Burning Boy—1916

Someone was saying his name, but not his real name. Someone was saying what his mother called his paper name; he could hear it quite clearly when the other noise stopped. Someone was saying his paper name, and that’s how he knew he was dead.

The other noise was somewhere between a bellow and a roar, and he thought it might be important to work out what to call it. It made him think of summer when he was small and of the circus, the animals. Not the sleepy-looking lion with its sores and bald patches but the elephant, that was it. The noise was like the elephant when it unfurled its long trunk from between its stubby tusks and trumpeted. His mother had taken a photograph of that elephant and tacked it to the wall by his bed. He could picture it, he was picturing it, but then the noise rolled through, taking over. Filling up everything, not even the tiniest space left for a thought.

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