The Graveyard Bugs

Lucia pouted and stomped her bare pink foot. “Don’t wanna. It’s still summer. Don’t wanna wear stockings.”

“Baby,” her mother, Francesca, brought her own freckled nose close to Lucia’s, “you have to. It’s winter. It’s snowing. Look.”

The tall rectangles of curtainless windows filled with white. Snow breathed on the panes, cast shifting shadows on the bare floorboards. “Can’t you feel how cold the floor is?”

“It’s only cold because you got rid of our carpets. What did you do that for?”

When Lucia widened her light-brown eyes in this way, she looked exactly like her father when he was surprised.  Francesca could not bear the reminder.

“Because we need the money while Papa is in the hospital. For food and for the apartment, and for medications. You know I can’t work right now. I don’t want to you get sick.”

Lucia’s tears plopped on the lacy collar of her black and white checkered dress. Grandma Malatesta gave her the dress. She died last week. Francesca did not risk going to the funeral.

“Listen to me, little girl,” Francesca steeled her voice, “I’m counting to three.  If you want to come with me to visit Papa, you are putting on stockings. Now. One, two …”

Lucia scrounged up her face for the last-ditch effort in yet another outfit battle, and the quiet that precedes a five-year old’s ear-splitting wail suddenly filled with a loud thump like somebody was attacking the front door. Lucia closed her mouth with a snap and would have bulleted in the direction of the sound, but Francesca caught her by the hem.

“No! How many times do I have to tell you? You do not open the door. Ever. And put your mask on.” Francesca opened a drawer in a polished walnut console, one of the remains of the Malatesta wealth that still hung around, and pulled a paper mask over Lucia’s face. The girl flapped her curled eyelashes, not certain whether to resume her crying.

“Stay right here.” Francesca hooked on her own mask. “And if you’ve put on your stockings by the time I’m back, I’ll make you a special treat when we return from the hospital.”

The front door thumped again. Francesca hurried down the corridor, checking that all buttons on her wool burgundy dress were closed. Whoever it was could have rung the doorbell. Why did they beat the door instead? Hands busy holding a gun? No arms at all?

By the time Francesca reached the door at the end of the drafty high-ceiling corridor, she felt so weak she had to lean on the wall. Every visitor brought more bad news. More illness. More death. And now they were talking on the radio about scavengers and robbers.

“Who is it?” Francesca peered through the eyehole. The landing looked empty.

The door thumped again. This time Francesca saw him and, surprised, opened the door, to catch a heavy football right in the stomach.

“Sorry.” The boy’s blue eyes held no regret at all under the fringe of dark curls. “I thought you were away too. A lot of people are away.”

“You still should not be throwing footballs at people’s doors,” Francesca pulled down her mask to speak. “Where are your parents? Aren’t you cold dressed like this?”

“Why would I be cold?” the boy cradled his football under his arm. “It’s summer. And my parents are dead. I live with grandma.”

“There you are!” The grandma, bulky in a dark silk dress, descended the echoing stairs. “We’ll be late. You are ten, Paolo, and are still acting like a silly little kid.”

In shock, Francesca backed away, her eyes not leaving the old woman’s face.

“We’ll be late to meet Gianni.” the grandmother continued to speak to Paolo who was now bouncing the ball off the marble floor of the landing.

“I don’t care,” Paolo muttered. “Its’s just him and some stupid girl he wants us to meet. I don’t care about his stupid girlfriend. I don’t want to go.”

Francesca retreated deeper into the apartment, her heart beating at the roof of her mouth. The old lady managed the last few steps, reached Paolo and grabbed him by the collar.

“You are going,” she declared, “and you are being polite. Or else. Don’t make me spell it out for you.”

In the depths of the apartment, Lucia’s yelp came on the heels of a loud crash. Francesca slammed the door and flew to her daughter.

Shards of glass littered the floor. An open book lay in a puddle by the mussed bed.

“What did you do, Lucia?”

Francesca grasped her daughter’s hand. A cherry-red blood drop ripened on the twig of a finger.

“I’m sorry, mommy. I was bouncing on your bed, and then I saw the book on the table and I wanted to look, and I didn’t notice the bottle, and … I’m sorry.” Lucia stuck her hot face into Francesca’s neck, tears flowing into Francesca’s collarbone and down to the base of her throat.

