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Oh, hello," Dr. M says, shaking Balder's hand. "Wonderful costume. I'm a bit of a role player myself on the weekends. Tell me, where did you get the helmet?" It was forged in the North, blessed by the hands of Odin, given to me by my mother, Frigg," Balder answers. Lovely. I got mine on the Internet.
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Heaven's brightest and best-loved angel, who was cast out for inspiring a rebellion against God. Having lost Heaven, Lucifer and his rebel angels vowed to continue fighting here on earth." "I don't understand why he had to fight. He was already in heaven." "True. But he wasn't content to serve. He wanted more." "He had all he could ask for, didn't he?" Ann asks. "Exactly." Miss Moore states. "He had to ask. He was dependent upon someone else's whim. It's a terrible thing to have no power of one's own. To be denied.
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Evie hadn't always felt that way. For a year after James had died, she'd cupped his half-dollar pendant between her pressed palms and prayed fervently for a miracle, for a telegram that would say GOOD NEWS! IT WAS A TERRIBLE MISTAKE, AND PRIVATE JAMES XAVIER O'NEILL HAS BEEN FOUND, SAFE, IN A FARMHOUSE IN FRANCE. But no such telegram ever arrived, and whatever possible faith might have bloomed in Evie withered and died. Now she saw it as just another advertisement for a life that belonged to a previous generation and held no meaning for hers.
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The ladies pass the timee with gossip and hearsay. This is what they have in place of freedom- gime and gossip. Their lives are small and careful. I do not wish to live this way. I should like to make my mark. To venture opinions that may not be polite or even correct but are mine nonetheless. If I am to be hanged for anything, I should like to feel that I go to the gallows on my own strength.
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What frightens you? What makes the hair on your arms rise, your palms sweat, the breath catch in your chest like a wild thing caged? Is it the dark? A fleeting memory of a bedtime story, ghosts and goblins and witches hiding in the shadows? Is it the way the wind picks up just before a storm, the hint of wet in the air that makes you want to scurry home to the safety of your fire? Or is it something deeper, something much more frightening, a monster deep inside that you've glimpsed only in pieces, the vast unknown of your own soul where secrets gather with a terrible power, the dark inside?
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My platform's called Don't Even Think About It. I go to schools and I say, 'Whatever bad thing it is you're thinking of doing, don't even think about it. 'Cause I can see into your soul, and I will hide in your closet and come for you in the night, and the last sound you ever hear will be my sharp teeth popping through the flesh of my gums, ready to eat you.' Their eyes get all big. It's awesome. I love little kids, man. They're the cutest
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In our travels, we have come across many equations--math for understanding the universe, for making music, for mapping stars, and also for tipping, which is important. Here is our favorite equation: Us plus Them equals All of Us. It is very simple math. Try it sometime. You probably won't even need a pencil.
It's strange how deliberate people are after a death. All the indecision suddenly vanishes into clear, defined moments - changing the linens, choosing a dress or a hymn, the washing up, the muttering of prayers. All the small, simple, conscious acts of living a sudden defense against the dying we do every day.
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The glow dies down, and she's standing at the end of my bed-the one who's been following me around leaving feather messages. I take in the torn fishnets, plaid mini-kilt, shiny, riveted breastplate with leather straps at the sides and a worn Great Temolo decal near the left shoulder. Her wings are a crazy black-and-white-checkered pattern, like they've been spray-painted at a body shop to look like hipster sneakers.
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God doesn't like lesbians, " Grandma Huberman hised, throwing the magazine in the trash. Jennifer knew what lesbian meant, and she knew she probably was one. But she couldn't understand why God would hold that against her or against Monica Mathers, who'd never started a war or killed anybody, and whose deadeye three-pointers were straight-up amazing. After all, hadn't God made both of them? But people were like that, she'd noticed. They'd invoke Godly privilege at the weirdest of times and for the most stupid reasons.
