By Jonathan Safran Foer

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In that week after the letter came, a clear line began to divide us, the ones who were leaving, the ones who were going to stay. The night of the 20th, about eight o’clock, sitting around in the TV room, I was trying to stay with a game show when a blackbird landed on the table. It cocked its head and looked around the way they do. Then I saw a small flock of birds like finches out in the corridor, swooping up and landing on the handrails on the second tier. A few seconds later the whole cell block was full of shouting and birdsong.

Each of the boxes stood apart from the others, though they were crammed together in that dank, airless space. The one the box awaits, at last. The Blond Child, a little girl of eight or nine, swinging on one of the swings. She is new to the orphanage; at least I have never seen her before. Already in her faded-blue uniform she resembles the others—except for the fierce radiance in her face, and the speed in her little body. How desperate, flying on the swing with its crude creaking chains and hard, splintery wooden seat; how defiant, kicking and bucking, her white-knuckled hands gripping the swing above her head and her thin arms stretched taut, like a bird’s wings partly wrenched from its body.

Her eyes are intense, staring; her dazed soul shines through her waxy-pale skin. A beautiful child, though wounded somehow, damaged. The sorrow in being born, without love. She is one of them, now. The orphans of the world. Waiting to be loved. ” I think—I will adopt her. I will claim her! I will make her hurt, mangled mouth smile. But of course, being the Box Artist, I can only take the Blond Child’s photograph. And that only in stealth, hoping I won’t be detected. My heavy black box camera is gritty with dust.

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