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“Wanna know my dad’s favorite book?”

“Don’t tell me, Michael. Is it the telephone book of the dead?”

“It’s called The Mind Parasites.”

“Yes, I’m sure,” said his grandmother. “He also collects those awful Bela Lugosi movies. I’ve no doubt you’ve seen every one of them by now.” She was clearing the table, save for Michael’s grapefruit juice.

“Yeah!” he said, eyes wide. “The best one is The Devil Bat. Bela Lugosi plays a mad scientist who’s got a giant vampire bat hanging upside down in his laboratory. It’s kinda stupid, actually. But the bat is cool.”

“Very inspiring,” said Grandmother Booth. She slid the glass of grapefruit juice nearer to him.

He heard a rustling outside in the garden. The kitchen window shone with glare; Michael squinted into the light. Emerging from behind a row of lilac bushes and running at a steady clip across the lawn was Kimberly-Ann Stohl. When she reached the house, she raced up the porch steps two at a time and slammed breathless against the screen door. Michael knew that Kimberly-Ann was at an age of outlandish and accelerated growth — her limbs shot out from her body like tendrils and crashed unceasingly into every object that stood in her path. The latest development, of which he had previously been unaware, was her hair: it was dyed with streaks of day-glo pink and yellow, and clipped unisexually short for the summer.

This character is in direct contrast to the grandmother and that use of opposites creates drama. This is what readers want. Not reality, but the heightened reality of art that plays out the extremes of that opposition (the conflict).

“I knew you were here, Michael!” she said. She was pulling at the damp front of her T-shirt. “Why didn’t you come to the park?”

“Michael will be with you as soon as he finishes his breakfast,” said Grandmother Booth. “Why don’t you sit on the steps and quiet down?”

“It doesn’t matter,” said Kimberly-Ann. “The balloons are already up.”

“What?” said Michael.

“The hot-air balloons. You can see ’em right here from the porch.”

Michael, startled, looked at his grandmother. She pointed to the juice.

“Away from the door, Kimberly-Ann,” she said. “You and your Martian hairdo can wait on the steps.”

Kimberly-Ann struck some adults as precocious, while others — like Grandmother Booth — found her hyperactive. Her father was a Unitarian minister, a somewhat cultish vocation in Grandmother Booth’s Methodist circle.