by Ilana Masad

When the rotten log of me sparked to life, my first father gave me away. I started with a kick and a run.

Not far enough—second father was just next door, and he planned to put me to work. Wanted me to get an education too, but what use would that be, I thought, as I sold my first schoolbook for a ticket to see the puppet show. If I was to work in the theater too one day, after training and grooming and some measure of pain—needles were sharp, and how else would I acquire the strings necessary for my kind of labor—better to see what my future held.

Somewhere in the rings of my stomach was the memory of a sharp ax, a teeter and a fall, a wrenching from everything that once fed me. Can you blame me for trying to find other nourishment? No one tells this part of my story, the reason I fell for the promises of wily men, foxes, cats, fairies—so let me set the record straight.

For years on end I starved, and if there is one thing I shared with the mammals and magical creatures, it was that hunger made me weak, my every decision fueled by desperation. My anger at being fooled and lied to rose quickly and burned out just as fast, leaving me with lessons half-learned and soon forgotten in the face of a new promise, a new way to fill the emptiness. Tell me, do they mention this in their versions? Do they describe the isolation of rootlessness, the terror of being unable to sense the vastness of kin? Do they explain that I made the only choices I could under the circumstances I was thrust into?

No. Instead, it is now their turn to lie, to condemn. Bold-faced and sharp-nosed and unashamed, they make the worst proclamation of all: they say I wanted to be a real boy. Consider, please, what kind of boy I would be—one whose first father dropped him on his head and gave away, as if worthless, to his neighbor. One whose second father planned to use as a golden goose. One who wandered the streets like the motherless orphan I was, only to be taken advantage of by any living, unmoored beast with a scheme, a wink, and a distracting whistle. If I were ever to be a real boy, it would be the kind you forget about, leave in the streets, cast your eyes away from as you walk by his begging bowl. I would be the kind whose small and ripe body would learn to turn with feigned desire towards the leering eyes of grown men whose gold was good enough to bite. I would be the kind to die soon, my body unclaimed.

What I wanted, and what I finally managed, was to return home. I burrowed in the earth and I waited. It took such a very long time to crumble, to finish the rotting I’d begun when first father found me. But eventually, I scattered, bits of me replenishing the earth, finding their way into new growth. I live, now.

Look outside. The first green thing you see surely includes some of me.


Image via Pexels by Andre Moura