REBECCA KEERS-FLOOD

The Scorching Giant

“Puppets” — Natalie Martell

I.

The doll dangled from a little girl’s hand
One of its charcoal black eyes hung below the socket,
a thread barely holding the two together.

We walked barefoot across the flaming hot embers that engulfed the town.
Hair stuck to our necks from the air that was thick with smoke.
We were in an ocean of overwhelming heat,
the orange, brown, and blacks illuminated,
masking the reality of our surroundings.

We passed a chair that barely stood.
It was unbalanced by the remnants of a wall, or perhaps a floor,
that had piled up beneath it.
The gold-painted petals still decorated the panels.

Two hours and thirty-seven minutes
was how long it took for the monster to make its way through,
trampling on houses with his giant feet.
He did not speak:
silence was interrupted with crackles snapping sharply in the air.

Like a herd of misplaced cattle,
we made our way back to the town,
with nowhere to go.
We carried what belongings we had
into the cooling sunset.

II.

He picked up the doll,
careful of her loose seams,
holding her cold hands gently
against her chest.

Her hair made out of string
was once yellow and soft.
He smoothed it back behind her
again and again.

The crooked expression
was slowly smearing away;
he etched in a smile
and drew the light back into her eyes.

She wore a tattered ballet dress
that he slowly sewed back together,
applying each pink sequence
meticulously.

She wore no shoes,
so he made some out of cloth—
looked too thin,
so he stuffed her full.

Tediously, he worked
in the corner of the room,
with the desk light focused
deep into the night.

When he had finally finished,
and the doll looked almost new,
he crept across the floor
and placed it carefully into his daughter’s bed.

He tucked them in tightly
and carefully turned.
Before he shut off the light,
he looked around at the ash-covered,
barren, and broken walls
and exhaled with relief.
The scorching giant that swept through
was finally contained.