The girl slept on the mattress next to her two small brothers-the bottoms
of their dirt specked feet greeting the tin ceiling. The girl's older
sister stood in the doorway, checking for the rose petal echoing of the sun
on the horizon. As it was promised, sunlight began to peek through the
stars and the little sleeping girl was woken for work.
The two girls left their home without eating anything, for
there wasn't an anything to find. Walking down the alley ways they stepped
over the silent people in the street, uncertain if they were sleeping or if
death had found them-it often did in places like this.
"I could," said the girl.
"How was it?" asked the sister.
"Cake is sweet, everyone knows that."
"I tasted it and it's salty," said the little girl.
The two of them joined the group of women and girls who
assembled, as always, in front of the factory doors.
"Good morning," said one of the girls, around fourteen and
already a veteran of the work hours.
"Good morning," the older sister said, though both of them knew
this morning would be no better than the thousands they had already
compiled. The girls stood in the shadow of the factory for a while, waiting
with no particular interest for their lives that day.
"I'm tired," said the little girl tugging on her sister.
"Complaining won't change anything," said her sister.
"I think it does," said the girl.
"How so?" asked the sister.
"Well I think if there is a god, just one, he might be like us
and not be able to read minds-so he sits frustrated and wanting to know
what we want and the only way he'll know is if we say it out loud," said
"I have work and that's all I need," said the older sister.
"All I want is some rest," said the little girl.
With that proclamation the doors to the factory opened as they
did every morning and the thick mass of workers flowed in like water
through a break in a reservoir. The little girl liked to think of herself
as a fish, and she swum into the dim section where her machine sat next to
thread of cerulean sky. Sitting down she danced the thread in her fingers,
twining it around like jewelry.
"The thread is not a plaything," said the high bark from behind
her, "get to work."
"Yes boss," said the little girl, as strong as she could to the
small dog voiced man who haunted her through the night. He would whisper
"more work, I want more," from the cracks of the tin roof, beneath the
Some days he'd come to work with bloodshot eyes with the smell
of alcohol from his gums-drinking the extra he received as supervisor, his
details-the little windows and moat.
The sun had filtered through the skylights above, igniting the
dust particles around her-the little girl stared as the factory walls
turned to gold. A little ballroom, she mused.
"FIVE?" yelled the sharp bark, "FIVE YOU LITTLE BRAT?"
"But the work is good" said the little girl, "no mistakes."
"Twenty! Twenty when I return!"
The little girl smiled at the dare, the challenge, but she
managed only eight by the time the supervisor returned. He counted them in
disgust and screamed at the young girl-her older sister watching in silence
as she stitched her own castles.
"You slum rat," his fists rose, striking the
little girl in the shoulder. Her brown eyes took in the gold particles of
dust, the castles she had stitched. She had just finished the eighth and it
lay on the machine in front of her.
The man slapped her face this time and she lunged forward-head
banging the old metal hunk of the machine, her studio, her canvas, her
captor. From her forehead rose crimson flames and from her eyes the fire
left. Two drops fell onto the shirt in front of her, like two rose petals.
Her sister stopped her work and let out a shriek. The other
women stopped and watched. The supervisor shook the girl and saw that she
was dead. As if she was a bag of merchandise he pulled her over his
shoulder and carried her to the back of the factory where he threw her body
on top a trash bin.
The girl's sister sobbed but did not leave her machine. The
supervisor came back dusting off his hands and looked her in the eye.
"I'll add one weeks' pay if you shut up," then adding "or the
same fate is yours."
The sister nodded and went back to sewing castles. She thought
of her sister lying, resting. A little girl who no longer had to work all
day-wasn't that what they all dreamed of? Within the hour a new sickly girl
took the place on her sister's machine.
"What should I do with this?" said the new girl, holding up the
shirt with the two petal shaped drops.
"Clean it and get to work," yipped the man. With chemicals and
scrubbing the blood was removed and the workday continued as if everything
On the way home the sister stopped by a shop a bought one small
slice of lemon cake and walked the way back to the tin home. On the dirt
floor she and her two brothers ate the delicious rarity, and the sister,
unable to hold her tears, was surprised how salty cake was.
In a few weeks’ time in a faraway land, a little girl picked up
a shirt from a rack at a store.
"Look Mommy, look it's a castle."
"Isn't that nice," said the mother tossing it into the cart,
unaware of the petal shaped stains removed from that very shirt, unaware
that across the ocean, a girl stood in a doorway checking for the rose
petal echoing of the sun on the horizon, watching two boys sleep on a
mattress and waiting for the world to keep its promises.