He yelled at her.
He always yelled at her.
Since her mama died, Hanna's papa never talked to her any other way than by shouting slurred, hate-filled words in her face. The stench of alcohol on his breath covered her worse than the spittle flying from his mouth. She tried to ignore him and say "Yes, Papa," and "I'm sorry, Papa," to him until he stopped, but that only made him shout louder. His words lingered in her heart long after he collapsed on his straw mat with an empty bottle of corn liquor still clutched in his hand. Words like "embarrassment," "lazy," and "worthless," echoed in Hanna's mind even when they stopped ringing in her ears. So after eating whatever scraps of food her papa discarded earlier, she fell asleep on the dirt floor of their shack, hugging her ragged little burlap-sack doll with streaks of tears running down her dirty round face.
As far as she knew, her only fault was being born a girl.
Hanna usually woke up long before her papa. If he did happen to wake up before she left to bathe, he didn't speak to her or look at her, as if acknowledging her presence brought shame upon their family and ancestors. Even though he never talked to her, at least she still remembered her name. Some of the other children in the village only knew their names as the curse-words the men called them. Hanna felt bad asking them to go to the stream with her by using their curse-word names, but if she didn't find anyone to go with her, she couldn't bathe that day. It was dangerous for even girls of her young age to go places alone.
The rest of the day found Hanna out in the sweltering heat of the crop fields, pulling out weeds around the plants or digging up large rocks so the men could till the ground easier. Each day she hoped one of the men would be generous and give her some scraps of their mid-day meal for her to eat. Otherwise, she went without food. All day she swatted away mosquitoes and other flying insects that constantly buzzed around and bit her legs and arms. Her hands cramped halfway through the day from their continuous use, and sometimes she cut her foot on the rocks, forcing her to limp the rest of the day.
Her papa said embarrassments didn't get shoes. Only little boys ever received shoes.
Each evening, Hanna returned home to the same thing. Her papa took all the copper coins she earned for the day, bought liquor in town, drank himself into a stupor, and yelled at her before passing out. Life never changed.
Once some holy men came down from the mountains to her village. These men told everyone that if they did good in this life, they would return as something better in the next. Hanna desperately wanted to return as a little boy so her papa would love her, but another life seemed so far off to her, and she thought that she must always be doing something bad in this life if her papa kept yelling at her night after night.
One day, she awoke to voices and the sounds of the village children running and yelling. Hanna went outside and saw men and women from outside the village dressed in strange clothes with many small, brown boxes. These outsiders' skin was a different color than hers, and when they talked, they had strange accents. They handed their boxes out to the children, and inside were shoes! Good leather shoes that would last for years! But it wasn't just the boys who received a box of shoes; the outsiders gave the little girls ones, too! How can this be? Hanna walked up to them cautiously, peeking her brown eyes out from behind the tattered head of her burlap doll. One of the strangers saw her and smiled at her. Smiled! He motioned her to come closer, looked down at her feet, and then held out to her a box with shoes!
"Jesus loves you, and wants you to have these," he said, smiling warmly at her.
She examined the shoes. Confused, Hanna spoke to the strange man.
"Butů isn't Jesus embarrassed by little girls, too?"
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