Holes in Heaven’s Floor

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“Mr. Mavole,” Raymond said rapidly, “I thought that if it was O.K. with you maybe I could stop over in St. Louis on my way to Washington, you know? I thought, I mean it occurred to me that you and Mrs. Mavole might get some kind of peace out of it, some kind of relief, if we talked a little bit. About Eddie. You know? I mean I thought that was the least I could do.” There was a silence. Then Mr. Mavole began to make a lot of slobbering sounds so Raymond said roughly that he would wire when he knew what flight he would be on and he hung up the phone and felt like an idiot. Like an angry man with a cane who pokes a hole through the floor of heaven and is scalded by the joy that pours down upon him, Raymond had a capacity for using satisfactions against himself.

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

Parenting Opportunity

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A car returned, it seemed to him almost at once, and Jocie had fetched her father along because it would give him such a good feeling to know that all of those warnings about the snakes in those woods had been just. A man has few enough opportunities like that when he assists in the raising of children, who must be hoisted on the pulley of one’s experience every morning to the top of the pole for a view of life as extensive as that day’s emotional climate would bear, then lowered again at sundown to be folded up and made to rest, and carried into their dreams with reverence.

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

Subversive Singing

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Sometimes I sing to myself, in my head; something lugubrious, mournful, Presbyterian:  

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

Could save a wretch like me,

Who once was lost, but now am found,

Was bound, but now am free.  

I don’t know if the words are right. I can’t remember. Such songs are not sung anymore in public, especially the ones that use words like free. They are considered too dangerous. They belong to outlawed sects.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down

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I knelt to examine the floor, and there it was, in tiny writing, quite fresh it seemed, scratched with a pin or maybe just a fingernail, in the corner where the darkest shadow fell: Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

I didn’t know what it meant, or even what language it was in. I thought it might be Latin, but I didn’t know any Latin. Still, it was a message, and it was in writing, forbidden by that very fact, and it hadn’t yet been discovered. Except by me, for whom it was intended. It was intended for whoever came next.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Be Careful What You Preach For

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She doesn’t make speeches anymore. She has become speechless. She stays in her home, but it doesn’t seem to agree with her. How furious she must be, now that she’s been taken at her word.

She’s looking at the tulips. Her cane is beside her, on the grass. Her profile is towards me, I can see that in the quick sideways look I take at her as I go past. It wouldn’t do to stare. It’s no longer a flawless cut-paper profile, her face is sinking in upon itself, and I think of those towns built on underground rivers, where houses and whole streets disappear overnight, into sudden quagmires, or coal towns collapsing into the mines beneath them. Something like this must have happened to her, once she saw the true shape of things to come.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Surprised When War Comes Home

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They all cried. People can certainly carry on, he thought, holding her fat hand because she had asked him to, and feeling sure she was going to drop dead any minute. These were the people who let a war start, then they act surprised when their own son is killed. Mavole was a good enough kid. He certainly was a funny kid and with a sensational disposition but, what the hell, twenty thousand were dead out there so far on the American panel, plus the U.N. guys, and maybe sixty, eighty thousand more all shot up, and this fat broad seemed to think that Mavole was the only one who got it.

-The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

Stories are Survival

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They showed me a picture of her, standing outside on a lawn, her face a closed oval. Her light hair was pulled back tight behind her head. Holding her hand was a woman I didn’t know. She was only as tall as the woman’s elbow.

You’ve killed her, I said. She looked like an angel, solemn, compact, made of air. She was wearing a dress I’d never seen, white and down to the ground.   I would like to believe this is a story I’m telling. I need to believe it. I must believe it. Those who can believe that such stories are only stories have a better chance. If it’s a story I’m telling, then I have control over the ending. Then there will be an ending, to the story, and real life will come after it. I can pick up where I left off. It isn’t a story I’m telling.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Might Makes Right

He had a point. The Galactic Order wasn’t necessarily fair; it was about establishing rules that benefited the major members of the order. That’s why they didn’t interfere with the slavery on Charoth, and it was probably why they have allowed Despona to be exploited by the Jarks and others. Tamara herself could empathize. After all, she was employed by the mercenary Red before being captured and enslaved. “I supposed might makes right,” she agreed, pausing to think. “But is war the only option?”

He grunted again. “It doesn’t have to be war, but without a strong military and without a powerful financial industry, you are left looking up to the rich rather than staring them in the eyes.”

Doom Sayer by Thane Keller

Girls Know

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They were not pre-chosen to be married to the very best men—to the Sons of Jacob and the other Commanders or their sons—not like us; although they might get to be chosen once they were older if they were pretty enough. Nobody said that. You were not supposed to preen yourself on your good looks, it was not modest, or take any notice of the good looks of other people. Though we girls knew the truth: that it was better to be pretty than ugly. Even the Aunts paid more attention to the pretty ones. But if you were already pre-chosen, pretty didn’t matter so much.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood