Literary Mary by Christopher K. Miller

In this masterpiece by Christopher K. Miller, albino high schooler Joe is inexperienced with girls, until Mary joins his class and expands his horizons in ways he could never have expected.

Let me begin in a glad place, long ago. In my dad's little Pinto. Mary and I, parked in Jackson's woods. We hadn't kissed yet. In fact, I'd never kissed a girl. But Mary'd pushed my left hand up under her blouse and positioned it on her right breast, which I knew from a library book was made up of lobules, ducts, fat and connective tissue, but which hadn't prepared me for the trembling sensuality and warmth of her, or the way she sighed when I squeezed. That breast was my world. If someone'd stopped me and asked me right then how big it was, I'd've said about the size of a basketball. And if they'd asked me to describe that nipple swelling and tautening between my thumb and forefinger, I'd've said easily as big as a plum, but dimpled like an orange - almost as firm too. After a while, Mary took my other hand and put it on her other one, let me feel the difference I'd made.

Mary wasn't like the other girls at school. And not just because she was the only one who ever let me touch her. For one thing, she had the blackest skin I'd ever seen. Even the colored students called her "midnight" to her face and "hoodoo" behind her back. Because my own skin is creepily and unnaturally pale, I was in complete and utter thrall of her.

I'm thin-lipped, have a mouth like a scar. Mary's lips were full. As she brought them toward mine, they filled my corrected field of vision. "Mmmm," she said, "don't you stop now." Which, thinking back, was probably unnecessary. My hands were stuck to her like leeches on a turtle. She would've had to slap them off, maybe even burn them off.

Then she was kissing me. Because I'd only ever kissed my mom, three aunts and two grandmas, I had my mouth puckered up like a chicken's butt after it's laid an egg. She began to pry my lips apart with her tongue.

Mary'd been adopted by the Reverend Jim Pooley and his wife when they were doing missionary work over in Africa. Because the Pooleys were childless, Mrs. Pooley being confined to a wheelchair, I figured maybe they thought, in addition to doing a Christian service, it'd be useful to have an able young body around. But that was just my own speculation. All we were told in assembly was that a girl from Igboland which is somewhere in Nigeria'd be attending our school, that her ways might be a little different from ours, and that we were to make her feel welcome. There, parked in Jackson's woods in my dad's little Pinto, kneading those gorgeous breasts and kissing her, I felt I was doing an admirable job.

Once she'd worried her tongue into my mouth, she used it to pull mine into hers. So it was like we were sharing this great big huge one that just kept winding around like the colors on a barber pole. It was hard to concentrate on everything at once, so she laid her hands over mine and helped me. Sometimes she'd help tickle, sometimes squeeze, and even pinch - and then our barber pole'd twirl faster.

Mary'd been immediately popular with the boys. Her billowy dresses couldn't belie that she swelled and jutted in all the right places. She had a sly smile that was more demure than standoffish. And she had a real special manner of walking too. The best way to describe it'd be to say it was womanly. Had a lot of swish in it, but slow and deliberate - careful - like every step was a pleasure.

Daryl Latchworth and Billy Sheppard both asked her to the Halloween dance. Daryl'd played Lancelot in the drama club's big production of Camelot. And Billy was a starting forward on the varsity basketball team, and a state pole-vaulter too. Billy and Daryl had this competition once to see who could kiss the most girls. They'd just walk right up to them, tell them exactly what they were about, and then get a kiss, sometimes more than one. I asked Billy if he wasn't nervous about being so forward. And he said it was like trick-or-treating when you're a kid: first couple houses are a little scary, but after that it's just free candy. This was before he and a bunch of his friends hauled me out of the showers and pushed me right out into the gym where Mrs. Riggs was teaching ballroom dancing to the grade nines. I covered myself with my hand, but that just called attention to it more, and earned me a whole new slew of nicknames of which I think I minded "peanut dick" the least.

See, I have what's called a microphallus. Even fully turgid, as it most definitely was now in response to Mary's stiffening nipples and panting tongue-sucking kisses, it's no bigger'n my ring finger from the knuckle up. Dr. Wallace once prescribed me hormonal creams for it that gave me a rash. He said that, unlike my poor vision and silver hair, my little penis had nothing whatsoever to do with my albinism, and that really it's not a pathological condition or deformity at all, that the term microphallus or micropenis just refers to any that're less than two standard deviations below the mean - and that it's nothing at all to be ashamed about. To which I said it was pretty obvious he didn't have one then.

