Fall 2007 • Vol. XXIX No. 4 FictionOctober 1, 2007 |

The Invisibles

The end of my fifth summer singled it out forever in the stream of my childhood. Many days my mother and I cooked canned soup on a toy stovetop in our basement, pretending bombs had ruined the upstairs world. And one afternoon at the zoo, surrounded by wild animals in cages and tamer ones in trees, my mother confiscated my snow cone and yanked me behind a hedge. She crouched down and directed my attention to a small, gray-haired woman standing in front of the lions. Her face was wrinkling, rendered almost asexual by neglect and the hair of a person who has stopped trying. Families passed without the faintest interest in her. "Cynthia, see her. She's more or less invisible, except to the lion, who sees lunch. She's not really invisible, but she might as well be. Wipe away that smile, little girl. We're exactly like her." My fascinated mother drank from the snow cone until her lips were stained purple. She scowled and jerked her head toward the woman—the invisible, a person wh

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