The contents of Enel’s keepsake box clattered to the floor as he tipped it upside-down. Battered chess pieces, precious colored pencils, and a few broken bits of candy canes all tumbled out in a rush. He shook the box wildly, and a few scraps of paper floated from the bottom.
Tossing it aside, he sat back on his heels and sighed. He pawed through the mess, scattering pieces in a wide arc around his knees. Cold from the orphanage’s hard tile floor leached through his pants and pricked against his bare ankles. No, no - none of these would work.
He snatched up a mottled pigeon feather and held it up to the slanting evening light. He’d snuck it to the boys’ dormitory under his coat - Mrs. St. Claire didn’t allow the kids to handle germy bird feathers. After a solid washing with soap and water and a rigorous towel-down, it looked less like a feather and more like Noah’s bent and frayed toothbrush.
This was unacceptable. But there was nothing else to choos