The small round ball

The small round ball rolled through the brush, bounced at the edge of the river and splashed into the rapid current. A ratcheting sound over head resolved into a cackle, a grackle intervening, strutting and calling to the ball as it bobbled downstream. The ball, a bright orange rubber with dark blue stars, was interrupted briefly in its travels, knocking against the bloated corpse of a beaver, slain by an accident or a trap. The ball rolled against the floating body for a moment, then two, then three, and was thrown away by a branch, which scratched and poked at both ball and beaver in the high water current. On the trail near the river, a small child starts to laugh. He is lighting matches, lighting the matches he’d found in his sister’s room. He burned a small clump of cottonwood cotton into a charred lump, a black bump that he took home and hid, to avoid a scolding from his mother, his sister, or the woman who cleaned the house twice a week. The child had a great lust for matches, and for fire generally, learning the words in dozens of languages, conjugating light, fire, burn, scald, ignite, singe, and mortify, in English, Italian, Spanish, Mandarin and Swahili. His desire for fire was so intense that all other desires were subjugated to it, and this led eventually to his referral and interrogation by the school psychologist, whose desire to save small misguided children was almost as intense as the small child’s desire to deviate from the wishes of the child psychologist. The psychologist aspired to push the children, not push exactly, but to inspire them to explore the big world around them in ways that helped them grow, to enervate their burgeoning frontal lobes, to convene with other kids in contained environments, to converge in clean well-lit exploratory labs, to go on long nature rambles, to discover the use of wrenches to pull apart known objects, to learn about the pull, push and crush of the surf on wild beaches, to know enough about the dangers thereof to trans-mutate their desires, the warped, the waxing, waning, weathering desires of childhood. It was the desire and foolish dream of this psychologist to deliver the children from the downward slide, the embrace of danger that digs for bones, with their bacteria and mold, and hence he would drone on and on about the best thing the children might do, in a high, lively voice that the children would applaud as a matter of form. And then he would enter that data, the response of the children, into row upon row, stack upon stack, into the tumbled record of child psychology, where he would weld meaning, desire and reason, grab them and meld them into a single coherent narrative that would gather all the dubious facts together in a single unlikely, unread volume.

(Ten minute writing activity – group generated a list of 50 words collectively. this piece used about 40 of the 50 words in the order they were given. A fun exercise. )

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July 2010
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