Rob turned the rustling pages and grinned.'Ach, she's writ here: "Oh, the dear Feegles ha' turned up again,"' he said. This met with general applause.'Ach, what a kind girl she is tae write that,' said Billy Bigchin. 'Can I see?'He read: "Oh dear, the Feegles have turned up again."'Ah,' he said.
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Rob turned the rustling pages and grinned.’Ach, she’s writ here: “Oh, the dear Feegles ha’ turned up again,”‘ he said. This met with general applause.’Ach, what a kind girl she is tae write that,’ said Billy Bigchin. ‘Can I see?’He read: “Oh dear, the Feegles have turned up again.”‘Ah,’ he said.

-Terry Pratchett

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I imagined my coffin being closed, and the screws being turned. I was immobile, but I was alive, and I wanted to tell my family that I was seeing everything. I wanted to tell them all that I loved them, but not a sound came out of my mouth. My father and mother were weeping, my wife and my friends were gathered around, but I was completely alone! With all of the people dear to me standing there, no one was able to see that I was alive and that I had not yet accomplished all that I wanted to do in this world. I tried desperately to open my eyes, to give a sign, to beat on the lid of the coffin. But I could not move any part of my body. I felt the coffin being carried toward the grave. I could hear the sound of the handles grinding against their fittings, the steps of those in the procession, and conversations from this side and that. Someone said that he had a date for dinner later on, and another observed that I had died early. The smell of flowers all around me began to suffocate me. I remembered how I had given up trying to establish a relationship with two or three women, fearing their rejection. I remembered also the number of times I had failed to do what I wanted to do, thinking I could always do it later. I felt very sorry for myself, not only because I was about to be buried alive but also because I had been afraid to live. Why be fearful of saying no to someone or of leaving something undone when the most important thing of all was to enjoy life fully? There I was, trapped in a coffin, and it was already too late to go back and show the courage I should have had. There I was, having played the role of my own Judas, having betrayed myself. There I was, powerless to move a muscle, screaming for help, while the others were involved in their lives, worrying about what they were going to do that night, admiring statues and buildings that I would never see again. I began to feel how unfair it was to have to be buried while others continued to live. I would have felt better if there had been a catastrophe and all of us had been in the same boat, heading for the same abyss toward which they were carrying me now. Help! I tried to cry out. I’m still alive. I haven’t died. My mind is still functioning! They placed my coffin at the edge of the grave. They are going to bury me! My wife is going to forget all about me; she will marry someone else and spend the money we have struggled to save for all these years! But who cares about that. I want to be with her now, because I’m alive! I hear sobs, and I feel tears falling from my eyes, too. If my friends were to open my coffin now, they would see my tears and save me. But instead all I feel is the lowering of the coffin into the ground. Suddenly, everything is dark. A moment ago, there was a ray of light at the edge of the coffin, but now the darkness is complete. The grave diggers’ shovels are filling in the grave, and I’m alive! Buried alive! I sense that the air is being cut off, and the fragrance of the flowers is awful. I hear the mourners’ departing footsteps. My terror is total. I’m not able to do anything; if they go away now, it will soon be night, and no one will hear me knocking on the lid of my coffin! The footsteps fade, nobody hears my screams, and I am alone in the darkness; the air is heavy, and the smell of the flowers is driving me crazy. Suddenly, I hear a sound. It’s the worms, coming to eat me alive. I try with all my strength to move the parts of my body, but I am inert. The worms begin to climb over my body. They are sticky and cold. They creep over my face and crawl into my shorts. One of them enters through my anus, and another begins to sneak into a nostril. Help! I’m being eaten alive, and nobody can hear me; nobody says a word to me. The worm that entered my nostril has reached my throat. I feel another invading my ear. I have to get out! Where is God; why doesn’t he help me? They are beginning to eat at my throat, and soon I won’t be able to scream! They

