Chapter 9: Second Prize, Two Weeks in Philadelphia

The child looked up at her mother, and her grandmother stood further still behind. All three shared hair of the deepest black but few other things connected them, save for their mien of iron and blood. They were brutal women and heartless. And yet I saw on the girl’s cheek a single tear trailing down, a trace of salt, regret for what she had to do, for she would taste mortality but know all along that it was temporary.

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Case Files 2: Giants, Ogres, and the King and Queen of Binghamton’s Summer Court.


Height is power. Height is attractiveness. If you’re a man, anyway; A tall woman is attractive only to a certain subset of men. But regardless, being tall is almost always a great advantage. It shows you’ve had proper nutrition, it gives you greater leverage and ability to intimidate, it forces others to look up to you. Height has always been an advantage. Therefore, there have always been short people who resented the tall for their vast prowess and advantages. (Li Fang Fen: Alright, I can take a hint, I just said that the heels seemed like overkill. You don’t have to get defensive about it.)

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Chapter 7: I played a wall once. They’re relentless.

The lights were still on when I returned home, past ten. I wished Polly and Alfred a peaceful night together, and opened the door. Sitting in the living room, I saw Jack sitting on the chair, curled up, her arms around her legs, face buried between her knees. She appeared to be sleeping, and the pose almost made me wonder if she’d been waiting up for me. I considered, for a moment, picking her up and carrying her down to the bed. I decided to think better of it, less out of fear of her stabbing me in surprise, and more because I thought it would just weird her out. Instead, I lifted a blanket from the couch and draped it over her, and turned off the light, walking towards the kitchen to see if there was any pizza left in the fridge.

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Paradise by the Dashboard Lights Chapter 4: Red Zeppelin

Morning came. The upside of it was that the sunlight was lessened down in the basement. I rubbed at the side of my head, feeling the incipient headache. I reached out before remembering I hadn’t poured out a bottle of water for myself the night before. I despaired momentarily until my eyes focused enough to find that there was, indeed, a large jug by the bed. I grabbed it gratefully, drank, guzzled the better part of a gallon. I let out a sigh of deep and abiding relief, and leaned back in the downstairs bed.

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Chapter 5: Hey, Pal, Why The Long Face?

Sad things are sadder when contrasted with happy things. This is probably a self-evident statement, but it hits me hard, from time to time. I remembered- of all things- a political comic about an exiled African prince, who was forced to stay at a McDonald’s while dealing with the loss of his family’s kingdom. The comic, of a well-dressed young man holding a burger, with an expression of soft despair on his face, stuck with me. The fast food restaurant seemed to add to the deep poignancy. The absurdity of the contrast heightened the tragedy.

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Paradise by the Dashboard Lights Chapter 2: Jumping Jack Knife

I woke up to the sound of a crashing platter. I sat up immediately, and was upstairs in a few seconds. A petite Asian woman with messy red hair stood across from Roy, holding up a frying pan in a threatening manner. Roy had both hands up, expression innocent and nervous. A metal platter had fallen to the ground between the two of them, and was still rolling.

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Paradise by the Dashboard Lights Chapter 1: Feckless Eric

The stories that stand out to people tend to be the ones that are full of twists, turns, death, and pain. When you read a novel, it’s easy to start seeing a character’s life as one long, unending ride of pain, horror, and knowledge-steeped monologue. But life is more complicated than that. Life is full of interminable stretches of just getting by. Talking just to talk, boring walks, mindless activities, cases that don’t have any huge significance. Not every case I take ends with me getting threatened with a brutal and sudden death.

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