The Kindness of Rust, Part 2
Posted on Thursday, June 21st, 2012
Part 1 can be found here.
“I wanted to show Ahmar—that’s my xiùtù—to my friend, Mingyu,” I tell him. I make my voice as small as I can, make it sound like I’m ready to cry. “She had one, too. We brought them both to the schoolyard after everyone had gone home, and I took Ahmar out of his cage to show her. But he got scared when she took hers out, and started twisting in my hands, and I dropped him. Mingyu tried to grab him, but when she did, her xiùtù got away from her and they both ran off, and we’re so sorry. We’re both so sorry.”
Finally, the man in the red suit looks back at me. He’s not trying to smile anymore. He’s wearing a thin sneer of frustration and disgust at having to deal with a child on the edge of tears. Maybe that’s why he wouldn’t look at me before. Maybe he doesn’t know how. For a moment, I wonder if he has any children.
“Do you understand,” he asks slowly, “what you have done?”
“I do, sir,” I say, with a little sniff. “We didn’t mean to.”
It all started at school when Mingyu gave her presentation. I didn’t really know anything about her before then, except that her family was rich. When she brought Yún into the room in a little wooden cage, I nearly gasped. I kept my hands over my mouth so no one would hear me or see how much I was smiling. They would have thought I was in love.
“This is Yún,” Mingyu said proudly. “She’s my pet xiùtù, from Kaermai. She lives by eating little pieces of metal, which she absorbs into her body. I feed her iron. That’s why her fur is rust-colored. Xiùtù are a Class 2 invasive species, so I have to be very careful with her.”
The teacher interrupted. “Can anyone tell me the different classes of invasive species?”
My hand shot up. I’d done the research when trying to convince mother to let me get Ahmar. “Class 1 species are illegal to keep or import. Class 2 species require a license, and you’re not allowed to breed them. You can breed Class 3 species, but you have to account for every one of them annually.”
Everyone turned to stare at me, but from the way Mingyu looked at me from the front of the class I could tell she understood. She gave me a little smile over all the turned heads, a knowing look that was just for me and her. It was the first time I had ever seen her smile.
When she finished her presentation and all the other students were crowding around Yún’s cage to look at the little animal, Mingyu stepped over next to me.
“Do you ever wonder?” she asked quietly.
“Do you ever wonder what Class we are?”