“Shhh, it’s all right. I know you didn’t mean to be so naughty.” Francesca pressed the frail body to her. The meds in the bottle were meant to last them until the end of the month. Prophylactic, meager protection, but the prospect of not having any was terrifying. It had been an amazing stroke of luck that Francesca had even procured the stuff in the first place.

“Come on, where did you put your stockings?” Francesca smoothed down Lucia’s white hair. The doorbell dinged. The mother and the daughter froze. The bell dinged again. This time Lucia half-closed her eyes, and Francesca felt a stab at how much her daughter had been crying lately. Mask back in place, she hurried to the door.

“Who is it?”

“It’s Paolo. I’m here to see Lucia.”

Francesca flung the door open. In spite of herself, she felt a flush in her face. The young man was dressed in a white summer suit, his arms laden with creamy roses. He stepped boldly into the landing out of her teenage fantasies. Same intent dark-blue gaze; same faint shadows under the eyes which clearly spent too much time trained on a book, same forlorn and sensuous mouth. Of course, Francesca loved her husband. It was just that one did not expect dreams to coalesce into reality with such staggering clarity.

“What can I do for you?” Francesca pulled her mask down, conscious of how insane she was acting.

“These are for Lucia,” the young man held out the flowers. “It’s her birthday, isn’t it? I’ve only just returned from abroad, and I thought I’d surprise her. She was very kind writing to me.” He stared at Francesca, and she resisted the urge to bite her lips. “Are you a relative or something?”

“It must be a mistake,” Francesca stopped herself from adjusting her blond hair. “My daughter is called Lucia, but she is only five. It must be some other girl. You’ve got the wrong address.”

“But my brother lives here.” The young man looked past Francesca’s shoulder. Involuntarily, she stepped aside to let him have a better look. “Yes, of course. I’ve been to this apartment loads of times before I’ve gone off to school. Have you taken over from previous tenants? Why didn’t Lucia say that they’d moved?”

“I’ve put on the stockings,” Lucia announced from the end of the hall.

“Don’t come here,” Francesca heard herself shrill, “not without your mask.”

“Why are you wearing a mask?” the young man shifted the roses awkwardly.

“What’s your name?” he crouched to be level with Lucia, who ignored her mother’s injunction, as usual, and came to stand next to them.

“I’m Lucia. And you?”

“Paolo,” the youth stuck out his hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“Are you out of your mind?” Francesca yanked Lucia’s arm back. “You are not wearing a mask.” She turned on the stranger. “You say you are back from abroad, but you haven’t sanitized your hands, who the hell knows what you are carrying.”

“What’s going on?” Paolo stood up, his expression between puzzled and angry. “Why are you so paranoid?”

“Because there’s a world-wide epidemic on? Viruses mutating faster than the doctors can find a cure? What kind of abroad have you been to, if you don’t know?”

“France,” Paolo stepped over the threshold, making Francesca retreat. “This is my brother’s house, and I do have a niece named Lucia. Except she is five years younger than I am, so she is seventeen today. And her father is Gianni Malatesta. And I’m Paolo,” he repeated his name.

“You are not Paolo,” Francesca made her lips move with a conscious effort, “Paolo is ten.  He’s just gone off to boarding school.”

“I did go off to boarding school when I was ten, but that was twelve years ago,” Paolo swallowed. “Mind if put these down, somewhere?” he proffered the roses. “I’d like to figure out what’s going on.”

“Nothing is going on,” Francesca turned him by the shoulders, and pushed him back out on the landing. “It’s a mix-up. I’m visiting my husband in the hospital today, and I will ask him if he has any other brothers named Paolo. Excuse me, but we have to hurry now, or the visiting hours at the hospital will be over.”

Paolo opened his mouth to argue, but Francesca shut the door in his face.

“I am going to grab my purse,” she said to Lucia severely, “and god help you if you do anything other than put on your boots and your coat while I’m getting it. And no matter who rings, or thumps, or I don’t know what, you do not touch that door. You do not open it. Understood?”

Lucia nodded. It wasn’t often that she saw her mother this wound up.


Five minutes later, Lucia and Francesca stepped out of the apartment. The landing was empty, as if the young man had never happened. A half-crushed rose petal clung to the top marble step. Outside the building, a crowd roiled, voices raised to a keening pitch. The soft fall of snow had changed to a near-gale that blew a handful of sleet into Francesca’s face. Lucia whimpered by her side.