Mary declined Billy and Daryl's invitations to the Halloween dance, inspiring rumors that she was either frigid or a lesbian, depending on which of them you listened to. This, coupled with the fact that no girl'd ever come on to me, meant she had to pretty much knock me upside the head with a rock and tie me in a burlap bag to make her interest known. Though really she just sat down across from where I was eating alone in the cafeteria, and said she'd heard I was on the math team. To which I said it was more of a club than a team, and really more just Mr. Ross cajoling boys without steady girlfriends into staying after school than a club. Then she said she thought humor and modesty were the two most attractive traits a person could possess. To which I didn't know what to say. And so she said she needed help with algebra, especially factoring polynomials. So I started to explain the basics to her right there in the lunchroom, like how they deliberately make those problems eminently solvable so all you have to do most of the time is just reduce the constants down to their lowest common denominators for the answer to leap right out at you. Then she reached across the table and put her hand on mine like I wasn't paying attention and said she couldn't concentrate with the noise and all, and what if we went somewhere more private to study. Our texts were still in the back seat.

Mary put her hands on my face. Because of my poor eyesight, my driver's license's only valid when I have my thick prescription glasses on, and only during daylight hours. And anytime I'm out in the sun I have to wear this special broad-spectrum, SPF-30 sun block. I could feel it smearing as she caressed my cheeks, and expected she'd be repulsed by the stuff. So even though I kept my hands on her and my tongue in her, I kind of froze up for a second. But she just rubbed it around and played with it like it was some glorious expensive massage oil I'd greased myself up in. Then, while she raked my neck and tugged and probed my ears and kissed me, I tried to recall how she'd done with my fingers on her nipples. A group of birdwatchers passed by talking about a Chestnut-breasted warbler they'd spotted. Then someone laughed and said something about his only ever getting mosquito bitten out here in woods. But we just ignored them. I'd never been so proud.

I did not rush. But it's the body's nature to explore. Mary let me feel the inside of her knee, and even parted them as I moved a little higher. But when, at the lace band of her panties, she trapped my hand and said, "Not yet!" - I felt spared. My ignorance and ineptitude was safe. And when I felt her stroking toward my tiny bulge, it seemed only right that I catch her hand, raise it to my lips and say the same. My secret shame was safe, too. And soon it was dusk.

Driving home, I felt a distance between us. Which, compared to how we'd been for the last several hours, I suppose there was. Because of the setting sun, I had to concentrate hard on the road. This made it impossible for me to talk, but I felt her silence signified regret. She didn't kiss me goodnight when I dropped her off. Reverend Pooley was on the veranda. I imagined the look he fixed us with would've been difficult to interpret even up close in a good light. Mary climbed out of the car, then leaned back in. "Something I need to tell you first," she said, like we'd been conversing on it all along. Then she left. I thought about what this thing might be all weekend.



Monday. A perfect Louisiana spring day. First period English. The classroom's windows were open and a magnolia's sweet perfume flirted with our senses. Ms. Darcy strolled in sipping a coffee. "So how many of y'all remembered your weekend assignment?" she asked, looking around the room.

In the ensuing silence, kudzu could be heard growing in nearby woods and ditches.

"If you'll recall, it was to write something in the first person to be read aloud in class."

Far away, a crow cawed.

"Could someone maybe remind us what is meant by the first person?"

"Would that be Adam?" said Cheryl.

"That old joke never tires, does it dear."

Chester's hand shot up. "That's where you tellin' the story like it happen to you, like you the one in the story."

"Very good Chester," said Ms. Darcy. "Very aptly put. Now can you tell us why it's so difficult to write in this way?"

"Cause mosta us can't thinka nothin' innerestin' to say? So we jess talk 'bout our own shit. An' it's like, who cares. Right?"

"Chester, I am amazed at your ability to perceive and synopsize. You have hit the nail squarely on the head. We all talk in the first person. It's easy and natural. And that's what makes it so hard to write in - to be observant and honest - yet to remain detached. The first person is to other points of view as the guitar is to other musical instruments: the easiest to learn to play badly, but the hardest to learn to play well. That's why there are so many awful writers and guitar players."

No one laughed, but several discussions comparing popular bands erupted and rose steadily in volume.

"Okay, quiet up now y'all. Who wants to read first?"

