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dead, deadbeat, and deadly

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Mama had shoes for me before I was born. Little boots, white suede, sized for someone too young to walk yet. I climbed out of her already crawling, and I've never worn shoes willingly a day in my life.

I think she must have known, by the time I arrived. I was too big, too wrong. The doctor didn't stand a chance. The midwife held me at arm's length in the strongest grip she could while I screamed with a bloody mouth, and someone else, shell-shocked, swaddled me tight enough to keep my claws from breaking skin.

Sometimes I feel sorry for her.

They couldn't hold me, not any of them, not for long: not my aunt they handed custody to, not the casino-wheel of foster parents, not the state. I was born wild and strong and with a full set of teeth, and whatever lived inside me back then didn't understand things like love and mercy.

I've grown since then. Tempered myself, learned how to put the hungry parts of me behind a mask, how to be something else that passes for one of them. It was tough work, but I've had eighteen years to practice, and every other reason to try.

I have enough to remember Mama by these days -- her photos, her crimson-ink love letters, her black books, the knife from the drawer carved in beautiful sterling silver with the touch of what I know isn't rust along the blade. Most of my collection is from when Auntie finally passed. My cousins didn't want anything to do with Mama's old things, any more than they did with me.

They never figured out the father. Never needed to, really. If they were looking, I doubt they'd ever find him. Not exactly like you could ask the old bastard to pay child support. With all that's been my life, though, I've had some thoughts about giving him a piece of my mind.

So, an offer, to drum myself up a little cash for the road.

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.