Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: FEET (01/17/19)
TITLE: Beautiful Are...
By Tracy Nunes
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She turned toward the sound of the doctor, knowing that the question in his voice was a request for information on the patient.
“Unconscious. Brought in by hikers who found her on the side of a trail.”
Dr. Chen did a quick but thorough examination. Even after years of practice, he gasped when he saw her feet, wondering what condition of her life would cause such disfigurement.
Shaking his head, “I don’t see any obvious injuries other than her feet and malnourishment. Family?”
“No identification. I’ll go through her things again and see if I can find any clues.”
Dr. Chen nodded and walked out, his mind already moving on to the next patient, knowing Chang Mae would do what was needed and keep him informed.
The end of her shift came but before she left, she checked on the old woman again. The night nurse, Li Chung, was reapplying salve to the woman’s feet when Chang Mae entered the room.
Looking up from her task, “You’re still here, Mae?”
“I need to report to Dr. Chen in the morning.”
Picking up the woman’s knapsack, Chang Mae went to the corner of the small room and sunk to the floor. The bag was dirty and seemed even older than the woman. Shaking her head, she was confused. She didn’t think people were still living like this just outside a city known for its wealth.
Inside the sack were two thick books that looked like journals and one very worn book with cracked and peeling leather. A few pencils and a clouded plastic water bottle were the only other contents.
Figuring which one was first by the dates inside, she opened the first journal and began to read. The entries were short and to the point.
Ba and Ma will not understand. I will be removed from school and shunned. Ba will be humiliated at University.
Chang Mae’s brow furrowed with interest at that but the date on the entry was what confused her the most. The age of the old woman and the dated entry didn’t make sense. She read on.
I miss the ballet. Teacher said I was to be a Most Favored Ballerina. I’m alone now. But, no, not alone. He is with me.
The woman whose age was now doubtful, slept on, oblivious to her surroundings.
So cold and tired. So hungry. It matters not. He opened a door for me to share today. The angels rejoice! Every step is worth it.
Again and again, the woman wrote of hardship, heartache and yet, joy, when someone heeded her story and became free.
Mae switched her position on the floor to get comfortable and to keep an eye on the door, fearing that she would be caught. It was silly. She was instructed to find the woman’s identity. But as she read, she began to feel like she was hiding something. She should stop reading at once and report this.
The journal entries often noted verses that were in the leather book, and she looked them up. Sometimes reading long passages, sometimes wondering what had happened to so many of the pages that were ripped out. A later journal entry explained.
I have done all I can to know them well, so that when I must depart with these precious pages, it will be with me, even still.
The sun was peaking through the window and Mae woke with a start. She’d fallen asleep. Quickly, she gathered the bag and its contents and went to the young woman who appeared so old. Her feet looked almost worse than the night before but there was a strange smile on her face. Mae knew why, even before taking the woman’s pulse.
Mae wiped away tears and chided herself for crying as if this dead woman was a friend. Clutching the bag to her chest, she left the hospital, changed, not yet knowing what would come next.
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