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Monthly Archives: August 2003


“Anything,” he promises, throaty, growling. “Anything you wish.” Her ankles are perfect.

He’s getting a little stupid, he knows that. But where better to do it? He’s safe here, surrounded by his court, sweating, laughing, drunk on wine.

Her fingers drop veils, one by one; his eyes can’t help but track them down.

She’s close now, closer. He lets himself pant.

“His head,” she says softly. “A platter.”

He sees the trap now, terrified and too late. His court is watching, sharp, ready for one misstep–one broken promise.

His court. Stupid. Is there a more dangerous place in the world?


People don’t recognize them anymore. Bradley can see this in their minute facial reactions, the tic of “what’s that?” He alone can see it. He knows this because his eyes are protected, and theirs are not.

Some people outright dislike it. Peggy, for instance, has long silently rebuked his decision to wear them before turning the lights on in the morning and until he turns them out at night. He knows his eyes are worth it, though. Someday they’ll all be squinting fogeys, but he’ll be hawklike and keen; they’ll outlast everyone, Bradley and his Blue Blockers, two against the world.


His thigh didn’t hurt badly, the first time, nor did his forearm: they were surprisingly easy, and hiding them easier still. The sting of his sweat was worse.

Then the creative writing club’s cheap annual came out, and Liam understood that it was accurate, if awful. Everybody else was already doing this–cutting, binding, hiding. It’s been done.

So he’s thought of something new, finally, and this time it’s different. It hurts like fuck. Liam’s toes scrabble, and he chokes back a sob, holding desperately to his vicious satisfaction.

Another toothpick, another fingernail. Original, he thinks. Nobody’s ever done this before.


It makes her grin just to listen to him. He looks like the first-generation import he is: skin so deeply pigmented it’s almost blue, big brown eyes and startling white smile. They’re walking along Muhammad Ali Boulevard, carrying smoothies, being postmodern.

People are staring, but that will pass in time. Everyone gets used to Kevin eventually, Monica thinks. What’s funny is that I still haven’t gotten tired of persuading him to talk. Of setting him off.

“It’s alwess the first thing they’ll ask,” he’s ranting, his voice thick with brogue. “‘Och, look at you, an’ whair in Africa are ye froom?‘”

The Straits of Messina

She doesn’t hate sailors, not particularly. She’d like to talk to one of them, to have a friend. Maybe she’d show him her cave; she’d cover the floor with rushes, rub his sunburned shoulders, lick salt from his chest.

She does get lonely. It’s hard not to, when you can’t leave your little rock, and your only friend is a vomiting whirlpool.

She doesn’t deserve this; her only crime was looking good to a god, one day at the bath. And now she eats sailors, despairing, sullen, always hungry. Dogs’ heads aren’t much good at catching fish.


They’re playing another of Maritza’s word games. It’s a stupid one: no word shorter than three syllables. They know it’s stupid, gigglingly; she knows he knows she really just wants to show off.

“Harrykins?” she asks, leaning in from the kitchenette with enticing smells behind her. “Ameliorate starvation?”

Harry bites his lip, catching the “sure!” before it can escape. He hesitates.

Respondez-vous s’il-vous-plait?” she asks, grinning, trying to run it all together.

“Illegal!” he shouts triumphantly. “Sec-secondary verbiage! Monosyllabic!”

“Philistine! Honestly!”

“Maritza, pseudofrancophone.”

What’s great, she thinks, is what he doesn’t realize: she started it to let him show off, too.


Three and Four are going to close soon, but there’s still a gap. He dives between them headlong, hands splayed to hit the roof of Two. A roll, tucked tight, and he’s through with heels intact.

Immediately he wraps one arm in cable and begins hauling. Eight should handle this, but could never make it in time; there’s a pregnant woman up there, and today, avoiding the sitcom trope is up to him.

The car’s heavy, but counterweighted well, and his pull is long-practiced. He grimaces with fierce, wild pride: he is Barnhardt, Lord of Elevators, and this is his domain.


Eventually Dottie can’t resist: she opens the closet while the Sorcerer’s out and tries on the soft brown Seven-League Boots. Two steps and she’s terrifyingly fast, sounds roaring and changing around her. It’s light and explosions of color; when she lands, seconds later, she gasps and laughs aloud.

Two steps back find her near the wardrobe again, luckily, and she replaces the boots. That night she’ll dream of flying.

She won’t think about the other pair. They’re similar, but black and cleated, on the other side of the wardrobe.

Dottie’s sure they’re Thirteen-League Boots, and she doesn’t like them at all.


“Eighteen days,” says August firmly. “To the minute.”

“Lord, honey, a year,” drawls Willie. “Or better yet, don’t.”

“Ooh, the same thing happened with me!” exclaims Laura. “And then that Friday, Ben… um, went into a coma.”

“A fortnight!” says Jason happily. “Actually I just wanted to say ‘fortnight.'”

“I don’t know,” says Hector, “A couple days?”

“Two weeks,” says Ayane. “Four weeks. No, two weeks.”

“It’s cool,” says Diego sagely. “Seriously, babe, I don’t mind. What was the question?”

“Five days,” says Agnes.

“A month,” says Tom.

“Just ask him, Chyler,” groans Emily, “honestly, can we talk about something else?”


Ampersand isn’t good at poetry. She wears the makeup well, certainly, and she has a knack for matching handbags, but though she’s finally stopped rhyming, she just can’t grasp meter.

She only got into it at all because she loved words (she has begun to suspect that this doesn’t matter). She chose her name when she joined the circle; it was a favorite, because she’d read it was a mutation of et, Latin for “and.”

She likes that little word. It brings back high school Faulkner, the dearness and scariness of Vardaman, stubbornly telling them cooked and et. Cooked and et.