-Paulo Coelho

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Kimmy, your papa has told you I'm not your uncle, has he not?" he asked the girl.Kimmy stared back at him with a quiet, solemn wisdom. "But you're my uncle because I picked you to be. But I understand you're upset with me and Mommy right now, 'cause you think we were mean to Daddy." She reached out to touch his cheek with her tiny hand. "I promise, we're gonna make Daddy very happy, though."His lips quirked sadly. Crowe realized that perhaps Kimmy was right, in some ways. Ivan had been furious since the night Kimmy had arrived."Yes, I know you make your papa very happy," he said softly. "And perhaps it's not so much anger I feel as it is jealousy, because my beautiful little girl no longer needs her papa.""All little girls need their daddy." Kimmy promised him then. "Just sometimes." She gave Crowe a very firm look before turning back to Ivan. "Our daddies just get silly and hurt our feelings really bad and don't know it. Did you hurt your little girl's feelings, Uncle Ivan?""I would hope I did not," he answered, almost amused."Well, I think you should ask her." Kimmy crossed her arms and stuck out one little sneaker-shod foot as she nodded wisely. "And just ask her nice, like you would ask her if she wanted ice cream. Maybe have ice cream when you ask her." She nodded again as she gave this advice.Ivan blinked back at her, then lifted his gaze to Crowe."You, my friend, are in so much trouble," he murmured.Kimmy turned back and flashed Crowe a grin so innocent he nearly winced.Oh Lord--"Yeah," he answered Ivan. "I am.""Come, little one." Focusing on Kimmy once more, he held out his hands. "You may call me Uncle Ivan then."An infectious giggle fell from her lips as she threw her arms around his neck and hugged with all the exuberance of an emotionally confident six-year-old."I didn't ask for permission, Uncle Ivan." She smacked a kiss to his cheek. "I already knew it was okay."Then she turned and bounced out of the room just as quickly.

-Lora Leigh

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He slouches,' DeeDee contributes.'True--he needs to work on his posture,' Thelma says.'You guys,' I say.'I'm serious,' Thelma says. 'What if you get married? Don't you want to go to fancy dinners with him and be proud?''You guys. We are not getting married!''I love his eyes,' Jolene says. 'If your kids get his blue eyes and your dark hair--wouldn't that be fabulous?''The thing is,' Thelma says, 'and yes, I know, this is the tricky part--but I'm thinking Bliss has to actually talk to him. Am I right? Before they have their brood of brown-haired, blue-eyed children?'I swat her. "I'm not having Mitchell's children!''I'm sorry--what?' Thelma says.Jolene is shaking her head and pressing back laughter. Her expressing says, Shhh, you crazy girl!But I don't care. If they're going to embarrass me, then I'll embarrass them right back. 'I said'--I raise my voice--'I am not having Mitchell Truman's children!'Jolene turns beet red, and she and DeeDee dissolve into mad giggles.'Um, Bliss?' Thelma says. Her gaze travels upward to someone behind me. The way she sucks on her lip makes me nervous.'Okaaay, I think maybe I won't turn around,' I announce.A person of the male persuasion clears his throat.'Definitely not turning around,' I say. My cheeks are burning. It's freaky and alarming how much heat is radiating from one little me.'If you change your mind, we might be able to work something out,' the person of the male persuasion says.'About the children?' DeeDee asks. 'Or the turning around?''DeeDee!' Jolene says.'Both,' says the male-persuasion person.I shrink in my chair, but I raise my hand over my head and wave.'Um, hi,' I say to the person behind me whom I'm still not looking at. 'I'm Bliss.'Warm fingers clasp my own.'Pleased to meet you,' says the male-persuasion person. 'I'm Mitchell.''Hi, Mitchell.' I try to pull my hand from his grasp, but he won't let go. 'Um, bye now!'I tug harder. No luck. Thelma, DeeDee, and Jolene are close to peeing their pants.Fine. I twist around and give Mitchell the quickest of glances. His expressions is amused, and I grow even hotter.He squeezes my hand, then lets go. 'Just keep me in the loop if you do decide to bear my children. I'm happy to help out.' With that, he stride jauntily to the food line.Once he's gone, we lost it. Peals of laughter resound from our table, and the others in the cafeteria look at us funny. We laugh harder.'Did you see!' Thelma gasps. 'Did you see how proud he was?''You improve his posture!' Jolene says.'I'm so glad, since that was my deepest desire,' I say. 'Oh my God, I'm going to have to quit school and become a nun.''I can't believe you waved at him,' DeeDee says.'Your hand was like a little periscope,' Jolene says. 'Or, no--like a white surrender flag.''It was a surrender flag. I was surrendering myself to abject humiliation.''Oh, please,' Thelma says, pulling me into a sideways hug. 'Think of it this way: Now you've officially talked to him.

