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My stepfather was among the first to go. Days after he disappeared, we found his wig on the front porch. Whoever had taken him away had brought the wig back. There were things about him that weren't even worth throwing away. My mother lifted the wig gently, as if it were a hurt animal, and brought it inside. For years no one spoke of his disappearance, and the wig remained on a table in the front hall. Then one day the wig was gone, and my brother found a small headstone in the garden, near a patch of freshly turned soil. He brought me back to show me the grave, and when he pointed at the tiny, misshapen stone he said only, "Get used to this," before heading out to the barn where he made meatloaf for the soldiers.
We hardly noticed the first Food Ban. There was a piece on the news about a cabbage virus, and then the cabbage stand was gone from the market. We were secretly relieved about the cabbage-no need to think up new ways to fix that particular item. It went this way with the other foods, until only meat was safe. Some people on our street held a small protest at the market, but then they were gone as well. We knew that something was wrong, that something essential was being hoisted from our grasp, but at the same time, meat was the one food we really liked to eat. An all-meat diet was something we'd been unconsciously looking forward to, like the cooling storm that breaks a heat wave.
Meanwhile, there was a boy in our school who had been held back a year because he was slow. When the new Recruitment Initiative went into effect, he found he was too old to get a good job. He kept asking his parents to make him younger. Every time they told him no. "That is not the direction you were meant to grow," they said, but he found a way to grow down anyway. He found a way to shed his age by eating pebbles and soaking himself in heavy water. One day he saw the hair on his leg start to retreat. "Now we're getting somewhere," he thought.
He got a job right away, one of the best available. In a month he was second-in-command at Corporation Two. He bought a high-speed boat, a rare poisonous snake, two rocket launchers, and a magnificent house for his parents. Every night he ate dinner with them at a long wooden table, punctuating the deep silence only to ask mockingly if they would let him grow younger. They only bowed their heads, shamefully forking around massive helpings of beef on gilded plates.
Excerpted from Super Flat Times by Matthew Derby Copyright © 2003 by Matthew Derby
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
|The Sound Gun||15|
|The Boyish Mulatto||44|
|Joy of Eating||75|
|The Father Helmet||80|
|Crutches Used as Weapon||99|
|The End of Men||142|
|The Life Jacket||162|
Posted August 20, 2010
No text was provided for this review.