Ms. Darcy scanned our faces. Stopping on Mary's. "You have a story for us Mary? How wonderful. Here I thought you were just going to ignore us this term. Class, I want y'all to give Mary here your undivided attention. Think of any questions or helpful suggestions you might have for after. And remember, like Chester said, this is a very hard thing to do. So you all be kind. Your turn's comin'. Mary dear, you just go on and begin as soon as you feel comfortable to."

Mary stood, glanced around the room, then down at the two handwritten pages trembling in her hands. "Called, 'What I Remember'... by me, of course." Then she cleared her throat and began to read.

"There's a saying where I from: 'The body no be firewood.' Mean the body have its limitations. I seven when the gbomogbomo lady come for little Sade and me. We both be in the cook room fighting over some naked dolly, some used-up Barbie with most its hair pulled out that mother find in the missionary bin. We be twistin' an' tuggin' back and forth on it and now little Sade she have the head, and me the rest. Mother she should slap us now. So we know somethin' not right."

Cheryl whispered something to Claudia. Both of them snickered.

"Excuse us Mary." Ms. Darcy glowered at them. "Would one of you be kind enough to share with the class what you find so amusing as to warrant this rude interruption."

Cheryl sat up straight and folded her hands before speaking, her voice syrupy with faux-innocence. "We were just wondering if this was still English class is all."

Mary was a moon shadow, too dark to blush. But there was embarrassment in her eyes. When I realized she was looking straight at me, my face burned like a day without sun screen.

"I'm afraid I will say something I might regret if I address this now," said Ms. Darcy. "So I will deal with it later. Mary, please don't let this ill-mannered pair reflect badly on the rest of us. I for one am intrigued by your story. Please do continue."

Mary studied me. When I realized she was waiting, I nodded.

"We don't think 'bout that dolly no more. We jus' each drop our part. Then Sade she grab my neck an' start to cry. The gbomogbomo, a plumpy ol' woman, got to fart to ben' down an' pick up the body. Her breath defile the air too. Got teeth like rotten corn. Nex' she pull that dolly's legs apart and show me how she rubbin' between 'em with her nosey finger. The dolly she smooth. But that ol' finger all cracked and yellow an' dirty from always cigarettes, an' it make a scratchin' noise. I cover little Sade's eyes, but she don't see nothin' anyway. She just want to be bendin' an' wettin' my neck. After while the ol' woman take my hand and make me rub the dolly. 'Go make you perfec' too,' she say.

Mary shuddered and seemed to shrink away in all directions. Her chest rose and fell with two deep breaths.

"Then that gassy ol' woman lif' me an' little Sade up an' try to pull us apart like she wantin' to pry open a clam. But Sade she just hang on an' howl louder. So the ol' woman say to mother, 'Senior girls firs' mama. Take baby sister off till it her turn.' Then she holler, 'Boys, we ready!' An' mother carry off little Sade, cryin', cryin'. Two big men I only ever see out by the liquor parlor loopy drunk - and now no different - lif' me onto the table and one hol' my arms and the other pull off my underthings and hol' my legs apart like dolly's, an' start to rub me like dolly too. The ol' woman yell somethin' at him, but since she busy takin' tools out of a sack an' 'rangin' 'em 'tween my feet, he don' stop. 'They jus' here so you lie still,' say the ol' woman. 'Go fix you up now.' Then she touch me with somethin' col'. 'Help virgina to keep virtue,' she say.

Mary paused to rub her eyes and swallow.

"Would some gentleman fetch a cup of water," said Ms. Darcy.

Three boys jumped up, including me. But Mary shook her head. "No, I'm okay."

"Don't you mean, vagina?" said Cheryl.

"Please hold your questions until Mary's finished," said Ms. Darcy.

"Jus' sayin' it the way she said it," said Mary.

"Are you sure you want to continue dear?"

"The body can't carry what the body can't hol'. So can't describe the pain. When the cuttin' begin, I pass out screamin'. To a col' dark place somewhere with ghosts whisperin' and that ol' woman talkin', talkin' 'bout buyin' some big 'lectric fan on a pole for in her bedroom. Then I back awake for the stitchin' part. But when she pour on the ogogoro an' set fire to it, I with them ghosts again. But that all be forgotten now. Jus' me passin' a story along to myself like it happen to somebody else. Cause like I say, the body can't carry what the body can't hol'. So that's not what soak my bed at night. See, 'fection set in - 'fection always sets in. Course I live. But little Sade, six days later, she don't. She never leave me though. She still sobbin' 'roun' my neck today. Cause what I do remember is mother holdin' me in the nex' room an' little Sade shriekin' an cryin' and pleadin' out for us while that ol' woman choppin' an' talkin' 'bout her shoppin', an her drunked up boys laughin', laughin'. I pray hard for them ghosts to come and get me then. But they with Sade now. An' that's what I remember."

