TITLE: Hart & Soul, Part IX: Morning Has Broken
By RENEE GREENE
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I couldn't believe it. There I was, being chased around Mommy's house by an insane woman wielding an ice pick. My heart raced as she approached me and I lifted my arms to block her blows. She was going to punch holes in me until I bled to death. Why in the world was she trying to kill me? What had I done? My feet froze to the floor and my whole upper body felt like lead. I couldn't move. I had no choice but to stand there and try to block her. I knew was going to feel the pain of the first stab any second. Her hand came up, and began to come down, and as soon as her face was directly in front of me, I saw her clear as daylight. It was our next-door neighbor, Miss Georgia. She began yelling obscenities at me as I raised both arms and braced myself.
Oil poured from my face. I wasn't one to sweat very much, I always took on a high shine where other people managed to sweat. Carolyn pulled the sheet off my matted face and yelled, "It's time to get up! Boy, you must have been having some bad dream..." My eyes popped open and then quickly closed as the sunlight from the stained glass windows poured across my face. My heart was still racing from all the running and the expectation of sudden death. I looked at her, trying to place her face...it wasn't Miss Georgia at all. I bolted upright and looked around. I was in the same spot in which I had fallen asleep the night before. The padded carpet of the sanctuary floor in the left aisle. All the girls had padded out spots from the back of the church to the altar up front and Carolyn, Denise, and I had rolled somewhat close to the back near one another. Some of Denise's pink rollers that she had put in my hair the night before had fallen out and were lying on the floor. I picked them up, then rolled over to force myself up. Why could I never dream anything funny, or have good dreams? Always this ugliness--always danger--always abused, abandoned, left alone, or hunted down for a killing.
I shook it off, headed toward the bathroom to wash up and brush my teeth and put on the same clothes I had come in the day before. In my rush, I had forgotten to bring fresh clothes. I hoped no one would notice, or at least try to understand if they did. We were all poor kids. If they'd had any more money than me, they'd be in Girl Scouts or Brownies; not Girl Guards and Sunbeams.
Carolyn, all fresh from the showers and dressed in pressed clothing, looked me up and down but said nothing. We went for breakfast in the kitchen area, cereal-a choice of corn flakes or cheerios, whole milk, orange or apple juice, cinnamon or cheese toast, boiled eggs. We were told to meet in the main sanctuary after breakfast so that we could have a final Bible study, say a word of prayer, and be off. Sheesh! I thought we were staying until at least Saturday afternoon. I didn't know they were taking us back before noon. I had not plotted out my return to Alcatraz.
The old nerve bug from the day before started flitting around my stomach again. I imagined everything that was going to happen when I got home, then prayed again that they were all asleep when I got home. If they could get me there before nine a.m., I could slip in the side bedroom window undetected--it was usually unlatched. Tresa and Tangie would be in there, but they slept like dead folk as long as a whole lot of noise wasn't made.
It had just been a few years that we could sleep under the front yard tree with the pink blossoms that we liked to pull and pinch. The one Mommy told us to quit pulling and pinching before she had no tree left. The streets of Columbus were still relatively safe, but people had long since stopped letting their kids sleep on blankets under stars, moons, and trees. The world, they said, was becoming a nastier place to live in. Everybody simply couldn't be trusted any more. Halloweens, we spent more time checking candy and throwing away unwrapped pieces than we did eating any. Kids were being poisoned, razored, swallowing tacks, and straight pins--anything that filthy people could put in candy and not have it detected. People stopped giving away plastic wrapped caramel apples, because the parents would just throw them out.
I was wary when the captain lady gave me a choice between sugar cookies, ginger snaps, or chocolate chip. My favorite was chocolate chip, though, so I grabbed the box. It was unopened. They told us to thank the ldies who had gotten the donations from some baking company I never heard of. They clapped as I checked the clock. Seven thirty. I would be dropped off right after Carolyn and Denise, because I was the next to last to be picked up. If they would hurry, those people would still be sleep when I got home.
We had to go to church again to say prayers, goodbyes, and hear a final word from the pastor and I was hoping they'd make it short and sweet. A small collection was taken up, and I felt crappy because I did not bring even a dime to give. The pastor prayed, "Lord bless those who have given, and those who have naught to give...," so I felt safe from God's wrath again, at least momentarily. An offering was made to come to Jesus. I thought about it, then remembered I still hadn't joined the church yet. I had just turned 12 and all I heard for a solid year was that I had to join the church when I turned 12. As far as I could see, I was already being forced to go to St John; why the heck would I need to join a church I was already a member of? But Poppy had already issued mandates about that, so there was nothing I could do.
Jesus would just have to wait for another time.
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