Effigy by Rishee Batra

Effigy by Rishee Batra
The dark-eyed child played with the other boys until he reached that age, fragile and ambiguous, where hair crept onto his lip like flowerbuds on springtrees, at which point he was taken away. On this, and hardly anything else, the adults were adamant. The boys threw tantrums that caused rock slides and drove off all the birds, but there would be no compromise. Only the boy with dark eyes, the quiet one, signaled no protest. In fact, he had been known to speak only once, seven years prior, but his words, like most children’s, were quickly forgotten. As to where the adults took him, accounts differ. Some say they sent him to the city, hoping he would find a home amid its uncaring magnanimity. Others claim he was dropped off in the wilderness, equipped with a rifle and a week’s worth of jerky. I personally believe in a third, unmentioned truth, one that lurks, like the inner eye, in the shadow of the visible. I arrived in this town long after he disappeared, yet the birds have not returned. Those boys are adults now. They get their wives to fix their ties; they eat bacon with disdain and burn effigies in their yards. When I ask about the dark-eyed child, they tell me what they tell me, but I hardly hear their words. Their bodies do the communicating: their eyes that turn icy. Their hands that tighten by instinct, like cats curling up by the fire.