“Come on, baby,” Francesca hefted her daughter, drew the side of her fur coat over the child. “It’s not far, the hospital.”

“So young,” someone in the crowd said. “Didn’t he see that car coming?”

The cold entered Francesca’s body, spilled through her veins. Her gloved fingers tingled, numbing.

“Not far,” she repeated.

“When is Papa coming home?” Lucia looked at her mother pleadingly.

“Soon,” Francesca nuzzled the soft cheek. The wind tore at the bare branches overhead. She tried to walk faster but the thick crowd blocked the street.

“Was visiting his grandmother. And she only dead a week’s time. Hardly anyone at the funeral, the poor lady. No respect.”

“Don’t be like that,” another voice, a woman’s this time. “Her son is sick, in the hospital, I know that much. And his wife is home with their little girl. It’s much wiser not to go out. The epidemic, you know.”

“Right, right. We shouldn’t even be here. That’s how these things spread.”

Francesca covered Lucia’s ear under the fluffy white hat with her free hand, pressed her closer. She was determined to walk fast, but the weight of the child’s body and the wet clumping snow slowed her down.

“Why is he dressed in a summer suit?” someone asked. The people parted. The press of the bodies pushed Francesca forward. He lay in a pool of his blood, his white suit only a shade creamier than the snow, the red splatters changing the scene of the slaughter to a field of wild carnations. His face was intact. The sky broke into blue icicles in his unmoving eyes.

If Francesca did not have Lucia with her, she might have cried. She might have dropped to her knees, shaken her fist at the heavens, and cried out in dread and hatred. The unceasing epidemic, the graveyard at the edge of the city engulfing endless funeral processions. Somebody had to be responsible.

Somebody she would have loved to pull down and shake, hit, hurt, kick, scream, bring her face close to His bearded one and shout, “What are you doing to us, you bastard? What are you doing with our lives? Is this all a game to you? Some sick game?”

But Lucia would get cold. If she saw her mother roll, spitting out invective on the ground, she’d be scared. Nothing would bring Paolo back. Any bond between them would have been an illusion anyway.  Her husband waited for her at the hospital.

Francesca hoped Gianni’s leg wouldn’t be giving him so much trouble today. The doctors could not identify the bacteria, whispered that they would have to amputate. Maybe if Francesca prayed. Eyes half closed, Lucia heavy in her arms, Francesca staggered against the furious wind. Her lips moved ceaselessly, “Please, let it be all right. Just this time. Please.”


The snow spiraled slowly into the graveyard. It clung to the tree branches and piled up on the tombstones. The grave yawned, a frozen black rectangle in the stretch of white, ready to receive the coffin carried by only two men.

“Epidemic keeps going, nobody will be left to bury the dead.” The red-nosed gravedigger spit out a cigarette butt.

“This one wasn’t dead in the epidemic,” the other, drunk but striving to look dignified in his tattered overcoat, threw the first shovelful of earth mixed with the snow on the coffin lid.

“A young kid, I heard.”

“Yeah. His grandmother’s right over there, the Malatesta tombstone. Damn, hate this frozen shit. Can’t wait for spring.”

“We’ll all be dead by spring,” The red-nosed digger was given to melancholic pronouncements.

The grave filled fast.

“Notice anything funny about this graveyard?” The drunk’s shoulders moved uneasily. He dug in his pockets for another cigarette.

“Dunno. What, vampires and shit?”

“No. Just … something. Anyway, let’s go. Place gives me the creeps.”

They turned quickly, their footfall swallowed by the feathered snow banks. Behind them, green lines scrolled on the white-painted wooden cross hastily stuck in to mark Paolo Malatesta’s final resting place. Bea, dude, what the hell? Who authorized you to screw with the timelines? We need to talk. Dan.    


Azzo rolled over on the bed. Their thrashing had twisted the sheets into ridged ropes. The girl’s copper-red hair bled over the pillow. She slept on her back, breasts pointing up, and red marks where he had tied her up with his belt standing out on her wrists even in the moonlit twilight of the room.

