Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

The Usual Suspects

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

The Usual Suspects

Article excerpt

Mr. and Ms. N had ruefully come to think of the hour just before dinner as the naughtiness hour. That was the time of day when Alexander, aged five and emotionally troubled, was most apt to pick fights with his sister Fanny, almost three. They were a little tired, a little hungry, and generally at loose ends, clamoring for attention while their mother and father did their best to get dinner on the table.

To night the children were such a nuisance underfoot that Ms. N sent them out of the kitchen to quarrel elsewhere while she mashed the potatoes and Mr. N made the gravy. Two minutes later there was a crash from upstairs, followed by a thud. Mr. and Ms. N took the stairs two at a time to Alexander's room. Fanny's right arm hung at an unnatural angle and she was bleeding freely from a cut above her right eye. The skin along the cheekbone had already begun to swell. Two drawers stood open like stairsteps in Alexander's chest of drawers, and the toys he kept on top had been swept to the floor.

"Did you do this?" Mr. N demanded.

Alexander nodded, terrified. "It wasn't my fault. She made me. She climbed up on my drawers and started messing with my stuff, so I went up after her and pushed her off. She's not even s'posed to be in here!"

On the way to the emergency room, under cover of Fanny's steady sobbing, Ms. N laid her hand on her husband's sleeve. "Do you remember what happened to the Thompsons last year when Katie broke her collarbone? When the doctors didn't believe them? …

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