Mary sat down. Ms. Darcy took two Kleenexes from a box and handed one to her.

"Ho-leee shit," said Chester.

"Yes," said Ms. Darcy. "Holy shit." Then she blew her nose. "Does anyone have a comment or question regarding Mary's story?"

Cheryl put up her hand. "I think if she fixed the grammar and told us more about how she felt, then the story'd be better. Plus I didn't understand why they were having that operation in the first place, so she could probably explain that better too."

Ms. Darcy literally sobbed once. Or it could've even been a laugh. "I was afraid Mary's story might run a little deep for some of you," she said. "Cheryl dear, Mary is writing at a level that you do not have the experience or education to properly assimilate. And, as your English teacher, I suppose I must accept some blame here."

Cheryl turned pink. "You saying just because my words aren't all messed up, I can't write like... like Literary Mary?"

"What you're referring to is called voice. But no dear, because there's so much more to it. You will never write like Mary. For that, you can thank God." Ms. Darcy took another Kleenex and dabbed at her eyes. "Well," she said brightly, "I guess we have time for one more. Who's game?"

I'd done the assignment. My story was about a boy whose dad buys him one of those miniature little 3-cylinder Smart Cars that look like golf carts for his sixteenth birthday when all the other guys're driving their dads' big Mercs and Chryslers, and how he's too ashamed to ask a girl on a date lest she think he's a loser, but then a cute girl he likes actually asks him for a ride in it, and so they go over to Jackson's Woods and make out. And I'd be damned if I was going to read that now.

"Anyone?" said Ms. Darcy.

"I will," said Cheryl, standing.

Ms. Darcy just smiled.

Cheryl's story was about a cheerleader who's dating her school's football team's quarterback, but then at the state championship she meets the quarterback for the other team whose daddy has a Chevy Dealership over in Opelousas and drives a Vette, and how he wants to be her boyfriend too, and how he picks a fight with her other boyfriend and knocks out one of his teeth. It was well written and everything. She did a good job of telling how much they both wanted her and how bad she felt for dumping her boyfriend after he got his tooth knocked out. And so even though I didn't like Cheryl in the least, I was acutely and profoundly embarrassed for her.



After class, Mary slipped away like an apparition. And I realized that it was for me to find her.  I planned to catch her at lunch and tell her how impressed I was with her story, and with her. But I got called to the office right after fourth period.  Instead of Principal John though, it was Reverend Pooley there waiting for me.  Pooley was a large man, a porcine man, with a thin brush-cut that looked like it'd grow into bristle instead of hair, and rubbery skin that looked like it wanted to sweat but couldn't. 

"Do you know why I've come here today, son?" It was a rhetorical question, so I left it be. Pooley laid a hand on my shoulder as if to stay me. "Son," he said, "What I am about to tell you, I do in the strictest confidence." 

Even though I hadn't fully understood Mary's story, I had a pretty good idea where he was headed. And I didn't want him there. Something about the way his hand felt on my shoulder and the way his sharp little inset eyes were sizing me up just didn't sit right. I didn't trust him. And I didn't want his trust. "Reverend," I said, "that's not altogether accurate." 

He took his hand off me. "Come again, son?"

"What I mean is, you can't tell somebody something in the strictest confidence. The strictest confidence is telling no one. Say I was to tell someone else in the strictest confidence, and them another..." 

"Son, you telling me I can't rely upon your discretion?" He'd backed off a step, so his face was starting to blur. But I think he was glaring at me.

"No Reverend, what I'm saying is, whoever told you couldn't rely on yours."

There was a light tap. The door opened and Ms. Darcy stuck her head in. "I'm sorry," she said. "I thought John'd be in the office." She studied Pooley. When she realized no explanation was forthcoming, she added, "I'll just wait out here."

Pooley plopped down into a chrome-and-vinyl chair. "You sit too son, this could take a minute. Do you read your Bible?" It was a leading question. So again I didn't answer. Pooley just continued as if I had. "Do you remember what the Lord said in Exodus twenty, verse five?"

I shook my head.

He said, 'I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.' Do you know what He meant by that?"

