Nico

Afternoon beach haze filters into the concrete courtyard. Nico’s eyes tell me everything. He’s eight. And he knows everything there is to know about life. The things we seem to forget when we are older.

Nothing happens for a moment because he has my attention is his hands and I marvel at this child before me like a rare bird that has turned up in my living room.

He pulls out his workbook and though we are supposed to be practicing Spanish I acquiesce to his joy and we play a game he’s invented. He draws a chart like a Final Four elimination table and we fill in the blank lines with animals, which will fight each other. The victor continues to a new round and so on.

He asks me to pick an animal.

Bear

He picks another, anteater, and giggles at what the results may be.

I point to F.E.P. written on one of the lines.

‘That’s flesh eating penguin,’ he says like, ‘the sky is blue’.

Holding to my arm he begs me to stay but I tell him I’m only volunteering for a few minutes.

He tells me not to leave and grabs his workbook and runs behind a wall where I can see him peeking around and hoping I’m not watching him.

Before I make my way to the door, through the lending library, and back to the beat up 1992 Honda that is going to take me to visit an Apache Sundance Chief, Nico runs to me and rips something out of his notebook.

It says:

I wil mis you

Caren             Nico

We do the secret handshake we made up when he told me he was my friend not more than 20 minutes ago and I give him my address if we wants to send me the results of the animal showdown.

He takes the paper and looks at me and we say goodbye.

The road is empty as we drive to the chief’s house except for some women on horses and a flock of goats bleating behind a chain link fence.

Later I ask the Apache Chief, Oscar, why children are so wise.

He answers from underneath the falling twilight and I can barely see his face.

‘Because children are not afraid’

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