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“Logic dictates that writing should be a natural act, a function of a well-operating human body, along the lines of speaking and walking and breathing. We should be able to tap into the constant narrative flow our minds provide, the roaring river of words filling up our heads, and direct it out into a neat stream of organized thought so that other people can read it.

“But that’s right about there, right about when we sit down to write that story, that things fall apart. I’ve had people come up to me at book signings, in grocery stores, at every cocktail party I’ve ever attended, and tell me they have a brilliant idea for a book… I feel for these people, even as they’re assuming I’m not bright enough to realize where they’ve gotten stuck.

“If a person has never given writing a try, they assume that a brilliant idea is hard to come by. But really, even if it takes some digging, ideas are out there. Just open your eyes and look at the world. Writing the ideas down, it turns out, is the real trick.

“Living a life is not the same as writing a book, and it got me thinking about the relationship between what we know and what we can put on paper. For me, it’s like this: I make up a novel in my head. This is the happiest time in the arc of my writing process. The book is my invisible friend, omnipresent, evolving, thrilling. During the months (or years) it takes me to put my ideas together… I’m figuring things out, and all the while the book makes a breeze around my head like an oversized butterfly whose wings were cut from the rose window in Notre Dame. This book I have not yet written one word of is a thing of indescribable beauty, unpredictable in its patterns, piercing in its color, so wild and loyal in its nature that my love for this book, and my faith in it as I track its lazy flight, is the single perfect joy in my life. It is the greatest novel in the history of literature, and I have thought it up, and all I have to do is put it down on paper and then everyone can see this beauty that I see.

“And so I do. When I can’t think of another stall, when putting it off has actually become more painful than doing it, I reach up and pluck the butterfly from the air. I take it from teh region of my head and I press it down against my desk, and there, with my own hand, I kill it. It’s not that I want to kill it, but it’s the only way I can get something that is so three-dimensional onto the flat page… What I’m left with is the dry husk of my friend, the broken body chipped, dismantled, and poorly assembled. Dead. That’s my book.

“…The journey from the head to hand is perilous ad lined with bodies. It is the road on which nearly everyone who wants to write – and many people who do write – get lost… Only a few of us are going to be willing to break our own hearts by trading in the living beauty of imagination for the stark disappointment of words. This is why we type a line or two and then hit the delete button or crumple up the page. Certainly that was not what I meant to say! That does not represent what I see.

“It turns out that the distance from head to hand, from wafting butterfly to entomological specimen, is achieved through regular practice. What begins as something like a dream will in fact stay a dream forever unless you have the tools and the discipline to bring it out. Think of the diamonds, or, for that matter the ever-practical coal that must be chipped out of the mine. Had I wound up with a teacher who suggested we keep an ear cocked for the muse instead of hoisting a pick, I don’t think I would have gotten very far.

“Why is it that we understand playing the cello will require work, but we attribute writing to the magic of inspiration? Art stands on the shoulders of craft, which means that to get to the art you must master the craft. If you want to write, practice writing. Practice it for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish, but because you long to learn how to write well, because there is something you alone can say. Write the story, learn from it, put it away, write another story. Think of a sink pipe filled ith sticky sediment. The only way to get clean water is to force a small ocean through the tap. Most of us are full up with bad stories, boring stories, self-indulgent stories, searing works of unendurable melodrama. We must get all of them out of our system in order to find the good stories that may or may not exist in the freshwater underneath… I got better at closing the gap between my hand and my head by clocking in the hours, stacking up the pages. Somewhere in all my years of practice, I don’t know where exactly, I arrived at the art. I never learned how to take the beautiful thing in my imagination and put it on paper without feeling I killed it along the way. I did, however, learn how to weather the death, and I learned how to forgive myself for it.

“Forgiveness. The ability to forgive oneself. … it is the key to making art. Every time I have set out to translate the book that exists in such brilliant detail on the big screen of my limbic system onto a piece of paper (which, let’s face it, was once a towering tree crowned with leaves and a home to birds), I grieve for my own lack of talent and intelligence. Every. Single. Time. Were I smarter, more gifted, I could pin down a closer facsimile of the wonders I see. I believe, more than anything, that this grief of constantly having to face down our own inadequacies is what keeps people from being writers. Forgiveness, therefore, is key. I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing.

