“Hush, you guys. I can’t hear what she’s saying.” The mother turned back to the voice inside the speaker. “Could you repeat that, please?”
“Would you like anything else?” The voice inside the speaker crackled.
She glanced in the rear-view mirror and did a quick head-count of the children in the back. One. Two. Three. Four. She looked at the on-screen order and counted the kids meals she’d ordered. One. Two. Three. Four. She looked over her own order of burger, fries, and a soft drink. “Yes. That’s it.”
On second thought…
“Uh, on second thought, could you throw in an apple turnover?”
The voice on the speaker came back. “Just one?”
She looked at the children in the back seat of the minivan. “Make it five in all.”
The temperature had topped off at 101 degrees. A small breeze gently entered the one-room hut and made its way to the child lying on a straw mat. The child seemed to be sleeping.
Outside the hut, the mother and father held on to each other and cried.
She pulled up to the drive-thru window. A young woman smiled as she looked into the minivan. “You’ve got quite the crowd today, huh?”
The mother smiled. “Yeah.” She shrugged. “Lucky me.”
The young girl began to hand the woman her order. “Here you go.” She waited patiently as the mother took each bag and set them on the vacant seat next to hers.
“We’re having a picnic.”
“Sounds fun.” The young girl handed her a cardboard tray of soft drinks. The noise in the backseat was growing louder. “You going to be able to handle that bunch?”
The mother smiled. “Oh, yeah. They’re really not so bad. Just need some food in their tummies and they’ll be fine.”
“I hear that.” The girl smiled as she began to close the window. “Have a great day.”
“Thanks. You, too.”
The minivan pulled away from the drive-thru.
The drought was now in its second month, and there was no food. The entire village had suffered, and the mother and father had done all they could for their little girl.
The mother went in to the hut and picked up her daughter. She sat down on the dirt floor and laid her in her lap. She started rocking as she gently stroked her hair. She began to sing. Flies hovered around the child’s face. The mother swatted them away with her free hand. She continued to quietly sing.
The father remained outside, praying.
At the picnic table the children each had their own bag. The mother spoke. “Let’s pray before we eat.” She looked around. “Billy?”
Billy was the oldest, coming in at a whopping nine-years-old. All the children folded their hands and bowed their heads as Billy began to pray.
“Dear, Jesus. Thank you for the food. Thank you that we get to come to the park today.” He opened one eye to see his mother smiling at him. “And please be with those less fortunate. Amen.”
His mom smiled again. “Amen.” She said. “Alright everybody. Dig in.”
The child’s breathing was shallow. She had not opened her eyes for hours. Mom kept her eye on her bloated stomach until finally, the breathing stopped. Her limp body lay still in her mother’s arms.
A loud wailing cry came from deep within the mother’s soul. The father came and sat down next to his wife. Tears streamed down each of their faces as they both rocked back and forth.
Soon others came to gaze upon the lifeless body.
Many would sit outside of the hut for days.
They would mourn as a community.
They would bury the child as a community.
They would place the child into the caring arms of God…as a community.
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