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January 2014, vol 9, no 4

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Rich Youmans

Depth Perceptions

She sat in the middle of the classroom, surrounded by shouts, backslaps, bruising laughter. She kept her head down, her black hair pulled tight into a braid. Quiet, removed—but not unmoving: her left hand flicked across a notebook page, drawing pencil sketches of desert plains, mesas, layered mountain peaks. The bell rang, Mrs. Brant entered, and the room fell silent. But that hand kept moving, shading in the underside of a cloud, cross-hatching an eagle’s belly. Mrs. Brant called roll. Still the girl didn’t speak; she raised her pencil upon hearing her name, then lowered it to articulate a wing. Mrs. Brant had heard of her from the freshman-year teacher; the principal had just shaken her head when asked. Angie was her name—the only word any of them had ever heard her say.

wishing well still, the coin that fell without a sound

After roll, Mrs. Brant handed out that day’s quiz, watched the sheets of paper flutter from hand to hand toward the back of the room, the heads bending down. She wandered the aisles, tossing off a nod of encouragement at each face that popped up. Eventually she stood behind her. This close, Mrs. Brant could see the pale bruises slipping past the girl’s collar, not quite hidden by makeup; the cuts on her hands and wrists; the fingernails bitten to the quick. The quiz was already filled in—every answer, it seemed, correct. Angie never looked up. Instead, at the top of the test paper, her hand sketched a new drawing: swells of ocean fanning outward; a schooner with a full, arching sail; and, near the horizon’s vanishing point, a single star just big enough for one final wish.