When I was six, I tortured a girl. We tied her to a tree in her own backyard and waved dog shit in front of her face, screaming at her to smell and eat. The girl had a soft pale face with eyes that were almost transparent. I remember her gazing at us with tears in her eyes and the horrible thrill I experienced. Along with others I screamed and waved my own stick with its glob of dog shit. I had not been a popular child and I suppose the thrill was just as much at being invited to participate with the gang of girls that usually excluded me. Waving my little stick excitedly, I was so happy to be one of the crowd. To be, for a change, the torturer and not the tortured.
The girl who had been our neighbor had light brown hair. Her fingers were red, her fingernails bitten. It's all lodged in memory—the tree with its copper, spoon-shaped leaves, the cold smell of the air, the white sky. And her name, like yesterday, each flaming syllable.