"It's time you had a child," his mother said,
"for me to hold and love. Before I'm dead."
"Now, Mother, don't start that again!" She winced
because his voice was so sharp. And then,
"Hush, dear," he murmured, and he smoothed her bed.
"One grandchild, son," she pleaded. "That's not much to ask!"
He shuddered. One child, yes. Then task after tiresome task
for at least twenty years. Or you could bask
in the joys of owning cyberdragons. Instead.
He made his face a careful courteous mask.
She knew what he was thinking; she always knew.
"Those things of yours -- those machines -- mean more to you
than your own mother does. And that is true."
He wondered what to do.
"Things," she called them. "Machines." His precious dears!
His Jason, and his Estella! He fought back tears.
They had been his pride and his joy eleven years.
Matched bronzes, they were, and he was well aware,
his friends and neighbors envied him and his wife that pair.
Children, he thought. Children brought endless work, and endless fears.
The cost of children went on and on and on. It grew
year after year, a bill that was always due,
a bill in money and strength, a bill in time,
draining the parents to emptiness. That, too, was true.
His mother would be able to send the children away.
Whenever she wearied of nuisance and of noise,
she could just send them home. As if they were toys.
As if, for her, they were cyberdragons. It wasn't fair.
She was crying now. He reached down and stroked her hair.
Cyberdragons never ate or drank or grew or ailed;
they had no bodily wastes and were always serene.
Their beautiful clothing always fit like the day it was bought,
and was always clean.
They remembered -- forever -- whatever they were taught.
And you could turn them off. Try that with a child!
If something failed, you ordered a replacement part,
to be promptly mailed.
Why, he wondered, would any sane human being choose
the burden of children, who could break and sicken and bruise,
who had to be given huge gifts of the goods of Earth?
How could children, even to carry on names, ever be worth
their enormous cost?
A couple who had a child was a couple lost.
Trapped for life in a web of intricate tiresome messes.
A cyberdragon, on the other hand, only blesses
the home where it dwells.
"Never!" he thought. "I will never have a child!"
But that's not something a courteous son ever tells