35. The Children

Morning-time, the children planted flowers in the desert, long rows of flowers under clay cliffs and a wide blue sky that reminded some of the older children of oceans.

But they had trouble finding water. They had to walk miles to a river with polished stones at the bottom, round as drowned heads. They carried water back to their gardens in buckets. One of the children had to stay behind because he grew tired and could walk no further, and he was very small.

The children stored the water in barrels, and they watered their flowers in the morning as the sun rose and when the wind passed through the little houses and whispered.

At night the coyotes prowled. The children locked their doors and listened. They heard snuffs at the windows and thresholds. They heard paw steps. Scarecrow shapes danced across the moonlight on the floors.

Mornings later, they found that the flowers had bloomed, fluffy reds, yellows smoking with bees, purples slapping at butterflies the size of paper planes. The children praised the water they’d drawn from such long distances. They wept their sacrifice. Some of the children even thanked the coyotes because the prints they made in the sand looked like letters.

“Do you think they’ll ever come home?” asked a girl, as the children admired the flowers.

“Maybe they’ll see them and come home,” said another girl.

“I miss them,” the girl said. “Maybe they’ll be here in the morning.”

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