At first little Hugh thought it was rats. Rats in the wall by his head, down low on the floor where his mattress lay. He had seen them often enough, darting down the hall to the kitchen, coming upon their nests in the narrow crawlspace where he sometimes went for privacy. He imagined their curved teeth gnawing away, almost the same stained yellow color as the crumbly plaster they chewed. Read More
The first we knew of the travelers was the tinkling of our falcon’s silver bell. She landed on our Father’s glove, and he leant his whiskered cheek against her beak. When he raised his head there was a look in his eyes I had not seen before.
He sighed and put his hand on my head and said, —Jane, go tell your mother we have visitors.
I walked across the wet grass to the house, and I heard him whispering to the bird as he clipped the leash to the silver varvels in her leather jesses. He climbed the porch and set her on her perch, and sat beside her in his rocking chair, oiling his glove and watching the bamboo thicket through the afternoon, while I stayed inside and played with little Anna to keep her out of mother’s way. Read More
With his eyes closed, she was beautiful. With them open, she was a scarred and withered hag, most of her skeletal form still covered as it would always be covered with burn scars and the beginnings of what might have been the mutant herpes. Since he had it himself, he didn’t worry. It was pointless to worry about any of it, this being now the world.
A thin crescent of skin along the side of her face remained unburnt where she must have turned it to a wall when the Flash came. Part of that eye was relatively unblemished, and now a tear slid from it as she whispered, “Must you go?”
“Darling,” he said, “there will never be an easy time to say goodbye, and so I say it with difficulty.”