His watch showed 2:00 a.m. The hit was ordered for three in the morning. What would Uncle Obizzo do if Azzo showed up late? Azzo leapt out of bed. His crumpled suit, stained with the wine they had drunk and the pearly residue of their sex, lay on the floor in a heap. Azzo flung open the doors of the wardrobe. If suits could walk, that row of identical pinstripes on the hangers would be a whole army of thugs. Azzo prodded the sleeping girl.

“Hey, handsome,” she said as she stretched languidly. “Ready for another go?”

“No,” Azzo rooted under the bed and retrieved her golden high-slit dress and heels, tossed them on top of her. “You are out of here.”

“Bastard,” the girl sat up. “Let me get dressed at least.”

“No time for that,” Azzo roughly shoved her down and rolled her, clothes and heels in the sheet, hefted the bundle over his shoulders and ran down the echoing staircase. The girl’s muffled curses rang out in the empty stairwell.

Puddles left by the recent rain swelled with bubbles, the color oddly bloody in the trick of the streetlamps. Azzo lay his night’s companion on the ground.

“Sort yourself out, sweetheart. You were swell. Here, something to remember me by.”

When he pressed his lit cigarette into the smooth white shoulder, the girl leapt up with a scream that would have roused the entire street, if the denizens hadn’t been so used to the scene. Nobody was going to look out, Azzo knew. Nobody had any doubts about what family he belonged to. By the time Azzo turned the corner, the girl’s sobs had melted into the crumbling of gold and cinnabar leaves the wind smeared along the pavement.

Azzo reached the house at the appointed time. Rinier Corneto, his boulder of a face atop a thick body, loomed in a stark contrast to Azzo’s whittled dark elegance. Corneto’s ten soldati occupied the shadows, guns at the ready.

“Uncle not here yet,” Azzo nodded at Rinier.

Corneto said nothing, allowing himself no more than the lowering of the eyelids. Now that he was about to see his uncle face-to-face, familiar fury filled Azzo’s mouth with a sour metal taste. He felt a vein throbbing on his temple.


He pumped so much lead into those who whispered behind his back that Azzo’s mother preferred the brother she was not married to. He could as well admit the truth to himself. His resemblance to Obizzo was too stark for Obizzo’s habitual address of “nipote mio.” But Obizzo never acknowledge him as a son. Favored him no more than he would have favored a nephew. The insidious stench of the lie wormed itself into Azzo’s dreams, into his food, into his women. What he could claim as his now did not even compare to what would have been his due had Obizzo named him an heir.

Azzo blew on his fingers, unclenched his fist. He would reward Rinier well enough. Nobody could spot Rinier for a rogue. And when it was all over—when the clans accepted Azzo as his uncle’s successor—he’d sort out Rinier as well.

Bullets flew in the midst of a shoot-out. Some strayed. Azzo could already see it. The neat tombstone in the old graveyard beneath the tall cedars. “In loving memory of … ”

A black car pulled up, a soldato jumped out to hold open the door for the emerging foot in patent leather.

“Good to see you, nipote mio,” Obizzo’s porcelain smile flashed dangerously.

Azzo stared for a second, the image of those teeth smashed in, black blood gushing from this mouth, superimposed on reality.

Obizzo nodded. Ten guns pointed at ten windows, ready to unleash a cannonade. The bullets pelted the building, drowning out the sound of one more gun—Rinier’s—Azzo waited for, heart in his mouth. He did not see Rinier aim, but it was as if his entire body had become a trigger Rinier’s finger readied to press.

“You!” The shriek carried down the quiet street. “Don’t think you can get away from me, you son-of-a-bitch.”

Rinier’s shot rang out, its trajectory irrevocably twisted by the redhead’s loud invective. The girl barreled up the street, pointing her finger at Azzo, gold heels swinging in her hand and bare feet striking the pavement.

The red carnation of a wound blossomed on Obizzo’s sleeve, and the fountaining blood gushed to the sound of another shot. The girl, the stain on her chest an enlarged copy of Obizzo’s, sunk to her knees, eyes unseeing, a clenched arm brought to her throat. She pitched forward, folding like a cutout.

One of the men rushed to fashion his suspenders into a tourniquet for Obizzo’s arm. The capo’s eyes, the black of a gun muzzle, fixed on Rinier. Feeling nothing more than he did in target practice, Azzo sighted on Rinier’s temple. The black curve of Rinier’s slicked hair marked off the vulnerable skin over the veneer of bone. With each bullet Azzo pumped into the sponge of Rinier’s brain, the force of impact stabbed up Azzo’s arms, as if punctuating the end of his life, such as it was.


