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Birds of Paradise

ISSUE:  Summer 2022

There is no work for Logan, not today, not in this L.A. neighborhood where he’s been wandering for hours. Since the riots began he’s steered clear of the Boulevard, wary of the Guardsmen stationed outside CVS, of the rivers of broken glass and blocks of boarded-up storefronts splashed with angry graffiti. Only two streets away, though, all is as usual. Leafy and quiet. The hedges here are known to him, with their impeccable verticals and horizontals like tabletops, occasional branches sticking out and waving like arms. Some nice dogs live in the yards behind the green walls, snouts pushed through the gaps, smelling Logan’s stink and liking it, he believes; others are red-throated, with furious teeth. Their barking mosaics track him along the sidewalk.

Whenever he comes to a break in the shrubbery, an open gate or the rarer open front yard, he squints at the sun, girding himself for a march to the door. He firmly presses the bell. Late afternoons, used to be the people who live in these houses were still at the studio, the courthouse, the hospital, the university. But not anymore. Now everyone is at home and owners sometimes answer the door. Logan prefers to deal with housekeepers. They stare at him through peepholes, appraising his muddy overcoat and chinos and torn purple tee, the Echo trimmer slung over his shoulder like a shotgun. Sometimes they put their mouths to the peephole and speak: Salga de aqui. Go away.

Logan leans against the trunk of a palm tree. He watches a young Black man in a red polo shirt run in the street, head down, trainers slapping against the asphalt. Shortly thereafter comes a second running Black man. This man is older, handsome, in dark-blue denim. In one hand he clutches a ringing cell phone.

Knights errant, Logan thinks. He might join them but for the lack of a standard. Crows caw down from telephone wires and Logan laughs, the sound of his own voice startling him.

The second Black man, sprinting past, swings his head and says, “Fucker, what?”

“Where’s the tournament?” Logan says.

But the man is rounding the corner, and gone.


Nearby, a boy runs around inside a house many times the size of the apartment where he and his mother and father live. Pilar isn’t supposed to bring him to work, but Teo woke up with a cold, and Papi had to go to the site and couldn’t watch him. On the long bus ride west, Teo tried to climb out of his seat and into his mother’s lap, but her arms were wrapped tightly around a shopping bag. The bag is filled with spray bottles and rags, scouring powder and lemon oil, these items her own because the lady won’t buy the brands that she likes. Two of Teo’s green plastic soldiers are in the bag too—something for him to play with later. He picked out the ones with their hair colored-in with markers, black and red, so he can tell which side is which.

Teo’s never seen such a big house, such a big living room, with so much furniture and a ceiling so high. Their entire building could fit inside. At home they have a glass-topped table and a red-and-brown-flowered couch that smells of Old Spice and beer. Teo’s brother Berto used to sleep there. Papi does too, sometimes. Berto’s in the army now, off playing with guns on the other side of the world. He sends letters that Pilar keeps in a box on her dresser. Teo likes to get up on a chair and take out the letters and look at them. He likes the stamps on the envelopes.

He runs all around while Pilar sorts through channels on the lady’s enormous TV. She selects a program, grabs Teo and sits him down on the marble floor and tells him to be still. Then she leaves him alone. Usually, he enjoys watching cartoons, but today his ears feel full of water; he can’t hear the animals talk. The marble floor that he sits on is very hard.

Through glass doors that look out onto the backyard, he sees a second house, this one much smaller, with sparkling windows set high. Someone painted a bird on one side. The bird has a blue-and-red beak and wears an orange crown. Its wings are deepest green. Teo calls to his mother in the kitchen. He wants to play in the back with the bird.

Pilar comes in saying no. Her rubber gloves are wet to the elbows.

“That’s a flower, Teo.”

“Why can’t I?” he asks.

“The lady is doing her work.” Pilar squats beside him, points a yellow finger at the glass doors, at the pile of gleaming picks and shovels that sit in the dirt. There are bags of cement and sharp-edged flagstones stacked in haphazard piles. “Besides, it’s too dangerous.”

