I sat in my room and stared at the wall. It was the start of December when Christmas was on everyone's mind. My parents didn't believe in vacation or Christmas, so I was in my room all alone trying to keep absolutely still so that no noise could disrupt the sound I heard from outside-the sound of neighborhood children laughing and playing on the streets. There were many kids in my neighborhood. Although I knew what these children sounded like, I didn't know what they looked like. I could have gone outside and looked at these children, but I didn't want anyone to see me staring at children lest they label me a pedophile. There was, however, one child in the neighborhood I'd seen. She was a very pretty little girl whose name I didn't yet know. Not only did I not know her name but I also didn't know what she sounded like. Yet I saw this girl at least once every weekday.

I'm eighteen now. I recently graduated from high school but I still live with my parents. I'm in the process of applying for universities, but I'm anxious about whether certain colleges will accept or reject me, so I prefer not to think about that issue. Being a grown-up is so scary. There's so much to do, so much to worry about. I would do anything to be a child again.

My name's Philip. Today I'm at home surfing the Internet. There's so much on the Internet. It seems like something is happening online all the time. I've had the Internet for about five years now. I told my parents I wanted an Internet connection to study, but that was just an excuse to look at porn. I became interested in porn ever since one of my friends at school showed me some porn that he printed out at his home. I can never forget the first time I saw pornography. For the rest of the day I could not think of anything but the pornography and I knew after my first taste of pornography that I had to get another fix or I would not be able to handle the cravings. The Internet gave me a way that I could not only satisfy my demand for pornography but also my demand for social interaction. I liked talking to other people on the Internet, mainly in chat rooms and on message boards.

Feeling the pangs of hunger in my belly, I put the computer on standby and went downstairs to get some food. I was home alone. It was 12 noon. I often woke up this late when I had nothing to do, no school, no work, no nothing. There's so much light outside. I grabbed a microwave hamburger from the freezer, heated it up, and went back to my bedroom upstairs.

I'm a loner. It's not something I like to admit to myself or anyone else, but it's something I cannot deny. I used to have friends in high school, but ever since high school finished I never had the motivation to keep my old friendships going. If I'm not forced to see people regularly for a long time there is little chance I'll remain friends with them. I tried to make friends over the Internet but that never worked. It's just not the same.

Every day is just the same for me. I wake up late, eat lunch, and go porn surfing. At three in the afternoon I'd look out the window to watch a little girl walk by. Then I'd do more porn surfing, eat dinner, maybe watch a bit of TV at night, and then I went back to sleep, only to wake up late tomorrow and repeat the process. Sometimes, at night, I'd sit in bed and think about everything. It's so quiet at night. During the day I often feel like I want to be where all the action is, but at night it seems as if there is no action anywhere, so I focus on myself because, since I feel like I'm the only conscious being on Earth, I am the center of action. Both my parents work, so throughout the day I'm very alone.

I used to have so many friends when I was little. I had male and female friends. Whenever I think back to my childhood my memories are filled with warmth and happiness, which contrasts against how plain, sterile, and humorless my life seems at the moment.

I looked at my watch. It was three o'clock. I stopped looking at the computer monitor and walked all the way to the bedroom window, which looked over a park next door. I always observed the park at three in the afternoon because usually at this time a little girl would walk down the path in the park by herself. She was a cute little girl, about seven or eight years of age. She had long blonde-brown hair and was about three-point-five feet tall.

Right on schedule I saw her walking along the path near my fence. She walked slowly but that was because her legs were short. She wasn't a focused walker. Often she was easily amused by things along the path. About a week ago when I spied on her, she found a raccoon and started playing with it for about ten to fifteen minutes before carrying it away with her.

I saw this girl very often but I still knew very little about her. Today when I looked at this little girl, I started to wonder why she was walking alone. Wouldn't her mother or father be worried? Where did she come from? Did she just finish school? More importantly, where did she live?

For about three days now I've thought about meeting her, intercepting her along her walking path and then, I don't know…talk to her, I guess.

Since she seemed to like animals a lot, maybe I could introduce her to a cat. Problem is I don't have a cat. I wanted one when I was little, but my parents don't like pets. Perhaps I could go to the pet store one day and buy a cat. But maybe she liked dogs better.

