Robert lay in a heap at the bottom of the grand staircase. His legs were limb, numb above the waist. Dimly, he recalled a meaty snap as he had plummeted: his spine.

“My dear! Oh, my dear.”

At the sound of her voice, Robert cut his way through the forest of pain closing in around him and tried to dig his hands into the floor, to pull himself away, toward the great oaken doors, toward safety.

“My dear! Oh my sweet, sweet dear.”

Orthodontia appeared at the top of the stairs, dressed only in her nightgown. She began descending slowly, making a grand entrance. A pair of silver sewing shears glittered in her hand.

“Stay away,” croaked Robert. “Stay away!”

“You’re not well,” said Orthodontia. “Come, dear. Let me sew you back together.”

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