A young street photographer with burn scars on his face is terrorized by brutal, manipulative bullies.
The narrator introduces himself simply as T—. "I don't like to write out my name," he explains with characteristic eloquence, simplicity, and wisdom, "because I know someone will come along and twist a normal name into something not-normal." Readers learn immediately why T— takes such a self-effacing defensive stance: charismatic Ryan, along with his sycophantic henchmen, targets T— relentlessly. Ryan's favorite tactic is causing destruction and making sure T— takes the fall, using his own charm and others' prejudice against T—'s appearance to full advantage. T— gets a brief moment of triumph when Lucy, a homeless woman he has befriended, thwarts Ryan and his stooges' attempt to harass her and embarrasses them in the process. Ryan's revenge, however, is vicious and disturbing, with violent consequences for both Lucy and a friend's dog. This is not a story in which truth prevails. The hope here lies instead in T—'s photographs, stark, expressive black-and-white portraits that appear interspersed with the text and add depth (though a layer of snow on a bicycle looks a bit too perfect to be real, and Lucy's clothes are strikingly clean).
Like the work of Diane Arbus, whose photographs play a central role here: bleak yet life-affirming. (Fiction. 12-16)