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Rousseau's Children

by M. Bennardo

About the Author: M. Bennardo lives in Kent, Ohio. He is the co-editor of the Machine of Death series of anthologies. His stories have previously appeared in Crimson Streets, Shotgun Honey, Analog, Asimov's Science Fiction, and others.


Ah, what is it that rouses me now from my old woman’s reverie? Who is it that silently opens the door to my sunny sick room and creeps inside, trailed by the two housecats?

Don’t I see you there, darling granddaughter, slumping shyly into the bedside chair with a book purloined from my library in your hand, just as you used to do as a child fifteen years ago? But you have grown out of your bare feet and careless braids! Were it not for the familiar way that Yseult and Marmelade press themselves against you, each purring and preening in competition for the choice spot on your lap, I might not have recognized this handsome, upright young woman who visits me!

But what are you holding out to me? Can it be that you wish to revive the silly game of your childhood? A game invented, I admit now, to get you out from under my feet! If only for as long as it took for you to run to the library (your bare soles slapping the wood of the hallway floor with a clop-clap-clop-clap sound that makes me smile even now when I think of it) and clamber up, monkey-style, upon the desk or reading chair and reach your sunburned arm out across the shelves and fetch back the oldest or thickest or highest or dullest book in the library that you could find, depending upon what mission I had set you on.

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