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First pages

Prologue

October 1961
San Francisco, The Castro District
Fate

They don’t seem like sisters. They appear generations, possibly even species apart. Asia, the eldest, is gaunt and grim; her bones prominent beneath thin, pale, taut skin. Her dress, black, long and tight as flesh, falls water straight to the ground. A large scissors dangles round her waist on a heavy chain. It is worn and used, but the blades gleam, sharp as endings.
Decima, the middle sister, is brown as soil, solid as earth. She sits behind a wooden table, twisting a tape measure round and round her hands.
Nona, the youngest, is beautiful. She sits before a large wooden loom. Her hands, smooth and pale as milk, flutter like doves, continually drawing woof through warp, creating intricate designs.
The sisters sit in a dim backroom of a small shop, on a dark alleyway. “I have never woven anything like this,” says Nona. “I don’t have a pattern. I don’t know what thread to use.”  
Decima frowns. She prefers plain, simple fashions.
“It is odd,” Asia says, staring at the lopsided fabric, “I’ve never seen one like it.”

 
 

San Francisco - 1986
Jasmine’s Tale

 

I'm unequivocally a night person. I think sunrise looks better in reverse.
He was a morning man. You might think our love was doomed, but no, it was just the reverse. We meet at twilight and so never tire of each other.
He is crepuscular, I vespertine. 
Crepuscular creatures are lively at dawn and at dusk. But the vespertine do not wake until twilight - the hour of vespers.
I expand the word to mean anything that comes alive only at nightfall; neon for example, or nightlights, or my soul.
My Love is strong, healthy, with almost white-blond hair and eyes clear as a cloudless sky. He smells of sunlight. His skin is warm.
Not I. I am pale, hair black, hands cold as coffin nails.

We meet in the grey hours of transformation, when the world has lost its light but not discovered darkness. My teeth have not yet lengthened, although they are always a tad pointy: Audrey Hepburn with razor incisors, Claudette Colbert with fangs. I am not yet thirsty and my hot sun lover can bare his throat to me with no fear.

He has the strong, white, flat teeth of an exceptionally well-groomed horse. As he tosses his head in the glooming I feel the heat and see the light of a small sun. He is as close as I will ever get to daylight. I am as close as he will ever get to death.
In his arms I can imagine a sunrise without pain.
We don’t talk, there is too little time. Besides, what could he tell me that I have not learned from his being? I know that he sweats under a bare clear sky, that tiny flying insects are attracted to his moisture and his scent. I know he does not enjoy this, but I am fascinated. Insects fear me. They drop from the night and lie unmoving at my feet. Only the bats enjoy my company, bats, owls and the occasional nightjar.
My body tightens with longing even as my incisors lengthen. My Love yawns. Luckily for him our time together is almost over.
If only the night would not come, making me thirsty. Making me lust for other pleasures. If only the sun would not rise denying me my Love… I imagine I could be happy. I think he could be content. But that is fantasy. I know that sun will rise and that night will come.
I never mention it, but I can’t help noticing that he has never invited me into his home. I cannot enter without permission. Though once inside, I can forever come and go at will, through keyholes or under doors.
We do not dine together. He likes pasta with garlic. I like blood. He does not give me rings of silver. Even if they would not burn my flesh I could not admire myself, because I have no reflection. He cannot marry me… at least not in a church.
We clasp each other in these brief few hours between dawn and dark. Wishing that vampires really do sparkle in the sun, that flesh rots not and that love lasts. Wishing that this time will be different.
One night my Love comes too early, or maybe he stays too long.… I don’t remember, although I can still recall the intoxicating sun scent and taste the rich warmth of his blood.
My love affairs eternally end so. I always long for them to turn out differently. It’s so disheartening. If only I did not fall in love so often with these warm blooded vessels of nutrition. I constantly swear I’ll convert. Become a celibate bloodsucker, a monastic mosquito, a vamp nun. But then I see some sun-glazed man smelling of day and it begins again.
Chemistry.  Alchemy. Love Potion Number 9… Blood... locked in the body, like a coffin, like a grave, changes color in the air, binding oxygen, absorbing different wavelengths; blue blood turns to red desire.
My men end up as pale as I, but much more finite and more still. I’d weep if I had tears, but we have no water in us and no salt. We are dry ice, we creatures of the night.
You probably think that I could make my Love immortal with a bite. But it’s not that easy. First, they need to be healthy and dead, which is difficult. Then they need to have ingested some vampire blood and, lastly, within twenty four hours, they need to drink copious amounts of human blood. My lovers are decidedly unpeckish when they’re dead. I can’t even get them to swallow. Not that I try that hard — if I’m completely honest — once they lie before me, still, pale and bloodless, I lose affection for them. I’m like an old man with a trophy wife — I’m not proud of it — but there it is.
Not that I have never changed anyone. I did, once. Jeremy was his name. I can still see his face. He was pale for a human, hair sleek as a seal’s and emerald eyed. I followed him one night. He smelled of smoke. He tasted of sorrow.
Reviving him was even more unpleasant than I’d imagined. I cut my wrist but he would not suck. I had to rub my wound against his, fusing blood to blood, marrying plasma. 
From the first moment I had been turned I had sucked eagerly. I hunted easily and with fervor. But not Jeremy, he lay limp, barely undead. I had to stun four late-night partiers and present them, unconscious and practically giftwrapped before he would drink. Even then he was ill. It was two weeks before he began to hunt on his own.
We parted; or rather, I did, disappearing one night, drawn to new blood and more finite lovers.  


San Francisco — 1986

Endings and Beginnings

 

One midnight I go to a discothèque… a new one. They have flashing crystals, but luckily no silver. They serve drinks and finger food, but happily no garlic. On the dance floor, Sumo wrestlers, huge men, over 300 lbs. each, butt each other like hippos.
Between bouts, one lumbers outside. Quicker than a dance step I am upon him. Who would have thought that the fat man had so much blood in him? I am more than sated. While not as tender or tasty as my lovers it is nice to be so filled. Inside, I can enjoy the night without hunger pangs.
I dance with abandon, baring my white neck to the flashing disco ball.
A pale man, eyes cobalt as twilight, unfathomable as belief, joins me. He does not smell of sun or day, but of secrets. He whispers his name, “Aidan,” into my ear, tickling the fine hairs on my neck, making them rise.
I tell him mine, “Jasmine.”
Together we walk into the night, down dark streets glowing with neon, to an apartment. His apartment. He invites me in. Love has never been like this. I know it must be love because my circadian rhythms, usually so finely tuned, are silent.
We rest in each other’s arms. I do not sleep at night. But I watch him slumber and still my breath to match his, pretending, just for a while, that this will last. 
I look upon his face, memorizing his perfectly carved features, imprinting this time forever in my mind. Suddenly, I realize that he is not asleep. His indigo eyes are wide open.
The only things that can kill a vampire are sun and werewolves. Not really much to boast about for a creature with supernatural power. Being staked through the heart or attacked by a werewolf will put an end to pretty much anything. Why two creatures governed by dark should be at such odds with each other is a mystery. But there it is.
Silver, garlic and crosses, while definitely not pleasant are rarely lethal. I’ve known more than a few of my kind who’ll gladly bear some pain, to wear a pair of glittering earrings or carry a silver bullet. A silver bullet, after all, is the only foolproof way to kill a werewolf. And silver is no more painful than a pair of tight stiletto heels. It’s much less painful than foot binding, circumcision or any of the myriad ways humans find to torture their own.
Aidan is no werewolf; he is a man like any other… I have the power. I know his name. He has invited me into his home.
He is beautiful — fine chiseled features, eyes so deep an indigo you can forget time in his arms. And I do. Day and dark seem of no more urgency or import to me now than to the living.
A pliable light steals across him, delicate and tender. It is much different than a sunset.
I thought I was immune to the pain love brings. Being undead should make one infinite, but even we creatures of the night have our soft spots. The sun is one, a big burning white hot one.  Under his gaze I cannot flee to that good, dark night. He holds me in this new day.  It burns. It scorches. It blazes onto my retina a last vision of his even flat white teeth. Who would have thought that the lust of an omnivore could be deadly?



