“Maybe we’ll get a piece of bread today, Lisa.” Corey said. He laid on the cold
concrete floor and looked over at his little sister. He had hoped the thought of
food might trigger some kind of response in her lifeless eyes. Any response.
But she just sat in the corner with her arms around her legs, knees under her
chin, staring at nothing in particular. And she rocked.
Lisa’s dirty brown hair was matted to her head. Her face smeared with filth and
dirt where her nose had ran and been wiped with the back of her hand. Her little
dress, once light blue with lace and buttons was now no more than a sordid rag.
Too small, too tight, Corey could count every one of Lisa’s ribs through the thin
The young boy got up, walked to his sister, and squatted in front of her. He
gently put his arms about her to stop the rocking. “Maybe today” he said.” He
knew they couldn’t survive much longer on the meager bits of scraps their
mother brought them once a day.
“How long do you think we’ve been in the basement, Lisa? It was summer when
Mom made us come down here. I think it’s cold outside now. Don’t you think
so? The floor and walls sure are cold.”
She never replied anymore, yet Corey talked to her anyway. It helped pass the
time. Helped to forget his hunger. Helped to get his mind off the smell of their
small living quarters. For there was no bathroom down here. A corner had to
make do for daily necessities.
Corey asked himself for the millionth time, “Why are we down here? Why can’t
we live upstairs with Mom and our little brother? What did we do?” They could
hear little Michael running upstairs playing. Laughing. Deep longing for family,
food, even a bath worked it’s tendrils all through his heart. He sat down beside
his sister, sighed, saying “maybe tomorrow, Sis, maybe tomorrow.” He put his
arm around her shoulders and fell asleep.
Noises woke Corey. A key turned in the lock. His stomach lurched and his
breathing quickened. It could mean a bite to eat or a beating with the big stick.
“Oh, please, God, please not the stick.”
Their mother walked half-way down the steps then threw the remains of a bowl
of oatmeal over the banister. The few spoonfuls landed on the cold dirty
concrete without a word being offered. Corey held his breath.
Thankfully his mother turned and plodded back up the steps. He raced to the
few drops of cereal, hoping to get to it before the hungry mice. He used his
makeshift utensil, a putty knife, to scrape up the precious drops. Gathering
every last morsel, he took it to his sister. “Open your mouth, Lisa.”
Her mouth opened a tiny bit and he placed a few drops into it. He took a small
lick of the mush himself, then offered the last bite to his sibling. After putting the
putty knife up on a shelf, Corey sat beside Lisa again. “I hope tomorrow we get
more to eat. What do you think the kids are doing in school now, Sis? Mmm,
remember the school lunches?” Corey rubbed his crusty, sore elbow. The cold,
damp concrete and no baths were taking a toll on his skin.
“Want a drink, Lisa? There’s a little left in the jar Mom brought down last week.”
He got the jar, gave her a sip and swallowed the smallest trickle himself. “We
need more, I hope Mom brings us more tomorrow. Or... maybe she’ll let us out
tomorrow... Yeah, I hope tomorrow’s the day!”
Corey fell asleep again and dreamt of leaving the basement... tomorrow. He
awoke, startled to hear the door lock for the second time that day. His heart beat
furiously as adrenaline raced through him. There was no way of escape. Tears
came to his eyes. His mom coming down for a second time in one day could only
mean one thing. “Oh, God, please, help us!”
Squeezing his eyes shut, he heard the knob turn, the door opened. His arm
tightened around Lisa.
A man’s voice! Corey peeked. Someone was coming down the steps panning a
flashlight. As the man got closer, tears welled up in Corey. The man wore a
uniform. It was a policeman!
“Sis,” Corey whooped, “wake up. It’s tomorrow. I told you it would come!”
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