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I know you adore Father, but he isn't the white knight you imagine him to be. He never was. True, he's charming and loving in his way. But he's selfish. He's a limited man determined to bring about his own end-" "But-" Tom grabs both my hands in his and gives them a small squeeze. "Gemma, you can't save him. Why can't you accept that?" I see my reflection on the surface of the Thames. My face is a watery outline, all blurred edges with nothing settled. "Because if I let go of that" - I swallow hard, once, twice - "then I have to accept that I am alone." The ship's horn howls again as it slips out toward sea. Tom's reflection appears beside mine, just as uncertain. "We're every one of us alone in this world, Gemma." He doesn't say it bitterly. "But you have company, if you want.
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And now if you'll excuse me, I should like to finish my book, alone, without the presence of a single ringleted girl to disrupt me. If you should come for me at dinner and find me in my chair, gone to the angels at last, you shall know that I died alone, which is to say in a state of utter bliss.
I'm not that kind of Indian, ' Shanti said, her practiced smile never leaving her face, though it faltered just a bit, and in that slight wobble was something hard and angry, something that looked like centuries of colonial oppression boiling up into an I'm-going-to-kick-your-ass-in-this-pageant-and-then-take-over-all-your-beauty-out-sourcing-needs hatred.
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Fate determines your caste. You must accept it and live according to the rules." You can't really believe that!" I do believe it. That man's misfortune is that he cannot accept his caste, his fate." I know that the Indians wear their caste as a mark upon their foreheads for all to see. I know that in England, we have our own unacknowledged caste system. A laborer will never hold a seat in Parliament. Neither will a woman. I don't think I've ever questioned such things until this moment. But what about will and desire? What if someone wants to change things." Kartik keeps his eyes on the room "You cannot change your caste. You cannot go against fate." That means there is no hope of a better life. It is a trap." That is how you see it, " he says softly. What do you mean?" It can be a relief to follow the path that has been laid oud for you, to know your course and play your part in it." But how can you be sure that you are following the right course? What if there is no such thing as destiny, only choice?" Then I do not choose to live without destiny, " he says with a slight smile.
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What about you and me, Adina?' Duff said, sidling up to her by the railing. 'I know I screwed up. But do you think we could start over?' Adina thought about everything that had happened. Part of her wanted to kiss Duff McAvoy, the tortured British trust-fund-runaway-turned-pirate-of-necessity who loved rock 'n' roll and mouthy-but-vulnerable bass-playing girls from New Hampshire. But he didn't exist. Not really. He was a creature of TV and her imagination, a guy she'd invented as much as he'd invented himself. And this was what she suddenly understood about her mother: how with each man, each husband, she was really trying to fill in the sketchy parts of herself and become somebody she could finally love. It was hard to live in the messiness and easier to believe in the dream. And in that moment, Adina knew she was not her mother after all. She would make mistakes, but they wouldn't be the same mistakes. Starting now. 'Sorry, ' she said, heading for the bow, where a spot of sun looked inviting. 'Oh, also, about that blog? Just so you know, my dads know a lot of gay lawyers. Bitches will take your ass down if you try to publish that. Peace out.
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Maybe there's a heaven, like they say, a place where everything we've ever done is noted and recorded, weighed on big karma scales. Maybe not. Maybe this whole thing is just a giant experiment run by aliens who find out human hijinks amusing. Or maybe we're an abandoned project started by a deity who checked out a long time ago, but we're still hard-wired to believe, to try to make meaning out of the seemingly random. Maybe we're all part of the same unconscious stew, dreaming the same dreams, hoping the same hopes, needing the same connection, trying to find it, missing, trying again-each of us playing our parts in the other's plotlines, just one big ball of human yarn tangled up together. Maybe this is it.
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We're all strangers connected by what we reveal, what we share, what we take away-our stories. I guess that's what I love about books-they are thin strands of humanity that tether us to one another for a small bit of time, that make us feel less alone or even more comfortable with our aloneness, if need be.
