And Now, a Brief Phone Text Conversation Between Me and My Daughter

Athena (from school): I found out today I’m ranked eleventh in my class.

Me: You have ten people to push in front of a train.

Athena: This is why you’re the best dad.

63 Comments on “And Now, a Brief Phone Text Conversation Between Me and My Daughter”

  1. No, the *best* dad would have said “Now *I* have ten people to push in front of a train.”

    Or possibly a bus. In much of the US, trains are hard to come by, and buses are pretty common.

  2. Seebs:

    “No, the *best* dad would have said ‘Now *I* have ten people to push in front of a train.'”

    Nonsense! I want to encourage her initiative!

  3. “This is why you’re the best dad.”
    because he already pushed the dads ranked ahead of him in front of a train?

  4. And this is what hands-on parenting is all about; finding that fine line between committing multiple murders oneself, and encouraging the offspring to get to grips with the practical requirements thereof….

  5. Isn’t it awesome to share a sense of humor with your kid?

    I’m lucky. I have three of them. We all (both parents and all 3 kids) get each other’s jokes.

    We also all get a lot of weird looks, individually and collectively, by bursting into song at random (but on-topic!) moments.

  6. This is a problem. Pushing ten people in front of a train at once is a tall order, but if she does it one at a time people will catch on. Maybe five people, twice?

  7. @Seebs

    “Knock off a daughter’s competition and she’s #1 for a day. Teach a daughter to knock off her own competition and she’ll be running the world by your retirement.” ~ Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie [with some contextual license]

    @Warren Terra

    Hey, nobody ever said getting ahead was easy!

  8. Seebs: “No, the *best* dad would have said ‘Now *I* have ten people to push in front of a train.’”

    Scalzi: Nonsense! I want to encourage her initiative!

    Dude, she would have just conned you into killing ten people for her. How much more initiative does she need?

  9. “Isn’t it awesome to share a sense of humor with your kid?”

    ‘Yes,’ replies John Scalzi, ‘I was merely kidding…it was all a…joke…’

  10. Does Athena’s school have its own train, or does she need to bring one from home?

    And is mass murder an officially sanctioned activity at school? (“All-Girls Slaughter Club” could be the name of someone’s next rock band.) (Or the title of a YA novel. Hmmm….)

  11. “There’s a trolly heading down a track toward eight of your classmates who will be struck and most certainly die if the train is not diverted. There’s a track switch next to where you’re standing which can divert the trolly to a track with only five of your classmates on it, but they will most certainly die if you press it to save the eight condemned people on the first track. Do you push the button?”

    Athena: “Which group is higher ranked academically?”

  12. They’re called “the Railroaders”.

    So that’s definitely out as an option. They’ll make it a matter of pride to know their way around railroad facilities safely.

  13. I was once asked on a job application if i graduated high school in the top 10% of my class. I had to say “No, but I did rank 2nd in it.” The math is weird that way because my class had only 17 people in it. Do the math. If you work it out, you’ll also notice that the person who graduated first was strangely denied being ranked in the top 5% of her class.

  14. Good grid, NO. If you push ten people in front of a train there’s an obvious and suspicious pattern. She needs to mix it up a little.

  15. The way the suggestions are going here, Athena is going to wind up as the fortunate and sole survivor of her class, after an unfortunate and improbable accident involving high explosives, poison gas, and enraged African bees.

    Her graduation class will consist of her standing beaming on an empty stage, a room full of weeping parents, and Scalzi in the back muttering “That’s my girl!”.

  16. …My lord, you are a disturbing man sometimes. I can just see the headlines: “Famed author kills dozens in school shooting! [subheading] Acclaimed author and titan of science fiction John Scalzi eliminates daughters’ academic competition with rifle and grenades”.

    Yeah, that’s maybe a little more than just a little creepy.

    I love you anyway, Mighty One. Scalzi ftagn!

  17. Interestingly enough, my wife was valedictorian of her class. At one point, the mother of #2 (salutatorian) tried to run my wife over w/ her car. True story! Small towns can get sort of intense.

  18. I hope number 12 isn’t reading this, because they could now eliminate 1-10, then use this discussion to frame Athena, leaving them the top spot.

  19. My high school never did the whole class rank thing. Sorta too bad, would have been interesting to know, although I’m not even sure how they calculate such a thing. Is it pure GPA?

