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By D. W. St. John

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She must have misunderstood. “That’s it? ” Several juniors came in wearing pajamas, long underwear, flannel nightgowns, carrying teddy bears, stuffed animals and pillows as they continued shouted conversations. O’Connel gave her a look that said they would pick it up later and went to take roll. Now she really didn’t get it. Still confused, she sat at a desk in the back, opened her laptop. The sooner she got started, the sooner it would be over. And she wanted it to be over. He could only want one thing—his job.

Moses struck out with a slow right. “I block with both hands, double open palm strikes downward into his forearms, the pressure points here and here. Then I grab whatever clothing I can. ” He demonstrated, shouting as he struck, pulling his strikes. “If he’s wearing long sleeves, I grab above the elbows, if not, I get him by anything I can get hold of keeping my elbows up to block. He can’t punch me now, I’ve got him tied up. ” He showed them, yelling with each kick. “I’m still hanging on so he can’t punch.

Around them Sao Paulo stretched an endless noisy jumble to the hazy horizon. Sipping at a bottle of beer, eyes on clouds sweeping above them, he spoke to her as he never had. Smelling of beer, of sweat, of diesel, he pressed her to him, tired eyes full of love, beard sandpaper against her face. “Minha pequenina, what will you be, eh? A great woman? ” Tongue-tied with emotion, she could say nothing. Most nights, shuffling home coated with dust turned to black mud in the sweaty creases of arms and neck, he found little to say.

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A Terrible Beauty by D. W. St. John


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