It is 19__. I am six years old. I suppose that at this age I should be thinking only of kindergarten and games and the toys of childhood—but finger painting, kids’ songs, nap time, are not what is important to me right now. What is important is that my sister, who lives in town with my mother and the man who I am told is now my father, has just had her first birthday party. She lives with them in town and I live in the country with my grandparents for no reason that I can understand, except that there must be something about me which makes me odd, makes me different enough to have been sent up here on the hill to live when my sister lives in town.
I do not know what the something is that makes me different, but I know that living with my grandparents makes me different enough from the other kids around me. I do not want to guess what else about me is so different to have caused this to happen.
This is not a thing that I cry about. I have been taught not to cry, in fact asked not to cry by my mother when she comes to visit, bringing candy and presents and my eternally squalling baby sister, telling me always to be a good boy, a good, good boy and not make my grandparents’ life too hard.
I do not know the word stoic at this age. What I do know is to go out to the back porch and find the gnarled orange feet from a chicken that my grandfather has beheaded and hung up to drain. I laugh; I stuff the terrible, scaly things in my back pocket and when my mother is in her car getting ready to leave, I jump out at her from behind the wall of my grandfather’s legs and shake most menacingly the severed talons in her face.