90. Gordon Bear

The children he works for have tried to call him many things: Gordon, or Gordie, or Go-Go, or Gor. To each of these he gives a not-quite-smile, an almost-shake-of-the-head, and a serious look straight in the eyes.

“It’s Mister Bear, if you please,” he says.

What an adult might interpret as aloofness somehow only makes him more beloved by the children. Perhaps it’s because the name upon which he insists is exactly what a child might name her favorite stuffed toy. Perhaps it’s due to his storybook physique – rosy-cheeked and neckless, round and mountainous, heavy muscles hidden beneath his trench coat. Whatever the reason, the children fling themselves at him when he arrives each morning, their arms making it barely a third of the way around his waist. Each night they weep theatrically at his departure. And in between, whether at school or the mall or the barber shop, they never stray far from his side. This is good for Gordon; it makes his job easier.

Somewhere between the police and the war, the resistance and the smuggling and the contract killings, Gordon realized that he was a violent person. In the same way that some people have a sexual awakening, Gordon realized the simple fact of his own brutality. He’s good at killing people, and he likes to be good at things. Killing causes a host of problems, to be sure, but most problems caused by killing can be solved by more killing, if you take the long view, which Gordon does. He went through periods of denial, of course, where he swore off violence altogether, but ultimately his thick, squarish fingers, his palms dense as lead, aren’t good for any other kind of work. He finally had to accept that he will never make more than six months without at least hurting someone very, very badly. And if he’s going to hurt people regardless, he’d rather hurt people who want to hurt children.

The people who pay Gordon aren’t good people, but he doesn’t protect those people. He protects their children, and their children are good because they are children. He is always on time. He speaks only when spoken to, or when there is an emergency, but if a child asks him a question he always does his best to answer. If he can’t answer a question immediately, he will go home and look up the answer in his encyclopedia. He buys the children presents for Christmas and their birthdays – a stuffed pig or a pair of nice wool gloves, but never a popgun or a wooden sword. He is the only weapon they will ever need, he hopes.

88. Mariah Gwynn

No one knows the right thing to say about Mariah’s eyes. No, she can’t see the future – as a dozen uncreative one-night-stands have smirkingly guessed. Nor – as a not insignificant number of pick-up artists have ventured – is she the result of a romantic coupling between an irishwoman and a husky. Her eyes, like her freckles and her yellow-red hair, are an accident of genetics – a quirk or a defect, depending on which Mariah you ask.

The Mariah you meet on weekdays would call it a quirk. She works in a day-spa for wealthy dogs, shampooing them and cuddling them and breaking up their fights. When she looks the dogs in their eyes, even the worst of them go quiet. She wishes she could drown in a sea of dogs, but this is obviously not possible.

Weekend Mariah leads with her black iris, always tilting her head so that the ghostly blue of her other eye is hidden in shadow. She opted for bangs a few years ago precisely to stop herself covering up one eye or the other with her hair, but in the strobing darkness of the clubs she frequents she can still hide well enough. On these nights, Mariah considers her entire self a defect. Her black eye is an opaque glass bead, but she thinks of it as a window into her soul. She drinks. She finds men she likes in the crowd, or at least tolerates. She makes herself their glass-eyed doll, and her own.

Every once in a while, on a half-remembered night before, or a too-remembered morning after, she meets a boy with nothing to say about her eyes. The boy will look not at her eyes, but into them. He will treat each one individually. He will see both Mariahs, and both Mariahs will see him. And Mariah will think in these moments, though she rarely remembers later, that perhaps the eyes do give her a special kind of sight.