Six impossible things

Thirteenth Child sample

Chapter One (excerpt)

Everybody knows that a seventh son is lucky. Things come a little easier to him, all his life long: love and money and fine weather and the unexpected turn that brings good fortune from bad circumstances. A lot of seventh sons go for magicians, because if there’s one sort of work where luck is more useful than any other, it’s making magic.

And everybody knows that the seventh son of a seventh son is a natural-born magician. A double-seven doesn’t even need schooling to start working spells, though the magic comes on faster and safer if he gets some. When he’s grown and come into his power for true and all, he can even do the Major Spells on his own, the ones that can call up a storm or quiet one, move the earth or still it, anger the ocean or calm it to glassy smoothness. People are real nice to a double-seventh son.

Nobody seems to think much about all the other sons, or the daughters. There’s nearly always daughters, because hardly anybody has seven sons right in a row, boom, like that. Sometimes there are so many daughters that people give up trying for seven sons. After all, there’s plenty enough work in raising eleven or twelve childings, and a thirteenth child — son or daughter — is unlucky. So everybody says.

Papa and Mama didn’t pay much attention to what everybody says, I guess, because there are fourteen of us. Lan is the youngest, a double-seven, and he’s half the reason we moved away from Helvan Shores when I was five. The other half of the reason was me.

I’m Eff — the seventh daughter. Lan’s twin . . .

. . . and a thirteenth child.

From the day I was old enough to understand, I heard people talking to Mama and Papa about what to do with me. Aunt Tilly was the kindest. She only sighed and said it was a lucky thing I’d come first, or Lan would have been a thirteenth child with all the power of a double-seventh son. I wouldn’t be near so much a danger when I went bad, Aunt Tilly said. Uncle Earn and Aunt Janna disagreed. They said Mama and Papa ought to have drowned me as soon as Lan was safely born, and it wasn’t too late yet if they just had the resolution.

There were plenty of others, too, all anxious to tell Mama and Papa how I was sure to go bad, and to report every little thing I did as evidence they were right. If I spilled my soup, it was done apurpose and with evil in mind; if a ball I kicked went astray and tore up the new plantings in the kitchen garden, it was done deliberately in malice and spite. And of course their children heard the talk, just like I did, and if they didn’t understand it all, they understood enough to make my life a misery.

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