Obizzo d’Este stood over his son’s freshly-dug grave. Rain came down heavily, loading his shoulders with the weight of his sodden cashmere overcoat. Drops rolled down over his lips, trickled into his collar. He had watched his nephew die, in the darkened street. No, not his nephew. His son. Everybody knew Azzo was Obizzo’s son, no use denying it. But Obizzo had no choice but to kill the boy. A betrayal like Azzo’s commanded an execution.

The three corpses, Azzo, Renier, and the red-haired young woman who saved his life by her sudden scream carried off in the black hearse car. To hell with them all. Obizzo wiped his hand roughly over his face, stared at his palm, surprised at its wetness. Then he remembered that it was only the rain.

He looked down. Blood gushed from the freshly-dug mud, fountained, bubbled, squirted. It rose high and higher, to Obizzo’s polished shoes, up the perfect crease of his pants. The heavy red waters roiled all around him, and, as Obizzo’s mouth opened in a silent scream, Azzo’s tombstone flashed with the scrolling green lines: Bea! What is this shit! Have you even looked at the script? I’ll have your ass, and that’s a promise. Dan.


The widow’s tongue darted out between her crimson lips like a leaping flame. Heavy eyelashes cast smoky shadows on her cheeks. The priest traced the flushed curve of her cheekbone and drew his finger down to her mouth.

“What if somebody sees us here,” she murmured into his neck. When she wiggled her taut curved hips in his lap he could barely understand what she said.

“We are in a tomb,” he managed. The air smelled damp under the vaulted ceiling. The stone bench they occupied breathed cold. But the woman in his arms was … he leaned to her ear and whispered, “Incandescent.”

“Not afraid you’ll burn in hell for this, father?” she bit lightly on the tip of his finger.

“Hell is distant. Heaven – I am there already.” Farinata tugged on the low scoop of the woman’s dress. Her breast sprung free into his hand, and the heat he felt at her touch became almost unbearable. He wound his fingers into her dark hair.

Suddenly, her eyes widened. He turned to look. Fire rose higher and higher, spilling out of a stone coffin, building into a large wall, roaring and consuming. Farinata screamed.


Bea, this is absolutely it. You are friggin’ nuts. I’m all out of warnings. Meet me – now. In the graveyard. I am deleting all your code if you don’t. All of it.

The green lines have not yet winked out, but Dan already kicked the tombstone so hard it shattered. Nobody could suspect that Dan’s wiry frailty was capable of such strength.

“Bea – get over here. Now,” he growled.

“Yada-yada, asshole.” Bea stood before him, low-sitting jeans and a black cut-off top exposing her midriff, dark hair in ringlets wet, as if she had just stepped out of a shower, a glass of red wine in hand.

She raised her glass so the red inside it glowed in the last rays of the sun. The air, sweet and moist, clung to skin this evening, and the lilac twilight breathed soft spring.

“Bea. You’ll be in trouble if you go on like this.” Dan reached out for her hand. His deeply tanned arm looked menacing next to Bea’s.

“Nah.” Bea drained her glass and tossed it up in the air, caught it. “I am through coding for you anyway.”

“Not until you’ve fixed what you’ve done.” Dan stepped close. “You have a lot to answer for.”

“Really. What did I do, the poor ol’ me? Ruined one of your sick plotlines? The one where that Paolo gets off both with the mother and the daughter, and the crippled father kills him, to the background of everyone dying in the plague? He grew up too fast for you, now? You are all a bunch of pervs, you know that?”

“It wasn’t my plotline. It was Gabe’s,” Dan answered her, sulkily. “And it’s not for you to judge our plotlines. That’s what the people want, all right? We’ve done the polling. These are the stories that get remembered. You are just there to code. And with the new release coming up, you better.”

“Nope.” Bea flung her glass at a nearby mossy tombstone. It shattered in accordance with all the laws of physics. Shit, she could really code up a storm when she felt like it. “I am not doing the new release, and you boys will just have to suck it up. It’s disgusting. It’s the most misogynist, evil, repulsive game you’ve come up with yet.”

“Oh, please.” Dan sat down on the dewy grass. When he inhaled around here, the graveyard smelled of damp wood, earth and wilting flowers. Exactly the way a graveyard ought to smell. “It wasn’t me, for the new one. It was Will and that French dude, Prosper, if you must know.”

