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Communion, First and Last

A girl will put some certain things in her mouth without being asked. Barrettes, yes. Cat's tiny ear, it tasting of peaches and tin. Don't have to beg our girl. Everybody says to please cease with the coins, those known hosts. "Filth," they say, "Disease."

Going in just last week were some number of quarters, gritty enough to blacken her tongue and them coming out of the hand of the oldest man anybody here knew: and what a fever she got, too, it soaring up and up and her becoming such a red-skinned, heated thing.

God, was she hot!

How it was they all got that fever down our girl can't answer. Ice packed in fists around her head is one thing she remembers. Jumping and flying inside her open-mouthed dreaming is one other. Keeping her fingers crossed, she'll soon go after the nails of her own toes. Lacing tongue underneath sbe'll teethe them, tear them, send them down. Mother's pearls probably right after. Not the whole strand. One at a time plucked off and rolled awhile along the roof.

"Precious," mother says.

Quick and over is usually how it's done. Redemption comes. Swift sword. Throat goes a little raw. Unclean things really taste about the same. Valuables. Wafer-thin scraps inscribed with the names. "X O X O X" inked down in blue by every Tom, Dick, and Harry.

Yours, mine, everybody's?

Zipped tight our girl's lips won't be singing any time soon.

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