PART I

Beginnings: Neil and Aidan


“Light is meaningful only in relation to darkness...
We only exist ... in the zone where black and white clash.”
— Louis Aragon 



Chapter: 1
Aidan, San Francisco 1980 — Healdsburg 1961

Circadian Rhythms

 

Aidan wakes besides Jasmine. She is ash and dust. He is elegance and grace, his skin pale as pearls.
Aidan has murdered forty-five so far, more than Jack the Ripper, but fewer than Vietnam…far fewer. Still, impressive, considering he’s an army of one. No Rambo either. No heavily muscled behemoth. He is slender and lean, a dancer of death to the undead.
He is estranged from his family. His father’s people unknown, his mother’s people as fair and ruthless as he, but oh so different.
Aidan was born under a new October moon in the golden hills north of San Francisco. He is a mutt. His mother was a vampire. His father died in childbirth, bite marks still bleeding. He had gone looking for romance and found death, or perhaps death had found him. He had been seeking perfection, drawn to Aidan’s mother by her unearthly beauty.  If only he’d been satisfied with someone more flawed, something more attainable, he might have survived. Nothing is as dangerous as transcendence, nothing so deadly as desire. 
Vampires rarely give birth. Usually they just bite someone. They are not alive, so it is impossible for them to create life, although they can create immortality.
Aidan’s birth is much more unusual than virgin birth. Granted, human virgin birth is miraculous, but in many species of fish, lizard, insect and shark, virgin birth is the norm. It is helpful to remember that a miracle is not necessarily good, it is simply unnatural.
Some say there is an order to the universe. The earth revolves, turning day to night, summer to fall. Things sprout and die with precision.  There is a master clock, perhaps a master clockmaker? If so, Aidan is an un-clockmaker. He is a crossbreed, a rare twining of DNA
He dropped from his mother cold and odd as ice in the desert. His mother gazed at the small kicking bundle, fists balled, pale and un-crying. She considered abandoning him, biting him, even leaving him in the vicinity of a church, but, instead she stayed, watching his hungry body twist and squirm. She did not know, would not know until first light, that he had already poisoned her circadian watchdogs.


Chapter: 2
Neil, Healdsburg — October 1961

Discovery

 

