For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

“Tam-O'-Shanter”

Donna Tartt

Excerpt

He wouldn't mind it so much if he stood any chance of actually cheering the poor kid up. But no matter how their parents tried to prepare them, warned them again and again that the films had been made fifty years before, children were always disappointed not to see another child. Sometimes the younger ones didn't understand. They asked him where the real Geordie was, was he Geordie's grandpa. But the older ones could scarcely conceal their dismay. He would never forget the afternoon several years before when a little girl–grandchild of a colleague at the production company–had been brought to him him. Gamely, he had pulled out the old red tam-o'-shanter; gamely, he had answered the door, bending low to greet the little girl and booming: “Aye, then! And who's this wee lassie?” He would never forget the look on the little girl's face. It was a look of shocked recognition, then of dawning horror: as if it were her own death she saw, leaning down so close to greet her; as if she could see the ruin of the boy he had been–destroyed now, lost forever–buried deep beneath sagging cheeks.