Shelter

Yes, an ordinary summer’s night, a Tuesday like any other. A dry tempest, the mountains glowing beneath a bruised, turbid sky, an occasional truck screaming up Fuller Road onto the highway, the distant sound of bottles hitting pavement, and, echoing outward, the too-familiar siren of monotonous, perfunctory screams, rising complaints joining the chorus:

Somebody shut that kid the hell up!

Even Tessa—quiet, superstitious Tessa—wouldn’t escape the devils’ wanderings this time. For her the night began when her eight-year-old nephew, Brice, fell into one of his fits. Tessa says the kid’s got a real medical condition caused by her own sister, who spent most of that pregnancy so drunk that she didn’t even notice her labor pains until her feet were knocked out from under her and she lay flat against a wall in a growing puddle as if tossed there by one of her boyfriends, which in a way she had been. Brice was born within minutes and really has never stopped hollering, reminding everyone that he’s a wronged child. He’s a big kid for his age, almost aggressively affectionate when he’s not crashing down the walls, and Tessa wears bruises as much from his attempts to have her hug and cuddle him as from his rampages.

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