Seven-year-old Neil races home from school. Summer vacation is only a week away. His feet dance with the anticipation of so much freedom so near. The field is already dry, yellow with wild barley. Hairy spikes of seeds top the grass, bushy as the tails of tiny golden foxes. They cling to Neil’s white cotton socks.
Ryan, Neil’s favorite uncle knows all about such things.  “Those seeds are hitching a ride on you Neil.” Ryan had told him. “Just like the guys you see with their thumbs out on the Highway.”
“Varoom, varoom” Neil says, pretending he’s a truck picking up freeloading grains.
“They hitch rides from animals too.” Ryan had said. “It’s a great plan for wild animals, they have short fur and the foxtails fall off after a brief trip. It doesn’t work as well for pets though; their fur can be too long. Sometimes, instead of falling out, the foxtails dig into the animal’s body.” Neil shudders, imagining the points burrowing inside his flesh.
He bends to pull one of the irritating needle sharp barbs out of his socks. At his feet lies a naked baby, unscratched, pale and bright as a cold sun. The infant is cradled in the charred arms of a black shape that resembles a human log.
Neil freezes. His heart beats fast and loud. The quiet of the meadow echoing through him like a cold, distant sea is pierced by a long, high wail. It hurts Neil’s ears. He wishes it would stop. 
Large hands grip his shoulder. He twists round, breath held, heart frozen. Ron Jackson, the town Sheriff, stands behind him, solid and strong. Neil’s throat explodes with pain. Only then does he realize that the howling, so painful, so filled with fear, is coming from his own throat.
Jackson calls Neil’s mother, Alma.  She comes, running through the field. She rocks him in her arms, pulling him back from nightmare.
“There, there,” she coos. “I am here now; there is nothing to be afraid of.”  Normally Neil would have objected. He is too old to be cuddled like a baby, too mature to be embraced in front of grown men. But now he wants only to hide his face in his mother’s arms and forget.
Jackson lifts the silent baby, his fingers brushing the arm of the charred figure. It crumbles at his touch. Ashes rise into the air. Cinders blacken the gold field.  Nothing remains except two pointed crystals that capture the sunlight, dividing it into rainbows. Although the baby is obviously a newborn, there is no blood or afterbirth.
Sherriff Jackson takes the baby to the nearest orphanage, cradling it in his lap as he drives. “Hey, baby,” he says softly. “Everything is alright now, you are safe.” The baby stares up at him out of unblinking bottomless eyes of endless winter. Even though the day is sticky with heat, Jackson shivers.
The orphanage is in Healdsburg, an hour and a half north of San Francisco, embraced by golden rolling hills, surrounded by ancient, gnarled oaks. It is run by the Sisters of Perpetual Memory. It is not a cheerful place. All stark wood and white paint, bare of ornament, carpets or pillows. The Order believes the purpose of existence is to contemplate Christ’s martyrdom… continually. The only decorations, if they can be called that, are large wooden crosses which hang on every wall, in every room. The crosses do not bother Aidan. In fact, the effect even on full blooded (or bloodless) vampires is vastly over rated. They don’t like them, but most can tolerate a cross so long as it is not staked through their heart. Nothing likes being staked through the heart.
The baby is christened Aidan. During the eighteen years that Aidan lives with the sisters, he protests only once. It is on that first day, when he is baptized and holy water touches him. The droplet sizzles as it falls, burning a small white scar, like a fallen star onto his forehead. It is his only flaw.
Doubtless the priest who baptizes him should have noticed. Doubtless the nuns gathered round the newly consecrated should have seen, but at the moment of impact, an unexpected storm darkens the sky. Lightning flashes, power surges through taunt wires, the altar is cast into night. Water hisses, the baby screams. The only light is Aidan’s scar, shining like a tiny votive candle out of the shadow. Perhaps this is why the priest, blinded by sudden darkness, sees the baby as a sign of hope. Possibly this is why the nuns, deafened by thunder, imagine the infant’s wail to be the sound of faith, rising from an abyss.  

