Title: Games We Played
Author: Shawne Steiger
Genre: Women’s Fiction; Literary Fiction
Publisher: Red Adept
When actress Rachel Goldberg shares her personal views on a local radio show, she becomes a target for online harassment. Things go too far when someone paints a swastika on her front door, not only terrifying her but also dredging up some painful childhood memories. Rachel escapes to her hometown of Carlsbad. To avoid upsetting her parents, she tells them she’s there to visit her Orthodox Jewish grandmother, even though that’s the last thing she wants to do. But trouble may have followed her. Stephen Drescher is home from Iraq, but his dishonorable discharge contaminates his transition back to civilian life. His old skinhead friends, the ones who urged him to enlist so he could learn to make better bombs, have disappeared, and he can’t even afford to adopt a dog. Thinking to reconnect with his childhood friend, he googles Rachel’s name and is stunned to see the comments on her Facebook page. He summons the courage to contact her. Rachel and Stephen, who have vastly different feelings about the games they played and what might come of their reunion, must come to terms with their pasts before they can work toward their futures.
Stephen could see the back of the man's head and his brown hair,
wound like a bandanna to hide the obvious bald spot. His mother
ducked and disappeared behind the back of the couch. Stephen
eyed the empty carton of Swanson’s vanilla ice cream and the usual
overturned ashtray and pushed Rachel toward the attic stairs, but
his mother called again. “Come on, Stevie. Come say hi.” Rachel
stopped moving, forcing Stephen to stop too.
He could see over the couch that his mother’s head was on the
man’s lap, her legs crossed at the ankles, propped on the arm of the
couch. He saw one high-heeled sandal, but the other foot was bare
except for chipped red nail polish. She wiggled her toes on the shoeless
foot, as if she was playing piano notes in the air.Her sundress was
bunched high on her hips, revealing skin and the edges of lacy black
underwear. She laughed again and tugged the dress down.
“This is Stevie’s friend, Rachel,” she told the man. The man
played with his mother’s hair, his beefy fingers twisting and tugging
at the bleached-white strands.
Stephen’s mother stretched a lazy arm in Stephen and Rachel’s
direction. “Come on and give your poor mother a kiss,” she said.
“Come on, Stevie. Come and tell me about your day.”
“I’m busy,” Stephen said and grabbed Rachel’s arm to hurry her
up. He could tell his mother wouldn’t be taking him to the hospital
to see his grandpa that night. He had been counting on going earlier,
even though he hated the bleachy medicine odor, how white and
clean everything was, and the nurses bending forward to say, “Hi,
Stevie, how are you today?” as if he were three years old.His grandpa
was supposed to come home that week, but now they wanted to keep
him for another week. “To stabilize him on the oxygen,” his mother
The man turned swollen eyes in Stephen’s direction. “When your
mother tells you to do something, you should do it. What are you,
some kind of ingrate kid who can’t give his own mother a kiss hello?”
“Now, Brett, you leave the discipline to me. Nobody touches my
kid but me.” Stephen’s mother sat up and swung her legs around so
her feet touched the floor. Her dress rode up farther, and Uncle Brett
slid a hand underneath the hem and glared at Stephen with a look
in his eyes that made Stephen want to punch him in the face and
run away all at the same time. Stephen’s mother giggled and swatted
Brett’s hand away, tugging the dress down. “Come on, Stevie. Give
me a kiss.”
“It’s Stephen,” he wanted to shout, but instead he barely whispered.
“What?” she asked, and the man threw him a hostile look.
“Nothing.” Stephen dropped Rachel’s arm and moved cautiously
toward his mother. He leaned forward and pecked her on the cheek,
trying not to gag at her breath. She tousled his hair the way the
nurses at the hospital sometimes did, and he jerked back and speed
“Did you do your homework?” she called after him.
“It’s Saturday,” he mumbled.
“What?” she asked again, but he ignored her and shoved his finger
back against Rachel’s back.
“Go,” he ordered her.
Uncle Brett called after him, “Your mother said to do your
homework, kid. Better do it.”
Stephen’s mother scolded him. “I told you. I’ll worry about my
son. You just take care of me.”Her laughter followed Rachel and him
up the attic stairs.
While he and Rachel climbed to the attic, he imagined his
grandpa waiting for them up there, waiting to tell them one of his
war stories: how they’d rounded up and killed the ugly Jews, how he
saw Hitler talk and knew he would do anything that man wanted,
how the world would be different if only they’d won.
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Shawne Steiger wrote her first story when she was seven. Over the years, she has been a pizza maker, dressage teacher, house cleaner, and therapist. The one constant in her life has been her writing, which is why, after years working as a trauma therapist, she applied to Vermont College of Fine Arts and completed an MFA in Fiction writing. After learning that she's happiest when writing, Shawne published short stories and essays in several literary journals. Supporting her writing habit with her social work degree, Shawne frequently incorporates her understanding of how trauma affects people into her fiction. When not writing or working, she enjoys going to the theater, reading and travel. Luckily her love of travel stops her from fully realizing her aspirations to enter the realm of mad cat woman, since she's yet to find the perfect suitcase that will fit all her cats and still be light enough to carry.
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