I was inside sleeping when I heard a tapping. It sounded like a hollow place. It sounded like a wooden house, like bone on metal.
It was afternoon.
The sun was out, but hidden by trees.
There was a cage in my garden. A black square with four barred rectangular windows between the red and the yellow and the green. Little fingers curled and uncurled through the bars.
"What are you doing in there?" I asked.
The child didn't reply, only asked that I come back the next day with something to eat. Something sticky, like candy. Syrupy and soft.
"I can be back in ten minutes," I said.
"No, come back tomorrow."
All night I thought about the child in a cage in my garden, the hungry child who wanted to eat sweet things.
I collected lollipops, pop rocks, rock candy, gum, gummies. I found peppermint and cinnamon and lemon. I dropped them a little at a time into her hands and through the bars onto the floor of her cage, which reflected the slanting sunlight with shiny precision.
Her fingers stuck to themselves and her lips smacked and her pink tongue licked her face.
I came again the next day with my hands full, but this time she wanted something else.
"It's getting colder. Aren't you going to let me out?"
I thought about this a moment, as if I'd never thought of it before.
"I didn't put you in there," I said.
I left the sweets on the ground in front of the cage.
The winter came. I preferred to stay inside, where my wood and metal and bone held me in the same position for months. This old skin, I would think, sometimes for hours, days, months. The spring came and washed away the cage, the candy, the child.
I never saw this happen, I could only guess.
© 2003 Jaime Morelli, all rights reserved
appears here by permission