you look up at it for a long time. You go back inside the hospital, but you donât want to go back to the boysâ ward, so you wander around. You go down the long hallway to Graham Ward, where the infants are. You walk around and look into cribs and see a lot of Godâs mistakes. There are things you probably should not see. You stare. A little baby girl reaches out to you, and there is only something like a crab claw on the end of her arm. In the next crib thereâs something that looks like it is from the bottom of an aquarium, but it is human and its eye follows you as you limp past. It is a loud crying place. It is a loud place of crying out. It is a place where you know a lot of the sounds coming out of the cribs are sounds calling for mothers. You suddenly miss your baby sister. Maybe you are crying and a nurse comes and walks with you all the way back to the boysâ ward, miles and miles of red square tile.
WHEN YOU HOBBLE INTO HOMEROOM on crutches in the middle of fifth grade, you see your science poster on the wall. You had been warned by your tutor, the pretty lady with the large breasts, while you were home faceup and facedown in a body cast again. Besides the healing and decay in your body cast, you were also beginning to wake up with painful erections when your penis would inflate itself inside your plaster. Your pretty tutor with the large breasts that you could not look at had warned you aboutthe science poster you were making at home showing the organs of the body, but you had not listened. You were determined to cut all the organs out of different-colored construction paper and paste them inside an outline of a human on a poster board, from the pituitary gland right down to the testes. Are you sure you want to include the reproductive organs as well? your tutor had asked. Give me the scissors and a sheet of yellow paper, here are the testes , youâd said. When you hobble into homeroom in the middle of fifth grade, the first thing you see is your science poster taped to the wall, and someone has added in vivid ballpoint detail the large bulbous penis that had been missing. On your crutches you do long solitary reconnoitering of your town, a stickly figure propped on a corner or in an alley or under a tree somewhere, sometimes in places where your mother would not be happy to find you. You watch feral cats fight over the fish guts behind Blowâs Seafood Market, you rummage through the bins behind Leggettâs department store looking for arms and legs to complete the mannequin you and your best friend are secretly assembling to dress in a trick-or-treating costume to throw in front of a car on Halloween. You wait behind the funeral home for the coronerâs car to deliver a body. You listen to the people standing under the jailhouse windows talking up to the hands dangling out between the second-story metal bars. You are on South Street in the black part of town when the Klan marches one Saturday, a bunch of men in cars with North Carolina license plates. Your police chief allows them to march only if they march without their hoods; he wants everybody to beable to see their faces. The menâs faces are like those of any other men. Their robes are loose and blow open often. They wear work boots that clomp in unison at first until the sidewalk swells with jeers and hoots, and the boots almost break into a canting run, eager for their final destination, the Dairy Queen for hamburgers, where Cheryl the town prostitute takes their orders from behind the almost opaque Order Here window screen. Maybe you are ranging too far in the gloaming late winter afternoons. You are dragging your legs between your crutches. One afternoon you are coming home at dusk along the sidewalk with your pockets full of worthless items you have shoplifted from Roses dime store when The Preacher pulls up across the street in his old blue station wagon. The Preacher gets out of his car with his books and