“But I want to,” Teo says.

“I know you do.”

On the TV, a cartoon fox splats into a wall. Bricks tumble and the fox emerges from the wreckage with crossed eyes and a wobbly neck and bubbles popping over its head, as if it were drunk instead of crushed nearly to death.

Still pointing, Pilar says, “Look, mijo, they haven’t even put down the grass. Isn’t it funny, rolled up like rugs?”


Logan starts off down a long block lined with jacaranda trees; their branches extend into the street in an umbrella-like arch. But for the odd lacy clump, the trees’ sticky flowers have already fallen, a violet snowfall to crush under his heels. Logan was born and raised in the Midwest, in an Ohio River valley, and he remembers his father saying with disdain that California had no seasons, only the twin plagues of fire and flood. But it isn’t true, Logan thinks, or at least it’s not the only truth. Leaves here must drop. Vines must wither, then green. The hills he imagines lime-colored in late winter, jade in the spring, tan through summer and fall. Some of the yards he’s worked in were planted decades ago with magnolias and lilacs, flowers he thinks of as belonging, like so many things, to other places.

He’s given up today’s search for employment, distracted by a more pressing need: In an hour it will be dark, and he has not yet found a place to lay his head. Logan avoids encampments; he dislikes their air of negotiation and hierarchical anarchy. He won’t sleep at a shelter either—he never does anymore—if he could even locate one that’s open.

Since Tucson, he hasn’t slept in one spot for more than a night.

There’s a house not far from here, if he can only find it again, a property with a bougainvillea-draped hedge that encloses three sides, sixteen feet high and four feet thick, with a hollowed-out cubby partially hidden by an old laurel tree. The tree’s trunk is smooth and white; its roots, thick as dragon’s veins, run out to a buckled sidewalk.

A pickup rumbles past, three men in straw cowboy hats lined up on the front seat. Ranchera music blares. The truck’s bed is filled with mowers and blowers, bags of fertilizer and mulch that slide when the driver takes a turn.

Logan adjusts his trimmer on his shoulder. It is all he owns, both livelihood and red flag. Its bulk recalls his long-ago student backpack, stuffed in his grad-school days with soiled clothing; with foot powder and rotting apples and letters from his father unopened; with bulging notebooks and highlighted texts: H. W. Janson’s History of Art; Stokstad’s Medieval Art. The trimmer’s blade is shaped like the short swords at the museum in Massachusetts where he was employed a decade ago. The museum used to offer brown-bag genealogy luncheons, lectures on the Vikings and the Roman Legion, but Logan never went. He cared only for the armor under his care: the fifteenth-century Stechzeug suit, from Nuremberg; the von Teuffenbach suit, worn to fight the Berbers in North Africa; the Helmschmid gauntlets made for Philip II of Spain. Alone in his workroom, Logan tried to fit his hands inside the gauntlets, but his fingers were too long, his wrists too large.

The gas-powered Echo, which runs perfectly, he’d discovered tossed into a Dumpster his first day in L.A. All the city’s businesses newly shuttered, the streets cleared. Days of rain had scrubbed the air clean, the sky as blue as any Logan had seen in all his travels, a ravishing apocalypse. After cleaning the Echo’s blades with newsprint soaked in gasoline, he’d walked the city’s empty miles to a darkened Home Depot store. A few day laborers gathered at the far end of the parking lot. Logan took his place among them. But early mornings, when the SUVs prowled, no driver ever chose him. So he gave up and started knocking on doors.

Logan doesn’t like working with other people, anyway. He can’t stand to touch anyone, or to be touched. He doesn’t want anyone talking to him, or looking at him, watching and wondering. He wants only to earn his honorable keep, to make order, to sleep safely and alone.

