// Excerpts from my novel THE ANT FARM //

It was then that Ginger knew that Janis was dead, absolutely and irreversibly, and not only would she miss Yosemite, but college as well, and getting married, having kids maybe, getting fat and wrinkled, and finally, wallowing in regret over the bad choices she’d made all her life. And Ronnie, back home by now in the house where his dad, retired military, was still storming Normandy, was most certainly suffering, and would never be the same, ever.

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Lydia was making her way carefully between booths, smiling at diners along the way as if she thought they’d been expecting her. She was a bit like the dog who crawls on his belly to his master after crapping on the rug. Chin down and lashes up, she smiled at her friends and gave a small wave. She had on a white pantsuit with gold braiding, picked up, no doubt, at the hospital thrift store. She bargain-hunted for sport, not out of necessity, and always wore a bit of gold somewhere—a superstition, like green on St. Patrick’s Day. Lydia was the kind of person who’d ask strange men in bars to guess her age and then smile and giggle when out of nervous courtesy they’d knock off ten years.

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But Ginger never held back vile thoughts. Not for years—since she was a kid, really. The moment she came up with an unkind thought, she revealed it, in fairness to her friends and the world at large. Better to be known and loathed than unknown and loved undeservedly. She attributed this self-denigrating honesty to her childhood pilgrimages to the Confessional. The crew of priests at Our Lady of Grace was partly responsible. Father Stack, in particular. He never advised her to stop being an asshole and clean up her act, he simply gave her a few Hail Marys and Our Fathers to pray, as if he was telling her she might as well forget about trying to improve, as if reform were impossible. Which left only penance.

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