“Writer’s block is a topic of great discussion. I understand being stuck. It can take a very long time to figure something out, and sometimes, no matter how much time you put in, the problem cannot be solved. To put it another way, if it were a complicated math proof you were wrestling with, would you consider yourself ‘blocked’ if you couldn’t figure it out right away, or would you think that the proof was difficult and required more consideration? The many months (and sometimes years) I put into thinking about a novel before I start to write it saves me considerable time while I’m writing.

“Even if I don’t believe in writer’s block, I certainly believe in procrastination. Writing can be frustrating and demoralizing, and so it’s only natural that we try to put it off… I have a habit of ranking everything in my life that needs doing. The thing I least want to do is number one on the list, and that is almost always writing fiction. I will zoom through a whole host of unpleasant tasks in an attempt to avoid item number one – writing fiction. (I admit this is complicated, that I can simultaneously profess to love writing and to hate it…)

“The lesson is this: the more we are willing to separate from distraction and step into the open arms of boredom, the more writing will get on the page. If you want to write and can’t figure out how to do it, try picking an amount of time to sit at your desk every day. Start with twenty minutes, say, and work up as quickly as possible to as much time as you can spare. Do you really want to write? Sit for two hours a day. During that time, you don’t have to write, but you must stay at your desk without distraction: no phone, no Internet, no books. Sit still quietly. Do this for a week, for two weeks. Do not nap or check your e-mail. Keep on sitting for as long as you remain interested in writing. Sooner or later you will write because you will no longer be able to stand not writing, or you’ll get up and turn the television on because you will no longer be able to stand all the sitting. Either way, you’ll have your answer.

“I’ve spent long periods when I’ve written every day, though it’s nothing that I’m slavish about. In keeping with the theory that there are times to write and times to think and times to just live your life, I’ve gone months without writing and never missed it. One December my husband and I were having dinner with our friends Connie Heard and Edgar Meyer. I was complaining that I’d been traveling too much, giving too many talks, and that I wasn’t getting any writing done. Edgar, who is a double bass player, was singing a similar tune. He’d been on the road constantly and he was nowhere near finishing all the compositions he had due. But then he told me a trick: he had put a sign-in sheet at the door of his studio, and when he went in to compose he wrote down the time, and when he stopped composing he wrote down that time, too. He told me he had found that the more hours he spent composing, the more compositions he finished.

“Time applied equaled work completed. It’s possible to let the thinking about process become so overly analyzed that the obvious answer gets lost… Now when people tell me they’re desperate to write a book, I tell them about Edgar’s sign-in sheet. I tell them to give this great dream that is burning them down like a house fire one lousy hour a day for one measly month, and when they’ve done that – one month, every single day – to call me back and we’ll talk. They almost never call back. Do you want to do this thing? Sit down and do it. Are you not writing? Keep sitting there. Does it not feel right? Keep sitting there… Is there some shortcut? Not one I’ve found.”

– Ann Patchett, “The Getaway Car”

“Divorce, the writer said, had become too easy. Waltz in, waltz out.

“Waltz in, maybe. Make marriage harder if you want to. Outlaw those Vegas chapels with the neon wedding bells, require marriage applications modeled after tax forms, but leave divorce alone. To leave, you have to involve the courts. You have to sue the person you live with for your freedom. You have to disconnect your life from another life and face the sea alone.

“I do not believe that there were more happy marriages, before divorce became socially acceptable, that people tried harder, got through their rough times, and were better off. I believe that more people suffered.

“…if we fail at marriage, we are lucky we don’t have to fail with the force of our whole life… Forgiveness is important not so much because we’ve done wrong as because we feel we need to be forgiven. Family, friends, God, whoever loves us forgives us, takes us in again. They are thrilled by our life, our possibilities, our second chances. They weep with gladness that we did not have to die.”

