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playground in a wheelchair, her face pale white with deep pink and purple under the eyes, streaked with make-up and tears, and someone whispers something about her finding her daughterís dead body raped and tossed in a dumpster outside their apartment building. Yeah, she carried her the whole way here, screaming up and down the streets like a mute who canít get the words out until someone picked her up in a car. Yeah, sheís been a trooper, get her a warm glass of milk.

These people would come in, and it was my momís job to quiet them down, to hug them, to whisper in their ears ĎI know, baby, I knowí, and to get them tea or apple juice.

One day my mom had brought me to work with her, and I was tossing plastic figurines at chairs, a half-empty plastic cup of grape juice sitting on the floor beside me, and all the sudden the double doors to my motherís ward flew open. A nurse was holding a screaming boy with long brown hair, and two attendants dressed in white sheets were following behind her. She was pulling him in by the arms, and the boy sounded like an animal that had just gotten a limb blown off and was giving the hunter some last mewling screeches so that it could be located and put out of itís misery. The boyís brown eyes were wild, tearing over, darting this way and that and on occasion rolling up into his head.

The attendants walked past the struggling boy/nurse combo, and they leaned in to talk to my mother, next to her ear. Whispers: this little guyís brother just walked into his high school this morning and he opened fire. Semiautomatic, he had bombs, home made, we donít know, no one knew. He just walked in to the bus lobby, fired off a few rounds, then he went next door to the middle school, he walked into this little guyís class right here and he killed the teacher then blew his own brains out all over the blackboard. We found this little guy, his brother here, he wouldnít let go of the gun or the body, you know, his brotherís body just sitting there bleeding everywhere, no damn face, a big mess, really sad. Yeah, theyíre brothers, we donít know why the older one did it this way. We didnít know what to do with this younger one so we brought him to you, his motherís being treated for shock, no one saw this coming, his father, his fatherís at work and no he didnít say anything, just letís get the kid to lay down and take some Asprin and for the love of all thatís decent get this boy some apple juice.

I looked up from my toys, and the kid, the screaming one with the long brown hair, he stopped screaming when he saw me, almost too suddenly. His face changed when he saw me sitting there on the floor, Optimus Prime dangling from one hand and Skeletor hanging from the other, like a person stuck in a foreign country looks at someone who just shouted something at him in his native tongue. He looked over at me and said, I remember the words because of the clarity of his voice, unobstructed by mucus or any other substance you might associate with a screaming child, ďMy brother blew off his own face. I cried, and I was lying there next to him for as long as they let me, and already I canít remember what he looks like. I remember a big bowl of torn up meat with bones in it for his face.Ē

He looked at me, biting his lower lip, then he looked down at his feet. He was looking at the tiles on the floor, tracing light gray and dark white boundaries with his eyes, and for the first time, some emotion other than free-range screams quivered in his voice.


 
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