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The Newspaper Stand
The city was all cement sidewalks and glass covered high rises with the exception of a small park in the center of the city. It’s winding, tree lined paths and worn fields make up the calm heart of the otherwise chaotic city.
Everyday a small girl, about ten years old, walks from this park to a large public school about one mile away. She carries no lunch, but clutches her schoolbooks like they are her only possessions in the world. Besides the small sleeping bag she calls home, they are. After school she walks straight to a small newspaper stand outside of the park. An old man, the girl calls Mr. Mark, has owned the stand for many years and has made it the cheerful, social center it is. The only employee for the newspaper stand is a small girl named Angel. She helps to organize and clean the stand every day and, in return, he gives her food.
On this particular night Angel and Mr. Mark can hear the loud droning sound of the rain falling in torrents onto the stand’s tin roof and can see the tree’s red-orange leaves flying down the street. Angel dreads the long walk home made longer by the raging storm. She is especially worried that the rain will ruin her precious books because she has nothing to protect them with. Seeing Angel’s distraught expression Mr. Mark quickly guesses the reason for her worries.
“How about you stay here until the rain lets up?”
“Oh, thank you,” Angel replies without hesitation, “I was not looking forward to walking in this storm.”
“Not a problem. Just make sure you lock up before you leave.”
As the park clears of dedicated joggers and dog walkers Mr. Mark quickly writes and gives Angel a list of odd jobs he needs done and a spare key to the stand. He then leaves Angel by herself watching him as he walks, balding head bent into the wind, heading home. Sighing, Angel glances at the list Mr. Mark left her. She has to squint to read his spidery handwriting. A large coffee stain on the yellowing paper makes reading his scrawl more difficult than Angel would like, but, after a minute, she makes out four words. Please sweep the floor. Although Mr. Mark’s venue is widely known as the newspaper stand it is better compared to a large shed in shape and size. Because of this Angel’s feelings toward the chore are far from loving.
Slowly she trudges toward the back corner where the broom and dust pan are kept and roughly snatches the broom so she can begin the hated chore. The soft scratching noise of the broom against the floor is the only noise besides the drumming of the rain and the howling wind. It seems eerie to Angel, whose whole world is filled with the sounds of people. The whispering and stifled giggles of the classroom and the rustling of newspapers barely heard above the loud conversations between Mr. Mark and anyone who will listen are always there. Angel was starting to feel uncomfortable without them. To fill the silence she begins to sing to herself. She sings quietly at first, but grows in volume until the wind is all but drowned out. As Angel’s volume increases so does the speed of the broom. She quickly sweeps up the day’s dirt and grime then picks up the list again.
Her next job is to organize the money in the cash register. When Mr. Mark is working the cash register he tends to get very wrapped up in his conversations with the customers and just throw the money in the cash register. As it turned out, Mr. Mark’s stand had been rather popular that day and Angel had quite a tedious task ahead of her.
About fifteen minutes and countless piles of money later a police officer on his nightly rounds came into view of the stand. The officer soon saw the scruffy little girl surrounded by piles of money and started to draw conclusions. He rushed over to the stand and accused Angel of trying to steal the money!
By this time Angel was tired and the accusation of the officer further disgruntled her so she never thinks to show him the list or the key. She does, however, nervously explain why she is there to the officer.
Angel quietly stammers “I work for Mr. Mark. He…he let me stay here un…until the rain stops.”
Her only response is a skeptical expression on the officer’s face and a disbelieving snort. She tries again and again to convince him, but no matter what she says he just won’t believe her!
In one last desperate attempt Angel cries out “Please, can I call Mr. Mark? He can tell you that I’m supposed to be here.”
The officer reluctantly agrees. Angel rushes to the stand’s old phone and dials Mr. Mark’s number. When, on the last ring, Mr. Mark finally picks up the phone Angel quickly explains the situation to him. Mr. Mark becomes indignant and asks coolly to speak with the officer. Angel can hear his loud voice as he scream’s into the officer’s ear through the phone. The now red faced officer doesn’t get a word in edgewise until the end when he sincerely apologizes again and again. He then hangs up the phone, stammers an apology and dejectedly walks away, shoulders slumped in defeat.
The next day Mr. Mark greets Angel at the door and hands her a big bag stuffed with tissue paper. Angel looks at the bag, at Mr. Mark then at the bag again. It is her very first real present. Mr. Mark laughs at her wide eyed expression and explains that it is for all of the trouble the police officer put her through the night before. Angel excitedly but very carefully takes the sheets of tissue paper out of the bag until the present is revealed. It is her very own backpack! She squeals in delight and hugs the blue and white polka dotted backpack to her chest. She then unzips all of the zippers to find a stock of pencils, markers and crayons in the second largest pocket. She quietly wonders at the plastic and wooden jewels held in her wonderful backpack. She then daintily places her treasured school books into the biggest pocket. She wore that backpack for the rest of the day never once worrying that the books would get dirty or ripped.