– Ann Patchett, “The Sacrament of Divorce”

“My mother used to say the more lost you are, the later it got, the more you had invested in not being lost. That’s why people who are lost so often keep heading in the same direction.”

– Ann Patchett, “The Sacrament of Divorce”

“You can look to other people’s opinions to help you shape your thesis and to help you see other aspects of an idea you might not have considered. But whenever possible, you need to go to the primary source to make your decisions. Regardless of whether or not you’re a student, it is never enough to rely on other people’s ideas. You have to look at the thing itself and make up your own mind. That’s what it means to study and to learn. Some secondary sources proclaim their points of view so loudly and with such passion you might be tempted just to take their word for it. You might be tempted not to do work of checking for yourself. But there can be a fine line between obediance and laziness, and if you go through life dutifully taking other people’s word about what’s right, you are putting yourself in the position to be led down some very dark roads.”

– Ann Patchett, “The Right to Read”

“…she lived in a world with so many privileges that there was nothing to fight for.”

– Ann Patchett, Bel Canto

“Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience. Not everyone can be an artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see.”

– Ann Patchett, Bel Canto

“The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.”

— Samuel Beckett, Murphy

“I don’t think of myself at my core, as cynical. So much of it is location. Who is Muslim? WHo is a Catholic? Who is a Christian? Who’s Buddhist? Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of it is where you happen to be born. So how can one be right and another be wrong? It seems pretty clear to me that it’s a coping mechanism for people who cannot handle the not knowing of things. I am okay knowing I will never be able to comprehend the world.”

– Sarah Silverman

“Our world is mostly mapped, its common species mostly named. For a while, video games filled the gap, presenting new, uncharted virtual lands to satisfy players’ wanderlust…. Why do we explore? There’s the thrill of novelty, sure, but in some baser part of the brain, below the realm of language, the game demonstrates that we are also drawn to the promise of finding somewhere better.”

– Simon Parkin, “All Alone in No Man’s Sky

“If I’ve learned anything getting older, it’s the value of moment-to-moment enjoyment. When I was young, all my career was ‘If I do well tonight, that means that Wednesday will be better. That means I can give this tape to my agent and…’ It was this ongoing chess game. And that is a really disappointing game, because when you get to checkmate, it never feels like it should. And there’s another board that they never told you about.”

– Albert Brooks

“Harry Nilsson used to say the definition of an artist was someone who rode way ahead of the herd and was sort of the lookout. You don’t have to be that, to be an artist. You can be right smack-dab in the middle of the herd. If you are, you’ll be the richest.”

– Albert Brooks

“When you’re testing a movie, if it’s a comedy, you hear the laughs and you go, That scene works. But if it’s a sad scene and you’ve watched it two hundred times, it’s a little trickier to go, How did we do there? Did you feel something? I wish there was a noise for feeling. Then I could go, Okay, they made the weird noise.

– Judd Apatow

” ‘It won’t bring them back,’ Will said, ‘to merely complain.’

” ‘But it will,’ Gob said. ‘Don’t you understand? What’s grief if not a profound complaint? It’s what the engine will do; it will complain. It will greive with mechnical efficiency and mechanical strength. It will grieve for my brother and for your brother and for the six hundred thousand dead of the war. It will grieve for all the dead of history, and all the dead of the future. Man’s grief does nothing to bring them back, but just as man’s hands cannot move mountains, but man’s machines can, our machine will grieve away the boundaries between this world and the next. And then, sure as the rails run to California, the way will be open.’ ”

– Chris Adrian, Gob’s Grief

“I wondered if the American penchant for self-invention was somehow related to the seminal immigrant experience, in which one had to renounce the past, give up the old culture, language, history, religion, even one’s birth name, and replace the old self with American ideals, language, a new name and new ways.

