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Clumso

“Clumso is very sorry about the dishes,” says Clumso.

“It’s fine,” says Maya.

“Also the car. And the little puppy.” Clumso heaves a sigh and tries to lean on a column, misses, stumbles, and smashes a flower pot. “Oh no!”

“It’s fine,” Maya repeats.

“Clumso is so bad at this!” he sniffles, wiping his nose with one enormous, grubby hand. “Clumso never means to break things!”

“Intent isn’t magic,” says Maya, with the slightest strain in her voice.

“But MAGIC is!” shouts Madame Zaganza, bursting in with stars showering from her wand. “Correcto tremundis!

And that fixes everything!

It’s all better!!

Rob

Rob walks Albie Street, his shoes clattering softly together.

“They call those crack tennies,” says Maya.

“Who calls anything ‘tennies?'” says Rob.

“You know what I mean,” says Maya. “I used to try and pull them down.”

“They’re boundary markers. Wards. Protection.”

“Do you think I need protection?” He doesn’t say anything; she tilts her head.

They turn down Twenty-Ninth. Rob leans back and sends the next pair whirling upward, where it catches by the laces on the catenary line.

“So,” she says, “do you carve magic runes on the soles or something?”

“I just use a Sharpie,” he says.

Holly

Someone’s replaced her hospital bandage with a new one, softer, handmade. Eventually the same person tries to remove it; Holly always pulls away. She realizes slowly that she’s not in the hospital, but she’s not curious. She eats and sleeps and bathes one-handed.

“I’m afraid it changed the lines on my palm,” she says after a week of silence. “I broke some glass. I’m afraid there will be scars, and…” She clears her throat.

“You should have someone read it for you,” says Maya. “I know a g–lady. She’s really good.”

Holly hears rain on the window. She nods.

Dogcatcher

Rob’s already there when Dogcatcher arrives, looking crowded on a square acre of empty roof. She slips up behind him and runs one finger down his neck; he doesn’t even jump. She’s impressed.

“You’ve got it?” he asks. She saunters in front of him, pulling the locket out of her top. It glints even in starlight.

“And you’ve got my stray,” she says.

He nods down the street. “There. The blue row house. I’ve been… watching the place.”

“You’re sure?”

“Tomorrow or the day after,” says Rob. “They all end up there eventually.”

Inside the blue row house, Maya sleeps, unaware.

Maya

Maya screams, to her shame, when Salem’s hatpin stabs through her hand and into the wall. “Quiet,” he says, and slaps her. Her ears ring; she almost misses the tinkling crash.

Rob is up, white and sweating, on his knees. He holds Boulevard’s watch. He’s smashed its face and bent up its second hand, which keeps ticking, crookedly.

“You won’t,” says Darlene. “You can’t.”

He wets two fingers with his blood and holds them above it; his eyes are wide, and very cold. Darlene and Maya hold their breath.

But Salem doesn’t. He snarls, and blurs; and then Maya goes deaf.

Maya

“You can open your mouth and eat,” Maya says, quietly and firmly. “I fed you before you came back to yourself. You don’t need me to now.”

Rob reaches for the pad and pencil, but Maya holds them away. “No crutches,” she says.

He looks angry, but it subsides. He stands and walks to the door to flip off the lights. Maya doesn’t understand until he turns back, and there they are, faint as moonlight on his lips: stitches.

He reaches for the pad again, and this time she lets him have it. You can open them, he writes. I can’t.

Maya

She knows his ears are undamaged, because he flinches at the slamming door. Yet he doesn’t speak, or look up at speech; he seems to have forgotten how to listen.

Usually Maya takes her strays to the hospital when she’s done what she can, but this boy’s different. His wounds cannot be seen. Medicine isn’t what he needs.

Maya resigns herself to some of her oldest remedies. She gives him a quiet cot and begins to work with time and a spoon, clearing the filth from his lungs and reminding his blood of life: honey and onions, then hot spiced wine.

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