“Still,” Bea crossed her arms and refused to meet Dan’s eyes, “it’s not even a game. It’s just killing women. That’s it. Is that what the guys really want? The polls showed you?”

“Yes. All men have baggage. Ex-girlfriends. Bosses. Co-workers. Snooty bitches who have turned them down. Would you rather they were violent to real women, or exorcised it in a game, and got it over with?”

“Tough choice, Danny,” Bea grinned. She leaned against the tombstone over a grave of some woman named Bice di Folco Portinari. “How about, I’d rather they were not violent at all? You drop corpses right, left and center in Epidemic and La Famiglia, and Fiery Tombs is so full of twisted sex, every perv in town has his hands shaking. What happened to strategy? Intelligence? Either way, I’ll have no part in it from now on.” There was no mistaking the finality in her voice.

“Don’t do it, Bea,” Dan stepped close and drew a thin blade out of the air. It lay in his hand, perfectly balanced. He had designed it for the new game – Carmen’s Flight. Yes, killing women. That was pretty much all the game was. The gamer picked a heroine and then killed her. Got to bury her and everything, even decorate the tombstone. Bea’s graveyard was integral to a lot of their games. And now she was screwing with it. Screwing with them all.

Bea shrugged. She raised her arm in a mock salute. Her breasts stretched her thin black shirt, and Dan’s mouth went dry. Too bad they did not get to do it anymore. It had been so much fun in the beginning, when Bea had first come along. She turned to leave now.

“Bea, don’t!” Dan shouted one last time, but she did not look back. Furious, he let the knife fly out of his fingers. He did not have to aim. The knife was a cheat. If you bought it, you were guaranteed to hit your target. The knife pierced Bea under the left shoulder blade. She gasped. The spreading round stain turned her shirt even darker. Bea fell to her knees and hit the grass face-forward.


Dan lay in the grass looking at the sky. Bea always wanted gunmetal gray for the graveyard, but he preferred this light hazy blue. A shadow fell over him. Dan did not have to turn; he recognized the shadow.

“Hello, Gabriel. Bea’s gone.”

“Yes, I heard.” Gabriel answered dryly. He sat down.

“Oh, don’t make a big deal out of it,” Dan raised himself on his elbows. Since he did not have his sunglasses on, he avoided looking at Gabriel’s face. “All that knife does is erases the code. But I’ve got all her specs saved. I mean, I’m the one who wrote her. I’ll just tone down her personality, maybe give her bigger tits, and she’ll be up and running again.”

“No,” Gabriel said.

“What do you mean no?” This time Dan risked a look. As usual, he had to shield his eyes.

“You are on mandatory leave, starting now. ”

“And if I refuse?”

“Good luck,” Gabriel laughed. “You know how things work around here. Put a toe out of line, and you are out, just like Adam. Will be ‘bye-bye, Dante.’ ”

Dante winced. He did not like his full name. Much preferred to go by ‘Dan.’

“That’s gonna be hell, all right,” he said glumly and got up. Gabriel remained on the ground, wings folded behind him.

“How long will I be off then?” Dan asked.

Depends on what the big guy decides. He likes Bea, you know. Fancy an apple, by the way?” Gabriel held a dented apple out to Dan.

“Keep it.” Dan wrinkled his nose.

“Suit yourself. But, seriously, that’s, your last warning. You keep pissing people off, they’ll expunge you.”

“Haha,” Dan looked at the sky again. Looked like a storm was gathering on the horizon. “You can’t expunge me. I am not a program. I am real.” He waited for an answer, but none came. Dan took one last look at the graveyard which seemed to glow now, and slouched off. A few blades of grass clung to the back of his t-shirt.

Gabriel stared after him, then plucked a feather out of his wing and blew on it. The feather rose higher and higher in the still air, oblivious of gravity.

“Aren’t we all,” Gabriel muttered. “Aren’t we all.”

Rachel Cohen

Rachel Cohen is a lawyer living in Canada, where she immigrated from Russia.Her undergrad degree is in Math and CS, so she is interested in that intersection of crime and technology where lots of things happen.Her short story, "Special," recently won first place in a competition ran by the 'Nuff Said magazine, so she got all excited and wrote another one.

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