But the children here have never had sweets before. I patrol the streets of Durbar Marg with a Tesco carrier bag bulging with sachets of popping candy; strawberry, raspberry, aniseed. The beggar boys fold at the waist to lean into bins and fish out aluminium cans, and throw them into sacks which they sling over their shoulders or drag on the road. Rickshaws barely swerve around them as they dart back and forth across the street. They remind me of magpies, with their tightly convex bellies and frail legs, the way they squat and preen at the roadside and jump away from the hands of shopkeepers who swat them if they lean on their clean windows. Their eyes are glassy black buttons.

I beckon them to me, crouching down in the road to encourage them, and rip open luminous packets of candy crystals to pour into their out-stretched hands. Eat, eat, I insist as they sniff suspiciously. They rock on their bent-pin legs and cock their heads at one another.

I only wanted to see the machine-click of their button eyes and the sour squirm of their hands as the candy ticked and snapped on their tongues, as harmless, I thought, as jumping jacks in the gutter or a spinning top skittering across a dusty yard.

But now, they rush at me with their arms out-stretched, more, more. Tin cans scatter in the road. These are not delicate birds. Man-words bubble in their throats and their sticky hands claw at my clothes. Their mouths are saccharine whirlpools and their bellies swell grotesquely. There is the smell of rot, and the spill of their liquid eyes. The empty plastic bag flaps in my hand as I run into the maze of the city, behind me the sound of their earth-bound footfall. Rickshaws veer around us. There is the staccato laughter of knowing shopkeepers, quite used to the foreigners who are here one day and gone the next.

 

Eleanor Walsh

Eleanor Walsh

Eleanor Walsh attended Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia where she studied English, and she later completed her MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University in the UK. She is now in Nepal on a doctoral research where she studies oral literature from low-caste communities in the Terai – a place where she draws much inspiration for her own poetry. The Nepalese villagers teach her how to harvest rice and often tell her to lighten up.

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