Dad came home at five. (Mom usually finished much later since she was a CEO.) He was cooking a microwave burger when I came downstairs to the kitchen and asked him if I could go to the mall.

"Why do you want to go to the mall?" Dad asked. "You want to see that new Steven Spielberg movie?"

"No, Dad, I was thinking…how about we get a kitten?"

Dad smiled. "You know what your mom thinks about cats."

My mom hated cats. That was why I was speaking to my dad. He was more open to such things.

"I'll tell you what." Dad took out his burger from the microwave. "I'll buy you a cat, Phil, but only if you promise not to let it defecate all over the house. Make sure you potty train it well."

When I woke up at one p.m. on Monday, I felt something scratching on my leg. I flinched violently before realizing that Dad had bought me a little kitten yesterday. I slept with the kitten and enjoyed having a warm-blooded, living, breathing creature caressed on my belly as I lied in bed. Last night was also pleasant because I didn't feel as alone as I usually did at night.

The cat's name is Elron. That's the spelling I had engraved on the kitty's collar even though the proper spelling was "L. Ron" because the kitty's previous owner was a devout Scientologist. The owner didn't castrate his cats, so one day one of them came back pregnant, and when the babies came out there were too many of them for the owner to handle, so off to the pet store they went.

I chose Elron out of all the other cats on display because he had nice soft and blunt teeth. The other cats at the pet shop had scary vampire-like fangs. If I was going to sleep with my kitty I didn't want his teeth puncturing my skin.

Right after I woke up I had a shower and went online for about half an hour, reading the news to see what was going on. Nothing much was happening. Feeling my stomach rumbling like there was an animal in there, I went downstairs to get something to eat. I found in the freezer some Coco Pops and Coke, a perfect breakfast combination. When I walked back to the kitchen table with the cereal, milk, and soft drink, I saw a box-a plain and ordinary box on the kitchen table with a note near it. I read it: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PHILIP. HOPE YOU LIKE THE PRESENT. FROM MOM AND DAD.

Today was my birthday. I had totally forgotten. Some of my high school friends were surprised at how often I forgot my birthday, but I just don't see what's so special about birthdays. After all, it's just another day.

Inside the box were a baseball, a baseball bat, and some baseball gloves. I wasn't a huge fan of baseball or anything, but I didn't mind it. Baseball and soccer were the only two sports I was really any good at, and my parents knew this. But just because I was good at baseball and soccer it doesn't mean I liked them. There was no chance I'd become a professional athlete. Even though these people do get paid a lot, I don't think I have the energy to become a well-paid sports star.

After changing out of my pajamas, I ran outside to the backyard and went straight for the fence, over which I threw the baseball bat and ball. I grabbed my kitten and dropped him over the fence, optimistic that he'd be okay because of the widely known idea that cats always land on their feet. I then climbed over the fence and entered the park next door.

I loved living next to a park. Throughout my childhood I played at the park very often. There were playgrounds at the park, and one of the things I remember was when I played hide-and-seek with a bunch of the neighborhood kids. This park was not an ordinary park-it was like a massive boutique garden, filled with hundreds of species of plants and trees. There were green hills where people took picnics and ponds where little ducklings lived, ducklings that people often liked to feed.

As it turned out, I was pretty disappointed with Elron. He didn't fetch the ball like I hoped he would when I hit it far away. I suddenly remembered that dogs liked to fetch balls or sticks, not cats. Elron's mouth was far too small to fit a baseball. The kitten just walked around and, after a while, decided to sleep under the sun.

I spent about twenty minutes hitting the ball straight up into the air and then hitting it back up again as it came back down. I tried to see how many times I could hit the ball back into the air before it eventually hit the grass. My record was thirty-four. Interestingly, it's surprisingly hard to hit a baseball right up into the air.

After five more minutes I gave up trying to beat my record of thirty-four. Looking up at the sky all the time made my eyes feel tired because of how exposed they were to sunlight.

I walked back to the house. Elron followed me.

When I got to the fence I threw the baseball and the baseball bat over the fence. I heard the bat thumping on the grass on the other side. I turned around to do the same to Elron (throw him over) only to realize that Elron was with that little girl who walked by this path at three o'clock every weekday. I looked at my watch and noticed that it was five past three.