-Lauren Myracle

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The story was called 'Annika and the Bears.' The beginning of the story is really the end, and Annika is staring wide-eyed into new velvet-black darkness. The eyes she stares with were brown once, sparkling and the exact color of root beer, but are now an empty ice-blue, almost white. Annika is waiting for her body to grow warm so that she can fall asleep and, as she waits, she remembers life outside this darkness, remembers the world she loved and how it changed. Once, her home was called the Land of Spring and Fall because that's what it was, a place in which the seasons didn't turn in a circle, but moved like a seesaw, Fall becoming Spring becoming Fall becoming Spring. And there had been a moment every year when the seesaw hit a perfect balance. This was Annika's favorite time because blossoms burst from branches alongside red and gold leaves, crocuses opened between rows of corn, and baby animals were born under autumn skies. In the Land of Spring and Fall, it was never too cold or too hot to play outside; brooks never froze or dried up; leaves never fell from the trees; and people and animals never grew old or died. But when a witch appeared in the land, a witch who was furiously angry, but for no reason anyone could understand, and the witch cast a spell that plunged the land into a never-ending winter. In Winterland, terrible things began to happen. People and animals got sick, with wrenching coughs and burning fevers. Desperate for warmth, the people began to kill their friends the animals in order to wrap themselves in fur coats. Food became scarce, and everyone began to fight over what little there was. And strangest of all, one by one, every living, breathing creature in the land began to turn as white as chalk, as colorless as snow with no sun shining on it. One day, Annika sat at her window, looking sadly at the blank world, when she saw, trudging across the snow, her beloved friend John the bear and his family of bears. Some of the bears were white, some were a dull gray, but only John was still a rich chestnut brown. The bears walked with their immense heads hanging down and some of them cried, dropping tears onto the snow. Before they hit the ground, the tears turned to ice. Annika ran outside, calling John's name. He stopped and looked at her with his kind eyes and told her that they were going away, to a cave deep inside one of the high hills that surrounded Winterland. 'To sleep,' he said. 'To wait.' Annika threw her arms around John, buried her face in his beautiful fur, and then stood and watched as the procession of bears patiently resumed their long journey.That night, Annika woke up with a start. She sat up in bed and saw that the hair falling over her shoulders was as white as milk, and she ran to the mirror. As she stared at her reflection, the pink began draining from her cheeks. 'Oh no,' she whispered. 'It's happening. I'm turning into someone else. A winter girl.' In a flash, she had on her shoes and her thickest wool coat and was out the door. The trail of crystal tears the bears had left gleamed in what little moonlight could force its way through the clouds and, slogging through snow, cold eating into her bones, Annika followed the trail. When she got to the cave and moved away the rock that blocked the entrance, all the bears were asleep, except John. He rested his paw on the patch of soft dirt next to him. 'For you, dear heart,' he said sleepily. Then he moved the rock into place and lay back down. Annika curled up between John and another bear, listening to their slow breathing, readying herself for sleep. The bears' bodies warmed her own from the outside in. The last thing to get warm was her heart, and then Annika fell asleep.The story ends this way: 'Imagine the deepest sleep you've ever slept. Multiply its deepness by the number of stars in the sky and the number of fish in the sea. Then you will know the sleep of Annika and the bears.

-Marisa de

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If you'll kiss me back," he whispered huskily, brushing his lips along the curve of her jaw, "I'll make it sixmillion. If you'll go to bed with me tonight," he continued, losing himself in the scent of her perfume and the softness of her skin, "I'll give you the world. But if you'll move in with me," he continued, dragging his mouth across her cheek to the corner of her lips, "I'll do much better than that."Unable to turn her face farther because his arm was in the way, and unable to turn her body because his body was in the way, Meredith tried to infuse disdain in her voice and simultaneously ignore the arousing touch of his tongue against her ear. "Six million dollars and the whole world!" she said in a slightly shaky voice. "What else could you possibly give me if I move in with you?" "Paradise." Lifting his head, Matt took her chin between his thumb and forefinger and forced her to meethis gaze. In an aching, solemn voice he said, "I'll give you paradise on a gold platter. Anything you want— everything you want. I come with it, of course. It's a package deal." Meredith wallowed audibly, mesmerized by the melting look in his silver eyes and the rich timbre of his deep voice. "We'll be a family," he continued, describing the paradise he was offering while he bent his head to her again. "We'll have children ... I'd like six," he teased, his lips against her temple. "But I'll settle for one. You don't have to decide now." She drew in a ragged breath and Matt decided he'd pushed matters as far as he dared for one night. Straightening abruptly, he chucked her under her chin. "Think about it," he suggested with a grin.

