This story is one of the Rabid Puppy recommendations for the Hugo. It was published in Fireside Magazine #19.

Elderly, has-been demon Molakesh the Destroyer moves into the house next to Sarah Jean. When it snows that winter, she is annoyed to find her mother expects her to help out by shoveling his driveway. Sarah Jean grumbles, but gets to shoveling. Molakesh grumbles, too, annoyed that she’s doing it, and that he owes her thanks, or hot chocolate, or something like that. Regardless of the rough start, they get to be friends, and Molakesh reminds Sarah Jean of her grandfather, who’s in the nursing home. She confides that the kids at school bully her because she has a birthmark on her face, and Molakesh gives her a gift of fire for one time use. Sarah Jean decides to save it for something important.

This is another of the sentimental stories that’s so popular right now. It has a slight, tongue-in-cheek humorous quality. Rather than being really dark, Molakesh turns out to be something of a grandfatherly mentor and friend for Sarah Jean. Making him a retired demon seems slightly symbolic of retirees in general to me, but if this is by design, it doesn’t play a big part in the story. The narrative also presents the issue of bullying, but treatment of this is also fairly straightforward. It also investigates values and maturity, as Sarah Jean makes her decisions. This is all very worthwhile, but it’s not presented with any particular style or complexity. A good, solid story.

Three stars.