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The Man in the Woods

by Benjamin Grossman

I told Starlit about the man in the woods and she didn’t believe me and pushed me to the ground and said that my new name was “big-eyed, fat-toed, double-eared, buttonhole liar.”

“My name’s Kennocha,” I said, but she didn’t care.

“You’re a milksop,” Starlit said, pinching me.

“I do like milk,” I said. She didn’t pinch me no more after I told her that, just kept on calling me that long name: big-eyed, fat-toed, double-eared, buttonhole liar.

“What did the man in the woods say to you, pigeon pox?” Starlit asked me.

“He wanted to talk to my Aunt Cassandra,” I said, “and I told him she’s very very very ugly and not pretty like my mommy and he gave me a worm to play with. He got it from nowhere.” Starlit didn’t like it when I told her that.

“No, he didn’t,” she said, “You’re just like my mother told me. You believe in miracles.”

“What are those things?” I asked.

“It’s the reason why you don’t sneeze out of your mouth and drool out of your eyes,” she said, like I shouldn’t have asked. I know what miracles are now. Thank you, Starlit.

I shouldn’t have told Starlit about the man in the woods. She asked me what he looked like and I told her that he looked like my Uncle Damyn. “It probably was your Uncle Damyn,” she said. But it wasn’t him, and I told her that. Starlit wanted to know if he had warts or the other things. I didn’t know what those other things were but I shook my head twice for warts.

Starlit said we needed to go into those scary woods and make a slave of that man. She really wanted to use his magic but I wanted to see if that man in the woods could find me a few more worms to play with.

Starlit was taller so I had to follow, but I didn’t really want to. “Starlit, I don’t want to go in there.” I said. “Last time I went in there I got red spots.”

“Why? What are you, scared?” she asked.

“No, I’m not scared of anything,” I said. “Not even a giant spider.”

“Then what are you, a big baby?

“I’m a woman,” I said.

“You’re not a woman,” she told me.

I was ready to lift my dress and show her I wasn’t boy. “I will be a woman just like my mommy.”

Starlit punched me for that and said I should keep my fat mouth closed because I talked too much sometimes.

So I kept moving through the woods with my mouth shut just like Starlit told me to. I didn’t even cry when I tripped and hit my hand. It hurt, too. But I was alright.

We walked for a long, long time and Starlit told me that she wanted me to show her that man in the woods already. “I don’t know where he lives,” I said. Well Starlit told me to call out his name so he would come out of his hiding place and we could use some of his magic.

“Man in the Woods, will you come out and talk to us so we can use some of your magic.” I screamed. “And I can play with your worm.”

Starlit punched me in the arm when I said that and said that I wasn’t supposed to tell the man in the woods that we wanted to use his magic and that she didn’t want any dumb worms.

Some birds flew overhead and a rabbit scampered across the ground. Then the woods went silent. We waited and waited but the man in the woods never appeared. I told Starlit that the man in the woods was scared of her because she was older but she didn’t believe me. So all the way back home Starlit called me a big-eyed, fat-toed, doubled- eared, buttonhole—“My name’s Kennocha,” I said, but Starlit doesn’t care. To her I’m just that long name.

The next day we went deeper into the woods and this time Starlit was following me. I got taller fast, but I didn’t want to tease Starlit. After some time we found the man in the woods and he had more worms than he had before.

“That’s a corpse,” Starlit said, spitting.

I made a silly face. “He’s doesn’t look like an apple.”

“He’s dead,” Starlit said, giving the man in the woods a kick.

I put my hand over my mouth. I didn’t want to lose my head for saying bad words. I went up to the corpse and touched his hands. They were cold.

“Maybe we should get him a blanket,” I said.

Starlit punched me and ran away.

“Hey,” I said, running after her “you didn’t say goodbye to the man in the woods.” That was rude, Starlit.

 

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