For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

“The Caretaker”

Anthony Doerr

Excerpt

In the days to come Joseph wanders farther. He sees men leading girls by chains; he stands aside so a dumptruck heaped with corpses can pass. Twenty times he is stopped and harassed; at makeshift checkpoints soldiers press the muzzles of rifles into his chest and ask if he is Liberian, if he is a Krahn, why he is not helping them fight the Krahns. Before they let him go they spit on his shirt. He hears that a band of guerillas wearing Donald Duck masks has begun eating organs of its enemies; he hears about terrorists in football cleats trampling the bellies of pregnant women.

Nowhere does anyone claim to know his mother's whereabouts. From the front step he watches the neighbors raid the garden. The boys he paid to loot stores no longer come by. On the radio a soldier named Charles Taylor brags of killing fifty Nigerian peacekeepers with forty-two bullets. “They die so easily,” he boasts. “It is like sprinkling salt onto the back of slugs.”

We read it in The Shell Collector.