Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Winter (11/14/05)
By Peter Thomas
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The boy kneeled by his father. The old man was curled on the floor, wrapped in blankets.
The boy said, "What can I do, Papa?"
The old man closed his eyes and shook his head. "If you could-" He winced and grit his teeth and hissed in pain. He was quiet for a moment, drawing in ragged breaths.
"Papa!" The boy clung to the old man's leg and cried. "Why is this happening? Don't leave me, Papa."
They both cried and then the boy heard the old man say something. "What is it, Papa?"
"Go out to the dumpster. See if you can find something to eat."
"But you're shivering. I'll tell the manager to turn the heat back on. I know she'll listen if I tell her you're even sicker than before."
"You need to eat. Do as I tell you."
"I won't leave you alone."
"Do it." The old man began coughing. "Now."
The boy ran out of the room and out of the apartment. The snow blew down and swirled all around. The boy slowed when he saw Phillip standing by the foot of the stairs. Phillip was tall and lean and had a yellow bird in his hand. His gray hair shook in the wind. He blew smoke out of his mouth and sneered with hatred. "The last place I lived, the kids yelled at me and threw eggs into my apartment. You try something like that and I'll get my stick and whip you with it."
"I would never," the boy said. He ran past Phillip and across the parking lot to the dumpster. He climbed in and began rooting around. He threw aside empty food boxes and stinking slop. He smiled. Slowly, he reached for the turkey carcass, amazed at his good fortune. How could anyone throw it away with so much meat on it? He heard his stomach growl. He lifted the carcass with numb fingers, put his nose to the frozen meat and inhaled.
"Thank you, God," he said. He turned around and screamed with fear.
"Ha!" Philip knocked the carcass from the boy's hand. "Get out of my dumpster!" he shouted. "Everything in here is mine. Nobody will eat that turkey. Nobody."
The boy jumped from the dumpster and ran. But when he saw the police he slowed. "No," he said. "They wouldn't."
He ran to the door and found it open. He walked in and found the policeman standing over his father.
"Who are you?" the policeman said.
"He's my papa."
"What's wrong with him?"
The cop closed his eyes and shook his head. Then he said, "You have to leave. You've been evicted. If you need a ride somewhere, I'll give you one."
"But he's cold. He needs heat. Why did they turn off our heat and our lights?"
"Look, kid. I'm really sorry about this. It's the law." The policeman looked down at the old man. "Can he get up?"
"I'll help him," the kid said.
"Don't you have family around here?"
"They're in Bosnia. My mother . . ." The kid choked back tears, "died four months ago."
"I'm sorry." The cop patted the boy's shoulder.
The old man struggled to get up. The boy helped him. The cop shook his head and walked out into the big room.
"What will happen to you after I'm gone?" Papa said.
"Don't talk like that. Please don't."
The old man swayed and shook but stayed on his feet. "I'm sorry," he said. "I worked as long as I could. I was a good cleaner and I worked hard. How could this happen? I bring you to America to give you something better and . . ." He put his hands together. "Please, God. Take care of my boy." Tears ran down his cheeks.
The boy held the old man tightly and helped him out into the big room. They walked to the front door. They would face winter. They had faced winter before but that was before Papa got cancer.
A knock shook the door. It was Pastor John. He looked at the old man and the boy. "I've found someone who will take you in," he said. "You can stay in their garage. It's not much, but there's a bed and a space heater."
"Did you hear that?" the boy said.
"This is good," the old man said. "God has heard our prayers."
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