“A major aim in writing Accordion Crimes was to show the powerful government and social pressures on foreigners that forced them into the so-called melting pot. The social pressures were enormous, and the cost of assimilation was staggering for the immigrants—their lives were often untimely truncated. They did not belong, they were ridiculed outsiders, they worked at the most miserable and dangerous jobs. They gave up personal identification and respect. The successes went to their children, the first generation of American-born. These American children commonly rejected the values, clothing, language, religion, food, music of their parents in their zeal to be 100 percent American.”

– Annie Proulx

“Metaphors — a complex subject. What is involved in constructing them seems not so much a matter of seeking similitude or trying for explanation or description as multilevel word and image play. Metaphors set up echoes and reflections, not only of tone and color but of meaning in the story. The use of running metaphors in a piece — all related in some way to indigestion or water or loneliness or roller skates, or with a surrealistic or violent cast — will guide the reader in a particular direction as surely as stock can be herded. For me, metaphors come in sheets of three or four at once, in floods, and so metaphor use often concerns selection rather than construction. There are private layers of meaning in metaphor that may be obscure to the reader but which have —beyond the general accepted meanings of the words — resonance for the writer through personal associations of language, ideas, impressions. So the writer may be using metaphor to guide the reader and deepen the story, for subtle effects but also for sheer personal pleasure in word play.

“I was very young, about three years old, when introduced to metaphor, and I remember the first sharp pleasure I felt in playing what seemed a kind of game. I was with my mother in the kitchen of our small house. Classical music came out of the radio. I was not consciously listening until my mother, who was a skilled watercolorist, said, ‘What does this music make you think about, what do you see?’ Immediately I translated the music I heard into an image. ‘A bishop running through the woods,’ I answered. I had no idea what a bishop was but liked the word for its conjunction of hiss and hiccup. What the music made me see in my mind’s eye was a tall, glassy, salt-cellar figure — the bishop — gliding through a dark forest dappled with round spots of light. The connections of perception between the sounds of the music and the image of trees / slipping figure / broken light had been made. Thereafter, and forever more, I found myself constantly involved in metaphoric observation.”

– Annie Proulx

“Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it is so hard.”

– David McCullough

“The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for (at some forty-five hundred heartbeats an hour). I know, however, of a young chronophobiac who experience something like panic when looking for the first time at homemade movies that had been taken a few weeks before his birth… What particularly frightened him was the sight of a brand-new baby carriage standing there on the porch, with the smug, encroaching air of a coffin; even that was empty, as if, in the reverse course of events, his very bones had disintegrated.

“Nature expects a full-grown man to accept the two black voids, fore and aft, as stolidly as he accepts the extraordinary visions in between. Imagination, the supreme delight of the immortal and the immature, should be limited. In order to enjoy life, we should not enjoy it too much…

“Over and over again, my mind has made colossal efforts to distinguish the faintest of personal glimmers in the impersonal darkness on both sides of my life. That this darkness is caused merely by the walls of time separating me and my bruised fists from the free world of timeless is a belief I gladly share with the most gaudily painted savage.”

– Nabokov, Speak, Memory

“The states when they black out and lie there rolling when they turn
To something transcontinental move by drawing moonlight out of the great
One-sided stone hung off the starboard wingtip some sleeper next to
An engine is groaning for coffee and there is faintly coming in
Somewhere the vast beast-whistle of space. In the galley with its racks
Of trays she rummages for a blanket and moves in her slim tailored
Uniform to pin it over the cry at the top of the door. As though she blew

The door down with a silent blast from her lungs frozen she is black
Out finding herself with the plane nowhere and her body taken by the throat
The undying cry of the void falling living beginning to be something
That no one has ever been and lived through screaming without enough air
Still neat lipsticked stockinged girdled by regulation her hat
Still on her arms and legs in no world and yet spaced also strangely
With utter placid rightness on thin air taking her time she holds it
In many places and now, still thousands of feet from her death she seems
To slow she develops interest she turns in her maneuverable body

