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There was a boy who had a map of the world. He taped it up to the wall of his bedroom in the first grade, after he turned seven. He had stood on the edge of his bed, looking up at the countries like puzzle pieces, technicolor shapes that all seemed to fit together. In this he saw beauty, and he thought of people across the land living next to each other in technicolor towns, streets of little houses and boys and girls playing together like a lifelong recess.
In class he learned his fifty states, and afterwards he would go into his daddy’s office and take his atlas, thumbing through the pages, from Alabama to Wyoming, paving a mental road of landmarks and attractions, state flowers and state birds. He found a box of push pins, and began marking the places he wished to go. He stuck a blue one through New York City, and a red one through Nashville. A green one through Orlando, and a yellow one through Denver. He stepped back, looking at the United States erupt in color, a small part of him in each pin, connecting the dots in his world.
During math he closed his eyes and saw the flashing lights of the city. While the other kids ran through the schoolyard, he had his hands in his pockets and a stone rolling on the ground in front of him. He walked slowly around the sidewalk, kicking the stone and feeling the wind through his hair as he stood atop a mountain, goggles pulled down over his frostbitten nose as he looked down on the world. More push pins pierced the paper of his map, and soon you could hardly see the lines between the states.
Soon he was halfway through Europe, back on his bed, tennis shoes leaving marks on his bedspread as he turned the box of push pins over in his hands. He studied the technicolor shapes and then stepped forward, eyes closed. He held the pin up, turning it over with his fingers, and stuck it into the map. He opened his eyes, and there was a green pin in the middle of France. A laugh escaped his lips. Brown eyes glowed in the light of the setting sun, gaze set on the interlocking pieces of his own 196 piece jigsaw. He travelled until his plane was cast in shadow, and sleep overtook heavy eyes, and a boy of wanderlust lay to rest with the whole world in his hands.
The sounds came faintly under the door come morning. The boy crept out of bed and down the hall, to see the faces of two parents sitting like stones on the couch. The TV illuminated their eyes, glossed over, locked on bombs, fires in France, Emergency Update, Emergency Update. He asked them what movie they were watching. His mother looked at him, a look of something forming on her lips, sympathy, maybe. It wasn’t a movie.
Breath escaped his lungs as heavy legs carried him back, up onto the bed, in front of his map. He could not go to France. His Atlas told of the Arc De Triomphe but all he could see were the people running away from the sounds and the swirling clouds. With a shaking hand, he took the pin out.
He went to his desk, retrieving a black marker. He colored the head of the pin, then put it back in.
Every day, he would wake up, and walk down the hallway to the TV. A few clicks of the remote and the screen would fill with images of the world. Each day he watched a new chapter unfold, and every day he would retreat back to his room, coloring a new pin before he got dressed for school. Fields of color turned to arsenals of coal black artillery, his dreams held in tiny plastic push pins saw overcast skies.
On Wednesday, Great Britain was bombed. His parents came to say good morning, but their voices were hidden behind the broadcast. The smoke from the city overseas travelled along the radio waves to fill the room. It curled around him, and he could not breathe. He gazed upon the ashes, tears rolling down his cheeks. He stood, and after coloring his pin on Wales, he took his daddy’s atlas to the office, and put it back on the shelf. At recess, he sat on the bench and saw the playground before his eyes crumble and fall in a fit of orange and red flames, turning the pages of the world he had always known to the dust blowing over his shoes.
Two little feet found their way back to the edge of the bed, and the same glowing brown eyes that once saw a technicolor world now saw a sea of black. It was ugly. None of the countries fit together, the lines were messy and the little boys and girls were skipping bullets across ponds instead of stones. He ripped the pins out of the map, fistfuls of dreams diving towards the floor. With a cry the map came off the wall, crinkling in his small hands. He bared his teeth and ripped it in half, again and again, pieces of the world fluttering down to where he sat, his head in his hands. The world was no longer his, the wall above his bed bare.
He wanted to change the world but he would never make it to each pin. He colored them so he would know who to help and the people waved their black flags in their black towns but he only had 27 dollars in his piggy bank and he was only seven. He saw his mother standing in the doorway, a look of something in her eyes, and the boy went over to her, wrapping his little arms around her waist, burying his face into her stomach. He cried, and shaking hands stroked his hair.
“We’ll buy you a new map, August.”
“I don’t want to see the world anymore.”
He pulled away. Push pins littered his floor, and from up here he saw their colors. From above, you couldn’t see the black. Reds and blues and yellows and greens dotted the carpet.
“I want to help them.”
“We all do, honey.”
Head held high, he grabbed his piggy bank.
“I’m sending this to Britain.”
He walked past his mother and out of his room, past the technicolor towns and the TV that taught him that the pieces of the world didn’t quite fit together.