'Ah, Barbara,' she said. 'What do you think of this? Is it too much?'
'I'm going now, Mum,' I said, shouldering my bag. 'David is giving me a lift to the station.'
She looked down at the paper in front of her.
'Wait, don't go yet. I love you,' she said.
'What?' I said. She turned to look at me, breathing out cigarette smoke.
'This dialogue from the story. "Wait, don't go yet. I love you." Is it too much, do you think?'
'No, Mum. It's not too much,' I said. 'It's hardly enough,' and I left.
'Don't get pregnant,' she called from the window as we drove away.
I wasn't surprised when my mother killed me. The first time was a plane crash, the second I was burned alive, and the third was a swimming pool drowning. Even the critics took notice, with the Sydney Morning Herald, in its review of A Serpent's Tooth ('In just two collections, Hately has become our foremost shortstory writer') wondering at the number of young women dying in her stories. It was uncomfortable visiting home around this time, thinking that even as she made small talk, or made lunch, my mother might be planning another murder. But there must have been a limit to how often a mother could kill her daughter, as after my fourth death (from choking on a chicken bone, in a story published in Meanjin), she let me live.
Excerpted from The Weight of a Human Heart by Ryan O'Neill. Copyright © 2013 by Ryan O'Neill. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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