"That he ain't fond of competition?"

"That He wants us to love only Him."

"Odd way of puttin' it."

Pooley sighed and looked like he wished he could cry. "Right now the Lord is concerned for a special young woman. A woman that has been handed over to Satan and made to suffer mightily. Only He can save her. Only He can restore her with His healing touch."

I'd heard about the Episcopalian's laying on of hands. But I wondered who, in his mind, had done the handing over. "And He doesn't want my touch interfering with His touch?" I asked. "Is that what you're trying to say Reverend?"

"She has no true feelings for you, son. I know it doesn't seem that way to you now. But her affections toward you are the work of the devil. She feels sympathy for you, of course - for your condition. But the devil has twisted these feelings to his own end."

"With all due respect, Reverend Pooley, my condition is neither your nor the devil's concern. But I am curious as to how you know so much about her feelings toward me."

He tried to sound indignant and perplexed. "Why she confessed them to me in the course of her healing, naturally."

"In the strictest confidence?"

Pooley clasped his hands and bowed his head, as though asking God's guidance. Then he rubbed his eyes with his knuckles as though overcome with emotion. "Son, have you ever heard of a female circumcision?"

I shook my head.


"The proper medical term is cli-tor-i-dec-to-my, which means amputation of the clitoris. But it can be more than even this. And son, I can't tell you how many young women've approached me in my foreign ministry seeking the Lord's spiritual and physical healing from the terrible mutilations wrought on them by this heathen act of butchery. It is a procedure performed without anesthetic under filthy conditions by untrained persons using crude instruments." Pooley inhaled through his nose and blinked several times in rapid succession. In front of a congregation he might've looked as if he were about to cry instead of sneeze. With his fingers he wiped away tears that, even with my poor vision, I could see had never formed. "Mary has had her entire external genitalia excised," he said, reaching out as if to comfort me, "along with extreme in-fib-u-la-tion of her vaginal opening. That means -"

I stood and backed away. "Reverend, I don't need to hear this from you."

"These are a backward people son." Pooley stood and stepped toward me. "Did you know that where she's from, it's believed that sodomizing a virgin will cure AIDS?" Again he took my shoulder. "Son, you need to let the Lord heal this girl before you further compromise her virtue. Trust me. I know how frustrated and alone you're feeling right now." He pressed down on me. "I want you to kneel down right here on the floor and ask the Lord's help."

I thought about Mary's praying for those ghosts to come while little Sade screamed. Then I twisted free of Pooley, bolted through the reception area where Ms. Darcy sat reading a magazine, down a corridor crowded and buzzing with students, and out the main doors into the warm sunshine. There she was, waiting for me.



County road 36 joins Interstate 10 about fifteen miles south of Church Point. It could not have been enjoyable traveling with me on that busy thoroughfare, creeping along at 55 mph as I clung to the steering wheel and peered out at the road through lenses convex enough to burn small insects, while transports roared up behind as if to ram us before passing with a blast of air horn. It was for good reason that my license wasn't valid on interstates and toll roads. But she'd said she wanted to get away, and I'd've taken her all the way to Baton Rouge if she hadn't put her hand on my leg outside Lafayette and said, "Let's stop here." A rest area was coming up.

I parked between a Dupré tanker and a semi loaded with Econoline vans. This time my mouth was ready for her. Another kiss and it was dark. The eighteen-wheelers were gone, replaced now by a motor home and a Budget rental truck, and the sun by the moon, now full and low in the pines beyond the picnic area. Katydids chirped a symphony of castanets, whistling to the lonesome wail and hum of traffic on the interstate. "I love you," I whispered in her ear. It seems so banal now. "I want you to devirgin me," she whispered back. It seemed so frightening then.

Hand in hand we walked past washrooms and picnic tables, and into an evergreen woods. The ground was a lumpy mattress of fallen needles, each one distinct and sharp, piled and pressed by time into a surface coarse and unyielding. Mary pulled her dress up over her head and became a shadow in the night. But a shadow I could touch. I kissed her eyes and sucked her lips and tongue. When she reached to stroke my infant's hardness through my jeans, I slid down - away from her touch - to suckle on her breasts. And felt each grow in turn, like a lie, between my lips. "I'll just do you," I said, sliding lower still.

"No," she said. "No, we do each other." She raised her hips. "We do it together." And then she was naked.

