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Once upon a time not so long ago, in a gold-mining town in the foothills of the Sierra mountains, an unlucky baby was born. It was hard for the doctors to tell that the baby was unlucky, because everything about him looked fine. He had blond hair and sumo-wrestler thighs and catlike blue eyes that crinkled into slits when he smiled. But this baby was unlucky because he was born with something extra in his blood, a chemical called meth-amphetamine. The doctors were not optimistic. They predicted the baby would grow up small and skinny, that he would probably have trouble learning things, and maybe worse.
The mother was allowed to keep him on two conditions: She promised not to take the methamphetamine anymore, and she promised to meet with her probation officer every couple of weeks. The arrangement seemed to work for a few months. Then, suddenly, it didn’t. The mother missed her appointments. The police came to check on the baby, and they saw that now he even looked unlucky. His sumo-wrestler thighs were lean. His eyes seemed stunned and blank. When they undid the baby’s diaper to change him, they saw that his hipbones stuck out.
So the baby went to a new family, a couple who could no longer have children of their own. The people weren’t rich, but they had a good place to live, with tall oak trees and a pond with fish and a basketball hoop and a tree house. They loved the baby. They nursed him back to health, and as soon as they could they adopted him.
Seasons passed, an...