FREE FALLING

It is a daily ritual.

You get up from the hard bench right after you fart, as if startled by the sound of it. You have always been odd. The birds on the tree under which the bench sits, and you stand, are a dull brown, with yellow beaks.

You eye them, fingering the catapult tucked away in your right pant pocket. You are only four feet tall. Sometimes, when the boys from next door come jostling you, calling you names, your eyes gloss over and the left corner of your tightly shut lips begins to twitch rapidly. It is your nervous tic.

They try to get you to say something, anything…but only your eyes attempt to communicate, although by then they’d be burning with unshed tears. You are a strong little man. Man. You wish you could scream your age, and the erratic beating of your heart tells you to go ahead and do it, but the hands that has its fingers firmly wound around your voice box have squeezed it shut 32 years and counting, and you wonder if the tears that sting your bloodshot eyes are of anger or sorrow.

You hate pity, that much you know. Looking down, you kick a pebble right before you bend to pick it, avoiding your toes; you do not want to look at them. Looking at them tempts you to count them. Twelve warped toes. You should have worn your socks. You have numerous pairs.

You stare at your fingers closed around the pebble; that is much better. You count them…five…instinctively you count those around the catapult in your pocket too…five.

Relief floods you and you smile. At least you know that gesture has always had an effect on people. It leaves them wondering if your eyes deceived them, for your face says you are 7 and your eyes tell otherwise. But when you smile, it casts a veil over those eyes, makes them twinkle, and lies become truths.

You bring out the catapult and wince; the hunch on your back is beginning to hurt again. You place the pebble where it should go, aim, and shoot. As the pale brown bird falls, you become it, and fall to your death…again.

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