When I rolled to my back, she began to undress me. It was like being stripped by a phantom. In the moonlight filtering through the trees, my skin shone a ghostly, translucent white. "You're beautiful," she sighed. Mary ran her hands down my chest, a pair of silhouettes reaching for my belt. "Been prayin' for someone like you to come."

"Wait," I said. "Look," I said. "Before you go any further, I think you should put on my glasses." I began to sob. "Cause you're gonna need 'em to find what you're looking for." But she'd already found it. "See what I mean," I wailed. Then I felt the starch drain out of me until I was as tiny and limp as a macaroni noodle between her fingertips. More tears cooled my cheeks. "Think we could find a rubber for it?" I said.

Mary didn't laugh. She didn't even speak. She just took my hand and put it between her legs. The first thing I noticed was that she was hairless, glabrous as a baby. She began to move my hand up and down. The skin of her lower abdomen was soft and smooth with muscular underpinnings. But lower it drew taut. Corrugated tissue stretched along either side of a narrow scar. At the nadir of this slice, just below a cluster of braille-like nodules, was a tiny shivering orifice. I traced circles around it. Mary spread her knees wider. I inserted the tip, and then my ring finger to the knuckle. She became my wedding band. Inside, she struck me as complete. I discovered in her a tiny mound an inch or two up the anterior wall, about as far up as the base of her hips. She still had her hand on mine, but I don't think she helped in this discovery. I think it was a memory buried somewhere deep in my genetic code. When I began to massage this tiny berm, Mary put her mouth on mine and moaned. At first I thought I'd injured her, that she was bleeding. My finger grew warm and wet. Mary began to squirm. "Oh," she said. "Joe," she said, "don't you dare stop now." Suddenly, I was hard again. She was squeezing me. And for the first time in my life, I did not feel small or inadequate. In fact, if someone'd stopped me and asked me right then how big it was, I'd've said about the size of a banana, maybe a cucumber. I didn't even get my pants off for that first time. Barely got my ass out of them before she was straddling me, hip to hip, shame to shame. I still couldn't see her, but I could feel her deep around me. Together we became perfect. Again and again, perfect.

We were spared having to drive back on the interstate. We awoke to flashing, twirling lights and our names being called through a bullhorn. We didn't even dress. We just walked out of those woods as naked and shameless as Adam and Eve before the fall. It was the Louisiana State trooper who blushed and gave us blankets, who found our clothes and took us home.



Mary didn't return to school that day, or the next, or ever after. When I tried to call her, Reverend Pooley quoted more scripture and made it clear that she would never see or talk to me again. Six days later Ms. Darcy called me to the principal's office - the same sad little office in which Pooley had tried to get me to pray - said she had something to tell me. But then all she could do was weep.

When people ask me why I never married, I tell them I'm a widower. I am a widower. I will always be a widower. When I heard Billy tell Daryl that Mary must've killed herself because she figured all men were like me and now he'd never get a taste of that sweet gash, I almost became a murderer too, starting with my tossing the milk from his tray into his face. He sputtered while I split his lips and blackened his eyes. Oh, he got his licks in too. But one thing about being an albino is that scars don't show. I was never shamed or bullied again.

So let me now end in a glad place too. In the woods at night. Any woods, as long as there's a piney bed. Any night, as long as there's a little moonlight. And the ghost of Mary whispering, whispering all around me.

8 comments:

  1. Powerful story, masterful writing. My initial reaction to the editor referring to this story as a "masterpiece" was very skeptical, but as I started reading, I saw this wasn't an exaggeration. Now that I finished reading, I completely agree.

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    1. Touched by your kind words, Irina. Love your "I used to be Immortal" vignette.

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  2. A wonderful story, beautiful in its rawness and raw in its beauty. A sorrowful ending that's somehow uplifting. Excellent.

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    1. Thanks so much for reading, and for your generous remarks, David.

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  3. An unexpected story masterfully written, 20 minutes of total focus and unease while reading it. FGM is still practised in many communities in Africa and Asia but we don't think about it until a story like this makes us aware of it, written in such a tender way that makes it unforgettable. Well done.

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    1. Thank you for those 20 minutes of your life, Yaya, and for your feedback, much appreciated.

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  4. Two of the most memorable characters I've encountered, and in the same story no less. Very difficult to strike the right tone and emotional balance with such powerful material but the author did so admirably in this tale. Very well done.

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  5. I'm not a reader but his kept me reading from start o finish...well done my friend....EDWINA might have been who you were writing about?

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