Games went on around him

I’m going to have to start rationing — I’m already about a third of the way through Jim Shepard’s excellent collection of short stories, Love and Hydrogen. Last night in bed I read the deceptively simple and haunting Glut Your Soul on My Accursed Ugliness. It grabbed me by the throat right from the start:

Anson started signing his seventh-grade worksheets “The Fist” because of his ugliness. Mrs. Ackley asked him what was up. She recognized his handwriting.

“Is this a joke?” she asked from her desk. She graded the math worksheets while the class worked on social studies.

“The joke’s my face,” Anson answered.

It got a laugh. Still, his classmates were wary.

“Who’s ‘The Fist’?” she asked them. She was always complaining about never recognizing the newest trend. “A superhero?”

The class looked at her.

The kids who owned recess misunderstood. They thought she’d caught him bragging. One kid kicked him in the tailbone. “Hey, I’m ‘The Foot,'” the kid said.

Anson walked around crying and holding his butt. The nicer kids seemed to think that what was going on was sad. A girl he liked looked mystified. Games went on around him.


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