Short-listed Entry: Non-Fiction Category
By: Vandy Gibson
Twenty dollars in her hand and a hungry child by her side, she walked into the dark alley. She sat the boy down and looked into his hungry eyes. “Stay here Charlie. Don’t move. I will be right back.” Her frail body stood and she left the alley.
Brown eyes filled with tears as his little stomach growled. His thin shirt and jeans did little to keep the cold off of his body. He had lost his shoes and his socks were wet. He was hungry but Momma said not to move she would be right back. He peeked out from around the side of the dumpster looking for his mom. He trimbled with fear as his five year old body leaned back against the wall. The voices echoed through the darkness and floated above him in the alley. He pulled his knees up to his chest and covered them with his little arms. The argument got louder and the shots started. He covered his ears and rocked back and forth trying to shut out the world.
She ran back into the alley her shirt seemed to swallow her thin body. She squatted down beside the frightened boy. She stared into dark eyes and handed him a small bag of chips. He opened them and began to devour them. She relaxed against the brick wall and pulled a spoon out of her pocket along with a cellaphane wrapper. Charlie watched as his mother placed a small piece of heroine on the spoon and flicked a lighter that she then held under the spoon. He liked watching the “medicine” melt. His momma took a lot of “medicine”. She smiled at him as she pulled a syringe out of pocket. She held it out to him and he obediently pulled the orange cap off of it for her. She filled the needle with the brown liquid. He couldn’t watch, he didn’t like to see it. He reached into the bag of chips and pulled out a yellow triangle and stuck the whole chip in his mouth. His mother closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the wall. He watched his mother as her eyes fluttered, she reached for him. “Momma” the boy cried. He held her outstretched hand as her body convulsed and her eyes rolled back in her head. Her hand went limp in his small hand. “Momma” his brown eyes over flowed with tears. Her body quit convulsing and laid still on the dirty alley floor. He touched her cheek. He reached into his chip bag and grabbed a chip, he held it to her mouth. “Momma eat a chip.” His mother didn’t move. Her eyes stared straight up at the sky. He laid his little head on his mother chest. He couldn’t hear the thump, thump of her heart like he did when he slept against her at night. He laid there as his tears soaked his mother’s shirt. He fell asleep as the tears made his cheeks wet.
He woke to screaming voices. His mother wasn’t moving. He knew in his little heart that she was dead and he was alone. He raised his head and sat up. What was he gonna do? He wiped the back of his hand across his teary eyes. Looking back at his mother he started crying again. He was so scared his little body shook. The voices scared him and the alley was getting dark.
She walked down the crowded sidewalk watching people, waiting for the right person. She saw the man look at his expensive watch and she walked toward him. She bumped into him quickly grabbing his wallet and walked swiftly past him. Ducking into an alley she shook her head and smiled at how easy it was. Adults were stupid. She hid the wallet behind her back as the noise from deeper inside the alley startled her. She saw feet laying beside the over flowing dumpster. Slowly she walked toward the still figure. As she rounded the dumpster, she couldn’t believe her eyes. He sat there shivering. He was so small and looked so defeated. Like a wounded puppy. She pulled her lightweight jacket off and covered the cowaring boy with it. She looked at the lifeless body behind him. “My Momma’s dead.” Almost a whisper came from the boys lips. Robin couldn’t breathe, she had seen death before. Out here you see it a lot. She knew she had to get the boy away from his mother. “Come on, you wanna get something to eat?” She put her hand out to him. He stared at his mother. Tears rolled down his cheeks. How could he leave her? She was all he had. “Come on Buddy,” His sullen brown eyes looked up into her green eyes. He reached for her hand and she pulled him up into a hug. She held him close as they proceeded down the crowded sidewalk. She opened the door to the well lit restaurant. The smells that greeted them made the boy smile. He looked at her and she nodded. She ordered him a happy meal and herself a hamburger fries and a drink.
She knew the journey she was on to just survive at thirteen had now just gotten a little harder, She had always liked kids and swore she would keep him safe. Safe from the insanity of this evil they lived in. Robin watched as the boy at hungrily. She felt sorry for the boy. He was so young to have to deal with the long road ahead. She saw hope in his chocolate eyes. She smiled as he unwrapped the toy that came in the happy meal. She had to find them shelter. She was currently sleeping behind a bakery on Central but she couldn’t do that to him. He needed warmth. She had an idea. “Come on Buddy. Let’s go find a warm place to sleep.
Pinks and reds colored the evening sky as they walked through the streets. Robin holding the boys hand she pulled him into an alley, “I know a shortcut. Buddy, we’ll be inside in just a minute.” She smiled down at the boy, “I can’t keep calling you Buddy, What’s your name. I’m Robin.” The boy only stared at the ground as they walked. The train tracks came into view and she smiled. A free ride anywhere they wanted to go. With nothing holding them in this pathetic town and a little bit of money in her pocket she was ready, all they needed to do was wait on the train. She sat down against a tree and pulled the boy into her lap. She leaned her head back against the tree. Fighting the fatigue that crept over her body she started rocking the little boy. She had to stay awake. Her eyes refused to cooperate and fluttered. Sleep over came them both and they fell into a restless slumber.
She heard the train before it got close and shook the sleep out of her head. The boy woke up as the train got closer. “Stay with me.” She walked to the edge of the tracks staying hid behind the low bushes that lined the track. She had to be sure the engineer didn’t see them. She watched the little boys eyes as the big train sped past them. As the two engine passed she grabbed the boys hand and ran along the side of the train as the opened box car approached she picked the boy up and hoisted him in to the car, then grabbed a hold of the edge of the train car and pulled herself in. She laid flat on the floor of the boxcar, The smells of oil and mold made her nauseas. She gathered her bearings and smiled at the little boy who pulled her coat tighter around his body. She pulled herself up and leaned against the wall of the boxcar. The boy instinctively crawled into her lap. He looked up into her green eyes and in barely a whisper said “Charlie.” A smile stretched across her face as she pulled him closer to her. “Nice to meet you Charlie.” The rhythmic rocking of the train lulled them both to sleep.