THEY WHEELED THE dead baby out at exactly 6:41 PM; Richard knew this because he was glancing at his watch when he heard the sound of the serving cart, and looked up.

Wheeled him out on a metal serving cart, he would later think, appalled. My sweet God . . .

Before this happened the Reverend had stood silent for a time, eyes closed in meditation, his palms pressed together, fingers pointing like little church steeples. The rest of the assemblage shuffled their feet and fidgeted impatiently, some of them coughing into fists. When he opened his eyes and began to speak, Richard jumped.

“Welcome, everyone. We’ve all been acquainted—at one time or another—with the expression ‘culling the herd’, have we not?” A few nods came, some muttered affirmations. “But what does this mean, precisely: an eradication of the sick? Does it mean reducing the parasitic overpopulation? Getting rid of those too frail and weak among us, perhaps, as your forebears once did right here in B
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