Carnages by Maxime Chattam

By Maxime Chattam

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He and Caputo have a nine o’clock breakfast, and he’s taking a Columbia MBA to lunch. It’s the nature of his job always to be recruiting, a necessity in an industry that grinds up bodies like a war. Replacements are always needed. That he’s endured past forty is something of an anomaly, the sure sign of a survivor. He runs, his mind still a riot from last week’s news. Siobhan has a baby boy, three months. The math is not difficult, the child conceived a year ago, about the time he and Siobhan split up.

No, really,” he says. ” “I love you so much,” she repeats. He smiles at her, satisfied, and takes a bite of bacon. Remember this, she tells herself. Remember when your boy looked at you and said he loved you. Remember it because otherwise you might let it slip, it was possible to forget anything, even love and dreams. She wonders where Kyle’s boy is right now, if someone is making him breakfast, and who it is. She dresses Connor for day camp, that summer refuge for the children of single mothers and dual-income families, and then has him watch TV at the counter while she takes ten minutes to put on a little eyeliner and then some concealer to lighten the darkness that now never seems to leave the underside of her eyes.

He will see the rabbi in two hours, so he shaves, a two-part process, first with the cream and blade, then, once his face has had a chance to dry, with the electric razor, which makes that odd hum when it finds a patch of whiskers he missed with the blade. He’s seen old men who shave themselves badly, leaving sloppy patches of gray stubble, signs of incompetence or—even worse—apathy. It’s the little things that matter now, the small acts of defiance that bring dignity in the face of all the deterioration.

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