A Walking Bird Horrifies; a Vortex Whirls

March 28, 2006 | 826 Blog Post

Minus my winter coat, I took my hunched shoulders and short sleeves outside into the un-spring. John raced ahead languidly, black sneakers shoved on without socks, in search of the elusive local groundhog. At the grassy drop-off, we stepped over a water drain and peered at the factory or lumberyard below. “Bleak,” I breathed without dread.

“Look! It’s a walking bird!” John called out over the hill. We tumbled down, barely managing to stay upright. Suddenly, I saw a black animal scurry out from the pile of gray lumber. The idea of a walking bird horrified me unreasonably.

But it was no bird.

“It’s a WILDcat!!!” The bunny, or walking-bird, or WILDcat, loped around the lumberyard like a cheetah, and I remember that cheetahs run awfully fast. We went outside in search of a groundhog, and instead we discovered the Lazer Bobcat. It was phenomenal. Incredible. There were no words.

Running back into the building, though, no one seemed surprised. “Oh yeah,” said Luke, leaning back in his office chair, “I hear the Lazer Bobcat is endangered.” My breathing slowed. I looked up into outer space, bursting with the joy of recognition. Oh, I shouldn’t have been surprised either.

Last summer, I found a phantom tollbooth called 826michigan. I drove my puttering toy car through the red-and-white whirling vortex, and emerged drawn in felt pens; drawn in black outlines. Before tutoring, before workshops, before anything, there were about four of us here. And then, just as it was all starting, my puttering toy car honked — it was time to leave for college. Amy probably won’t want to be reminded of this, but: there were tears.

Ages later, I’m back, and I am here to tell you — this place is magic. It is magic dripping from the eaves, from Erin’s and John’s and Amy’s faces, from the dumbfoundingly brilliant students that parade through these doors every single day. It only takes a glance around to tell you, the Lazer Bobcat chose to live here for a reason. With all this magic pulsing out, spilling everywhere — who wouldn’t?

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