  20. You should give Alec Baldwin some pointers. He always seems to have a problem with what a supportive father would say.

  21. It’s indicative of the high quality of the commenters here that “Kind Hearts and Coronets” was mentioned 4 times within the first 10 comments. It was the first thing I thought of myself.

  22. I laughed out Lou’s at this over breakfast this morning. Thanks for providing a great start to my day AND for being a great dad.

  23. I hate autocorrect and should have used the preview button. Lesson learned this morning – while still laughing at the post.

  24. Dear John,
    I’m available February 3rd. Early morning preferred. As with the success of your first novel, the terms of agreement are nonnegotiable. An even trade. A super publishing deal for 666 super wedgies.


    “Me like Weggy. Me write this.”
    Frankenstein’s monster

    “Er, the good news. Wedgies stop hurting after the first quarter hour. Or was it quarter century?”

    “One second on the New York Times best seller list? That’s all I got. Like really? I’d like to post a REDACTED”
    Best-selling author of OUT OF PRINT

  25. I would offer to engineer a few multiple homicides on Athena’s behalf simply because she used “you’re” correctly. #petpeeve #punintended

  26. Is “The Railroaders” shorthand for “The Corrupt District Attorneys?”

    Corrupt public officials seems to fit with the murder for personal advancement theme of this thread.

  27. One only hopes the NSA and others who surveil text messages share your sense of humor. /parade_raining

  28. I used to work with an ex-marine whose two sons moved back home in their mid-20s. They were still working, but they wanted to save money. He would go around the office and go ‘my sons are worthless human beings’. He would tell them they are worthless human beings in an effort to get them to move out.

    John is slightly above him on the ‘father of the year balloting’. You have to give him demerits for encouraging his daughter to bully the 10 biggest nerds in her school.

  29. I saw nothing remotely involving bullying in his suggestion. Mass murder is a whole different proposition. And _Kind Hearts and Coronets_ is a brilliant movie.

  30. I am assuming that Athena is reading this entry, so I will address the rest of this comment to her. If she isn’t, Mr. Scalzi, please direct her attention here. Thanks.

    Athena, your dad has the right idea, but his proposed execution (if you will pardon the expression) leaves something to be desired. To mangle a line from Ian Fleming a little, once is happenstance, twice is circumstance, but three times gets the authorities wondering. Diversify your methods of dealing with your rivals. And you might not need to eliminate all 10 of them. After you have dispatched the first few, it might be enough to rattle some of the others, and cause their class standing to plummet.

  31. The large number might be more easily handled on a field trip. “Group Photo Tragedy at Railroad Museum” for example.

  32. @Seth – Of course she does – she’ll read their Facebook and Twitter postings bragging about their rankings… or the cached copies of same, since they are frantically deleting said postings right now!

  33. Logistically speaking, does one start with #10, #1, or the most oppurtunistic? I would be worried #1 would figure out what was happening and preemptively strike.

  34. Logistically speaking, does one start with #10, #1, or the most oppurtunistic?

    Generally speaking, you start with number 14 or 15 then go random from there, while acting increasingly more and more panicked about “being next” just as your peers are doing. Um, or so I would imagine…

  35. Not to give Athena a cheat sheet, but in 1977 British Transport Films did an infamous short that went over safety around trains called “The Finishing Line” which was later pulled from distribution. Look at it as a study guide provided by Louis Mazzini. (It is available online and on YouTube, but I’m not directly linking to it for reasons that will be obvious if you look at the description over at

    The U.K. for some reason has a long standing tradition of health and safety films which scared children out of their minds (“Apaches,” “The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water”) and which seems to have originated with BBC Programming, where they somehow managed to split the fairytale film “The Singing Ringing Tree” into three episodes of what I have been assured is high-potency nightmare fuel. As far as I remember, the closest thing you got in the USA were the films shown in Driver’s Ed.

  36. This is beginning to remind me of a snippet from Dread.

    Two of us were already dead and Lydia was missing. Perhaps she fell overboard, though no one heard a splash. We remaining five began to wonder about the pact we made, to remain on the drifting yacht until morning, so that we could all make our way to shore together.

    There could be no doubt now; this was foul play. And the slaughter showed no sign of ending. The question before us was “Who?”

    Well, in truth, the question before me was “Who next?”

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