A strangled throb of music is followed by popping sounds. Firecrackers; or gunshots maybe. He hears the distant thrum of a jet. Then all is still. The hedges are like baffles, absorbing sound. A woman in a long skirt pushes a stroller down the sidewalk in Logan’s direction. The front wheels catch on a seam and she wrestles the stroller free. Closer, she gets a good look at Logan, and crosses the street. And then, three blocks ahead, mixed in with the light traffic on the Boulevard, he glimpses a flashing red light. His heart moves into his throat. There’s something there, something he’d best avoid. The hedge with the cubby isn’t far. He need only find it and climb in to disappear.

By the time he reaches the intersection, several police cruisers have nosed in at the end of the street. A cordon swags between sawhorses striped orange and white. One of the cruisers glides forward. The red light on its roof turns.

Logan makes a sharp left. He jogs along the sidewalk. When he comes to an alley, he ducks in.


Teo eats a late lunch at the kitchen table, a baloney-and-cream-cheese sandwich with a chaser of orange juice. His mother sits across from him and talks on the phone. Pilar is looking at Teo but doesn’t see him. “The man makes me shiver,” she says. “My skin.” Teo fidgets. His throat stings from the juice. Pilar says, “Each little point,” and he gets up, carries his plate to the sink, and drops it clattering in. As he scoots past his mother, she places a hand on his head to briefly hold him in place. She ruffles his hair.

Teo runs in circles all over the house. Unnamed creatures live in the corners, behind the furniture and under the rugs, and he pretends he’s chasing them or running away. His eyes leak oily tears and snot streams from his nose and his brain feels like it’s knocking against the inside of his skull. Each time he passes his mother, who is still at the kitchen table and still on the phone, his chest squeezes tight, until one time she isn’t there. The shock takes his breath away. Before he can cry, Pilar swoops down from behind and lifts him into the air. Teo’s T-shirt creeps up his belly and Pilar covers the exposed skin with kisses. She carries him down a hallway and into a bedroom. The walls here are jelly-bean pink. Books and stuffed animals line the wide shelves. A framed picture of a girl sits on the nightstand. Teo stares at her red hair.

“Is she in the little house?” he asks.

“She’s at her dad’s,” Pilar says.

She lays him down on the bed, takes off his shoes, and peels down his socks. She inspects the bottoms of his feet and nods. She folds back the coverlet and the sheet, and Teo climbs in. Pilar wipes his nose with the edge of her hand; the bleachy smell of her palm clears his head. Then she bends to kiss his hot cheek. “Por favor,” she says, “now be my good boy and go right to sleep.”

Three times he gets up from the bed and runs in circles all over the house. He’s looking for something; there’s something here that he wants, but he can’t remember what. Three times Pilar brings him back to the girl’s room. When the doorbell sounds a husky bing-bong, he is up again and running to the entry, to the front door. It is tall and wide, with skinny windows of glass on both sides.

He yanks at the doorknob. Pilar, right behind him, places a hand over his. Together they open up on a masked man dressed all in brown. The man stands on the step, one leg bent. In his arms he cradles a large cardboard box. He sets the box down in the entry. “You’re here,” he says to Pilar. She says, “Where else would I be?” The man shakes his head. He passes her an electronic clipboard and a plastic pen. She signs her name and shows the signature to Teo. The man’s eyes crinkle at their corners, and Pilar shuts the door.

Teo wants to know what’s inside the box, but his mother won’t say. She glances at her wristwatch. Again she sighs. She grips Teo’s hand and walks him back to the girl’s room and makes him get in the bed. She leaves for a while, returning with a cup of hot tea doctored with honey and lemon and something bitter tasting. She sits on the bed while Teo sips. He doesn’t like the tea, but she wants him to drink it all up, so he does. She takes the cup from him, and he lays his head on the pillow, and she sings softly to him, and then his arms and legs are sinking down, and down, and all at once awareness of the world departs.


The alley is a line of locked garages linked by wooden fencing guarded by rows of green and black and blue plastic bins. The bins overflow—tomorrow is pickup—and the smell of garbage is liquorish and sour. There’s sure to be food here, but Logan does not have time to dig.

