The Handout

June 3, 2008
By Jacob Parsons, White Salmon, WA

All he could hear were screams. All he could see was red. All he could do was run. He ran for what seemed like forever, trying to leave the mangled bodies of his parents behind, the sadistic shine in the SS officer’s eyes, the thunk, thunk, thunk, of his boots. But the further he ran, the closer everything seemed to be. Finally when he could run no longer he collapsed and wept. Wept for what he had lost, for what he had been losing for a very long time, and for what his reality had become. It was an absolute nightmare. A horrific picture show that would never cease, film stuck in the wheels. But time did as time will always do, it passed.

He sat there devoid of feeling, cut off from the world. The rags clung to his bones, their weight felt heavy on his limbs. The dirt clung to every orifice; the stench emanating from him so horribly people turned away in the street, carrying their grocery bags, their food. He despised these people. His only nourishment came from the trash cans; their rotting meat and cheese, the stale bread, was a feast to the boy. But every once and a while he was given a gift a gift so grand he almost cried with joy. This gift was a handout. He didn’t care about the looks they gave him or their low whispers as they walked away. Nothing mattered when he held his handout, his small prize for staying alive another day. This was his existence. He mattered to no one, nobody mattered to him. This all changed when the woman came into his life.

She was one of the bag carriers; the people who still had their humanity, who were still allowed to go to the store and purchase food. As she approached he looked on to her with hate why should she get these groceries, why should she be able to walk with her head held high while he had to crouch in fear and hide from his own shadow. She almost missed him at first, he blended in so well. His dirty clothes masking him like camouflage on the battlefield. But as she walked by, he caught her eye. She looked at him and felt overwhelming pity. This boy, this child was thrown into the world unprotected and uneducated. He was gaunt, lifeless; his soul had long left his body. But out of sadness, pity, guilt she decided not to walk away. She slowly turned and reached into her shopping basket. The boy was watching all of this with a hungry eye, and even hungrier stomach, he knew what was to happen next. The woman pulled out the bread, the glorious bread still fresh with the smells of the bakery, and tore it in half. “In half!” the boy thought, “Half of a loaf of bread will be mine!” The woman reached her had out and set the bread in front of the boy. His hands shot out in front of him, with a mind of their own and grabbed the bread; he held it and cherished its feel, its scent, the beautiful brown crust. He then sank his teeth into it, ripping it apart like a ravenous wolf. It was the best thing he had ever eaten. Its glorious taste filled him with hope with joy, but as the hunger set in again the joy quickly vanished. The cold slowly returned and he once again became a lifeless pile of rags.

The woman was troubled by what she had seen. The boys face haunted her, always remaining at the back of her mind. The next week when she went to the market, she made sure to look for him on the way home. After purchasing her groceries for the week and a few extra things for the boy, she set out on her mission to find this lost, hungry child. Sure enough he was on the same street, she swore he was in the exact same position he had been in the last week, unchanging, never moving. The routine was the same as last time. She extracted the bread quicker than before, but she also pulled out another special something for the boy, fresh raspberries. As she extracted these she told the boy “You will get this food, but first you must answer my questions.” The boy nodded more in shock than anything. How could this woman not only give him food, but want to actually talk to him, actually treat him like a human being? The depth of this astounded him. “What is your name she asked” he took a moment to respond, the words coming out in fragile broken syllables, as though words were some foreign exercise that he had forgot how to do long ago. “M-m-my n-na-name is Urie.” He spoke this last word whimsically as though it was part of a long forgotten fantasy a beautiful thing that had been covered up by darkness. “Well my name is Sarah” she responded sounding as if she was closing an important business deal rather than speaking to an orphan. She continued. “I cannot bear to see you like this anymore” She said, “You have been a great trouble to my sleep little Urie, and as you know all women need their beauty sleep.” He was confused, what was she talking on about, but still she went on “You are coming with me.” These last words hung in the air, Technicolor against the black and white hell his world had become. He was shocked, she must be joking, he prepared for the punch line, the part when she laughed and walked away, but she just stood and stared at him. “What are you waiting for, the rain?” She asked. “Get up and come with me.” Numbly the boy followed. Still unsure of what was to become of him next. When they reached her house, a modest one story cottage, it appeared to him as a mansion; its small wooden porch, the gateway to Eden itself, the door a golden pathway.

As soon as he was through the doors, Sarah led him straight to the wash room. She put him in the tub and scrubbed him raw; he did not care, because this was a glorious feeling. She wrapped a towel around his emaciated body and led him to the living room, while she washed his clothes. When they were as clean as the rags could be, she dressed him again. And then he slept. And time did as time always will do, it passed.

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