Saturday, February 11, 2006


(A short story worth your attention. On a few people's short lists for Hugo nomination.)

Sam dragged his sister Elizabeth out of the tenement on a bright December day, her face swelling from bruises and puffed-red with tears. She didn’t speak when the cops cuffed the shouting, swearing stereotype of a beater she’d called a boyfriend: Sam had given him a right hook to the face for symmetry’s sake and now the jerk was none too happy. With that same hand wrapped so firmly around his sister’s thin arm, he felt almost ashamed. His wrist hurt, and there had been something about those neighbour kids who’d been staring with wide, knowing eyes, like it was something they saw every day...

I shouldn’t have hit him. I’m better than that.

Elizabeth didn’t speak as Sam piled her into his car. She shivered and stared blankly at the house that had been hers, no evidence that anything was sinking in but the tear-tracks on her face. Neither did Sam; it was enough to concentrate on the road and hold the wheel with that sore wrist, one stoplight at a time until they reached his condo. Last time it had just turned into a fight, another flight back into God-knew-where, and now another call from the cops, another lie he’d have to tell his mother about knowing where Elizabeth was. He wasn’t going to ask why this time, and he wasn’t going to judge. It was her life.

He gripped the wheel tight and kept driving.

When he helped her out of the sedan in the parking garage, arm wrapped firmly around her waist to hold up that too-frail body, she started to sniffle again.

He could have sighed, or slapped her, or cried. “Why didn’t you call me? If something was wrong, you know I wouldn’t tell Mom, or...why didn’t you call?”

“He made me so happy,” she whimpered.

Fuck, thought Sam.

She was back on the Bliss.


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