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In Dark Water

The Ballantine
Publishing Group

August 1998; May 1999

Excerpt:

Part I
APRIL 1958
Chapter 1, Page 1

 

T O E

I ONLY TOUCHED his toe, his big toe, ’cause it was hidden under the sheet and she couldn’t see me squeeze it as hard as I could. I didn’t care that it was cold, but I wanted it to hurt. I wanted David to yell or hit me ’cause it hurt. I squeezed it as hard as I could without making a face she could see. My hand started to ache but his toe still didn’t flinch or pull away. It just stayed there, hard. He did nothing. But he did, he did do something. He got more dead. He was getting more and more dead the more I squeezed. I squeezed even harder then, even with my hand aching, I squeezed till I knew he was all the way dead, till his toe had won, it had beaten my hand.

She was lifting my other wrist. “It’s time,” she said. She walked me away from him. David was theirs now—the two men lined up outside the door. They were dressed in black suits and red ties and white shirts. “I’m very sorry for your troubles, ma’am,” the first one said to her, and then to Dad, too, behind me, “I’m very sorry for your troubles, sir.” The second guy repeated after him, “Sorry for your troubles, sorry for your troubles.” Like a song, I thought, and then David added, Yeah, the lead and the backup, and I smiled ’cause both of the men leaned forward in exactly the same way shaking Dad’s hand and nodding their heads one after the other. I smiled but it was really David smiling.

“Will they put different clothes on him?” I asked when we got in the car. She nodded. “Even his underpants? Even new underpants?” I asked and she nodded again. “But he didn’t even know them,” I said. Dad gave me a look that meant STOP but I knew to anyway. Her jaw was already up and stiff as if it was holding something very important she couldn’t drop. They had argued last night about me seeing him. She said yes. Dad said

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