To watch it. She is hung high up in the overwhelming middle of things in her
Self in low body-whistling wrapped intensely in all her dark dance-weight
Coming down from a marvellous leap with the delaying, dumfounding ease
Of a dream of being drawn like endless moonlight to the harvest soil
Of a central state of one’s country with a great gradual warmth coming
Over her floating finding more and more breath in what she has been using
For breath as the levels become more human seeing clouds placed honestly
Below her left and right riding slowly toward them she clasps it all
To her and can hang her hands and feet in it in peculiar ways and
Her eyes opened wide by wind, can open her mouth as wide wider and suck
All the heat from the cornfields can go down on her back with a feeling
Of stupendous pillows stacked under her and can turn turn as to someone
In bed smile, understood in darkness can go away slant slide
Off tumbling into the emblem of a bird with its wings half-spread
Or whirl madly on herself in endless gymnastics in the growing warmth
Of wheatfields rising toward the harvest moon. There is time to live
In superhuman health seeing mortal unreachable lights far down seeing
An ultimate highway with one late priceless car probing it arriving
In a square town and off her starboard arm the glitter of water catches
The moon by its one shaken side scaled, roaming silver My God it is good
And evil lying in one after another of all the positions for love
Making dancing sleeping and now cloud wisps at her no
Raincoat no matter all small towns brokenly brighter from inside
Cloud she walks over them like rain bursts out to behold a Greyhound
Bus shooting light through its sides it is the signal to go straight
Down like a glorious diver then feet first her skirt stripped beautifully
Up her face in fear-scented cloths her legs deliriously bare then
Arms out she slow-rolls over steadies out waits for something great
To take control of her trembles near feathers planes head-down
The quick movements of bird-necks turning her head gold eyes the insight-
eyesight of owls blazing into the hencoops a taste for chicken overwhelming
Her the long-range vision of hawks enlarging all human lights of cars
Freight trains looped bridges enlarging the moon racing slowly
Through all the curves of a river all the darks of the midwest blazing
From above. A rabbit in a bush turns white the smothering chickens
Huddle for over them there is still time for something to live
With the streaming half-idea of a long stoop a hurtling a fall
That is controlled that plummets as it wills turns gravity
Into a new condition, showing its other side like a moon shining
New Powers there is still time to live on a breath made of nothing
But the whole night time for her to remember to arrange her skirt
Like a diagram of a bat tightly it guides her she has this flying-skin
Made of garments and there are also those sky-divers on tv sailing
In sunlight smiling under their goggles swapping batons back and forth
And He who jumped without a chute and was handed one by a diving
Buddy. She looks for her grinning companion white teeth nowhere
She is screaming singing hymns her thin human wings spread out
From her neat shoulders the air beast-crooning to her warbling
And she can no longer behold the huge partial form of the world now
She is watching her country lose its evoked master shape watching it lose
And gain get back its houses and peoples watching it bring up
Its local lights single homes lamps on barn roofs if she fell
Into water she might live like a diver cleaving perfect plunge

Into another heavy silver unbreathable slowing saving
Element: there is water there is time to perfect all the fine
Points of diving feet together toes pointed hands shaped right
To insert her into water like a needle to come out healthily dripping
And be handed a Coca-Cola there they are there are the waters
Of life the moon packed and coiled in a reservoir so let me begin
To plane across the night air of Kansas opening my eyes superhumanly
Bright to the damned moon opening the natural wings of my jacket
By Don Loper moving like a hunting owl toward the glitter of water
One cannot just fall just tumble screaming all that time one must use
she is now through with all through all clouds damp hair
Straightened the last wisp of fog pulled apart on her face like wool revealing
New darks new progressions of headlights along dirt roads from chaos

