Excerpt: 'We Need To Talk About Kevin'

I missed you during the day, as I missed my old life when I was too busy to miss you during the day. Here I had become quite well versed in Portuguese history down to the order of the monarchy and how many Jews were murdered during the Inquisition, and now I was reciting the alphabet. Not the Cyrillic alphabet, nor the Hebrew one, the alphabet. Even if Kevin had proved an ardent pupil, for me the regime would doubtless have felt like a demotion of the precipitous sort commonly constrained to dreams: Suddenly I'm sitting in the back of the class, taking a test with a broken pencil and no pants. Nonetheless, I might have abided this humbling role if it weren't for the additional humiliation of living, for over six years now, up to my elbows in shit.

Okay — out with it.

There came an afternoon in July that, per tradition, Kevin had soiled his diapers once and been cleaned up with the whole diaper cream and talcum routine, only to complete the evacuation of his bowels twenty minutes later. Or so I assumed. But this time he outdid himself. This was the same afternoon that, after I had insisted he write a sentence that was meaningful about his life and not one more tauntingly inert line about Sally, he wrote in his exercise book, "In kendergarden evrybody says my mother looks rilly old." I'd turned beet-red, and that was when I sniffed another telltale waft. After I'd just changed him twice. He was sitting cross-legged on the floor, and I lifted him to a stand by the waist, pulling his Pampers open to make sure. I lost it. "How do you do it?" I shouted. "You hardly eat anything, where does it come from?"

A rush of heat rippled up through my body, and I barely noticed that Kevin was now dangling with his feet off the carpet. He seemed to weigh nothing, as if that tight, dense little body stocked with such inexhaustible quantities of shit was packed instead with Styrofoam peanuts. There's no other way to say this. I threw him halfway across the nursery. He landed with a dull clang against the edge of the stainless steel changing table. His head at a quizzical tilt, as if he were finally interested in something, he slid, in seeming slow motion, to the floor.


Excerpted from We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver Counterpoint Press, copyright 2003.

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