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Slights (Angry Robot) [Mass Market Paperback]

Kaaron Warren
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Review

Simply gut-wrenching"" - John Courtenay Grimwood
--SFX, June 2008

"With outstanding control, Warren manipulates Stevie's voice to create a portrait of horror that in no way reads like a first novel." --Publisher's Weekly

About the Author

Kaaron's award-winning short fiction has appeared in Year s Best Horror & Fantasy, the Poe and Haunted Legends anthologies, Fantasy magazine, Paper Cities, and many other venues in the US, Europe and Australia. Her short story A Positive has been made into a short film called Patience, and her first ever published short story White Bed was dramatised for the stage in Australia.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

What should have happened was this:

We got a taxi home.

This is what did happen:
We went out for lunch to spend Mum's lottery
win - she won just enough for a slap up meal. Food
rich and creamy, chicken breast with camembert,
salad with blue cheese dressing, a bottle of sweet
wine, champagne, port.
We laughed and joked; talked loudly. Mum
was in a good mood, not a nagging one. The
waiter pretended we were sisters, and that made
her giggle.
We just babbled on. We had no idea this was our
last meal together.
"What do you think of my haircut?" I asked her.
"I wouldn't go back to that hairdresser, if I were
you, Stephanie," Mum said. She had a fleck of parsley
on her lip and when she talked it wobbled.

"I know. Stupid bitch. I said I wanted a change
and she does this to me."
I had splurged and asked the hairdresser to give
me a new style. She wanted to cut inches off, saying,
"Once you pass eighteen, you have to be more
careful."
I said, "Fine." How old did she think I was?
She snip snipped. Dark, wet entrails of my hair
fell onto her thighs, criss-crossed the diamonds of
her fishnet stockings. I couldn't take my eyes off
her. The hairdresser said, "You know, you've got
the sort of face which would suit a good red colour.
You need a bit of a lift at the moment. Everything
looks a bit flat. And maybe we should have a go at
your eyebrows."
She was a very slim girl. Her hair was black, cut
like a metal helmet. She wore a tight silver T-shirt,
a thick corduroy skirt, the fishnet stockings. She sat
in a rolling chair, travelling around my body like I
was an island, snip snip. She spoke incessantly, complained
of slight after slight.
She sighed. "Anyway, I'm sure you're not interested."
I looked up from her thigh and she wasn't
happy with me. She dried my hair without speaking,
then held the mirror up for me to see.
I said nothing.
"Are you happy with that?" she said.
"You are kidding me," I said.
It shocked her. I suppose you're meant to lie. I
paid her even though she made me look like a fucking bimbo. All this from a woman who told me,
confidentially, that she thought reading novels
wasn't smart because it's all just made up.
"What do you read?" I asked her.
"Oh, I love my magazines," she said. "I can read
them over and over, there's always something different."
Mum laughed and called me a fibber.
"Oh, Stephanie. You're just trying to take attention
away from your hair," she said.
"This is how the girl talks. I swear." I took a sip
of wine and grimaced. Mum always chose sweet
stuff. "We might as well drink lemonade," I said.
"Well, your hair is fine, really. You're just not
used to looking pretty."
"Thanks a lot. I'll book you in, if you like."
That's what we talked about.
I joshed Mum about, paying her attention, making
jokes about the waiter, who had terrible acne,
and telling stories about other diners in the restaurant.
She said, "You sound just like your Dad. He used
to whisper into my ear, telling the most outrageous
tales. Should have heard what he told me about my
father."
"What?" I didn't like to talk about my maternal
grandfather, Joshua. He died when I was five, and
I have a feeling he used to touch me; sometimes I
get a glimpse of his face in my memory. It's shiny,
a sucked lollipop, and very close to me. He was a grouch most of the time, generous and soft when
you were alone with him.
"Come on, Mum, what did Dad say?" I passed
her the plate of chocolates the waiter had laid on
our table. They were dark, rich, and we planned to
eat every one.
"He said that your granddad Joshua had affairs
with everyone willing in town. Everyone." She
covered her mouth. We didn't often talk about
things like that.
"What, the men too?" I said, and she coughed in
horror.
"You're a storyteller, just like your Dad was," she
said. I knew that was true; Dad was a detective
long before he joined the police force. I wondered
if Dad's stories were ridiculous, or if they were
true.
I dropped the keys on the way to the car. I've
never been good with alcohol; a couple of glasses,
still under the limit, and I'm screaming. Mum was
giggling and muttering away, feeling no pain.
Feeling no pain.
I suddenly grew tired of it; being with her, pretending
to be friends, enjoying her company. I
drove quickly, wanting to drop her at home and go
somewhere alone, somewhere I didn't feel like a
fake. I should have called her a taxi and sent her
home; that way, she would have been resentful,
but alive.
"The car smells nice," she said. "New leather in a can," I said. One of the best
smells. I drove quickly. I thought I saw a child in
the road and I swerved, my wheels span and I lost
it. I remember very clearly, though I said I didn't. I
said I had no recollection; my head ached trying to
remember.
But I remember my mother's arm coming across
to protect me, hold me in my seat as if I were a
child. My arms went over my face and head but I
still cracked my skull.
I remember looking at her; she looked at me. She
was terrified of death; more terrified of my death.
"Careful," she said, then we hit the wall. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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