A Life Without Consequences

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9780967370170: A Life Without Consequences

A Life Without Consequences is a semi-biographical novel from emerging author Stephen Elliott. His novel traces the fate of Paul, a boy whose mother has died and who runs away from a violent father. The book follows Paul from living on the streets of Chicago to passing through juvenile institutions and a state system that is primarily programmed for failure. There, he meets Tanya and they fall in love but they are young and are separated after a failed attempt to escape the institution. Paul battles through the violent system all the while battling his own rapidly budding adolescence. But as he turns sixteen he starts to come to terms with his own path, not as an adult, but as a scared child and we see that Paul’s emotions that we think of as anger are actually the determination to take control of his future. While the characters are fictional, they are representative of many and we realize the fragility of childhood and the burden on the children who have nowhere else to go.

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About the Author:

Stephen Elliott left home at thirteen and after a year sleeping on the roof of a convenience store on Chicago's north side he was made a ward of the court and channeled through various large and small group homes and institutional learning facilities. He has since worked as a stripper, a cabdriver, a bartender, and a marketing executive. Stephen Elliott has recently been awarded the 2001 the Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, offered to emerging writers in fiction and poetry.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Nancy squints when she smiles. She has thick legs, a short body, a big ass. On the outside she’s just another woman in a long skirt. In here she’s more.

I stare at her legs when she talks, daydreaming about getting between them, about sliding up between her feet, her knees, until I crawl inside of her completely and go to sleep.

“You have a twitch,” she says. I look up. “Right over your nose.”

“Sometimes I’m nervous.”

“I read your file.”

“You must have a lot of time on your hands.”

Nancy smiles. I play with the frays on my jeans, hunch my back, touch my knees. I can be like an ogre. “Your father used to beat you.”

“You could say that.”

“How often?”

“A few times. It could have been worse. Mostly it was verbal.” I look up, she’s squinting. Fuck. It’s like talking to an absence. “He shaved my head a couple of times. Handcuffed me to a pipe.”

Nancy nods. I look at her feet; she’s wearing blue nylons. Papers and books stack the wall behind her and next to us a big window with not much to see. Nancy squints. “Do you think you’re looking for a mother figure? Someone to replace your mother?”

“My mother didn’t do anything but sit on the couch and die for five years. I don’t want to replace that.” A silence hangs over us for a few minutes. I play with my fingers, stare at my folded hands. Her floor is the same as every floor in the hospital. A calendar hangs over her desk with a picture of a dove with its wings spread. A Bible sits by the window, the same cracked Bible that was in the car.

“You’re very intelligent for your age.” I shrug my shoulders, think to myself: I’m smarter than you. “You talk like an adult.”

“I write poetry,” I blurt out. Damn. I look at her ankles, then up to her shoulders.

“Look at me,” she says. Her eyes shine, she squints. “I’d like to read your poetry.” I shrug my shoulders. Her ankles. Time’s up. We stand, shake hands. “We’ll talk next week.” Her hands her soft.

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