copyright © 1986 Todd Ristau


October 23, 1986

When I was a little girl, I lived with my parents in a cabin off in the woods, way up north, in Wisconsin. It was on a lake. Not only was I the only little girl for miles and miles, I was the only kid at all. Around the other side of the lake, past the Atwood cabin, was a white shack. That was Pike’s place. You could see it, just barely, from my bedroom window. I used to look at it a lot, wondering what was in there, and what Pike was like. I’d never seen him, really, but Mrs. Atwood said he was big and mean as a furnace with long white hair and wild red eyes. She said he was a warlock, and crazy, and that I should never step near that side of the lake because Pike killed little girls and ate them in his soup. Mr. Atwood said he only knew of one crazy person on th lake and he ate her soup every night.

Well, of course, I had to find out. One afternoon I walked around to Pike’s shack. He wasn’t home. I went in . His shack was jammed up full of paintings, furniture, lamps, souveniers, toys, bells--so much stuff you couldn’t see the walls or the floor. I started playing. You know what it is when you’re young, you see a room full of toys and you play. Forget danger or anything, especially if no one’s watching. I didn’t hear Pike come in. He scared me shitless with his voice.

"Look what’s flown into my house." He said. "A pretty yellow canary." I was frozen. I just couldn’t move. He kept talking. "Such a pretty bird. Do you fly?" He laughed then, and it made me want to cry. "Yes, I can see you like to fly more than anything, little canary."

Pike opened up a box and pulled out a cage. In the cage was a canary. I knew he was a warlock then, and I was soup for sure.

"I got me two canaries now...this one in the cage, she likes to fly, loves to fly, but I don’t let her. You sure are pretty girl. You’re gonna break a million hearts with the way you fly."

I think I started to cry.

He said, "Girl, don’t now, you’re gonna fly out of here, and fly far and wide." He took the canary out of the cage and he held it in his hand, right up to my face. "Just like you, girl, this bird here likes to fly more than anything, that’s what it was made to do. That’s what it does best....but sometimes, even when it can, it can’t. Watch."

He held that bird and grabbed its leg, and he broke it in two. Then Pike dropped it on the floor. It stumbled and flapped, turning around in circles.

"It could fly, but it hurts so much it don’t remember that it can."

I know I cried then. I just fell on the floor and cried like never before. All of a sudden Pike is holding that bird in front of my face and says, "Help me set the leg."

"Help me set the leg" he says, and I"m crying like crazy. "Girl, help me set the leg or it won’t remember it can fly."

So, I took the little foot and I pulled, and he pulled the other way. I felt the bones slide into place, and it made me feel sick, but I did it. We put a popsicle stick splint on it and then Pike says, "Canary, you take this bird and you help it remember."

So I took the bird and I ran. It flew away that summer....I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you break my legs, I already know what to do.


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