Karen Connelly

The Lizard Cage

            It’s hard to catch a lizard with your bare hands.           
            By the time he was an expert at catching and killing the reptiles, the numbers started bothering him, adding to his guilt. Certain records, he decided, shouldn’t be kept. He talks to himself often, without embarrassment, and when he decided to stop counting the executions, he said out loud, “Some records just go missing.” But these words were followed by an unnatural, forceful silence, as though his cell were talking back to him without words, as it sometimes does. At that particular moment, the silence reminded him of ’88, when he and his mother lost Aung Min, his younger brother. Those eerily quiet Aung Min-less days made them utterly frantic, because they didn’t know who’d been shot in the streets, or how many, or where the bodies were taken after the big trucks came through and the soldiers jumped down and dragged the students and other protestors off the sticky roads. Every one of the bodies, even those with groaning mouths, were hauled away. 
            Besides the blood and the broken, hand-drawn signs, many slippers were left behind, for hours, sometimes for days, missed in the clean-up by the regime’s squadron of over-worked sweepers. The slippers lay scattered over the pavement, lodged in the gutters and at the base of the occasional shrine-bearing banyan tree. Shoes bereft of feet are capable of making terrible accusations. The people who scurried along the roads before the evening curfew knew ghosts were stepping into those slippers, the simple flip-flop kind with the single piece of leather or plastic that fits between the first two toes of each bony foot. During the day, a few parents went out, and brothers and sisters, to search among the flip-flops, but it was hopeless, impossible to know which shoes belonged to whom. They were the kind everybody wore.
            Everybody wears them still. The singer always takes his off when he paces because it’s not easy to get new slippers in the cage, and walking wears them out. He kicks them off just now, into a corner, as he always does before hunting; the flip-flop-slap frightens his prey.
            Anyway, certain records were never kept, some records get lost. The singer has no idea how many lizards he’s eaten in total. He doesn’t apologize anymore, especially at a time like this. No food all day long. The parcel over a week late. And only one fish three weeks ago. Eating the lizards is a necessity.
            Most of his warders have had no idea, and surely Senior Jailer Chit Naing never knew. That sharp devil Sein Yun probably suspects--little bones in the shit pail--but he’s never said anything. Like masturbating and weeping, the singer tries to keep it private.