You looked strange climbing in the tree like that."Tiger Lily pulled her braids between her fingers, her sudden self-consciousness feeling foreign and strange to her. "I didn't do it to look nice," she said."But you do care."Tiger Lily studied the tree and decided if she did care, she would now choose not to. "I don't," she said."All girls do," he added, pushing the point."You must not know many girls.""I know a million," Peter said, dark and serious. There was a long awkward silence, but if Peter regretted his words, I couldn't tell.
At the high school a pretty girl strolled across the parking lot to her black stallion, let her cigarette dangle from her lips while she put on her helmet, adjusted her goggles. Throwing a slender white leg over the side she jacked her little backside up and down a few times, exciting the steed. Now she came down on his back and he squatted, moaning to the soft squeeze of her hand, then at her sudden clutch shot out fast between the press of her knees. Claude looked down at his shoes as they passed, having seen nothing. But he glanced up in time to watch them glide off under the next streetlamp, the gleaming beast appearing almost languid with release, very pleased with himself and with the girl who clung to his back, small and stiff and unsatisfied.She had been noticed: everywhere along the way the leaning people looked after her as though wondering if the new week had finally begun, then they looked at one another, then back at nothing.
The story was called 'Annika and the Bears.' The beginning of the story is really the end, and Annika is staring wide-eyed into new velvet-black darkness. The eyes she stares with were brown once, sparkling and the exact color of root beer, but are now an empty ice-blue, almost white. Annika is waiting for her body to grow warm so that she can fall asleep and, as she waits, she remembers life outside this darkness, remembers the world she loved and how it changed. Once, her home was called the Land of Spring and Fall because that's what it was, a place in which the seasons didn't turn in a circle, but moved like a seesaw, Fall becoming Spring becoming Fall becoming Spring. And there had been a moment every year when the seesaw hit a perfect balance. This was Annika's favorite time because blossoms burst from branches alongside red and gold leaves, crocuses opened between rows of corn, and baby animals were born under autumn skies. In the Land of Spring and Fall, it was never too cold or too hot to play outside; brooks never froze or dried up; leaves never fell from the trees; and people and animals never grew old or died. But when a witch appeared in the land, a witch who was furiously angry, but for no reason anyone could understand, and the witch cast a spell that plunged the land into a never-ending winter. In Winterland, terrible things began to happen. People and animals got sick, with wrenching coughs and burning fevers. Desperate for warmth, the people began to kill their friends the animals in order to wrap themselves in fur coats. Food became scarce, and everyone began to fight over what little there was. And strangest of all, one by one, every living, breathing creature in the land began to turn as white as chalk, as colorless as snow with no sun shining on it. One day, Annika sat at her window, looking sadly at the blank world, when she saw, trudging across the snow, her beloved friend John the bear and his family of bears. Some of the bears were white, some were a dull gray, but only John was still a rich chestnut brown. The bears walked with their immense heads hanging down and some of them cried, dropping tears onto the snow. Before they hit the ground, the tears turned to ice. Annika ran outside, calling John's name. He stopped and looked at her with his kind eyes and told her that they were going away, to a cave deep inside one of the high hills that surrounded Winterland. 'To sleep,' he said. 'To wait.' Annika threw her arms around John, buried her face in his beautiful fur, and then stood and watched as the procession of bears patiently resumed their long journey.That night, Annika woke up with a start. She sat up in bed and saw that the hair falling over her shoulders was as white as milk, and she ran to the mirror. As she stared at her reflection, the pink began draining from her cheeks. 'Oh no,' she whispered. 'It's happening. I'm turning into someone else. A winter girl.' In a flash, she had on her shoes and her thickest wool coat and was out the door. The trail of crystal tears the bears had left gleamed in what little moonlight could force its way through the clouds and, slogging through snow, cold eating into her bones, Annika followed the trail. When she got to the cave and moved away the rock that blocked the entrance, all the bears were asleep, except John. He rested his paw on the patch of soft dirt next to him. 'For you, dear heart,' he said sleepily. Then he moved the rock into place and lay back down. Annika curled up between John and another bear, listening to their slow breathing, readying herself for sleep. The bears' bodies warmed her own from the outside in. The last thing to get warm was her heart, and then Annika fell asleep.The story ends this way: 'Imagine the deepest sleep you've ever slept. Multiply its deepness by the number of stars in the sky and the number of fish in the sea. Then you will know the sleep of Annika and the bears.
I can see the little girl, the face of the little girl. And as much as people say that they don't care about these people and all that, I don't care about these people - but I do, at the same time, if that makes any sense. They don't want to help themselves, they're blowing us up, yeah, that hurts, but it also hurts to know that I've seen a girl that's as old as my little brother watch me shoot somebody in the head. And I don't care if she's Iraqi, Korean, African, white - she's still a little girl. And she watched me shoot somebody.
THAT crazed girl improvising her music.Her poetry, dancing upon the shore,Her soul in division from itselfClimbing, falling She knew not where,Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship,Her knee-cap broken, that girl I declareA beautiful lofty thing, or a thingHeroically lost, heroically found.No matter what disaster occurredShe stood in desperate music wound,Wound, wound, and she made in her triumphWhere the bales and the baskets layNo common intelligible soundBut sang, 'O sea-starved, hungry sea