All the Way
To China
(From the
Awee was the only child I knew who could see all the way to China even from the desert, which is where we were once again. "I can see China," he would say as I held him. For someone going blind, this was our small, somewhat private joke.


"No, I really can."

"Okay, where is China?"

Awee would point at some faraway set of shadow mountains. "You have to close your eyes," he said. "You will see across the ocean. I do." Then he would close his eyes. To see everything.

He would gently take his fingers, and close my eyes so I could see everything he saw. All the way to China. It was far, far away. But so was Awee by then. As he was touching my eyes, I could smell his hands. Ships. I could feel him slipping. I did not have to close my eyes to know it.

Awee went from touching my eyes to pinching my lips together.


Owww. It hurt.

Awee was always pinching my lips. To see if I was real.

I did not want him to go. To China. Or anywhere. In ships. Awee, standing alone on the deck. His face yet into the wind. His hair blown back. Awee, don't leave me here.


We found them in the most unlikely place. A kite shop in a nowhere town. Almost a ghost town. Like any of the other towns in dust we had spent the night in. But this one had a kite shop. The kites were in the window of what had once been a general store. All the kites were brilliant colors. Oh, we wanted one. I bought three.

Awee's kite had the image of a bird. It was a bird kite.

Knock knock.

Who's there?


Awee who?

Awee gonna be birds when we fly the kite? Ha! Ha!

Birds. Yaaaaa.

The mesa is a place of wind. The kites were our private sailing ships. Sails unfurled. Crow Dog would run fast --- Navajo chasing, barking --- to make the kite fly high. Then he would hand the kite to Awee who would hold the kite for a bit from his wheelchair. Awee out here sitting in his mobile cage. With the gopher snakes, lizards, piñon jays, coyotes, ravens, saltbrush, Grama grass, bobcats, wild horses, and the prairie dogs. In the end, we are only animals among the animals and glad for it.

---From The Boy and the Dog Are Sleeping
©2003 Ballantine Books

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