He sticks to the alley’s shadowed west side, puts an eye to gaps in the fencing. He looks into backyards, where time and weather can trump the moneyed love of privacy. He sees a swing set, a Jacuzzi, a wrought-iron bench. Two houses down, a garden is populated with pornographic statues, blue surgical masks fixed around the statues’ heads, covering the eyes. At another house, landscape construction seems to be underway, the earth churned up around a guest house. Logan clucks in disapproval at the strewn tools.

Next door a dog lies in wait. When it leaps at Logan, the fence’s cedar planks shudder and twang. Thigh-high, a red-rimmed eye glares at Logan through a notch in the wood. He hears an engine idling in the distance. It is a sound he doesn’t like. He flings himself behind a green bin. Falling, his hands scrape against the gravel. He scuttles out of sight. The dog, snout now pushed to the bottom of the fence, snarls. Logan kicks and the dog yelps once then falls silent.

Logan peers cautiously around the bin. The squared edge of a front bumper is paused on the wrong side of the street, facing the wrong direction. The bumper shines black. Sweat pours into Logan’s eyes; the trimmer wedges against his ribcage. His right palm is sticky with blood. He farts and moans. Dead meat, he thinks.

Without warning, he’s back in Arizona. Late winter at the Tucson shelter. Logan is staring at the fuckwad lying face-up on the floor, pinned between their two cots.

It was the middle of the day, the dormitory dim, damp from the swamp cooler and all but deserted. Blood from the fuckwad’s neck fed a spreading pool. The fuckwad’s skin looked made of plastic, the whites of his open eyes filigreed with pink veins. The woman was there too, kneeling on the concrete floor, head thrown back and mouth open, shrieking like twenty birds. The woman’s head was wrapped up in beanies and scarves, and she wore every item of clothing she owned, one on top of the other. The fuckwad had sliced through it all, right up the front, like gutting a pig. Logan had registered the knife poised against the woman’s bare skin—unmarked, marshmallow-soft—and he’d leapt across the bed and wrestled the fuckwad to the floor. Then the fuckwad was lying in blood, the knife in Logan’s hand.

In the alley, down on his belly, he wipes first one palm then the other on the seat of his pants.

The black bumper coasts forward, then stops. As he suspected, it is a cruiser, its white door now visible along with the flashing roof lights. The driver’s-side window is open and through the static of a police radio, Logan hears a woman’s flatly instructive voice. He can’t make out the words. He turns his head to check the other end of the alley, expecting to see a second cruiser. It will career in and he will be trapped between them. But there is only air.

The cruiser inches forward again.

The driver, Logan notes, has blond hair. His bare forearm is evenly suntanned, as if being a lifeguard might be his real job. But, really, he looks like every other cop Logan has encountered. Black, white, yellow, or brown, he knows how they think. They betray their honor. They divide with an armored will. The castle walls, they insist, will not be breached. He thinks about graffiti on the Boulevard: blm, eat the rich, acab, f12. fuck the police. Logan can get behind that.

The cop’s gaze sweeps the alley like a spotlight. The car continues to roll, until it slides from Logan’s sight.

He flops onto his back. He’s shaking, panting as if he’s run miles. The sun lowers, an orange rolled from God’s dirty palm. Logan forces himself to sit, to kneel, to climb to his feet. The dog returns to the fence, friendly now and singing low in its throat.

“Good boy,” Logan says.

He stumbles to the end of the alley and emerges onto the street. There are no pedestrians and no moving cars, but he hears the thunk and whir and grumble of spinning machinery. The sound is close and coming closer, loud and growing louder, and it rains down from above and falls all around: It is a police helicopter, flying in low. Logan stifles a howl. Fear grips his belly and he fights an urge to shit. The helicopter hovers, as if thinking, then veers to the south. Logan runs in the opposite direction. He skitters around a corner and down most of a block, only to find himself jogging alongside the sixteen-foot-tall bougainvillea-draped hedge he’d been searching for. Branches tipped with tender green poke out among purple flowers. The ragged top edge looks like a lady’s sweater unraveling. The sidewalk under Logan’s feet buckles crazily.

