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This precious house—my house!—this room, these walls, this bed, are all familiar, but I’m not. I’m the stranger who makes everyone uncomfortable. Three months in the hospital and a precisely but savagely excised brain have tweaked my personality the way a potion tweaked Jeckyll into Hyde. I’m clothed in the same skin as my healthy former self and fit the same clothes, but I’m no fit for this place, my house, not yet. I eat, I breathe, digest, pass food, none of them without help, none without humiliation. Whatever I used to be proud of, . . . . My wife resembles her photos by the bed except in the eyes, which used to say For better! and which now wonder, Could this get worse? But she’s the same. My children too. They enter the room like scolded pets and finger the bedclothes and stare at the muted TV, not at their dad. They tell me what I want to hear: I’ve turned them into liars. Except for giving in, or giving up, there’s no remedy for outliving an illness. But Melissa didn’t know me as I was. She sees what is. She knows just what to make of clients like me and forgives me. The intimacies she performs are out of reach for those who have always loved me, services that would break their hearts. The genius of Melissa is to make my care appear like washing the dishes. She doesn’t love me, I think, except in that way that good souls think pain is noble and rage is prayer, which is to say, she loves the trouble I’m taking to get back to my self. And with her help, if I survive, I’ll own this house again and be the parent and husband I was.

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299-WORD NOVELS

Character, conflict, emotional impact. And sentences! Everything you want in a novel, without one extra syllable.

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The pen name David B Dale honors my parents Beatrice and Dale. David+B+Dale = davidbdale

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