Years ago, before PlayStations and Xboxes, iPhones, Android’s, tablets and streaming TV, when a young boy would play with no more than warm stones or thrown-out processed food cans, this young boy, our young boy, the young American of our story here, found a feather.
He said, “Ah-hah! here I have a token of the angels,” then he turned his baseball cap and stuck the feather in the plastic snap-strap in the middle of his forehead. He began to march around in a tight circle, imitating trumpet with the side of his lips, swinging out Taps in quick tempo. What an impressive sight he was! He felt so proud of himself, he did not notice a second young boy come up the street then ask in a frog’s voice,
“Where’d you learn to do that?”
The first boy halted and turned his cap, bill facing the intruder. He said, “Which part? I was doing more than one impressive thing.”
The second boy stirred the air with his forefinger and said, “The circle dance with the arms swinging.” The second boy was the larger male, but the first, pure cunning.
The first boy said, “I leant it myself,” stuck his chin out and mimed his routine to prove it wasn’t just by accident he was so good at it, and that he was at the intimacy of paraphrase with it. Then his smile stiffened to a glower; he pointed at the second boy, “And, I made it up.”
The boys stayed facing each other as the sun sent salty bombs to their eyes. Neither boy dared to blink. Finally, the second boy said, “Can you teach me?”
The first boy puffed up his chest and turned his gaze to the side. “That is serious talk. Why do you want to know?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” said the first boy, “I just want to be able to do something like that.”
“Well if you don’t know, I’m not teaching you anything.”
“Well if you are a little more Pacific about the question—”
“It’s simple! Why do you want to know how to do my soldier routine?”
“It’s a soldier routine?”
The first boy stomped the ground. “No,” he said, “I’ve said too much. How do I know your not a spy?”
The second boy said, “Do I look like a spy?”
The first boy considered what he knew about spies. He knew they were sneaky, but that did him no good, because he didn’t know what sneaky looked like; he knew that they were bad, but he can’t decide if the second boy is bad until he determines whether he is or is not, a spy; Oh! he knew that spies were other people from far off countries that stole things. He asked the boy, “Where are you from?”
“I live on Belmont,” said the second boy.
“Belmont . . . That’s a whole two streets down.” Spy. “Sure, I’ll show you. There’s just one thing you have to do first.”
The second boy smiled and said, “What’s that?”
“You have to catch me!” he shouted, did a quarter spin, looked east, looked west, then skidded off at a run.
The second boy watched the first go then signed, chewed the corner of his lip, and lowered his head. But what’s this? He stooped to pick something up from the ground: a large white and black stripped feather. Maybe it was dropped by a juvenile eagle or adventuring sea bird. He twisted it between his thumb and forefinger, watching the wind strum the barbs. Maybe he would be all right after all.