And here is the white-barked laurel tree, its fat roots like dragon’s veins.

At the property line the hedge turns inward; a narrow break separates it from the shorter bushes next door. The break is a tunnel, a green corridor. Logan slides in sideways. Halfway down, he runs a hand over the surface of the taller hedge until he finds the familiar vertical weakness, like a false seam in drawn drapery.

Squatting, he peers inside.

The cubby is exactly as he remembers it, a carton of shade four feet long by three feet high by three feet wide. Inner branches coil and flatten into ceiling and walls. The ground is tamped fine. Logan splits the green curtain and climbs in. Twigs snap; leaves shimmy and drop. With his hands he clears the cubby of spiderwebs. Powdery dust falls into his eyes. A siren blares, and is cut short.

In Tucson, the shelter’s metal doors had swung wildly, a brutal wallop against cinderblock walls.

Two cops had stood silhouetted in the white light. Faces hidden, arms outstretched, weapons drawn.

The woman on her knees sobbed.

The cops had rushed Logan, zigzagging around cots.

He dropped the knife. One cop cracked him in the head and spun him; the other kicked the blade away. The first cop zip-cuffed Logan’s hands behind his back and sat him down hard. The other briefly inspected the fuckwad on the floor. He got the crying woman onto her feet and led her toward the shelter’s front hall.

The first cop said to Logan, “I know you. I’ve seen you around.”

Again the metal doors swung. Emergency workers in their white clothing ran in.

The cop yanked Logan to his feet. He gripped Logan’s elbow and marched him outside, into the shelter’s parking lot. There were several cruisers out there, and more officers. Logan flinched at the heat shimmer rising from the pavement, at the sparks shooting off nearby storefronts and vehicle chrome. The sun drilled his skull and stuffed his mouth with cottony air. A few cops came forward, kicking the dirt, hands set on their hips. Logan looked away.

“This the perp?” someone asked.

The cop who’d cuffed Logan said, “Looks like it.”

“Dead guy inside?”

“Yeah, and a witness who won’t stop bawling.”

“Who is it?”

“Who the fuck knows. These people.”

“So what happened?”

The cop who’d cuffed Logan turned to him and said, “What? You get your blankie stole?”

Logan said nothing.

The cop read him his rights. Then he said, “You understand?”

Logan said nothing.

“What’s your name?”

Logan said nothing.

“You don’t know? Or you don’t remember?”

Logan sucked on his teeth. Fuckwads. Because he can shuffle the past like a fresh deck of cards, summoning details at will: the bars of his crib; the veins in an oak leaf; a deflated football; a page of Old Norse; the gauntlets made for Philip II of Spain. Steel, etched with gold. He can’t recall his father’s eyes, but only because he chooses not to.

The cop opened a groaning car door. He dropped a hand on Logan’s head, guided him into the back seat, and locked him in, unaware that the door on the other side stood open. And why was the cop unaware? Why were they all?

In the back of the cruiser, Logan sat quietly. Sunlight fell through the grill, patterning the hot seat beside him. The cops talked outside his window. Logan watched their gunbelts, their torsos and thighs. He shifted a little, slipping sideways into white light. Then he swung his legs out, set his feet on the dry dry dirt, and ran.

In the hedge’s cubby he sits hunched in gloom, knees to chin, the Echo propped at his feet. The bristly back wall curves to his spine. Logan breathes in and out and makes himself small. His heart slows. For years he’s lived in the open, exposed but unseen, yet some part of him has always sought compression, containment and solitude, shadow rather than light.

He knows this place for what it is, the sanctuary of revenants. A rustling sounds from deep within the hedge, but he is not afraid.