And night a gradual warming a new-made, inevitable world of one’s own
Country a great stone of light in its waiting waters hold hold out
For water: who knows when what correct young woman must take up her body
And fly and head for the moon-crazed inner eye of midwest imprisoned
Water stored up for her for years the arms of her jacket slipping
Air up her sleeves to go all over her? What final things can be said
Of one who starts her sheerly in her body in the high middle of night
Air to track down water like a rabbit where it lies like life itself
Off to the right in Kansas? She goes toward the blazing-bare lake
Her skirts neat her hands and face warmed more and more by the air
Rising from pastures of beans and under her under chenille bedspreads
The farm girls are feeling the goddess in them struggle and rise brooding
On the scratch-shining posts of the bed dreaming of female signs
Of the moon male blood like iron of what is really said by the moan
Of airliners passing over them at dead of midwest midnight passing
Over brush fires burning out in silence on little hills and will wake
To see the woman they should be struggling on the rooftree to become
Stars: for her the ground is closer water is nearer she passes
It then banks turns her sleeves fluttering differently as she rolls
Out to face the east, where the sun shall come up from wheatfields she must
Do something with water fly to it fall in it drink it rise
From it but there is none left upon earth the clouds have drunk it back
The plants have sucked it down there are standing toward her only
The common fields of death she comes back from flying to falling
Returns to a powerful cry the silent scream with which she blew down
The coupled door of the airliner nearly nearly losing hold
Of what she has done remembers remembers the shape at the heart
Of cloud fashionably swirling remembers she still has time to die
Beyond explanation. Let her now take off her hat in summer air the contour
Of cornfields and have enough time to kick off her one remaining
Shoe with the toes of the other foot to unhook her stockings
With calm fingers, noting how fatally easy it is to undress in midair
Near death when the body will assume without effort any position
Except the one that will sustain it enable it to rise live
Not die nine farms hover close widen eight of them separate, leaving
One in the middle then the fields of that farm do the same there is no
Way to back off from her chosen ground but she sheds the jacket
With its silver sad impotent wings sheds the bat’s guiding tailpiece
Of her skirt the lightning-charged clinging of her blouse the intimate
Inner flying-garment of her slip in which she rides like the holy ghost
Of a virgin sheds the long windsocks of her stockings absurd
Brassiere then feels the girdle required by regulations squirming
Off her: no longer monobuttocked she feels the girdle flutter shake
In her hand and float upward her clothes rising off her ascending
Into cloud and fights away from her head the last sharp dangerous shoe
Like a dumb bird and now will drop in SOON now will drop

In like this the greatest thing that ever came to Kansas down from all
Heights all levels of American breath layered in the lungs from the frail
Chill of space to the loam where extinction slumbers in corn tassels thickly
And breathes like rich farmers counting: will come along them after
Her last superhuman act the last slow careful passing of her hands
All over her unharmed body desired by every sleeper in his dream:
Boys finding for the first time their loins filled with heart’s blood
Widowed farmers whose hands float under light covers to find themselves
Arisen at sunrise the splendid position of blood unearthly drawn
Toward clouds all feel something pass over them as she passes
Her palms over her long legs her small breasts and deeply between
Her thighs her hair shot loose from all pins streaming in the wind
Of her body let her come openly trying at the last second to land
On her back This is it THIS
All those who find her impressed
In the soft loam gone down driven well into the image of her body
The furrows for miles flowing in upon her where she lies very deep
In her mortal outline in the earth as it is in cloud can tell nothing
But that she is there inexplicable unquestionable and remember
That something broke in them as well and began to live and die more
When they walked for no reason into their fields to where the whole earth
Caught her interrupted her maiden flight told her how to lie she cannot
Turn go away cannot move cannot slide off it and assume another
Position no sky-diver with any grin could save her hold her in his arms
Plummet with her unfold above her his wedding silks she can no longer
Mark the rain with whirling women that take the place of a dead wife
Or the goddess in Norwegian farm girls or all the back-breaking whores
Of Wichita. All the known air above her is not giving up quite one
Breath it is all gone and yet not dead not anywhere else
Quite lying still in the field on her back sensing the smells
Of incessant growth try to lift her a little sight left in the corner
Of one eye fading seeing something wave lies believing
That she could have made it at the best part of her brief goddess
State to water gone in headfirst come out smiling invulnerable
Girl in a bathing-suit ad but she is lying like a sunbather at the last
Of moonlight half-buried in her impact on the earth not far
From a railroad trestle a water tank she could see if she could
Raise her head from her modest hole with her clothes beginning
To come down all over Kansas into bushes on the dewy sixth green
Of a golf course one shoe her girdle coming down fantastically
On a clothesline, where it belongs her blouse on a lightning rod:

