It was a small package, wrapped in exotic brown paper, hard to find. She placed it in his lap, where it stayed, him looking down at it.

“You have to open it to find out what it is,” Marie teased. “Unless you’ve developed X-ray vision or something.”

She pulled her sweater closed.

J!m tore back the paper. There was more paper underneath, a painting on it, a boy in a backward red cap, long black coat, carrying a suitcase, it appeared, into a house of burlesque. An inconveniently placed block of type over the entrance read:

This unusual book may shock you, will make you laugh, and may break your heart -- but you will never forget it.

J!m didn’t understand the title. He thought it might be about baseball.

“A book?”

“You can still get them,” Marie said. “I mean, they’re not against the law. That one’s not in the PLEX, though. I think you’ll like it.”

J!m was unsure of what to say, touched by the trouble Marie must have gone through to get him this terrible present.

From Go, Mutants, p. 94