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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Published by: 605b901440 on May 10, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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I Night1 We slept in what had once been the gymnasium. The floor was ofvarnished wood, with stripes and circles painted on it, for the games thatwere formerly played there; the hoops for the basketball nets were still inplace, though the nets were gone. A balcony ran around the room, for thespectators, and I thought I could smell, faintly like an afterimage, thepungent scent of sweat, shot through with the sweet taint of chewing gumand perfume from the watching girls, felt-skirted as I knew from pictures,later in miniskirts, then pants, then in one earring, spiky green-streakedhair. Dances would have been held there; themusic lingered, a palimpsestof unheard sound, style upon style, an undercurrent of drums, a forlornwail, garlands made of tissue-paper flowers, cardboard devils, a revolvingball of mirrors, powdering the dancers with a snow of light. There was oldsex in the room and loneliness, and expectation, of something without ashape or name. I remember that yearning, for something that was alwaysabout to happen and was never the same as the hands that were on usthere and then, in the small of the back, or out back, in the parking lot, or inthe television room with the sound turned down and only the picturesflickering over lifting flesh. We yearned for the future. How did we learn it,that talent for insatiability? It was in the air; and it was still in the air, anafter-thought, as we tried to sleep, in the army cots that had been set up inrows, with spaces between so we could not talk. We had flannelettesheets, like children's, and army-issue blankets, old ones that still said U.S. We folded our clothes neatly and laid them on the stools at the ends ofthe beds. The lights were turned down but not out. Aunt Sara and AuntElizabeth patrolled; they had electric cattle prods slung on thongs fromtheir leather belts. No guns though, even they could not be trustedwithguns. Guns were for the guards, specially picked from the Angels. Theguards weren't allowed inside the building except when called, and weweren't allowed out, except for our walks, twice daily, two by two aroundthe football field, which was enclosed now by a chain-link fence toppedwith barbed wire. The Angels stood outside it with their backs to us. Theywere objects of fear to us, but of something else as well. If only they would

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