Count by Genevieve Valentine

Well, it’s for certain I still have all my little pigeons. A pair of them are in the cage, and the rest huddle under my blanket when I sleep. Gerda will miss them, and serves her right for going away. She should have used a knife on hert Kai, but girls like that never listen.

I have a silver ring. Last week we all set upon a rich man and his wife (it was jolly to see them afraid — how I laughed!), and after they were dead I slid it off her finger. It has a little pearl in it, pink as skin, and if I look for long a face is peering back at me. That’s a friend, or close enough.

I have seven gold coins, and a brass medallion I won in a fight. I have a piece of his ear, too. It goes next to the medallion on the string.

I have a little fur muff that I use as a pillow. It smells like roses, and summer, and salt.

I don’t have a reindeer any more. I caught a wolf, but it wasn’t the same and my pigeons were getting eaten all night long, so I let him go. Foul thing. He stank.

My mother said this winter she can find me another playmate. That’d be a fine thing — my knife is lonely with nothing to tease. I thanked my mother and bit her nose.

I have a bright quiver that I found beside the road last spring; there are no arrows inside it, but how the casing shines!

I don’t have a pair of soft red boots lined with fur.

The two pigeons in the cage keep me up nights with their cooing. I had a mind to set one loose and keep the other in a cage, but it made me angry to think of it. The free one would come back no matter what, and it would just make the other unhappy to be trapped that way alone. Stupid things. They’re better off in the cage. It’s no good letting precious things go, that I’ve learned for certain.

Genevieve Valentine is a writer based in New York; recent work has been published in Strange Horizons, Fantasy, Byzarium, and Quarter After Eight. She has questionable taste in movies, a tragedy she tracks on her blog.

Image: Stories from Hans Andersen, with illustrations by Edmund Dulac, London, Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd., 1911.