By Len Kuntz
In what was once an old grain mill or slaughterhouse, they lined us up in an inverted pyramid, like scuffed bowling pins.
We wore price tag earrings. On each was written a guess about our ages–Circa 9 months, Circa 11 months. Circa No Clue.
We’d been told to stand stock-still, but we were infants after all and, for most of us, every command sounded like pureed gibberish.
The baby behind me tottered and spat up chalky gravy over my shoulders which our guardian wiped away at once.
“Some are already potty-trained,” our guardian said, “but their mouths still need work.”
Potential buyers held their chins. Bent over studiously, they slowly strolled our formation while scanning us for defects or potential.
I arched my back and wiggled my chin, even though my head felt too big, too heavy, like a fishbowl filled with bloated bath toys.
“That one’s a bargain,” our guardian’s wife said about me. “At two months, he was counting cards and predicting the weather.”
We’d each been branded on the back of our necks with a capital O, signifying we were orphans. My branding happened immediately after circumcision, so already I’d built up quite a tolerance for pain.
My heart was a different matter, however. It mewled day and night, trying to form the same question I had: But what about our birthparents?
The buyers tried to barter our prices down by flashing wads of food stamps and Confederate $20 bills. It was a clash of defunct commerce. Our guardians drove a hard bargain, and so the sale ended up being a bust with no one purchased.
A tractor backed up with its rumbling trailer and we were each pitched in, our fall broken by horse blankets and a layer of scratchy straw.
On the drive back to the storage shed, I peeked through the trailer slats. I lifted up my chubby arms and hands and shook them at the musty, black clouds.
Seconds later, the first fat raindrops fell, just as I knew they would. I closed my eyes and made a smile. I opened my mouth and throat wide, letting them fall inside of me, like coins in a well. For every one, I made a wish.