Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Charity Rarely Begins at Home

...the children on the other side of the wall are in torment, and Nat lifts the huge sledge hammer as though it weighs nothing, but when he raises it to smash the wall, it grows so heavy it falls upon his head. He touches his hair and it is wet and hot, but when he looks at his hand he sees no blood. So he lifts the sledge again, for now the children are howling his name, and some are calling him daddy, and he knows that the ones who scream his name died in a bus crash on River Road when he was nine, and that the ones who scream for daddy are the children he and Sandra never had, and this time when the hammer grows heavy over his head he directs its weight toward the wall, which gives like an eggshell, but on the other side are no children, just filthy cats covered with sores, the very ones he saw in Mexico City years ago, their eyes oozing pus, tabbies and blacks and whites, but the children’s voices are louder now, on the other side of still another wall, and Nat runs to it and punches and it gives like brittle tile, crashing around him, and there is only darkness in this room, but the children’s voices, their torment beyond measure, are louder still, and Nat steps into the darkness, and follows a prick of light that appears on a far wall, and when Nat touches it his fingers burn with cold, for he touches thick ice, he then pounds but cannot break through, and a light begins to grow in the room on the other side of the wall of ice, and Nat can see small bodies writhing and beating themselves, though the agent of their misery is invisible, and one child rises from the floor and presses her face to the ice, and she is beautiful and her pain is all-consuming, and Nat squats to her level and sees her lips move and hears her tiny muffled voice beg him to take her away, hears her imploring through tears, her face contorted, asking why he does not take her away from this.

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