Story of an Hour””

Miracle Workers

by Taylor Mali (www.taylormali.com)

 

Sunday nights I lie awake—

as all teachers do—

and wait for sleep to come

like the last student in my class to arrive.

My grading is done, my lesson plans are in order,

and still sleep wanders the hallways like Lower School music.

I’m a teacher. This is what I do.

 

Like a builder builds, or a sculptor sculpts,

a preacher preaches, and a teacher teaches.

This is what we do.

We are experts in the art of explanation:

I know the difference between questions

to answer and questions to ask.

Continue reading “Miracle Workers”

The Really Big One

(feature excerpt–full article here)

by Kathryn Schulz

When the 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck Tohoku, Japan, Chris Goldfinger was two hundred miles away, in the city of Kashiwa, at an international meeting on seismology. As the shaking started, everyone in the room began to laugh. Earthquakes are common in Japan—that one was the third of the week—and the participants were, after all, at a seismology conference. Then everyone in the room checked the time.

Seismologists know that how long an earthquake lasts is a decent proxy for its magnitude. The 1989 earthquake in Loma Prieta, California, which killed sixty-three people and caused six billion dollars’ worth of damage, lasted about fifteen seconds and had a magnitude of 6.9. A thirty-second earthquake generally has a magnitude in the mid-sevens. A minute-long quake is in the high sevens, a two-minute quake has entered the eights, and a three-minute quake is in the high eights. By four minutes, an earthquake has hit magnitude 9.0. Continue reading “The Really Big One”