'Why do the people not like Mr Bren living there?'
'Not Mr Bren, darling, just Bren. They, some of them, don't think it's right for him to live like that, in town.'
'What do you think?'
He paused. 'I think they're right. I think it's... unseemly. There are places for the cleaved.' I'd heard that word before, from Dad Berdan. 'Retreats just for them, so... It's ugly to see, Avvy. He's a funny one. Grumpy old sod. Poor man. But it isn't good to see. That kind of wound.'
It's disgusting, some of my friends later said. They'd learnt this attitude from less liberal shiftparents. Nasty old cripple should go to the sanatorium. Leave him alone, I'd say, he saved Yohn.
Yohn recovered. His experience didn't stop our game. I went a little further, a little further over weeks, but I never reached Yohn's marks. The fruits of his dangerous experiment, a last mark, was metres further than any of his others, the initial letter of his name in a terrible hand. 'I fainted there,' he would tell us. 'I nearly died.' After his accident he was never able to go nearly so far again. He remained the second-best because of his history, but I could beat him now.
'How do I spell Bren's name?' I asked Dad Shemmi, and he showed me.
'Bren,' he said, running his finger along the word.
Excerpted from Embassytown by China Mieville. Copyright © 2011 by China Mieville. Excerpted by permission of Del Rey, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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