Nowhere Hill

 Evelyn Hampton

WINNER of the 2010 Nonfiction Contest


There was a particular place in a particular park where a person could stand, at a certain time, on a certain day, and cast no shadow.

I happened to be in the park within an hour of the time on the day when a person could stand in the place and cast no shadow.

It wasn't the place that cast no shadow, but the body that stood there, and though the body stood there, it would appear, because of the place where the body was standing, and when the body was standing there, as if nobody stood there.

The place where a body could stand and cast no shadow was called Nowhere Hill.

An older child who had a way of holding a ball close to his body while he was running that we all admired and tried to mimic, that older child was the one who said he would be the one to cast no shadow when the time came.

He was wearing a watch.

I was also wearing a watch, but I had decided to hide it.

I had decided to hide my watch, so I had taken it off and put it in my pocket, where it didn't feel like a watch anymore, and it didn't look like a watch anymore.

I had decided to hide my watch because I thought it would be safer somewhere hidden, where the other children could not see it, and not seeing it, they couldn't break it or take it away from me.

Hidden inside my pocket, the watch felt like a heaviness in my clothing, like sweat, and while I was aware of the heaviness that wasn't sweat yet felt like sweat, the heaviness wasn't uncomfortable, and it didn't bother me until I began to think I could detect an odor coming from the heaviness in my clothing.

I was running alongside the other children, following the boy we all wanted to follow, to the place where he would stand and cast no shadow, and I became aware of an odor coming up through my clothing from the pocket I had put my watch into, to hide it.

Could my watch be sweating, how else could it have an odor, and other thoughts I tried to push away as I continued running alongside other children, running through tall grass, wanting to arrive, after the boy, at the place where he would cast no shadow.

But it wasn't even time yet, we were early, I knew, by half an hour, yet I didn't want to take my watch out to check the time because now I was certain that the watch had a terrible odor that was polluting the insides of my clothing, an odor that would seem to the other children to be coming from my body.

If I took the watch out of my clothing, it would pollute the outside of my clothing, and since outside of my clothing was everything else, including the children racing alongside me to the top of Nowhere Hill, I couldn't take it out of my clothing because I didn't want to pollute them, I wanted them to accept me as someone to run alongside in a race to the top of Nowhere Hill.

It was important to me that we were running together, that we wanted to get somewhere together, and not running because we wanted to get away from someone or something.

Running to get somewhere together was my favorite way of running, it was exciting, the place where we were all going was special because we were all going there together, and it didn't matter who got there first because what mattered was that we were all going there together.

Running away from someone or something was frightening because you were alone even when you were running together, running together didn't matter, you didn't know where you were going or whether you'd be safe when you got there, and worst of all was to be the one the other children were running from.

So I at first didn't take the watch out of my pocket because I didn't want to pollute the outside of my clothing with the odor and become something to run from when what I wanted was to be someone to run alongside toward the place where we were all going, the top of Nowhere Hill.

And plus I was running fast and by now breathing too hard to be able to coordinate the watch's removal and the reading I would have to do of its hands and numbers.

It was a Mickey Mouse watch my parents had given me.

Mickey Mouse's hands, in those big white gloves he was always wearing, were what told you what time it was, even in the dark, because the big white gloves could glow in the dark.

When they glowed in the dark, the big white gloves were not white but yellow, yet still big, these two big yellow gloves pointing in the dark at different parts of the dark where you knew numbers were, but they didn't glow, so you couldn't see them, but you knew the numbers were there like faces whose voices you know so well you can hear them even when they aren't there.

Running, and smelling the odor that came up through my clothing, I thought, It must be the gloves that I am smelling, the odor must be coming from those gloves, his hands must be sweating and making the terrible odor.

I pictured the big white gloves that would be yellow in the dark of my pocket, two big yellow gloves pointing at different parts of the dark in my pocket where I thought the watch would stay hidden, but now I understood how it couldn't stay hidden, because of the odor coming from Mickey.

Now that I had thought about Mickey's hands sweating inside those big white gloves—were they big white gloves or big yellow gloves?—those big gloves, I couldn't just keep running, and though we were nearing the place where the boy would stand and cast no shadow, I had to stop because Mickey's hands were sweating inside his big gloves inside my pocket and I didn't want the other children to think that it was me they were smelling, that the odor of Mickey's sweaty hands was the odor of my body.


So I stopped running.

I took the watch out of my pocket.

I looked at the watch.

I looked at Mickey Mouse's skinny arms, which I now hated because they were connected to the hands that were sweating inside those gloves, which stank, and whose odor had contaminated my clothing and now everything outside of my clothing.

I looked at the gloves and could see how horrible it was.

How horribly big they were compared to the rest of Mickey's body, what terrible thing they might be concealing, that Mickey might be concealing, to be sweating such an awful sweat, to be making such a terrible thing with his body.

Up ahead, in front of me, up the small hill, the other children were playing with each other, pushing each other's bodies away from the boy who would soon cast no shadow.

And their bodies, too, seemed terrible, they too were part of the way Mickey's sweaty hands were pointing at two different things that meant the same thing—what time it was—but really didn't mean anything, just some number—because they occupied the space into which Mickey's terrible hands were pointing, the place where the boy's body would soon cast no shadow.

Now the boy and the other children were counting down, chanting numbers until the time when his body would cast no shadow.

Eleven, ten, nine…

I could feel the sweat on my body cooling.

It would be easy to do and I would do it.

Eight seven six, they were chanting.

Standing at the top of Nowhere Hill, the boy appeared tall, because of where I was standing, yet because of where I was standing, at the bottom of the hill, in grass that was tall, with a thing in my hand I no longer minded losing, that no longer seemed worth having, I no longer cared where he was standing at all.

They said the rest of the numbers, and when they said zero, the number that meant nothing at all, I threw the watch as far as I could in a direction I would never go to retrieve it, I threw the hideous creature in the horribly big gloves and I didn't care whether or not they were white or yellow or whether he cast a shadow as he got farther from me and I got farther from Nowhere Hill.