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Creatures of Our Desire

by Bruce McAllister

About the Author: Bruce McAllister's short fiction has appeared in magazines and "year's best "volumes (BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, others); and won or been shortlisted for a variety of awards including the Shirley Jackson, the Hugo and the Nebula.



The creek began in the hills, which were nearly treeless, and the comfortable, centuries-old homes there, thickening as it moved down through the dark oak and maple forests. When it reached the endless marsh and its raucous flocks of red-winged blackbirds, it had become a small river. The creek and woods would, of course, though he didn’t know it then, disappear in a few years under the growing capital’s hunger for housing, but for now this was the magical place where he collected the turtles, frogs and salamanders that meant so much to him.

He would keep each animal for a while, a guest in his father’s house, grateful to it for the wonder it was and what it might teach him, and then do his best to return it, though often later than he should, and sometimes not at all, keeping it in one of the terrariums his father let him have in his bedroom. The strength of this desire—to hold onto what he found beautiful, instead of leaving it alone—puzzled him, and yet taught him something that would, years later, serve him in the world of law and, in turn, in the service of two Presidents: That people wanted to possess what they found wondrous; that they could not be happy simply looking at it; and that he, Marcus, was no different.

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