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By Michael C. Keith
A boy’s will is the wind’s will.
–– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
There is blood on the palm of my hand. It scares me, and I begin to cry. I’ve just climbed over a rusty chain link fence, which is part of a shortcut from the playground to my house. I walk the rest of the block home clenching my injured hand and spot my mother standing on the stone steps to the Albany brownstone where we live. She notices me coming and moves in my direction. By the time we’re together, I’m gulping back tears.
“What’s the matter?” she inquires.
There is concern as well as irritation in her expression.
“My hand. It’s all bloody. Look!”
I unclench my fist and display my wound. By now there are only faint indigo stains running from my wrist to my fingers, and the injury looks far less ominous.
“Oh, it’s nothing, a little scrape. Stop crying. Don’t be such a baby. You’re seven years old, for Heaven’s sake,” she says, shaking her head.
This is not the response I want. Back in our third floor flat, I cut along the scrapes with a pair of nail clippers. Then I wipe the secretions on the lace curtains hanging in the living room. My mother screams when she sees what I’m doing.
“What have you done to Grandma’s––to my mother’s––sheers? You’re such a disgusting, little . . . creature!”
At dinnertime, we sit at the kitchen table. Everyone knows what has happened––my father, sister, and grandmother.
They all glare at me with their harsh alien eyes, and I return their disapproval with mine.
Michael C. Keith is the author of an acclaimed memoir, three story collections, and two-dozen non-fiction books. His forthcoming book of stories is called A Boy In the World. MichaelCKeither.com