Lies in the fields in this field on her broken back as though on
A cloud she cannot drop through while farmers sleepwalk without
Their women from houses a walk like falling toward the far waters
Of life in moonlight toward the dreamed eternal meaning of their farms
Toward the flowering of the harvest in their hands that tragic cost
Feels herself go go toward go outward breathes at last fully
Not and tries less once tries tries ah, GOD—”

– James L. Dickey, “Falling”

“The first two rooms she looked in were empty. But in the room called Sage she found all three anorexics gathered together vomiting in the moonlight. Their families were all gone; none of them had been the sort to get many visitors, especially during bad weather. They had only each other and Thelma, whose great wonderful fatness they could look at no longer than they could stare into the sun. They restricted more and more, and as the weeks passed began to binge, something all three, high, pure anorexics, who had defeatedt their bodies by becoming creatures of pure will, would have disdained in the dry world…

“By the time Jemma visited them they had made themselves ghastly-beautiful. From the door she saw them gathered under the window, around a plastic tub that stored toys by the bushel in the playrooms. They held hands and brusehd up against one another languidly, arching their necks and throwing back their heads to swallow their fingers before adding another unit of barf to the big bucket. They were surrounded by the remains of their feast, vanilla-ice-cream puddles glowing in glass dishes shaped like leaves; candy-bar wrappers in neat heaps; chicken skin and chicken fat glistening in patches aorund them in a circle, and bones under their feet. Jemma trod on two large cupcakes as she approached them, her green hands clasped behind her back. They did not notice her until she ws quite close. their pajamas, altered, short, hanging dresses of sage, pumpkin, and ocher, and their hair, brittle but long and styled with particular care into identical sets of heaped and cascading curls, their dramatic poses, their bare feet among bones, their long, sharp nails, and finally their number all gave them an ancient Greek air; though they were exquisitely frail, and close to dying, they seemed as powerful as they were pathetic, three purgies discharging their eternal duty. Jemma, nearly upon them, felt a little afraid, but still laughed out loud. They all turned at once, and spoke from left to right.

” ‘It’s a stomach flu,’ said the first one, defiantly. ‘Who are you?’ asked the second, more meek. The third, finger in mouth, merely stared.

” ‘I am the great fatty,’ Jemma announced, then brought her hands forward, and struck. Green fire spilled into the air as she grabbed at them. They all shrieked identically, and tried to escape, but she was too close for them to eavde her, and they were too weak to break away. They were so thin she could hold all of them in her arms. In three blows she made them right, all four of them burning together. First she restored their organs, heart and lungs and guts ruined with months of self-consumption; no sooner had she wanted it done than it was done, the three girly shrieks climbing into song as Jemma pushed with her mind and her spirit. Then she restored their flesh. She filled them with fire that burned for an instant and was gone, leaving muscle and fat in its place; they popped out of her arms, but remained bound to her by fire. Lastly she restored their minds – already they felt covered with abomination. She weeded their brains, reaching in with fire fingers to rip out that perception; right or wrong, truth or distortion, it was hers to command, and must come out with her, and when she commanded it to scatter on the dark air it must do it.

“When she released them they threw up their arms, as if in praise or surrender, and then fell to the ground, strong bones cushioned by newly upholstered fat. She left them sleeping beside the vomit tub, scattering candy wrappers back and forth between them with their breath. She wiped her feet and moved on.”

– Chris Adrian, The Children’s Hospital

“I see him, too. Oh yes, hello little thing. It wasn’t really so long ago when there seemed to me no greater disaster than a baby in the womb, a seed of corruption and an innocent who would be abused even by the very air of his first breath. Go back! Undivide, involute, and shrink back to safety… Still, I listen, and speak. Hello, little one. Let me be the one to tell you it is finally good news again, to be born.”

– Chris Adrian, The Children’s Hospital