Chapter: 3
Neil, Healdsburg — 1961

Loss and Longing


Neil grows up in the sleepy town of Healdsburg, only a few miles west of the orphanage of the Sisters of Perpetual Memory. He’d been a happy carefree child, hair sandy as foxtails, eyes clear blue with a cloudless nature. But, after his discovery in the field, everything changes. There are some things that mark you forever, leaving a scar no one can see. Neil cannot forget the quiet white baby lying next to the charred body. It keeps him awake most nights. When he sleeps, it wakes him screaming.
His home, which has been happy, changes.
Ryan disappears the night Neil finds Aidan, leaving only space where once was laughter, space and the small humid greenhouse that Ryan has filled with orchids — flowers so alien and exotic, they look like they’ve dropped from another planet. On days too hot or nights too cold to venture out, Neil and Ryan had sat together in the humid room. Ryan had told stories about orchids, more fantastic than fairy tales.
No one talks about Ryan’s disappearance. Neil can feel secrets lurking behind closed doors. He hears the walls whisper in the night.
When Neil returns from school, he runs to the greenhouse. Surely Ryan must be there, it’s not possible that he is really gone.
The greenhouse is empty; windows damp, shelves dirty and bare. It smells of decay.
“I knew they’d just die anyway,” Alma says from behind Neil.  “It’s better this way. Less stench. Less clean-up.  Ryan spent way too much time and money on plants — plants you can’t eat and flowers you can’t pick,” Alma puts a hand on Neil’s shoulder, “Here, “ she says holding out a plate, “Have a cookie — chocolate chip — your favorite. “
Neil shakes off her hand running into the woods.  How can Ryan be gone? Ryan— so full of life and curiosity, he could tell you about plants and bugs and make them more interesting than a horror story. He could reveal the history behind history, opening doors into the past.
Alma called him a ‘rolling stone,’ and a heartbreaker. Neil wasn't sure if that meant he had rolled a stone onto someone and broke their heart... but he couldn’t imagine Ryan killing anyone. Ryan didn’t even like to kill bugs.
Neil feels the ground he beneath his feet has ruptured. An earthquake has split a meadow into a chasm while he slept and he is stranded on a precipice, lost and alone.
Neil’s father Joseph misses Ryan, his baby brother, almost as much as Neil. Ryan was the yang to Joseph’s yin. Joseph was sturdy and unimaginative, but Ryan had been a breeze, following fancies and desires. Now he feels off kilter — out of balance, lost.
  A week later Ryan’s body, or rather pieces of it, is discovered in a field. Ryan is identifiable only by the treads of his shoes.
Joseph begins drinking, trying to numb his soul, to forget and find respite. Each night he comes home later and later.
“Go find your father,” Alma says, pushing Neil out the door, even though it is nightfall and he is only seven, even though he has had no supper and is hungry. Neil does not protest. Their house smells of blood and fear. It is full of unspoken words. Neil is happy to escape. He tracks Joseph to Jay’s, the only tavern in town. Soon Neil is almost as familiar a visitor there as Joseph.
“It’s your boy again, Jo,” says the bartender whenever he sees Neil, “Time to go now.”
Neil silently holds out his hand, leading his father home like a stray dog.
Some nights Joseph sings his way home, some nights he is maudlin, but more and more often he refuses to leave the bar, drinking steadily and sullenly as a winter rain.
One night on his way to the tavern, the moon rises full and bright. Out of the woods rises a howl that tickles the hair on the back of Neil’s neck. Even though he is beneath a streetlamp and only a block from home, he feels as lost and hollow as if he is falling into nothingness. He races home, not looking to either side. Crashing into the house he burrows under his covers.
“What’s wrong?” Alma asks, “Did you find your father?”  Neil does not answer, he cannot speak, he is shivering as violently as if he has malaria.
Alma takes him in her arms, “Oh my poor, poor baby,” she cries, “My sweet, little boy, how could I have sent you out into the night and the dark? Let mama kiss your fears away.”  But her kisses burn like lies, and the next night she sends him out again.