One day, as Sarita tended to the wash, Gemma played in the garden. She was a knight, you see, with a sword fashioned out of wood. Most formidable, she was, though I didn't quite know how formidable. As I sat in my study, I heard screaming from outside. I ran to see what the commotion was. Sarita called to me, wide-eyed with fear, "Oh, Mr. Doyle, look- over there!" The tiger had entered the garden and was making his way toward where our Gemma frolicked with her wooden sword. Beside me, our house servant, Raj, drew his blade so stealthily it seemed to simply appear in his hand by magic. But Sarita stayed his hand. "If you run for him with your life, you will provoke the tiger, " she advised. "We must wait."... I must tell you that it was the longest moment of my life. No one dared move. No one dared draw a breath. And all the while, Gemma played on, taking no notice until the great cat was upon her. She stood and faced him. They stared at one another as if each wondered what to make of the other, as if they sensed a kindred spirit. At last, Gemma placed her sword upon the ground. "Dear tiger, " she said. "You may pass if you are peaceful." The tiger looked at the sword and back at Gemma, and without a sound, it passed on, dissappearing into the jungle."... "The tiger had gone. He did not come around a gain. But I was a man possessed. The tiger had come too close, you see. I no longer felt safe. I hired the best tracker in Bombay. We hunted for days, tracking the tiger to the mountains there. We found him taking water from a small watering hole. He looked up but he did not charge. He took no notice of us at all but continued to drink. "Sahib, let us go, " the boy said. "This tiger means you no harm." He was right, of course. But we had come all that way. The gun was in my hand. The tiger was before us. I took aim and shot it dead on the spot. I sold the tiger's skin for a fortune to a man in Bombay, and he called me brave for it. But it was not courage that brought me to that; it was fear... "But you, " he says, smiling with a mix of sadness and pride, "you faced the tiger and survived."... "The time has come for me to face my tiger, to look him in the eye and see which of us survives." - Mr. Doyle
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Agent Jones switched to the big screen and a grainy video of MoMo sitting at his enormous desk, a swivel-hipped Elvis clock ticking behind his bewigged head. 'Death to the capitalist pigs! Death to your cinnamon bun-smelling malls! Death to your power walking and automatic car windows and I'm With Stupid T-shirts! The Republic of ChaCha will never bend to your side-of-fries -drive -through-please-oh-would-you-like-ketchup-with-that corruption! MoMo B. ChaCha defies you and all you stand for, and one day, you will crumble into the sea and we will pick up the pieces and make them into sand art.
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What Hamlet suffers from is a lack of zombies. Let us say Rosencrantz and Guildenstern show up-Ho-HO! Now you've got something that stirs the, um, something that stirs things that are stirrable. BOOM! A pack of ravenous flesh-eaters breaks open their heads and sucks out their eyeballs. No need for iambic pentameter because they are grunting, groaning annihilators of humanity with no time for meter. You're not asleep in the back of English class anymore, are you? This is what I'm talking about. Zombies. Learn it, live it, love it.
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No one asks how or what I am doing. They could not care less. We're all looking glasses, we girls, existing only to reflect their images back to them as they'd like to be seen. Hollow vessels of girls to be rinsed of our own ambitions, wants, and opinions, just waiting to be filled with the cool, tepid water of gracious compliance. A fissure forms in the vessel. I'm cracking open.
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Miss New Mexico stared, dumbfounded. "Stand out? Stand out? I have a freaking tray stuck in my forehead!" She broke into fresh sobs. Taylor clapped for attention. "Miss New Mexico, let's not get all down in the bummer basement where the creepy things live. There are people in heathen China who don't even have airline trays. We have a lot to be grateful for.
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Every city is a ghost. New buildings rise upon the bones of the old so that each shiny steel bean, each tower of brick carries within it the memories of what has gone before, an architectural haunting. Sometimes you can catch a glimpse of these former incarnations in the awkward angle of a street or filigreed gate, an old oak door peeking out from a new facade, the plaque commemorating the spot that was once a battleground, which became a saloon and is now a park.