-Judith McNaught

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Lea stood upon a fallen log ahead of us, staring ahead. Mouse walked up to her.Gggrrrr rawf arrrgggrrrrarrrr," I said.Mouse gave me an impatient glance, and somehow--I don't know if it was something in his body language or what--I became aware that he was telling me to sit down and shut up or he'd come over and make me.I sat down. Something in me really didn't like that idea, but when I looked around, I saw that everyone else had done it too, and that made me feel better.Mouse said, again in what sounded like perfectly clear English, "Funny. Now restore them."Lea turned to look at the big dog and said, "Do you dare to give me commands, hound?"Not your hound," Mouse said. I didn't know how he was doing it. His mouth wasn't moving or anything. "Restore them before I rip your ass off. Literally rip it off."The Leanansidhe tilted her head back and let out a low laugh. "You are far from your sources of power here, my dear demon."I live with a wizard. I cheat." He took a step toward her and his lips peeled up from his fangs in unmistakable hostility. "You want to restore them? Or do I kill you and get them back that way?"Lea narrowed her eyes. Then she said, "You're bluffing."One of the big dog's huge, clawed paws dug at the ground, as if bracing him for a leap, and his growl seemed to . . . I looked down and checked. It didn't seem to shake the ground. The ground was actually shaking for several feet in every direction of the dog. Motes of blue light began to fall from his jaws, thickly enough that it looked quite a bit like he was foaming at the mouth. "Try me."The Leanansidhe shook her head slowly. Then she said, "How did Dresden ever win you?"He didn't," Mouse said. "I won him.

-Jim Butcher

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Do you see that man in the black Porsche?" I asked the women.They squinted out at Ranger. "Yes," they said."Your partner.""He's homeless. He's looking for a place to stay and he might be interested in renting Singh's room."Mrs.Apusenja's eyes widened. "We could use the income."She looked at Nonnie and then back at Ranger. "Is he married?""Nope. He's single. He's a real catch."Connie did something between a gasp and a snort and buried her head back behind the computer. "Thank you for everything." Mrs.Apusenja said. "I suppose you are not such a bad slut. I will go talk to your partner.:"Omigod," Connie said, when the door closed behind the Apusenja's. "Ranger's going to kill you." The Apusenjas stood beside the Porsche, talkig to Ranger for a few long minutes, giving him the big sales pitch. The pitch wound down, Ranger responded, and Mrs. Apusenja looked disappointed. The two women crossed the road and got into the burgundy Escort and quickly drove away. Ranger turned his head in my direction and our eyes met. His expression was still bemused, but this time it was the sort of bemused expression a kid has when he's pulling the wings off a fly."Uh-Oh,"Connie said. I whipped around and faced Connie. "Quick, give me an FTA. You're backed up, right? For God's sake, give me something fast. I need a reason to stand here until he calms down!" Connie shoved a pile of folders at me. "Pick one. Any one! Oh shit, he's getting out of his car."....He leaned into me and his lips brushed the shell of my ear. "Feeling playful?""I don't know what you're talking about.""Watch your back babe. I will get even."-Ranger and Stephanie

