(Still Sick) Dusk and Dawn

The sun burns in the sky above.

“She’s a trouble, ” says Mrs. Schiff. She smiles at Saul. “You’ll see.”

Saul shrugs. He looks suave. “I’ve dealt with truants before.”

“She’s fine every night,” Mrs. Schiff explains. “She doesn’t associate with the others. She sits by herself. But she doesn’t make trouble. It’s only in the mornings, when we try to get her ready for school.”

“She doesn’t cooperate?”

“She vanishes. We’ve stood by her bed watching her sleep, poised to grab her if even the slightest thing happens. We’ve kept her up all night, in a chair, watching the wall. We’ve tried it all. Every day, come the dawn, she’s gone.”

Saul frowns. He looks out at the orphanage. “That’s too bad,” he says.

He goes among them, and looks for her; but he does not find her. It is day. It is not until dusk that Iphigenia straggles in, and seats herself upon her bed. Some of the others look up. Some don’t. Saul walks over and sits down next to her. She smiles to him.

“You’re a trouble,” he says, “I’ve been told.”

“I guess,” she says. She rubs the bridge of her nose. “I’m tired.”

“Do you like it here?” he says.

“All of the others hate me,” Iphigenia says.

“Why?”

“The day before I came here,” she says, “it was the last adoption. After I got here, people stopped bothering. . . . It’s a silly superstition,” she adds, “but it doesn’t do much for my rep.”

“That’s too bad,” says Saul.

She shrugs. She checks her bed for mice, and frogs, and dirt, and filth, and short-sheeting. There’s only a plastic spider; Saul’s been watching, and the kids’ve been a bit shy. Then she climbs in, and closes her eyes.

“I’m supposed to keep you from leaving in the morning,” Saul says.

“That’s okay,” she says, and goes to sleep.

The hours of the night creep past. Her dreams are cold and crisp and twisting things. But then it is time. She sits up.

“Ah-ah-ah,” says Saul.

She shakes her head, and then reaches out to take his hand. “I’ll show you something,” she says. “Because you were nicer than most.”

She leads him out to the door, and his hand begins to smoke, and he feels a hot sharp pain and releases her. She walks away. She is beginning to burn. Four horses gallop down from the sky and stand before her, and she takes their long reins in her hand.

“It’s dawn,” she says. “I have to go.”

The horses pull her into the sky, and Iphigenia is the sun.

2 thoughts on “(Still Sick) Dusk and Dawn

  1. This is sheer beauty.

    For my money, the best part of Magic Realism — and perhaps the best part of myth itself, especially modern myth — is the level of acceptance one carries with it. Iphigenia is the sun, and that’s all there is to it. She leaves because she has to. Saul doesn’t try to stop her once he sees, because she’s the sun, and he simply accepts that she has to go, or there would be no day.

    And if Saul, or someone else, had tried to stop her, it would have been with the understanding that there would be no day, but that there was a rule that had to be followed.

    It is powerful stuff.

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