Vroom-vrooomm. Vroooom.

Teo’s eyes open. He’s in an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar room. His head on the unfamiliar pillow is heavy and sore. Pink walls loom. Shelves bulge. It’s like being inside someone’s stomach, with all the food rolling around.

He kicks off the covers.

Vroom-vrooomm . . .

He climbs out of bed and goes into the hall. The roar is louder here. He covers his ears. Curling one bare foot on top of the other, he looks through an archway. He sees the back of his mother’s pink uniform, her brown hair tied up in a ponytail, her brown legs, her white shoes. She’s rocking forward, then gliding back. Vroom-vrooomm. There will be no footprints in the carpet when she is done.

Teo turns and pads into the living room. The furniture glows; the floor shines. His reflection stares back at him from the TV screen on the wall. The backyard is steeped in shadow, but brassy sunshine slants through the sidelights around the front door, striping the tiled entry.

His mother’s purse sits on the floor between the big cardboard box and her shopping bag.

Teo sticks his face in the bag, filled now with dirty wet rags, and oily rags, scouring powder and window cleaner and paper towels. At the bottom, he sees a toy soldier’s red-markered head. He cries out, plunges in an arm, and digs the soldier free. He holds it tightly in one fist and fishes with his other hand. His fingers close on a plastic leg and he pulls the black-haired soldier out. He kisses them both, extravagantly, one after the other, and crouches on the tile and hops them around, chirping a wordless dialogue. Through the sidelights, the fountain in the open front yard trickles water like liquid silver from its rusted spout. Teo sees grass out there, and those exploding plants with leaves like spears.

He holds the black-haired soldier to his ear. His brother Berto is talking to him.

“Yes sir!” Teo says. “Okay sir!” he says.

He turns the knob and, grunting, pushes the heavy front door.

At the fountain he leans over the lip and looks in. The bowl is full; the splash from the spout sounds like his gurgling baby cousins. There are fish swimming in the water, yellow fish and white fish—like ghosts! The fish glide against each other, but they don’t seem to notice. The fountain’s lip feels rough against Teo’s chest. Pieces of colored glass are embedded like jewels. The greenery beneath his feet is spongy and bright. A nearby flowerpot is filled with smooth stones.

He dips the soldiers into the fountain and swims them back and forth, lets the red-haired one go and watches it float. He thinks of the photograph of the girl who lives here. She has red hair too! He reaches down into the flowerpot and picks up a stone and throws it at the floating soldier. The stone hits the soldier in the chest and bounces into the water. Teo makes blasting sounds. He throws another stone, and another. His ears roar.

Teo cries: “War!”

Above him, a voice thunders: “Go into your house.” The voice booms: “Stay inside your house.”

Teo drops the black-haired soldier into the grass. He leans back so far he nearly topples. There’s a helicopter up there! He jumps up and down. “Mami!” he yells. “Mami, look!” The helicopter hovers, one side ablaze with mirrored sunlight.

Then the reflection dies, like a switch thrown. The air in the yard blues. The fountain exhales a watery breath.

Whop-whop-whop. The helicopter rises.

“Don’t go!” Teo yells.

The helicopter stutters forward, and he trots after it, out the open front yard and along the sidewalk. The helicopter dips to one side and turns. Houses and trees obstruct Teo’s view. He can still hear the helicopter, but it is no longer visible.

He sees a Black man in a red shirt—the man looks like he’s trying to decide which way to run. He turns and runs away from Teo, stops in his tracks and reverses direction, and stops short again. His head twists; his arms flail. Teo doesn’t know what to make of it. He doesn’t know that another Black man is dead, or that yet another is safely away. He doesn’t know that this flailing man before him has nothing to do with the riots that have plagued L.A. for days, as police have assumed, the reported murder not brought into this neighborhood from somewhere else but originating right here in a dispute about a faithless woman, in a vintage Spanish-style house guarded by a thick hedge. He doesn’t know that the police are all around, on the next block, and the next.

