The twisted silver metal can clanks along the cobblestones. The
alleyway is dark and coated in grime.
“Run!” A little boy dives on top of the can, curling into a ball. You
run towards the end of the alley, shrieking with laughter, chased by
red headed boys in overalls, caps caught in the wind, to lie lonesome
and abandoned on filthy cobblestones. A boy pretends to grab his
rifle, hauling it onto his shoulder, clicking his tongue in imitation.
Another tugs your arm, pulling you away, your knight in shining
“You’re my hero!” you say. “You saved me!”
A mock battle, a minuscule comparison. Overalls instead of
uniforms, dirt patches rather than scarlet blood. A warped
comprehension of honor, not horror. A game.
Then, your painted, pretend world shatters: a make-believe
bubble of valiant heroes and courageous soldiers, come and gone.
The sun is setting, grapefruit orange fading into soothing hues of
purple and blue. It is time for supper, time for family, time for
reality. A piece of thin yellow paper drifts in the wind, and you
pause for a moment, watching it float delicately to the ground, and,
for the millionth time, you thank the Lord that your Daddy didn’t
have to go to war. That he doesn’t have to suffer the same hellish
fate that grown ups try to hide you from. Pretense and wool are
thick, but your green eyes see clearly.
“Be proud of Daddy,” they tell you. “Your Daddy is special, he’s
very important. Be
!” And you are, because you are an obedient
little girl who always brushes her hair and ties her shoes, boasting at
school about your Daddy, your important Daddy with the
mysterious, secret job.
You wave goodbye to the red-headed rascals as you reach your
small, white two story house, with its midnight shutters and
periwinkle door. You spy your Daddy’s smart black boots, bigger
than twice yours, and you break into a skip, ready to leap into his
loving arms. You fling open the door, run through the main room,
down the hall, into the kitchen. Straight to your father. Up, up, up,
into his arms, not caring about the dirt patches you are inevitably
leaving on his pristine grey suit.
“Hello, little one!” He smiles, swinging you around.
You ignore the worried expression he wears as you enter the
room. You ignore the nervous wringing of hands, the low tone of