Chapter: 4
Aidan, San Francisco — 1961

Music and Moths

Aidan never cries, even as a baby. He grows into a strange silent child, given to night wanderings. He rarely speaks. He eats little. He is beautiful, hair glossy black, eyes bottomless indigo, teeth straight and perfect. He never has a cavity. He is in fact, abnormally healthy, never catching a chill, a cold, or even getting a pimple. He has no friends. Nor is he bullied. Something about him scares the other children. If anyone had stood beside him in the crowded dormitory bathrooms or crammed changing rooms they would notice that he has no reflection. If the nuns had made him play ball in the noonday sun, as they do the others, they would see that he has no shadow. But, all keep their distance.
Aidan does not mind. He does not long for friends. He is the only orphan who does not care that the sisters do not allow pets. Why would he? Any time Aidan walks by a tree, birds drop round his feet, their small feathered bodies still as leaves. Insects turn to dust and flowers wither. Creatures large or fleet enough run, the smaller burrow underground. Aidan is unmoved.
The only time Aidan shows interest is when the sisters’ ancient record player breaks down. It is not Sister Agnes’ grief that moves him, nor Sister Maria’s cry of distress. He does not care for temporal sorrow. Rather it is the expiry of that which seems immortal. Black plastic and cold metal which should eternally sing, have become as silent as bone.  He glides toward the mute turntable. If the nuns had not had their eyes filled with tears they might have noticed that his feet do not touch the ground.  But they are so trapped in loss that they do not even try to stop him. He does not even touch the record player before it begins to revolve.  The needle presses down. Music fills the air. But the melodies are not the same. The harmonies are slightly off; all the hymns play in minor keys. They sound more like laments than halleluiahs, more like dirges than rejoicing.
When the record player wafts Ave Maria out into the night, Luna moths, wings spanning seven inches, flock round the orphanage. They hover in the air like jade dreams, before drifting lifeless to the ground.
Entomologists gather their bodies in awe. Lunas, native to Canada and the northeastern states, have never before been seen as far south as Healdsburg. It is taken as a sure sign of climate change. In the twilight, bats circle, plucking the stunned insects out of the air before they even hit the ground.

Two weeks later, when the sisters sell the record player at the church bazaar, the moths disappear. But when the children are taken out for a night’s star gazing, Lunas rain down about them like tears.


Chapter: 5

Neil, Healdsburg —1965

A Cry in the Night

When the next full moon rises, topping the trees with silver, Neil, enroute to the tavern again, hears a nightmare cry. He runs home, afraid to pause, afraid to hear velvet tread padding behind. At the door Alma is waiting, lips tight and white.
“Where is your father?” she shrieks. “You didn’t look, did you? Why are all the men in my life useless? What have I ever done to deserve this?” Her tears scald Neil’s icy cheeks.
One night, Joseph disappears.  After that, Alma takes in laundry and does housekeeping at local hotels. It is slow in the winter when the fog hangs thick in the redwoods, always cold and damp.
Alma tries to branch out, hoping to supply  cakes and pastries to the nearby B & B’s, but   she mistakes powdered sugar for flour and her cinnamon spice cake burns, scenting the house with bitterness and disappointment. Her pie dough, which should rise light as dreams, sticks in the throat like heartache. Even the packaged custard she buys does not gel and must be flushed down the toilet.

Chapter: 6

Aidan, Healdsburg — 1970
Soundtrack to Nightmare


Despite his great beauty, Aidan is never adopted for long. The nuns occasionally take him to foster homes but his silence unnerves people. He is as wordless and impossible to ignore as death. When he is placed in a home, quiet men begin beating their wives. Teetotalers start drinking. Gaunt men become gluttons. After he has left, two of his would-be parents commit suicide. His presence remains in the house like the scent of decay, impossible to eradicate.
The only place that keeps him more than a week is that of a fix-it man, who repairs stereos and blenders. All Aidan has to do is drift near a broken object and it works again, good as new. The fix-it man’s business booms. He becomes successful. He becomes wealthy. No one seems to notice that the refurbished stereos only play in minor keys or that the small curious fingers of children get caught more often than usual in the whirling blades of the repaired blenders.
One day when the fix-it man is driving home, his truck skids into the trunk of the giant oak that has arched over Dover Lane for more than one hundred years, providing shade from the sun and shelter from the rain. The fix-it man sinks into a coma. He never recovers. Due to his recent financial success, he has enough money to afford a place in a renowned rest home in San Francisco, “The Quiet Dignity Coma Care Residential Facility.”
The oak’s trunk is gashed so deeply that for a month sap leaks from its heart onto Dover Lane. It seeps into the pavement, dying it such a dark red that even after the tree is cut down and carted away, the stain remains. Whenever it rains, the road becomes so slick, drivers skid wildly out of control, overturning in nearby fields.
In fact, if you take into account the auto accidents, suicides and matricide that Aidan induces, his death count would reach well into double digits.
At eighteen, when Aidan leaves the orphanage, the sisters breathe a sigh of relief.  He has never been trouble. Never talked back; indeed rarely talked at all. He is obedient, clean and scentless. The nuns can find no fault in him. But, neither can they feel affection. He makes them forget Christ and contemplate Aidan. He induces guilt. His very silence screams for attention. He is a shadow in the soul.

