by Rachel Rodman
It was a chaste courtship. Her lust was constrained by her conservative upbringing; his, by his lack of a central nervous system.
Often, they simply talked. She chatted extensively about her life in the old world, before the tornado. She had loved, she said, her school and her church, and the little farm, with the painted weathervane, and the baby chicks, haloed in adorable fluff.
He never actually said anything. Occasionally, a breeze would catch the back of his head, and he gave what appeared to be a nod. On his face, stitched in thread, there was a permanent smile. To a part of her--which was very lonely--these were thrilling things. "You understand me," she thought.
She remained with him for several days, delaying her journey. She slept below and apart, close to the yellow bricks, while he remained on his pole.
On the third day, she had a strange thought.
On her neck was a chain, a gift at her Baptism. From it dangled a man: a miniature, made of pewter. Now, she removed it.
Holding it up, she compared them. Old and new. The first: an iconic figure, whom she had always reverenced. And the second: a new friend. Just a pleasant man made of cloth, who had brought her so much comfort.
And yet... they were the same. Their limbs were constrained at the same pathetic angles, each forcibly affixed to a framework of wood.
In the shock of it, the pewter man slipped from her fingers, and she looked only at the cloth one.
A jumble of feelings: Guilt, shyness. Concern for his suffering. But a warmer emotion, most of all.
The first nail, at the bottom, snapped easily. To reach the other two, she had to climb the post.