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The New Salon: Fiction Writers in Conversation

 Tinti.jpegHannah Tinti grew up in Salem, Massachusetts, and is co-founder and editor-in-chief of One Story magazine. Her short story collection, Animal Crackers, has sold in sixteen countries and was a runner-up for the PEN/Hemingway award. Her first novel, The Good Thief, is published by The Dial Press and Headline. The Good Thief is a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and recently won the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize.
 from The Good Thief

Copyright by Hannah Tinti

He had no memory of a beginning—of a mother or father, sister or brother. His life was simply there, at Saint Anthony’s, and what he remembered began in the middle of things—the smell of boiled sheets and lye, the taste of watery oatmeal, the feel of dropping a brick onto a piece of stone, watching the red pieces split off, then using those crumbling, broken shards to write on the wall of the monastery, and being slapped for this, and being forced to wash the dust away with a cold, wet rag.

Ren’s name had been sewn into the collar of his nightshirt. Three letters embroidered in dark blue thread. The cloth was made of good linen, and he had worn it until he was nearly two. After that it was taken away and given to a smaller child to wear. Ren learned to keep an eye on Edward, then James, then Nicholas—and corner them in the yard. He would pin the squirming children to the ground and examine the fading letters closely, wondering what kind of hand had worked them. The R and E were sewn boldly in a cross stitch, but the N was thinner, slanting to the right, as if the person working the thread had rushed to complete the job. When the shirt wore thin it was cut into bandages. Brother Joseph gave Ren the piece of collar with the letters, and the boy kept it underneath his pillow at night.