A woman, Rose, describes her childhood during the depression as she struggled with issues of her own identity and her jealousy toward her younger sister, Sophie, who suffers from cerebral palsy and seizures. Rose watches as Sophie is born, as her parents argue, as Sophie is held closely by their mother during her seizures, and as Sophie is given two birthday parties each year. She fantasizes about how life might be if her sister were dead, and imagines her sister hanging from a rack like the animals at the slaughterhouse. Finally, she discovers that Sophie actually needs her and loves her.


While medicine today focuses on the pathophysiology of medical problems like cerebral palsy, developmental disability, or seizure disorders, students are less often taught about the ways that chronic illness in a child affects the entire family. This story, with its subconscious passions and suggested violence, is a powerful illustration of just how corroding chronic illness can be for a young family.


First published: 1995, in Literal Latte (61 East 8th St., New York, NY 10003)

Primary Source

The 1997 Pushcart Prize XXI: Best of the Small Presses



Place Published

Wainscott, N.Y.




Bill Henderson

Page Count