The cockroach eyed the little boy lying next to its home; currently, a haphazardly stacked pile of cream cheese wrappers. Its antennae twitched and swayed as it attempted to discern whether he was dinner or a threat. The boy’s stillness encouraged the insect to venture further onto an exposed piece of skin near his ankle. A quick bite and the forthcoming slap sent it skittering back to the wrappers, in search of a less intimidating meal.
The boy scratched his ankle and sat up. His legs dangled over the edge of the couch above the only bare floor space in the room. Around him were the scattered and stacked remains of the daily lives of him and his father; every square inch covered; the walls long since hidden. Barely awake, he scratched his eyes and wiped his nose on his shirt sleeve. The incessant running was a normal part of every day.
He jumped down and climbed over boxes and clothes, heading for the back door to urinate because the bathroom his Mama once kept pristine lay behind piles of trash and debris. Later, after scrounging up breakfast, he’d have to go out behind the trees at the edge of the property to do the other. As he relieved himself, a feeling arose within his nose he was all too familiar with. It burst forth with a series of loud expulsions of air and sprayed droplets that landed on his face and shirt.
As he turned back to the door, he heard the crunch of tires at the front of the house. Knowing he would get there faster by going around the house, he tip-toed through the tall grass that surrounded the foundation to sneak a look. He couldn’t remember the last time someone else’s car had come through the driveway.
A woman, red haired with a crème colored pantsuit, emerged from a compact car. She stood for a moment looking at the house and then looked back down at the papers in hand. A crease of concern pulled her eyebrows together as she closed the car door. Gingerly, she made her way through and around the myriad obstacles that littered the path to the front door. She stopped once and considered the options: over the box of car parts or around the two foot high mound of broken clay pots? She glanced at her heeled shoes and chose the path that made it least likely she would fall.
With her purse on her left shoulder and her papers in the same hand, she raised her right hand to knock. As she did, the boy put his fingers in his ears in anticipation of the sound to come. The knock set off a howling and barking that nearly made her stumble backwards. Despite his wretched condition, the boy stifled a giggle as he returned to the back of the house. The woman attempted to regain her composure as she waited, hoping for a welcoming response.
Again, she knocked and waited.
The door finally opened and she was met by a nearly inaudible grunt. Despite that, she was inwardly relieved when she saw that the man’s eyes weren’t hostile. His vacant, sad look spoke volumes and helped her to mentally set her course.
“I’m Celeste Haversham from Life Community Church. Mr. Stephen’s?”
His nod and slight turn to his left to let her in surprised her. As she looked around the place that once housed a happy family, Celeste began to explain what she and the Community Care Team wanted to do for the man and the boy. With compassion filled words she told him of the love and help that awaited him if he was willing. When she finished, the man sat silently for several minutes. Just when she was sure he was going to ask her to leave he, began to tell her about his wife, their life together and the dreams they’d had for their son. He spoke of the hopelessness after her death that left him unable to do what needed to be done for his son, or himself.
He paused and looked around at the debris; a single wet drop fell down his hollow cheek. After taking a deep breath, he nodded and whispered a simple,
Around the corner, hidden behind a dog crate, the little boy once again wiped his nose. Only now, the weight of his grief lifting,tears of hope and relief were the cause of the flow.
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