The Towheaded Orphan

The room was quiet. Most of the children were asleep.

“God?” The towheaded orphan asked, lying still, hands pressed together like a Panini.

A black cockroach was portaging a pilfered stick of gum across her bed. The room was cold, like the walls were chunks of ice, perhaps from the iceberg that brought down the Titanic. The window was open, allowing the breeze to stir the thin curtains.

A nun shouted from the other room, “Keep it down. Lights out!”

“God?” The orphan whispered. “I’d like to make a deal.” She paused, waiting for the door to open and the nun who yelled to charge through with whipping stick and scowl and give her 13 lashes, but nothing…

She went on, ” If you bring back my mom — and make her good this time — take away the bottle, the screaming, and the skimpy outfits, I will be a good girl. I will listen to the teacher and I won’t hide frogs in other girls’ pockets. Promise.”

She finished her prayer and looked around. Just enough light from the street lamp entered the room so that she could make out that her gum was mysteriously moving down the edge of the bed away from her, floating in mid-air. She didn’t know if it was really happening, or just something she was imagining, like last week when she thought the forest was on fire but it was just the setting sun reflecting off the pond.

Done now, she decided to go to sleep. The bed creaked when she turned on her side. Then everything was quiet again.


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