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At the corner between Main Street and 34th Avenue, there's a convenience store, and that is where I stand everyday. I am lodged to the ground on a square platform, smiling pleasantly as I am upheld in my motionless gallop, beaming as waterfalls of sunlight cascade over my smooth, pink body, flow to the ground, only to bounce back up and evaporate into the surrounding atmosphere. What a sight I am! A child gazes at me mesmerized, and offers to his mother the most endearing of eyes, to afford him but one quarter, but one for his expense. The mother, rolling her eyes now, draws from her purse a single, glistening discus of metal that sends light rolling off its edges slowly like thick pudding. The child seizes the coin and runs towards me, his fingers fumbling as he pushes it into my slot. Just as he climbs on my back, I feel the same strange, intense burn as an explosion of heat echoes throughout my body. Automatically, I lunge forward, then back, all very musically, and as I do so, the child laughs and I know that I have made him happy.
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Many months pass, and the sun is shining less brightly now. Above, enormous clouds, bogged and congested lungs heavy with precipitation, pass over unyielding, unfeeling monoliths of concrete and metal that spear angrily at the vast silk handkerchief of a sky. For the first time, I'm afraid. Cold as well. Behind me, the convenience store is dark, and a wooden sign hangs on the window, displaying "VACANT" in square, ugly letters. It has been many months since I last danced, and as I realize this, a cold stiffness settles in me with the heaviness of coarse granite. Then, through the opaque mist of thick fog and thicker melancholy, I descry in the distance a ragged, plump bundle of mismatched scarves and sweaters. I yearn to call to it, to yell as loud as I can, but I know that I cannot. It trudges closer, and at last, I see that it is a child, one bearing an urn-like belly and cherry-red cheeks. He is a splendidly comical sight, being clothed in so many sweaters that he could hardly move his arms. A thick red-and-green scarf hugs his neck loosely like a penitent constrictor. Even from my distance, his eyes appear to radiate a far-reaching youthful gleam: a lightness of spirit and an immaculacy in naivety and innocence. The child reaches into his pocket and draws out a cluttered fistful of debris: a bent paperclip with a wad of gum clinging to it, a rubber band, and a single, rusted coin. Seeing the coin in his hand sends an intense rush through my body. In my ecstasy, I feel light enough to drift upon the merest fleeting breath of wind were I not being anchored to the pavement by the heaviness within. I watch impatiently as the child slowly and deliberately fumbles through the items in his hand, and at last slides the quarter into the slot. It makes a high, metallic sound as it clinks against the pipe on its journey down. Heaving, the child pulls himself up onto my back. For what seems like forever, I feel nothing. Then I begin to think —panic —that I am broken. Have the long, cold months of solitude crippled me? Will I never dance again? Then, spontaneously, like liquid heroine, a strange, satisfying burn seeps through my arteries, and I am immediately relieved of the stiffness I carried within me. The heat explodes into full blossom, and at once, I lunge forth with great vigor when suddenly, something inside me coughs, sputters, and dies. In the rapidity of my lunge, the child is thrown off my back and onto the hard concrete. He lies on the ground silently for a while, his urn of a stomach gradually rising and falling. For an entire minute, I listen to his shallow breathing with shut eyes, horrified at what I had done. The child's stomach contracts as he pulls himself up, and, with bewildered eyes, he hesitantly checks his knee. Rivers of thick, dark blood seep from the corroded limb. Seeing this, the child lets out an animal scream, fat tears falling from his eyes, carving wet lines down his generous cheeks. I hold my breath, and the warmth that was just circulating slowly trickles away. Then, the despair settles in. It's unbelievably heavy, and choking as well. I want to comfort the child, to wipe away his tears, to put him back on my back, to hear his laugh. I'm sure you have a beautiful laugh, so please, child, would you give me another chance, would you let me hear your laugh? If you would simply just put another quarter in me, I'll be good this time, I promise, I promise I will! But the child can't hear me, and he just rubs the tears off his cheeks and makes his face into a snarl as he reels his head back and spits in my eye. He stands in front of me unmoving for a few seconds, panting heavily, before limping away in the other direction.
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I am alone now. The sun shines brightly again, but this time the light comes at an angle that is alien to me. Behind me, the convenience store that once was has been replaced by a supermarket, and around my neck hangs an inconceivably heavy wooden sign that says "BROKEN" in red block letters. There are no more children in the world, or at least none come my way. Though I lie with my face to the ground, on occasion I look up and see the masses of people hurry by and the great buildings that yearn for altitude, and I wonder as to what has happened to me. There is no more coldness now, only a persistent numbness. Sometimes I close my eyes and remember what it was like to be warm, to dance, to hear a child's laugh, but then I open my eyes and see the same slab of pavement that I've been staring at for the past three years. In this dream-like state of nostalgia, I suddenly feel weary, and the burden inside me becomes heavier. As I become wearier and wearier, I feel for the first time my consciousness slipping away subtly like the tides at night.

I close my eyes for the last time.





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