Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: White (10/29/09)
TITLE: The White Flower
By Martha Granderson
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“Uh,” I tried to wake my mind into map gear, “Yeah.”
“The gangs have been fighting over it again. Esmeralda was walking home from school and – and she was hit by a stray bullet.”
I was suddenly wide awake, “What? Is she – is she dead?”
“Her heart stopped about an hour ago at the ER. They’ve already taken her to the funeral home. Her mom isn’t doing well, can you go see her?”
I hung up and rolled over to look at the clock. It was three in the morning. I would have to wait for daylight to come before I could leave. In Bushwick, you don’t leave your house before the sun comes over the horizon unless you have armed bodyguards along.
I had taken Esmeralda on my Sunday School Bus Route a year ago. Every week on Saturdays she had waited, dancing with excitement, with three other kids for my ancient bus to groan around the corner and stop with the brakes screeching loud enough to be heard in Manhattan. She would jump aboard with a cheerful smile and “Hi Miss Martha!” and give me quick kiss before running to her seat near the back. Every Friday, I would climb the broken stairs to her tenement house on the fourth floor and visit her home and pray with her and her family. Now she was gone, leaving a grieving family and a hole in my heart.
The grey walls of the apartment building rose in front of me that morning, meeting the grey autumn sky ten stories above me. Graffiti of all shades covered the walls for about twenty feet, and then tapered off. I pushed open the swinging door and entered the dark hallway, the foul odor of urine making my nose smart. “SOLID” proclaimed the wall in front of me in stylized script— meaningless to the outsiders, to the residents it clearly proclaimed the presence of the Four Corner Hustler Gang. Over it, the picture of a bunny and the words “The Dark Side” showed the presence of the rival Gangster Two-Six. So those were the two who had been fighting, I thought as I picked my way over a shockingly thin man strung out on Meth. Nine flights up, I came to the fourth floor and knocked on the door to the right. It opened a crack and a frightened face peered out, then it swung wide and I saw Esmeralda’s mother. Her eyes were red-rimmed and empty. I stepped in and shut the door behind me. “I heard early this morning.”
The windows were grey with soot and the once-white walls were streaked with water stains. I took the woman in front of me into my arms as she burst into tears again. “It’s so senseless!” She wailed. “Where is God in this?”
A tear rolled down my cheek, “Talk to us, God.” I said softly. “What’s on your mind? Was this all in your plan?” My eye fell on a cup of dirt on the windowsill. A wilted flower hung limply over the side, trailing on the gray, chipped concrete.
Then, a picture rose in my mind of Esmeralda as I had seen her three weeks before. Sunlight struggled through the grimy windowpane and lightly touched her impish grin as she stood with her elbows leaning on the counter. The cup of dirt in her hands held a living plant then. “The seed package said the flowers would be red. Look, this bud is starting to open.”
“It looks to me like they’re going to be white. I wonder why.” I answered absently.
“Yeah, I asked God about that.”
This was getting interesting, “Yeah? Did he answer you?”
Esmeralda smiled and looked out the window thoughtfully. “Because, it’s the color of heaven. White – all clean, not like everything around here.”
I leaned down to look her in the eye, “Why did he change the flower to the color of heaven do you think?”
“Because,” She answered, her face brightening with another smile, “I’m going there soon. Ain’t always gonna live in the ghetto you know, it’s a whole lot better place there.” She set the flower in front of the glass where the light was brightest. The pure white showed up starkly against the grime of the dark world around it.
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