First Paragraph from “Candidate” by Karen E. Bender

“It was four thirty in the afternoon, and Diane Bernstein knew that the phone was about to ring. She had just paid the baby-­sitter, the third one to quit this month, extremely polite when she quit, blaming it on other issues—sorority functions, heavy schoolwork—as though the boy had not unnerved her at all. When Diane had walked through the door, Liza, the baby girl, had fallen into her mother’s arms, weeping so hard she began to choke. The boy, Johnny, was curled up in his bed, rocking himself, for he had scratched the babysitter in a fury (‘I wanted to play the radio,’ she said, ‘and he just went insane’) and the young woman had shut him in his room. Why hadn’t Diane found a better babysitter? It was not a question she allowed herself anymore. She had long stopped worrying about forgiveness, of herself or others. When the therapist had told her, again, that it was not her fault, she laughed; everything was her fault; everything was everyone’s fault. ‘Even if it was his fault,’ she said, meaning her husband, to the therapist, ‘what would it matter? He’s gone.’”

—Karen E. Bender

Excerpted from “Candidate” from Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade. Copyright © 2014 by University of North Carolina Wilmington. Used by permission of Lookout Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.