The little girl was kneeling down to the kitten and, with her long smooth arms extended, she stroked Elron's back.

I walked up to the little girl. "Elron likes playing baseball," I said, watching the little girl's face turn towards me.

"Is it your cat?" she asked me in a soft voice. "Is her name Elron?"

"His name," I said. "It's a boy kitten."

"Why do you call him Elron?"

"His previous owner was a Scientologist."

I could tell from her silence and her subtle eye movements that she had no idea what I was talking about.

"My name's Philip," I said. "What's yours?"

"Karen."

Karen stopped stroking the kitty. I had been kneeling down to her level, but now I had my butt on the dirt. It was soft and moist dirt, and after a while Karen sat down opposite me. With her fingers she fiddled with the ends of her hair, which were about a foot long. She wore a checkered yellow and white dress, which looked so beautiful because it complemented her dark blondish hair. She looked like a sunflower.

"Do you live around here?" I asked.

"I live over there." She pointed in the direction she was walking. Her pointing wasn't helpful. It only gave me a general idea of where she lived.

"How was school today?" I noticed a small schoolbag on her back.

"My teacher gave me a star."

"A star?"

She extended her right hand out towards me. On her wrist was a golden star-shaped sticker. I used this star as an excuse to touch her. My left hand gently grabbed her hands and with fingers on my right hand I rubbed against her wrists, feeling the sticker and the skin closely surrounding the sticker. What surprised me was how cool her skin was, as if they were washed with icy water. She was a fresh girl.

"Your mom and dad let you walk home from school by yourself?"

She nodded. "I have to go home now," she said, looking a little guilty.

"That's fine." I got back up again. "I'll, uh, I'll see you around then."

She didn't smile or wave goodbye but just walked away with the same speed she usually walked. If she walked quickly that would be a sign that she was trying to get away from me maybe because I frightened her. But the fact that she didn't seem to be walking too fast suggested that she genuinely needed to get home-maybe because her parents expected her home at a particular time. Did she cancel her conversation with me because she hated me? I didn't know, and this bothered me somewhat.

For the rest of that afternoon I couldn't stop thinking about Karen. In my mind I could always see her-those sweet, moist lips, those gray-blue eyes, and those smooth and slightly chubby arms with virgin skin so golden and fresh. She was like the small girls I used to go to school with when I was little.

That night, while I was in my bed, I thought about her. She was crying. Those tears blurred her eyes and formed beads of liquid on her cheeks. I don't know why she was crying. Maybe one of her parents had screamed at her. I held her face, a ball of warm blood. With her in my arms, whatever troubled her would dissipate. I brought her face closer to mine and felt the heat from her sadness radiate towards my face. Through this transfer of heat I could feel my face absorbing the sadness from her. My tongue licked against the little girl's cheeks, her tears tasted both sweet and salty.

Mom woke me up at 12 noon. I was surprised because I expected her at work. She told me she didn't have to be at the office till two.

At the kitchen table, I ate breakfast (or lunch, maybe) with my mom. She seemed keen on catching up on what was going on in my life. She always did this. On her mind was Elron.

"I knew I couldn't stop you from getting a cat." She smiled. "I remembered you wanted one ever since you were five." She sat silently for a while and looked at me. "You're such a tall boy now, aren't you? How tall are you?"

"A little under six feet."

"That's pretty good for an eighteen year old. You've still got a bit of growth in you. You're such a man. What do you have in mind when you grow up, Philip? What are you going to do?"

I shrugged. "Get a job, get married, have kids…"

"You want kids?" Mom flashed me a smile. "Since when were you the type who wanted kids?"

"I don't know. I just…"

Mom interrupted. "You know, where I work, most of the men don't have children. They're saving that until after the peak of their careers. Be careful when you have children. It makes you look soft. People don't like soft men. It might cost you your job. Women in particular don't like soft men. Don't listen to what women tell you."

"Isn't Dad soft?"

"I don't mind soft guys," said Mom, "but other women are not like me. Women who achieve little have a greater need to feel dominated. Men who achieve little have a greater need to dominate."

I remained silent for a while, munching on my Coco Pops.

"How was the present?" asked Mom. "You know, the baseball equipment?"