-Janet Evanovich

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Elissa became aware that she had both hands held out in front of her, as if to push the sight away, as if to make it not real, not true, not THERE. She'd known they were doing something awful to Lin, to the others, but she'd never imagined something like this. Never imagined there were shutting them away in the dark, trapped and drowning, every moment waiting for the pain that would tear through them when the ship went into hyperspeed.A memory pierced her. "You said the others -other Spares- were taken away. It was this. It was for this." Lin's face turned to her, as pale as that of the dead Spare. In the dim room, her eyes were black hollows. Her jaw was slack with shock. "NO," said Cadan. "No. It cant be. This cant be what they-" He broke off. "Oh, G-d in heaven, hyperdrives last five to seven years."For a moment Elissa didn't pick up on what he meant. Then it hit her, a huge fist clenching her hers stomach. "SEVEN YEARS? That's how long he's been there?""No. Not this one. The PHOENIX is only two hears old. This one - somethings been malfunctioning all along. He must-" Cadan choked again. "Ah, G-d what have I been doing to him?""Two years." Elissa found her head turning back toward where the Spare floated, limp and helpless. Out there, in all the other spaceships, other Spares were floating in the same way, kept alive by tubes, kept - Oh G-d, were they conscious the whole time?As she looked, unable to turn away, other details revealed themselves, details she didn't want, things she didn't want to know could happen anywhere, EVER.

-Imogen Howson

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Miss Mapp moved towards the screen."What a delicious big screen," she said."Yes, but don't go behind it, Mapp," said Irene, "or you'll see my model undressing."Miss Mapp retreated from it precipitately, as from a wasp's nest, and examined some of the studies on the wall, for it was more than probable from the unfinished picture on the easel that Adam lurked behind the delicious screen. Terrible though it all was, she was conscious of an unbridled curiosity to know who Adam was. It was dreadful to think that there could be any man in Tilling so depraved as to stand to be looked at with so little on...Irene strolled round the walls with her."Studies of Lucy," she said."I see, dear," said Miss Mapp. "How clever! Legs and things! But when you have your bridge-party, won't you perhaps cover some of them up, or turn them to the wall? We should all be looking at your pictures instead of attending to our cards. And if you were thinking of asking the Padre, you know..."They were approaching the corner of the room where the screen stood, when a movement there as if Adam had hit it with his elbow made Miss Mapp turn round. The screen fell flat on the ground and within a yard of her stood Mr. Hopkins, the proprietor of the fish-shop just up the street. Often and often had Miss Mapp had pleasant little conversations with him, with a view to bringing down the price of flounders. He had little bathing-drawers on..."Hullo, Hopkins, are you ready," said Irene. "You know Miss Mapp, don't you?"Miss Mapp had not imagined that Time and Eternity combined could hold so embarrassing a moment. She did not know where to look, but wherever she looked, it should not be at Hopkins. But (wherever she looked) she could not be unaware that Hopkins raised his large bare arm and touched the place where his cap would have been, if he had had one."Good morning, Hopkins," she said. "Well, Irene darling, I must be trotting, and leave you to your--" she hardly knew what to call it--"to your work."She tripped from the room, which seemed to be entirely full of unclothed limbs, and redder than one of Mr. Hopkins's boiled lobsters hurried down the street. She felt that she could never face him again, but would be obliged to go to the establishment in the High Street where Irene dealt, when it was fish she wanted from a fish-shop... Her head was in a whirl at the brazenness of mankind, especially womankind. How had Irene started the overtures that led to this? Had she just said to Hopkins one morning: "Will you come to my studio and take off all your clothes?" If Irene had not been such a wonderful mimic, she would certainly have felt it her duty to go straight to the Padre, and, pulling down her veil, confide to him the whole sad story. But as that was out of the question, she went into Twemlow's and ordered four pounds of dried apricots.

-E.F. Benson

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My mother believed in God's will for many years. It was af if she had turned on a celestial faucet and goodness kept pouring out. She said it was faith that kept all these good things coming our way, only I thought she said "fate" because she couldn't pronounce the "th" sound in "faith". And later I discovered that maybe it was fate all along, that faith was just an illusion that somehow you're in control. I found out the most I could have was hope, and with that I wasn't denying any possibility, good or bad. I was just saying, If there is a choice, dear God or whatever you are, here's where the odds should be placed.I remember the day I started thinking this, it was such a revelation to me. It was the day my mother lost her faith in God. She found that things of unquestioned certainty could never be trusted again.We had gone to the beach, to a secluded spot south of the city near Devil's Slide. My father had read in Sunset magazine that this was a good place to catch ocean perch. And although my father was not a fisherman but a pharmacist's assistant who had once been a doctor in China, he believed in his nenkan, his ability to do anything he put his mind to. My mother believed she had nenkan to cook anything my father had a mind to catch. It was this belief in their nenkan that had brought my parents to America. It had enabled them to have seven children and buy a house in Sunset district with very little money. It had given them the confidence to believe their luck would never run out, that God was on their side, that house gods had only benevolent things to report and our ancestors were pleased, that lifetime warranties meant our lucky streak would never break, that all the elements were now in balance, the right amount of wind and water.

