Auntie Grendel’s library doesn’t have any bookshelves. The books are piled up in certain stacks that make no sense to anyone but her. The Bible is stuffed between a fiction book about witchcraft and a fashion magazine. Her college grammar book is underneath a cookbook underneath a mystery book. I usually just ask her for a book and she finds it for me in less than a minute, but this book is different. It’s the family history.

I know that our last name used to be something different. We had to change it, distance ourselves from a bad legacy everyone refuses to talk about. If they just gave me the old last name, I could Google it and everyone would be happy. As it is, I have to shift through towering stacks of books while Auntie Grendel tends to the garden. “The tomatoes ripened early this year.”

Maybe it has to do with my parents. I have no memories of them and I haven’t even found a picture with them in it. Auntie Grendel does have a lot of pictures with faces burned out of them though. She’s raised me since forever.

The door to the backyard slams shut. I glance over the stacks, spotting a plain brown book on the bottom of the farthest pile. I shimmy through the aisles, hearing footsteps on the staircase. My hands shake as I yank the book out. The tower teeters and the books rain down, knocking over other stacks.

“Ellie!” Auntie Grendel hurries over, fixing stacks as she passes them. “Why would you pull a book from the bottom?”

I try to hide the book behind my back. She pales and holds out her hand. “Give it to me. You’re not ready.”

As I turn away, the book slips and falls open to a family tree. In gold letters the name Manson glares up at me. Auntie Grendel’s hand grabs my shoulder. “Fine, it’s time you learned.”




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