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Sherman and the Swan quick impulse to propagate, in the face of their brief life span; they aresudden and fleeting things. Sherman dislikesfirearms.He cannot understand how something clearly intended for wounding or killing can have its own national association and how the president ofthe United States can belong to such an organization. Sherman's parents used to worry about Sherman's likes and dislikes, though they worried from a distance. They believed it unwise to get too close too fast. This is what they told Sherman . When he tried to hug them or squeeze their hands, they Herman likes mayflies, admires them for their courage, their S 133 pushed him back by the shoulders, and Sherman's father would say, "Whoa, little man! What have I told you? You know what will happen if we spoil you rotten? People will say,Thew! What smells?' and they won't want to be near you." Sherman is fearful of smelling bad and drivingpeople away, so he complies and tries not to touch. He imagines people he would like to be close to coughing from the fetid air around him, pushing him back, their arms growing and growing, stretching to such a distance they become stick figures and push him into a hush of icywater. Sherman's mother had reservationsabout this method of child rearing. Sherman overheard her ask his father, "Are you sure we will be close-knit? Do you promise this will work? He's only a little boy." Sometimes at night Sherman could hear his mother weeping; the sound was soft, muffled, and made Sherman think of flannel, something he could rub up against, wrap himself in. Sherman has lived with both of his parents for the twelve years he's been alive. They recently separated and both have begun to modify their parenting techniques. Sherman's mother touches his face now whenever she sees him. His father takes him places, hockey games, observatories, putting greens, hardware stores. They are often in a car together, buckled in, looking through glass, moving forward. Despite peer pressure, Sherman loves his parents. Five years before Sherman was born, his sister, Melanie, was born. Melanie was tiny, always the smallest person in her class, and she was very pale beneath her occasional sallow tint. In the final picture of Melanie, a tiny arm barely larger than a feeding tube rests on the raised metal guard of her hospital bed. This arm is feathered with fine, white hairs and upstages the blurred face that fades into the pillow. When Sherman looks at this picture, he focuses on the arm. It looks to him like something in an early developmental stage, something that will eventually grow and 134 bend and sprout and flourish into a beautiful, velvet white wing. Something that could lift a person up and out of any situation and deliver her to a body of water. Something that could save her from the threat of a predator or extinction. Sherman knows it is only a tiny, sick arm in the picture, but it seems obvious to him that we are all descended from a race of strong and elegant birds. Sherman knowsthe storyof his existence and wonders if other children know why they are here on earth, know if they've been brought for some true and special purpose or if they are only an accidental collision of elements, an extension of lineage, a repository for genes. Sherman was conceived as a means to a beginning, an instrument for prolonging life, and his parentshave been quite forthcoming with the story behind his birth. There are even newspaper articles that document their intent. Melanie had leukemia and fell out of remission a year before Sherman was conceived. As the days passed and red spots bloomed on her legs and arms and her white hair thinned, family members were screened as possible candidates for the donation of bone marrow. But it is a specialized substance, and Melanie's parents soon realized that they would have to take the situation into their own hands, wouldhave to create their own donor. Of course, there were no guarantees. Sherman is in love with a fat girl named Cassie. There are two fat girls named Cassie at Horace Mann Elementary and one girl who claims to be big-boned named Cassandra, but it is Cassie Shockley with whom he is in love. Cassie's full name is Cassiopeia Prudence Shockley,and Sherman wishes to marryher one dayand take...


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