He followed the light to a brightness
that came from low to the ground.
He eyes through the shadows and
stalks to a single stalk, and a pair of
red rubber boots on the ground near
the freshly thickened base of a
thick bloody stalk that still dripped
wet earth and oozed.
The glow came from inside the third
node from the ground. A cool
cantaloupe melon light blurred the
shape inside the bamboo.
“Forgive me, Old Bamboo,” the Old
He unpacked his fine-toothed
crosscut pullsaw. He cut a window
into the third node. He looked
He saw a doll that was as shapeless
as a flame. He reached for the
flame, it was cool. He was surprised
the grip of his fingers came
The glow was alive and ran to the
window and jumped off the back of
his hand into one of the red rubber
He repaired the bamboo with the
section he cut out and a paste his
wife made for him, out of rice,
bamboo sawdust and water.
He emerged from the cold of the
forest of red bamboos into the
sweatiness and knocktalk of the
bamboo forest in summer. Then out
of the of long stalks and into the
dark of night, the heat of the season
and the cold of an empty
neighborhood of blocks and blocks
shaved bald of buildings. The
bulldozers and dumptrucks were
gone and haven’t been back.
The stars and the dark of night was
uninterrupted by buildings, telephone
poles, yardarms, wires and cables
strung between the yards. He
remembers them on this street when
he was a kid and misses them like
the uncle home from a war he misses
from when he was a kid.
Over here about five blocks, there
was a light from a house, and in the
five blocks along First Avenue, a
duplex lights the dark, and way over
there another house, then a triplex
on Chemical Avenue, all bought from
the Company in happier days. They
can only hope when the Company sells
the industrial waterfront Scar, Tea
City doesn’t claim domain and they
will get more than they paid the
Company for the only building left
standing for blocks around.
Lights from the neighboring houses
are so distant they’re as dim as the
glint in the Old Woman’s eye.
The only real lights around are on at
the Eclipse Hotel, the building the
old couple managed then bought in
APT. NO. 9
In their fifth floor apartment
Number 9 the old man puts the living
doll that glows in the red rubber
boot, on the chair the Old Woman
had just put together.
“She’s beautiful,” the Old Woman
“I can see,” the Old Man said. The
outpouring of her glow seemed to
have been absorbed and he could see
the living doll indeed, was a beautiful
“This must be the child we have
always wanted,” the Old Woman said.
The Old Man found a note in the
other red boot. “I don’t want her.
You can have her. She’s too bad for
me.” The note was signed “Moon.”
“What does the note say?”
“It’s just rubber company
advertising for boots.”
What did the note mean? The Old
Man wonders. Who was Moon?
THE NEXT DAY
The next day, he goes into the lot
next door to cut bamboo. Just as
every day, rain or shine, he goes into
the crazy hair forest to cut bamboo.
One day in the following month he
found himself lost among bamboo he
had never seen before. He found a
pair of gold rubber boots with a
layer of California eight sided gold
pieces he deposited in a savings
account in the bank.
He dreaded getting lost in the
bamboo forest. Not that he
suffered a terror when he was lost.
But dread is dread.
Still, every day, rain or shine, dread
or no dread, he goes into the bamboo
forest to cut bamboo. Every time he
gets lost inside, he finds a pair of
colored rubber boots with a layer of
jewels or gold or silver on the soles.
Once he found a pair of boots with
the soles filled two pearls grown to
fit the soles. He deposited the
treasure in the bank. The Old Couple
took out the amounts needed to care
for and provide their girl, a care and
a provision at a time, ever since.
She has grown from a doll sized
miniature girl to full sized six year
old brat, in two years.
The old couple hire the hotel’s
tenants to help care for their visitor
and keep her strange existence
The gardens and groves grow in pots
on tables around a thick chickenglass
skylight, on the semi-flat roof.
Dusty light sinks down the five-story
well of the carpeted staircase.
The door to the indoor corridor,
around the stairwell, between
apartments is closed and locked
against strangers who land on the
A blackhaired moonfaced girl with
full moon lips and moons over her
dark eyes, stands under the skylight.
A shadow of smoke passes in the sky
The old man inserts the key to the
door, but suddenly looks over her
head, and sees nothing. He looks
down and sees the girl. She holds a
pair of yellow boots to her chest like
a teddy bear.
“You sure you live with us?”
“Don’t fool!” she throws a little fist
at his leg.
Her eyes are bright and round and
dark as two eclipses. Her lids rest
half way down her bright pupils. She
looks calm, relaxed, sleepy.
“We live on the highest floor in the
building. The air should be moving up
here,” the old man says.
She breathes. “I breathed this air
yesterday. And the day before that.
And last week. I’m tired of
breathing this tired air over and
“You sure you don’t live with the
twins Koko and Pele downstairs?”
“Come on, open the door.”
“Don’t be so bossy,” the old man says.
“What are you going to name me?”
“We’ll see what the Namer says.”
“How about ‘Flower?’”
“We’ll see what Namer says.”
“How about ‘Pretty?’”
“How about ‘Beautiful?’”
“Beautiful? I like Beautiful.”
“ ‘I like beautiful!’” he imitates her.
“Admit it, you’re vain.” He looks at
her and his mood changes.
“Are you feeling all right?” He puts
the palm of a hand on her forehead,
to feel for fever. “I can’t get over
how your face brightens from the
inside, like a Jack-o’lantern,” he says.
“A Halloween pumpkin with a candle
“My face is not Halloween.”
“But I feel a candle inside your
head.” He takes his hand off her
“You do not!”
“See your face glows with light from
the inside.” He puts his hand
between her face and the wall. He
wriggles his fingers. “See the
“Is that good?”
“You cast faint shadows, like the
APT NO. 9
She goes straight through the
apartment to the short hall at the
back door and her collection of
“I want to wear my boots out in the
“Good idea. That’s what rubber
boots are for.”
“But nobody can see me.”
“People will see you, but I’ll take you
out in disguise. No one will really see
you. But the day will come when you
meet the Namer, barefaced.”
Her face dimmed before the Old
“Shh! Shh! That’s all right. A Namer
keeps all the names living on the old
company land we call the Scar.”
“That’s not what I mean!”
He is shocked by his urge to bow his
head to the little girl and apologize.
“Then the Namer introduces us, and
we introduce you, What’syourname
as our daughter to society. It’ll be
fun,” the Old Woman says stepping
aside the open door and sweeping
“People from the Scar have to see
you, to say you’re real. You are real.
Very real,” the Old Woman says.
“But not everyone has to see you,”
the Old Man says. Just the Namer
and the neighbors on the day you’re
named. Then you’re gone. A fading
memory. Never to be seen again.”
“I want to go out in the rain first.
You said you’d disguise me. And no
one would know it’s me.”
“Yes. That’s what I said,” the Old
Man said. “The next rainy day.”