To him, it’s as if his daughter eloped with a cretin, for though they sent her to college to become a nurse, she now calls herself a writer. She loves fiction! She loves writing! And so, this afternoon, he follows her email link and reads one of her stories, recently posted in a minor online journal. The final line: “At the woodpile, we lingered as a young flame licked the cabin windows, and I prayed the structure would burn before our father woke from the drugs and started to scream.” The language is overwrought, he thinks, but he cannot bring himself to offer such a blunt critique in a response. The story is unoriginal, he thinks, but he cannot bear to break his daughter’s heart, despite his inner turmoil. She is proud of this accomplishment, of a stranger saying that her prose is good enough for publication. How to reply! He brews a pot of tea. Walks the dog. Settles on a compromise. Returning to his desk, he opens a new message and types the following: Did you learn about sedatives during your medical training?

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