Curtsville was a town like the bottom of a rock, a place only a mushroom could love. Perpetually humid, sticky, and dark, the only inhabitants were toadish people who mostly stayed in their homes. Neighbors generally only saw each another when one would totter out of their shuttered home, stare peevishly at the shrubbery inching ever so slightly onto their property line, collect their mail, and quickly make their way back in. The Millers were one of these families.
Mr. and Mrs. Miller had ten children, all girls. Their names were One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, and Ten. Mr. and Mrs. Miller did not have time to sit around generating fanciful names for ten children. One was sixteen years old, and Ten was three. After Ten had been born, Mrs. Miller had begun sleeping in the guest room. She much resembled the quilted rabbits chasing after the folds in the sheets and rendered in realistic watercolors hanging on the walls. Mr. Miller resembled a peeled potato. The children, all ten of them, resembled their parents.
The Millers were not an affectionate family. The girls, even Ten, were more like small, solemn adults than children. The only time anyone came into contact was one another was at bedtime, when Mr. Miller would go to the girls’ rooms, sit on the end of their bed, and count their fingers and toes. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten fingers. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten toes. Finding the count satisfactory, he’d snap off the light and retreat to an empty bedroom, where he would lie on his sunken stomach and snore until the single sickly rays of light would intervene in the morning.