-Amy Tan

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What - what - what are you doing?" he demanded."I am almost six hundred years old," Magnus claimed, and Ragnor snorted, since Magnus changed his age to suit himself every few weeks. Magnus swept on. "It does seem about time to learn a musical instrument." He flourished his new prize, a little stringed instrument that looked like a cousin of the lute that the lute was embarrassed to be related to. "It's called a charango. I am planning to become a charanguista!""I wouldn't call that an instrument of music," Ragnor observed sourly. "An instrument of torture, perhaps."Magnus cradled the charango in his arms as if it were an easily offended baby. "It's a beautiful and very unique instrument! The sound box is made from an armadillo. Well, a dried armadillo shell.""That explains the sound you're making," said Ragnor. "Like a lost, hungry armadillo.""You are just jealous," Magnus remarked calmly. "Because you do not have the soul of a true artiste like myself.""Oh, I am positively green with envy," Ragnor snapped."Come now, Ragnor. That's not fair," said Magnus. "You know I love it when you make jokes about your complexion."Magnus refused to be affected by Ragnor's cruel judgments. He regarded his fellow warlock with a lofty stare of superb indifference, raised his charango, and began to play again his defiant, beautiful tune.They both heard the staccato thump of frantically running feet from within the house, the swish of skirts, and then Catarina came rushing out into the courtyard. Her white hair was falling loose about her shoulders, and her face was the picture of alarm."Magnus, Ragnor, I heard a cat making a most unearthly noise," she exclaimed. "From the sound of it, the poor creature must be direly sick. You have to help me find it!"Ragnor immediately collapsed with hysterical laughter on his windowsill. Magnus stared at Catarina for a moment, until he saw her lips twitch."You are conspiring against me and my art," he declared. "You are a pack of conspirators."He began to play again. Catarina stopped him by putting a hand on his arm."No, but seriously, Magnus," she said. "That noise is appalling."Magnus sighed. "Every warlock's a critic.""Why are you doing this?""I have already explained myself to Ragnor. I wish to become proficient with a musical instrument. I have decided to devote myself to the art of the charanguista, and I wish to hear no more petty objections.""If we are all making lists of things we wish to hear no more . . . ," Ragnor murmured.Catarina, however, was smiling."I see," she said."Madam, you do not see.""I do. I see it all most clearly," Catarina assured him. "What is her name?""I resent your implication," Magnus said. "There is no woman in the case. I am married to my music!""Oh, all right," Catarina said. "What's his name, then?"His name was Imasu Morales, and he was gorgeous.

-Cassandra Clare

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Eliot, huh?" she says. The thin fabric of her long T-shirt brushes my arm. "Is everyone in your family named for a famous symbolist poet?"No, I'm named for someone who was supposed to be in the Bible but isn't."No? What happened to him?"I glance over at her, the way the corner of her mouth turns up, half-smirk, half-smile. Her hair moves as she walks.He was called to be a disciple, but he had, you know, stuff to do."Stuff, like...polishing his sandals? Making lunch?"We keep walking, over the bridge across the lake, past the swings and the playground equipment, just walking.Exactly. And what about you, Calliope...is everyone in your family named after a...what is it? A keyboard? An organ?"It's a steam-powered piano. It's also the name of the Greek goddess of poetry. You should read stuff other than chemistry; you'd know these things." Her smirky smile again, her sleeve touching my arm.I feel like my skin has been removed, every nerve exposed. I open my mouth, and this comes out: "I think you are more goddess than piano." Stupid, stupid.But she laughs. "You know, that's the nicest thing anyone's said to me today."You don't see too many calliopes," I tell her.I'm Cal, actually. I mean, that's what I prefer."I meant the steam pianos...you don't see too many." She stops and looks at me, full-on, and right away I put it on the list of the best moments in my life.Until you said that, Eliot, I wasn't fully aware of the demise of the steam piano, so thank you. Really."I smirk at her and we both fight not to smile. "Okay, smart-ass," I say.

-Brad Barkley

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