Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Think (09/02/10)
TITLE: No Words
By Angie McTaggart
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He got up and knelt by the bed, bowing his head against the tattered quilt. He prayed silently, and then struggled up from his knees. He felt thankful for a God who could hear a person born without the power of speech.
Jacques dressed, finishing with shoes, coat, scarf, and cap. He opened the door, trying to scuttle out quickly to avoid letting too much cold air into the room. His hands curled deep in his pockets. He thought of them there, like two hibernating squirrels, snug in their nests.
As he made his way down the narrow street toward the bakery, Jacques checked the cobbles for stray coins. He did this automatically; he wasn’t likely to find any here.
The bakery smelled heavenly. The baker’s helper snapped his gum and asked, “The usual, Gramps?”
Jacques nodded. He paid for the small rye bun and left the bakery’s marvelous warmth, turning toward Berjon Square.
The square was flanked by the Cathedral of St. Peter. Jacques had never been inside, but the bells rang at certain times of the day and he loved to hear them. For some reason, their clanging instilled in him a sense of hope. Perhaps it was because they sounded so joyful.
He sat on a bench and began to eat. Several pigeons appeared, begging.
Poor things, they’re hungry too, Jacques thought. He broke off a piece of the bun and, crumbling it, threw it to the birds. He did this twice more before there was nothing left to give them.
He decided to go to the train station. People were always in a hurry there, and he might find some money. His mind made up, he walked from the square, eyes down, searching, always searching.
He walked through an alley. A shivering woman was picking through a garbage heap, her threadbare coat clutched tightly around her with one hand. She stopped when she saw Jacques. He wished he still had the bun to give her, but, of course, that was impossible. Instead, he unwound the scarf from around his neck and offered it to her.
He was afraid she would refuse it. He wouldn’t be able to say anything, and there’d be an embarrassing confusion. But after hesitating a moment, she did take the scarf, saying, “Thank you, sir, and may God bless you!” He smiled, patted her shoulder, and continued on.
Nearing the train station, he noticed a small boy playing on the tracks between the two platforms. Further away, a man in a fine overcoat and hat was in deep discussion with a rail employee by the station house. Jacques began looking for coins--under benches, in phone booths, and around the ticket counter. He found a few and pocketed them quickly, as if they might escape.
He heard a train coming, and felt hopeful. The arrival or departure of a large crowd usually helped in his quest. He glanced up toward the approaching train, and there was the boy, still on the tracks. Jacques stared. This only happened in films and books! He stood frozen until the heart stopping blast of the train’s whistle woke him from his daze.
He saw the well-dressed man at the station house reach for something behind him, but that something, that little someone, wasn’t there. The man began shouting, “Henri! Henri, where are you?!”
“Papa!” The boy shrieked, scrambling at the high wall of the platform.
Jacques didn’t realize he himself had moved until he felt the cold dampness of the platform seeping into his knees. He bent down and extended a frail arm toward the boy. The lad grabbed hold of it as though he were drowning.
With a desperate prayer, Jacques pulled with all his might. The train’s brakes squealed. The boy got one foot over, then the other. Suddenly, the father was there. He scooped up his son and held him tightly, sobbing. Jacques got to his feet slowly, shakily. The train was passing.
“No words can describe my thankfulness!” The boy’s father exclaimed, wiping his eyes. “What is your name, sir?”
Jacques shook his head, gesturing helplessly at his throat.
“Ah, you cannot speak?”
Again, a shake of the head.
“Well, it doesn’t matter. My name is Victor Duvet, and you’re coming home with us. Isn’t he, Henri?”
The boy nodded vigorously, smiling.
In the lofty towers of St. Peter’s Cathedral, the bells had just begun to ring.
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