Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Sad (07/26/07)
TITLE: Bleeding Hearts
By Marlene Bonney
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I stowed my bulky packages in the dented trunk of my beat-up car, but couldn’t bring myself to leave.
“Where did she come from? Where are her parents? What is she doing here? Oh, God, is she the One?”
Suddenly, as if shot from a cannon, the little girl darted between cars and carts for an empty pop can rattling in the wind against the curb. I was fascinated by this waif and watched while she continued on her quest for more loot that she was now placing in a discarded plastic bag. Dodging between parked vehicles, rolling carts, and busy customers, she astounded me by her inventive ploys to add to her mounting collection.
“Would ya like help unloading your groceries, Ma’am—it’ll only cost a dime! I’m strong,” she added, taking a heaping bag from the lady’s cart.
“Hey, mister! You dropped your keys down yonder and I picked them up for you,” she innocently remarked, after having first filched them from his jacket pocket. “Could you spare me a nickel?”
“Miss, I found this here lottery ticket on the ground by your car. Could you spare me a dime?”
Every now and then, the girl would stop and scan the crowds furtively, as if she sensed my observation.
“I mean you no harm, little one; quite the opposite, in fact,” I thought to myself.
I fumbled through my grocery bags until I found the animal crackers I had picked up for my niece. Then, collecting all the coins from my fanny pack, I surreptitiously placed them at the edge of a cart stall nearby, and returned to my vantage point. Several minutes later, the youngster spied my gift and claimed it as her own valued treasure. My heart and my empty womb ached as I watched her devour the simple treat while she fingered each piece of change dreamily.
And, suddenly, I loved her and she was mine. This child I had never met nor spoken to.
“Thank you, Lord. You know I’ll take good care of her!” And I welcomed the familiar, haunting daydream to envelope me as I envisioned her clothed in a hand-embroidered smocked dress and patent-leather shoes with frilly socks peeking over the straps..
“Don’t forget your purse, darling!” I lovingly admonished. “Make sure your Bible is inside!”
“Mama, will you help me put this barrette in my hair, please?” she sweetly asked.
I smoothed her latest wayward curls, clean and silky, between my fingers and secured them into place with the fancy clasp.
“Thanks, Mommy,” she chirped, and she put her arms around my neck in a strangling hug.
Wham! A rolling grocery cart slammed into my open car door and shook me into full consciousness.
“You want I should take care of this cart for you, ma’am? I’d only charge you a nickel, seeing as it weren’t your cart to begin with,” said the figment of my imagination, appearing at my elbow. Remembering I had no more loose change, I admitted,
“Oh, I’m so sorry. I just spent all my money! But, I have more at home. What’s your name, honey?” I asked.
“Oh, what a pretty name!” I responded as I held out my hand to her. “It’s nice to meet you, Abby. My name is Maria. Where are your parents, sweetie?”
“Mama’s in heaven singing with Jesus and Papa ran off.”
“But, who takes care of you, then?”
“My grannie used to, but she went to the hospital in the am-blance. That’s all right, though. I get along.”
“Abby, would you like to ride with me to my house to get your nickel?” I asked.
“I guess so. Maybe you have some animal crackers there, too? They’re my very favorite!”
“It couldn’t be more perfect. Thank you, God!”
The sun-kissed deep blue sky framed a perfect picture around the swing-set in my backyard that now held a smiling child named Abby playing there. Beside her in the manicured lawn were two little bowls: one held rainbow animal cookies and the other was full of loose change.
And, across town not far from the mall, a grandmother’s heart broke.
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