THE SHORTEST STORY
There’s a boy in Chicago, eighteen years old, who cried when he lost the girl, but the first cry only began to drain the depression, and after the letter he cried everywhere. He cried buckets, he cried rivers, he cried weeks—but let me draw back for a fuller picture.
There’s a boy in Iraq, eight years old, napalmed during the Gulf War, face beaded with blood like black and red ants matting his face, lips burned white to ash, sad clear hurt brown eyes peering from behind the mask, tousled hair topping the face laced with worms and gravel—but let me draw back again for yet a fuller picture.
There are people the world over. They lose limbs, they lose livelihoods, they lose children. Starving beings feed on themselves as malignly as any virus or maggot or carnivore, turning muscles to food, until skin wraps like paint around bones. We have attestations from Ethiopia, we have attestations from Treblinka, lives full of flesh and blood reduced to skeletons of wire and wood. We have decimated whole species, we have decimated whole races. We have perpetrated Nagasaki, we have perpetrated Chernobyl.
And what had the boy lost? A girl? Oh, poor little boy! So sad, so sorry, so what? Let it go. For the great part of his life the great part of his needs had been met. Let him learn how it feels to have nothing. Let him begin to learn something.