 

Chapter: 7
Neil, Healdsburg — 1976

Pity and Friendship

Neil roams the woods after school collecting mushrooms and looking for animals. He takes whatever jobs he can, wherever he can find them, giving one quarter of the money to Alma. The rest he wraps inside an old wool sock and hides it beneath a loose floorboard by his bed.
He splits logs for firewood, growing strong and muscular. After school and weekends, he works for the local veterinary. Neil has healing hands, at odds with his appearance. Wounded animals find comfort in his arms. He brings orphaned kittens, puppies and even an occasional rabbit home to foster.
“I cannot stand the smell of that stuff you feed them,” Alma says. “They are dirtying my sheets. I want you to get rid of them right now.”  Neil’s looks at her with steady, emotionless eyes and says nothing. Alma retreats, wondering why her life has become a series of misunderstanding and bad fortune.
On Neil’s birthday, Alma bakes him a flourless chocolate cake. She tries to be careful, reading the recipe twice through before she even begins to mix four ounces of bittersweet chocolate, butter, and eggs. But the cake is so bitter even Neil’s growing puppies, who eat spoiled refuse, will not taste it.
When there is a parent meeting at Healdsburg High, Alma goes hoping for the pity of friends. She does not realize that pity and friendship never reside under the same roof.
Over punch and cookies the mothers chatter like quails. Only Alma’s banana bread, sour with resentment, is left untouched.
“My Jenny just spends all her time doing homework,” Sally Parsons says. “I really worry if it’s normal for her to not have more social life... but she is determined to get all A’s.” Sally sighs and opens her palms in a ‘what can you do’ gesture. Alma hates Sally and her oh-so-perfect daughter. She never has to worry about bills or wonder if the mixture in the blender contains puréed rats.
“Neil spends all this time in his room with tiny animals he brings home from the veterinaries,” Alma says ...“He even takes them to bed with him, that can’t be healthy, can it?  They dirty my sheets and lord knows I spend enough time washing as is.
“He uses saucepans — my sauce pans — supposed to be used for humans, to make baby formula for dogs, cats and rodents. It smells horrible. Really, it makes me feel ill. Once he even got ringworm. But does he listen when I tell him to get rid of all those animals? No. He looks at me as if ...” 
“He loves animals — that means he’s got a good heart, dear,” Sally Parsons says, patting her hand. “You should thank God for having such a boy.” 
Of course, Alma thinks, it’s easy for Sally Parson’s to bless Neil’s heart. Sally Parson’s girl would never dirty a sheet or bring home vermin. She would never boil odd concoctions late at night or ignore her mother.
  “You don’t know how lucky you are to have a boy who never gets into trouble,” sighs Mrs. Jackson, the sheriff’s wife.
“And he even has a job and brings home money, I hear,” says Sara Kelly. “With my Chip, it’s all football, football, football and girls, girls, girls — you really are blessed.” But Alma can see the pride behind Sara Kelly’s eyes. She knows Sara would never trade her football star for a boy who suckles rodents. She tightens her lips and says nothing.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

E.E. King is a painter, performer, writer, and biologist - She’ll do anything that won’t pay the bills, especially if it involves animals. Ray Bradbury calls her stories “marvelously inventive, wildly funny and deeply thought-provoking. I cannot recommend them highly enough.” She’s worked with children in Bosnia, crocodiles in Mexico, frogs in Puerto Rico, egrets in Bali, painted murals in Los Angeles and Spain and has been published widely.


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