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Strong Beginnings

Excerpt: Sleeping Funny by Miranda Hill

We are collaborating with Toronto's festival of the mind Luminato, and reaching out to Canadian writers to find out about the decisions they made when choosing to open their most recent works.

Here is an excerpt from Miranda Hill's Sleeping Funny. Afterwards, be sure to read our Q&A with her about how she decided to start the first story in this collection, "The Variance".

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The Variance 

The lice moved through the neighbourhood with the precision of a military campaign. An infrared map of Glenmount Crescent would have shown a pattern so complete that even the houses that were spared seemed part of the strategy. By Monday of the second week, a third of the students at Forest Glen Elementary School were away, along with two teachers and even the well-coiffed lady from the front office who never touched anything that had  been handled by a student without dispensing a squirt of anti-bacterial gel.

By Wednesday, the Johnstone, Clark-Mayer, Banerjee-Blum and Stein houses all had children affected, and the nannies were spending their days laundering and combing, while the mothers went to work with their smooth hair pulled into tight ponytails over sharp collars. Imogene Clark had three children and had tried all the treatments, beginning with the most benign, a Vaseline-smeared head wrapped in scarves, so that Owen and Oliver and Mathilda looked at first like small cancer victims or a tumbling troupe gone awry, the dress-up box having been pilloried for one child after another. By that afternoon though, they had come to resemble dishevelled mummies, running around the house in greasy tatters, and Joy-Anne, the nanny, had stripped them of their ruined costumes and called Imogene at the university,  where she was provost. Imogene sent a message back through her secretary, saying she’d bring home some tea tree oil.

The oil made the children’s scalps tingle and got in Oliver’s eyes when he rubbed them, so that that night when he laid his head on his once-again laundered sheets he also had chamomile tea bags dripping onto his pillow, Imogene having remembered that chamomile was meant to soothe something eye-related and not recalling that it was sties her own mother had used it for.

When the lice showed no sign of surrender after four days of treatment and with Joy-Anne tired of being asked again and again if there weren’t some remedy from Jamaica she could recall, Imogene marched to the pharmacist and got the hard stuff.

Excerpted from Sleeping Funny. Copyright © 2012 Miranda Hill. Published by Doubleday Canada. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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