The helicopter whirs just out of sight, with its television camera and infrared sensors and video recorder.

Teo looks up, searching, but something—a soft whoosh? a tremble of leaves?—draws his attention downward again. He stares into the narrow mouth of a green corridor. Its walls are made of bushes, tall on one side, shorter on the other. He steps in. It smells like earthworms and flowers and is full of smoky shadows, but there are scuffed dips for his feet, so he follows the path. It’s quiet farther back, the arched branches of a tree forming a roof overhead. The sparse grass dampens Teo’s bare feet; it might still be early morning, the sun not yet risen and the dew not yet dry. His chest rattles and his own stuffy breathing echoes inside him. He hears . . . what? Something. A different breath. He stares at the tall bush. In the spaces carved between the leaves he sees eyes. He sees an open mouth, and a forehead. He sees hair twisted like vines. A man has grown right into the bush.

Teo brings his face close.

And here is what Logan sees: small brown eyes crusted white in the corners, round ears and flushed cheeks, a flop of straight bangs.

“Hey,” Teo says. “What are you doing in there?”

Logan raises a finger to his lips.

“Why are you in there like that?”

Logan shakes his head, barely.

“Are you playing a game?”

“I’m hiding,” Logan croaks.

“Who are you hiding from?”

“A monster.”

Teo shivers, full length, like a dog shaking off water. “But I found you,” he says excitedly. He brushes at the branches, so he can better see the man. The man draws back. His barky-looking skin is nearly the green of Teo’s soldiers.

“Can I come in there with you?” Teo asks.

“No,” Logan says. “Go away.”

“But I want to.”

“Go away. There isn’t room.”

“You move over . . .”

Teo hears squawking. He twists to look up. A blue-and-white bird with a black V on its neck glares down. The bird has a worm in its mouth.

A dog barks. A door slams. A phone faintly rings.

Logan says to Teo, “Go back to your house.”

Teo doesn’t know which house the man means. In any case, there is no house, only the green corridor. The apartment where Teo lives, with the flowered couch that smells of Old Spice and beer, and the glass-topped table, and Berto’s letters in a box on his mother’s dresser, is long ago and far away. They came on the bus, his mother with the shopping bag in her lap—his mother—Teo’s throat closes and his nose suddenly looses a river of snot. Mami. His eyes fill with tears. He doesn’t know where he is, and his mother has abandoned him. Teo starts to cry.

“Shhh,” Logan hisses.

Teo cries louder.

“Be quiet!” Logan says. The boy wails, his mouth open wide. From inside the hedge, Logan marvels at the plump tongue, the cherry gums, the rows of baby teeth like little seashells. “Look here,” he says, and in desperation pulls the Echo from where it sits at his feet. His hands shake as he lifts the blade up and holds it next to his face, as if inviting the boy to compare.

Teo abruptly swallows his tears.

He looks from Logan to the trimmer and back to Logan again. “You’re the monster,” he breathes. Then he sticks his arms into the bush.

The helicopter’s amplified voice booms above them, speaking in imperatives. But Teo and Logan don’t hear. There are shouts in the street now and sirens; the neighborhood dogs are going berserk. At the end of the block, Pilar inside the house has at last heard the commotion. She’s seen the open front door and come out, and she runs down the sidewalk in the wrong direction, calling her son’s name, heart locked, choking on fear.

Gently, Teo strokes a hand over the edge of the Echo’s toothed blades. He pats Logan’s bent knee through the muddy chinos. Logan closes his eyes. His limbs are cold, but his scalp prickles with sweat. He feels every inch of his body folded into the hedge. Teo walks his fingers up Logan’s arm, onto his shoulder, and Logan thinks of fire burning in an oil can under a bridge, of crows flying over a cornfield covered in snow. He thinks of his father, whom he has not seen in years.

Teo touches Logan’s hair. He touches Logan’s neck. He touches Logan’s face. 


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