There may have been—there may be still, yes, look—a red ball suspended in midair; there may be beautiful children below, every face a different shade of brown, frozen mid-run, mid-game, one mind; there may still be a pale-blue sheet stopped mid-flutter on the clothesline behind them, flanked by a family of shockingly white socks, white boxers, white panties, white brassieres, white handkerchiefs; each child may be elated, secretly sorrowful, worried about what others are thinking, fixated on nothing except that red ball fixed above his or her head in the pallid afternoon sky; they may have formed a semicircle; some may be singing to themselves, although Professor Johnson—Ryana—can’t be sure. Perhaps the children are listening to the song whistled by that giant with three fingers missing on his left hand—a father, hers, Ryana’s—clattering in the shabby shed at the edge of the dead-grass yard, beyond which unfurls a hundred flat humid acres of rickety barn, muddy pond, cotton and corn, the scent of hay and gasoline-soaked rags in the hot breeze. It may be the intensity of the sunlight that makes those children squint, captures them in mid-lunge, blind and oblivious, yet Ryana senses the children’s world as increasingly gauzy and weightless as she wades farther and farther into the warm dark sea, up to her ankles, up to her knees.

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