by Nancy Dassy

My name is really Hiro, but the little ones say it like “Hero” because of how I save ‘em. I snatch ‘em straight from the air right before they fall into the cauldron. She never sees me on account of her only having one eye and all. I’m really fast, before she turns around I’m back across the room sweeping.

Sometimes she hits me anyway, even when I ain’t done nothing. She says it’s for whatever I’m gonna do later. I never talk back ‘cause then she gets mad and she crawls into my cove and breaks everything. I used to not care ‘cause I didn’t have much anyway, but now, I don’t want her to come into my space ever.

I have a few this time. I stick ‘em in my pocket until she’s gone. When I’m really sure, I take ‘em out. At first they cry a lot cause their little bodies are crushed and stuff, so even a tiny little touch hurts them so bad, but I take care of ‘em and make ‘em all better. I put their arms and legs in the right places, I heal ‘em, wash ‘em, and I comb their hair. I give ‘em water and bits of food until they’re all nice and pretty again. I’m really nice to ‘em, not like Bruja (that’s what they call her). Bruja likes to hurt ‘em and make ‘em scream. She says their screams make her magic more potent. As soon as she gets one, first thing she does is cut off its wings. They cry so sad when she does that. I can’t stand the sound of it, so I go in to my room and I cover my ears and I cry too. I cry ugly though so I gotta be quiet ‘cause when Bruja hears me she crawls down and punches me right in my stomach over and over until I stop. 

They love me a lot. I take ‘em out of their boxes and they giggle, they tell me stories and play with my hair. I like to make them dance, they dance like ballerinas. When she goes out or when she drinks her special beer and knocks out, I play the music box and I have ‘em dance all night. They don’t mind, ‘cause like I said I saved them, and plus at least I don’t cause them no harm like Bruja does. I don’t eat meat. It’s nasty. One time I asked her why we gotta eat live things and all. She got so mad she cut off one of my toes and cooked it and made me eat it too. So I don’t ask nothing no more. 

I can tell they don’t like my face so much. They cover their eyes whenever I bring ‘em up close. They think I don’t know, but they giggle when they’re scared too. I can tell the difference. Sometimes I just wanna look at them so they have to stand on my chest while I sleep. They’re always there, still standing when I wake up too. I tell ‘em they can go back in their boxes once I’m asleep, but they just giggle some more. I wish I could keep ‘em forever, but once every full moon Bruja checks my room to see if I’ve stolen anything from her. She warns me when she’s gonna do it, which makes no sense ‘cause obviously I can get rid of whatever before she finds it. I could just wait ‘til she goes out the day before and let ‘em go. I tried to once, too. I waited ‘til she left and I gathered all of them. I opened the door and was just about ready to let em out, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t bare the thought of watching ‘em go.

So I did what I do now.

The night before she checks my room, I watch ‘em dance all night for one last time. Just before sunrise, I line ‘em up on the windowsill, I tell ‘em they will soon be free. I turn ‘em towards the rising sun and I crush ‘em one by one with my thumb ‘til they’re all gone. I wipe my thumb on my pant leg real good, and I quietly crawl back to my room. By the time Mama comes to check, I’m back in bed fast asleep.

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