I hire a boy to help with the large shadows. He works cheap, and I dare not ask my accountant how we escape minimum wage laws. It is good training for him, practically a Victorian style apprenticeship. I start him out with jobs he can never accomplish. He must learn failure, the feeling of being saddled with four left feet, or trapped by giants. Only then can he appreciate the mundane right-sizing of success. He folds the far corners of ordinary working-class house shadows as they stretch across humiliating backyards. I start at the base, where the shadow connects to the house. Slowly. Slowly. I do not want to overtake him. Though I retire my speed, the two of us together still accomplish more in less time. He focuses like a mirror no child of his age should be able to stash expendable dark into. In a few weeks, I will let him harvest an uncomplicated shadow all by himself. An electrical transformer. Perhaps a meticulously trimmed hedge. I shout for him to roll tighter where the chimney dusk extends about the roof's gracefully longing, solid ebony. Yes, one day far from now he will likely be able to snatch the shadows of birds. To my direction he smiles, then opens his mouth to reveal the prevailing dark within. One day, he will gather even that internal dark to place on his poverties and pleasures shelf, arranging the lathered wind of it so that it stands in opposition to the space it gargles. But, for now, he is inexpensive help – though ceding him the experience that my work with him provides, perhaps I am paying too much. I point with my shadowless hand to where next he should spend his grasp, and he stretches forward quite like unquestioningly I once did in my brilliant, light-loving innocence. For now, he will do.
Ken Poyner offers currently four collections of poetry, and four collections of flash fiction. The two newest collections of poetry, Stone the Monsters, or Dance and Lessons From Lingering Houses emerged July/August 2021. He spent 33 years working in the information arts, and lives with his power lifting wife, several rescue cats, and multiple betta fish in the lower right-hand corner of Virginia. His stories have appeared in The Cafe Irreal eight times previously, most recently "Driving Holes" in Issue #78.