After having stared fixedly at the arm for a couple of minutes, directing occasionally the pair of black pupils to the wing, and then back to the arm, he concluded that undoubtedly both appendages were moving. It did not matter how slowly they moved; he clearly sensed that, under the golden light of sunset, the arm and the wing were shrinking, approaching the ivory-white body until all dust would be crushed in between the limb and the thorax, in between the useless and heavy organ of flight and the spine.
It was getting dark already. All the other kids had already gone home, except for the little girl who lived two steps away from the school entrance. She was the daughter of the doorman, a short man with sunburnt skin and grayish hair who – the school kids used to say – wandered alone through the school at night, when not even the most fervorous of the nuns, under the protection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, would dare to leave her room in order to knock at a neighbor’s door.
The doorman stepped out of the hut by the school gate, and with slow steps moved towards the patch of brownish grass where Dima was standing. Still looking up, under the spell of the white-winged, slow-moving angel, Dima heard the doorman’s voice behind his back scolding him for being where he was. The kid slowly turned around, and even more slowly – perhaps as an attempt to reproduce the motion of the pondering spirit he was admiring – returned to the cloud-like solidity of the brickstones on the floor.
He followed the doorman back to the gate, which was already half-closed in preparation for the falling night. He could not understand what was happening: why had nobody shown up to pick him up yet? Had they forgotten about him? What would happen if the doorman closed the gate for good (in fifteen minutes he would do that; the bell at the chapel had just rung the third quarter of the hour): would he stay inside, inside with the hounds and the dead kids who lived here when the school was an orphanage, or would he stay outside, outside in the… what would there be outside without his parents nearby?
It seems that the doorman’s daughter, a simple girl with rosy-dead cheeks and a strange way of walking (one hand always kept close to the side, as if she were afraid of some spear being hurled at her), was asking herself the same questions concerning his situation, because she yelled a carefully rehearsed “Beware of the dead orphans, Dima!” as she limped back home for dinner.