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[Fiction] A close-knit family's struggles in Dickens-era England:

"Caroline always prepares Fred’s breakfast herself. Her young brother’s looking sallow around the eyes. 'We saved you the last of the kippers,' she says, in a tone airy enough to give the impression that she and Pet had their fill of kippers before he came down this morning.

"Mouth full, Fred sings to his niece in his surprising bass.

"His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate’er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.

"Pet giggles at the face he’s pulling. Caroline slides her last triangle of toast the child’s way. Pet’s worn that striped frock since spring. Is she undersized, for two years old? But then, girls are generally smaller. Are the children Caroline sees thronging the parks so twig-like, under their elaborate coats? 'Where did you pick that one up?' she asks Fred.

"'A fellow at the office.'

"'Again, again,' insists Pet: her new word this week.

"Caroline catches herself watching the clock."
PUBLISHED: Aug. 24, 2012
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4385 words)