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The wind swoops over the tenements on Orchard Street, where some of those starry-eyed dreams have died and yet other dreams are being born into squalor and poverty, an uphill climb. It gives a slap to the laundry stretched on lines between tenements, over dirty, broken streets where, even at this hour, hungry children scour the bins for food. The wind has existed forever. It has seen much in this country of dreams and soap ads, old horrors and bloodshed. It has played mute witness to its burning witches, and has walked along a Trail of Tears; it has seen the slave ships release their human cargo, blinking and afraid, into the ports, their only possession a grief they can never lose.
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You don't know me, dude, " he says, not smiling this time. Gonzo examines his cards, prepping for his next move. "People always think that they know other people, but they don't. Not really. I mean, maybe they know things about them, like they won't eat doughnuts or they like action movies or whatever. But they don't know what their friends do in their rooms alone at night or what happened to them when they were kids or if they feel ed up for no reason at all.
I've been thinking about that book about the boys who crash on the island... Lord of the Flies what about it... You know how you said it wasn't a true measure of humanity since there were no girls and you wondered how it would be different if there had been girls... Maybe girls need an island to find themselves. Maybe they need a place where no one's watching them so they can be who they really are.
I know it. I know I shall make beastly mistakes, Father-" "The world does not forgive mistakes so quickly, my girl." He sounds bitter and sad. "If the world will not forgive me, " I say softly, "I shall have to learn to forgive myself." He nods in understanding. "And how will you marry? Or do you intend to marry?" I think of Kartik, and tears threaten. "I shall meet someone one day, as Mother found you.
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Forgiveness. The frail beauty of the world takes root in me as I make my way back through the woods, past the caves and the ravine, where the earth has accepted the flesh of the deer, leaving nothing but a bone or two, peeking above Kartik's makeshift grave, to prove that any of this ever happened. Soon, they'll be gone too. But forgiveness... I'll hold on to that fragile slice of hope and keep it close remembering that in each of us lie good and bad, light and dark, art and pain, choice and regret. cruelty and sacrifice. We're each of us our own chiaroscuro, our own bit of illusion fighting to emerge into something solid, something real. We've got to forgive ourselves that. I must remember to forgive myself. Because there's an awful lot of gray to work with. No one can live in the light all the time.
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You and I, we must carry on, Gemma. I cannot afford the luxury of love. I must marry well. And now I must look after you. It is my duty." "If you wish to suffer, you do so of your own free will, not on my behalf. Or Father's or Grandmama's or anyone's. You are a fine physician, Thomas. Why is that not enough?" "Because it isn't, " he says with a rare candor. "Only this and the hope of nothing more? A quiet respectability with no true greatness or heroism in it, with only my reputation to recommend me. So you see, Gemma, you are not the only one who cannot rule her own life.
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There is much asked and only so much I think I can or should answer, and so, in this post I would like to give a few thoughts on what seemed to be the overwhelming question: 'WHY?' And here is the best answer I can give: Because. Because sometimes, life is damned unfair. Because sometimes, we lose people we love and it hurts deeply. Because sometimes, as the writer, you have to put your characters in harm's way and be willing to go there if it is the right thing for your book, even if it grieves you to do it. Because sometimes there aren't really answers to our questions except for what we discover, the meaning we assign them over time. Because acceptance is yet another of life's 'here's a side of hurt' lessons and it is never truly acceptance unless it has cost us something to arrive there. Why, you ask? Because, I answer. Inadequate yet true.
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I don't know why I feel so wounded with Kartik's obvious infatuation with Pippa. There's no romance between us. There's nothing that tethers us but this dark secret neither of us wants. It's not Kartik's longing that hurts. It's my own. It's knowing that I'll never have what she has-a beauty so powerful it brings things to you. I fear I will always have to chase things I want. I'll always have to wonder whether I'm truly wanted or whether I've just been settled for.