"It's good. You should see how long I can keep the ball in the air with the bat."

Mom looked at me confused.

I spoke. "I keep hitting the baseball into the air with the baseball bat until the ball finally hits the ground. My record is thirty-four hits."

"Is that it? I think I can do better than that."

"No you can't, Mom."

Mom quickly finished her orange juice. "Let's go outside and find out!"

As it turned out, Mom could easily keep the ball in the air with the baseball bat. She had been doing so for about an hour and I had lost count of how many hits she had made. She must have played lots of baseball in university.

"This is get boring," I said. "Hit the ball to me."

As the ball came down, Mom swung the bat back and prepared to smack it harder than usual. The bat hit the ball loudly. As I looked up into the sky, my eyes were almost blinded by the sun. The ball went high up into the sky. Because of the sun, I couldn't see a thing. The ball then landed on the ground a meter away from me.

"You didn't catch it," said my mom as she walked up to me. Her mobile phone started ringing. I had a feeling Mom was needed at the office, so I probably wouldn't see her for a while. My suspicions were confirmed. Mom apologized to me and quickly left, leaving me alone. She tried to make me happy by telling me she would buy me something when she came back.

I received the baseball bat from my mom and looked down at the ball on the ground. As mom walked away, I noticed that I wasn't alone after all. Elron was with me. He had followed me all the way to the park from the house and now he was chewing on the ball, trying to swallow it. The ball was far too big for the little kitty's mouth.

Grabbing the baseball and throwing it up, I hit the ball about 10 meters away. Elron quickly darted towards the expected landing spot to be near the ball. The kitten wasn't able to grab the ball with its small mouth, so when the ball landed Elron simply tapped on the ball with his little legs. I had to walk over to grab the ball myself.

Mom was nowhere to be seen now, the whole park seemed empty, and the clouds were starting to darken, signaling the coming of the afternoon. Elron must have sensed that I was going back home because he started following me. I decided to try one more time to see if this kitten was capable of fetching a ball. I threw the ball up, took a massive swing with the baseball bat, and smashed the ball towards my house, careful not to aim it too close to the house unless I hit any windows. To my surprise, Elron bolted in the direction of the ball as if he were jet-propelled. I was surprised at how such a small little creature could run so fast. Elron ran so fast I could barely see him as he blurred into the grass. The ball landed in thick shrubs somewhere near the fence of my house, and that was where Elron was heading.

It took me a while to walk to the shrubs where the ball had landed. It also took me a while to find the ball because finding a ball in a large set of shrubs and plants was similar to finding a needle in a haystack. When I finally found the ball, I noticed that Elron had found something else. Lying on the ground was a little girl with blonde-brown hair. Her arms were outstretched as she lied on the ground. Her schoolbag rested underneath her back. Elron was licking her face. She had a black bruise on her face near her temples. The baseball lied right near her. I knew what had happened: she had been hit with the baseball.

I kneeled down beside the little girl and put my hand on her chest, checking for a heartbeat. I could feel it. My hands were over her clothing, so I couldn't see her nipples or anything. Karen was breathing, which relieved me because for a moment I thought she was dead.

Standing up, I looked down at the little girl. She was dressed in the same clothes she had yesterday: the checkered yellow and white dress. I kneeled back down and held up her arms, inspecting the dirt on her skin. As I held the little girl's arms up with my left hand I gently rubbed off the dirt with my right arm. Although the dirt felt rough, I could feel the underlying smoothness. I could feel the blood pumping through the vessels underneath the surface of her arms. She was very much alive.

As I held the little girl's arm up, I looked down at her upper body and naturally my eyes wandered down towards her legs. Her dress stopped a little above her knees, and as I stared at the two legs poking out from the dress I started to wonder what kind of panties she wore. I could easily lift her dress up and see. Since I was in the park, there was a chance that someone was looking at me, and if someone saw me looking up a little girl's dress, there was a good chance they'd call the police. I couldn't take that risk, so assuming that someone was looking, I tried to act like I was heroic. Taking her schoolbag off the girl, I strapped the bag over my own shoulder. With one arm underneath her neck and the other underneath the pits underneath her knee, I lifted her off the ground and carried her back to my bedroom.