Shadows and Souls

Let’s say that on a Tuesday morning a child in Manitoba will be reported as missing, as abducted. By Wednesday afternoon, we will be discussing it across the backyard fences and around the office water coolers. By the time the workday is over, we will forbid our children to ride their bikes to the corner store for ice cream bars. We will interrogate them to make sure they are properly afraid of strangers, of each and every car that slows down with window its window rolled down. We will warn our children, once again, about all of the evil psychopaths that are lurking behind practically fence post and elm tree. We will teach them what a wicked, wicked world this is and hope that the message sinks in between the blips and explosions coming from the Game Boy.

As compensation for taking away a little bit of their freedom, causing damage to a little bit of their childhood, we take them to Burger King and then shopping at the mall on Thursday night. On the way home, we will stop at Blockbusters for a good family flick, something that will reinforce our sense of safety while we munch on our microwave popcorn. We buckle them into their car seats and head towards the freeway. I wonder, statistically speaking, what the chances of them dying in a fiery car accident are, as compared to the odds of them ever being abducted. A thousand times greater? Ten thousand? Perhaps only several hundred times?

When we drive down into the underground parking, we wait for the security gate to close behind us, because you never know what sort of filth will seep in like diseased shadows when your back is turned. To keep our children safe, we try to tell them about the dangers of a terrorist attack. We tell them to trust the police and to obey authority. We tell them not to lie and to believe in their country.

We tell them not to drink so much Coca Cola before bedtime. I wish I had never read that magazine article about all of the chemicals. It described all of the chemicals coursing around in their little bodies. Complex compounds, many of them, that didn’t even exist, hadn’t even been invented, when we were born. They include chemicals from red meat and chemicals from fire-retardant mattresses. As well as the chemicals from the mattresses on their beds, there are the chemicals from non-stick frying pans, the paint on the walls, and the carpets they walk across to kiss us good night.

They kiss us good night, and we hold onto them tightly, pouring out all of our love, our ignorance and our fear, black as cancer, into their waiting souls.

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