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the nesting thimbles
would appear on the ends of his fingers
and disappear


No matter how hard or how long he tried, Peter could never remember exactly how he got to Neverland. (He never tried very often or very hard, to be fair, as there were always so many other, more exciting things to do.) He remembers feeling cold, rain trickling into his boot, and a tall boy with dark, curling hair holding out a hand. Once, Peter thought he remembered the boy's name was James, but none of the Lost Boys was named James, now.

Neverland had everything he wanted except snow, so he flew back to that other place with winter in his mind, all bright lights and fat, fuzzy, cold flakes tickling his nose. He danced from roof to roof, searching for escaped stories and forgotten boys to bring back to the Home Underground. They always seemed so small when he caught them--both the stories and the boys--but when planted properly, Peter found they grew to just the right size. That is, never taller nor bigger than him, but fierce enough to be challenging.

His own tree house, a gnarled hideaway, concealed his three second-favorite daggers, plus a flute, tied with a ragged blue ribbon. There were the remnants of a stuffed dog with a yarn nose and brass buttons for eyes, which he never really noticed. (And if he never saw it, then he would never think to throw it away.) Peter never slept much, because he learned early on that he didn't ever like to dream.

 



he says ivory stinks
like rotting meat when it's carved


The moon shone full every night except on the crescent night, silvering the water into a mirror. Peter would fly up and up and up, then fold his legs and drop like a bullet, laughing loud. The lagoon was never as cold as he expected, though the rocks were always jagged. Many a time he had tumbled against them, ribbons of blood streaking through the water like arrows.

When his feet touched the sandy bottom of the lagoon, Peter would curl into a ball before launching back up again, the water pulling against him like so many hands. (Flying was never so perilous, except when he hazarded to think.) Peter would burst out of the water with a twirl, and the mermaids, draped over the sunken boulders, would applaud. It was simple enough to cartwheel through the air toward them, preening as he floated down.

They didn't speak the same sort of English that he did, but from their hissing whispers, he learned they liked the taste of his blood in the same way he liked the sting when he shed it.

Tinkerbell always scowled at him after his ventures into the lagoon, her voice chiming sharp as she hopped from his shoulder to his elbow to his ear. Her tiny hands would trace his wounds, and he would shiver as she healed them, still scolding. Her wings tickled his chin and he sneezed at the dust shed; her indignance was usually the reason he dove in the first place.

 



outside, something is beeping
and chugging
a vehicle reversing


Truth be told, Tiger Lily had first saved Peter, though he sometimes felt sheepish enough admitting it. The pirates, led by a ginger bloke called Maundy George, had wrapped Peter up in a net of seaweed and pearls. (It had been a dirty, no-good pact the pirates made with the mermaids. Peter would forgive them later, but not until they brought him to the cavern under the moat, the one where they hid the skeletons and the forbidden gold.) Peter had struggled against the net, but his wrists had been caught fast, and his dagger lost in the struggle.

Maundy George had an obsession with fire, and it had been a large one they built to roast Peter, right proper. Maundy George had cackled, his glass eye glittering, and a younger pirate with dark, curling hair shoved Peter forward to the bonfire. The heat had licked at Peter's toes, like cats' bites, needle-sharp, and then arrows had shrieked down like hail.

Great Big Little Panther had led the charge, but it had been Tiger Lily who crept behind Peter and sawed the seaweed loose. As he ducked back from the fire, she had pressed her forehead against his temple and claimed his life as hers.

Peter crowed as they leapt into the air, his arm wrapped around her waist. "Only this one," he promised her. Tiger Lily laughed loud as he took her proffered dagger, and when they landed behind Maundy George, she leashed an arrow even as Peter sprang.

 



there was a woman
who found herself
ankle-deep in bank-notes
thinking they were autumn leaves


Wendy Darling was not the first girl Peter dared to eavesdrop upon, but she was the first who agreed to come with him. (Her brothers were fine, but unnecessary. Peter found they distracted Wendy from more important things, and him.) There had been Ellie, who always had soot on her nose. Her hands had been small and cold in Peter's when she taught him to dance on the riverbank. Florence had played the piano as she sang her rhymes for him, and Sally had a cunning little harp.

Eudora had been his favorite, before Wendy, because she insisted on eating lemon cakes before bedtime. She saved two for him, each time, and then read terrible, bloodthirsty stories out of a heavy bound book with gilt pages. She had almost come with Peter, he thought, until the last time he crept into her window and found she had already grown up.

The girls all smelled of powder and lavender, of milk and cotton and balm. Every time he visited one, he felt a tremor in his chest, as if pieces of him were being whittled away. His heart would knock like wood, and his feet would stick to the floor, as if this other world was clinging to his ankles like an anchor.

So Peter skipped and ricocheted and leaped, escaping the girls and wishing they would follow him. He teased and tempted, and never expected them to say yes.

Then one night, Wendy Darling did, and that was an entirely new adventure.