Memoir

Good Friday Runaway

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By the time I walk the 1.36 miles from our house to the orphanage, the surface of my cardboard suitcase will be pliant from the mist, and I will have trouble gripping its slippery plastic handle.

 

It is Good Friday evening,

just before supper,

and I am walking in fog

that fills the tree bermed avenue

leading to the center of our small city.

 

I am eight years old, and I am carrying:

-a $20 bill snatched from my father’s dresser, plus a dime

-a pair of black, gnarled ballet slippers

-a pinafore in dotted Swiss which is my favourite

-and a doll with beautiful golden hair which is not a Barbie.

These compulsory items are in a small, blue

cardboard suitcase which normally lives under my bed.

By the time I walk the 1.36 miles from our house to the orphanage,

the surface of my suitcase will be pliant from the mist,

and I will have trouble gripping the slippery plastic handle.

 

No one sees me in the dusk, on these still streets,

except for a man who stops to ask where

am I going with a suitcase, alone?

I am poised and used to talking to adults, so

he believes me when I say I live in the

apartment building right there,

and that my grandmother is waiting dinner

for me in that one over there.

He wishes me Happy Easter

and I skip along.

It is hard to skip with the suitcase,

but it is the right thing to do if he is watching.

 

I have never felt empty in the head like this,

although I have read about how it happens,

the removal of thought, the stillness,

the blocking it all out.

I only care to watch my feet,

in rubber boots, slopping on the sidewalk.

 

I’ve had a calling,

to live with the nuns at the home for children

which we drive past almost every day.

The thought to go there came upon me,

the way people who go to Jesus

feel the spirit come upon them, so they say.

 

Something – maybe God – said I should

leave because . . . well, that’s all I want

to  say about it now.

 

I reach the gates of the building where still

some orphans live, not many any more.

It is Victorian, I know, because the file folder

in the library full of clippings about the

Sisters of St. Joseph said so.

 

I think I will be a gift for the sisters,

at Easter, someone they can save.

 

I stop at the foot of the steps and the moon,

which is full, shines down a drainpipe,

which is dripping.

I don’t know what will happen next.

A nun opens the door when I ring

the bell, and I hand her the $20 bill.

Her face inside the wimple

does not betray a thing as she

gently takes the money.

 

She tries to talk to me

but I am mute

like a whiteface mime,

and so I follow her,

to a room with black and white tiles

on the floor, and a TV with rabbit

ears on a card table.

 

I do not say another word.

At all.

It is up to them, I think,

these women of godly duties,

and swishing skirts to know

and then to succor me.

 

But it does not turn out that way.

The police come, I am taken home,

and . . .

I do not want to talk about it any more.

#

Daily Prompt: Fearless

 

Image Credit: The Commons, 1876, uncredited, Mount Hope, London

 

 

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17 replies »

  1. She did not run far enough. Did she want to be found so quickly? Just my thoughts when I read your words. I imagined the moon dripping down the drain pipe somehow. Your poem conjured up a wealth of emotions.

    Like

  2. Her character’s so believable. She sounds so naive, this girl who doesn’t know squat about running away. And we don’t know why she is, since you give no motive for her actions. You have room to play around there if you ever want to expand on this. But as is, it’s well done.

    Like

  3. I don’t agree with Marsha about the ending (but do agree about the overall quality!) There are only two possible endings – she’s welcomed or she isn’t – which doesn’t leave a lot of wriggle room for unpredictability, but the last line makes that unimportant.
    Like it a lot.

    Like

    • Man I appreciate these comments so much. I didn’t realize when I started this mission to broaden my writing how much I depended on colleagues and editors, which fellow bloggers like you all are now becoming!

      Like

    • Thanks Marsha. Astute comment. As a journalist, I’m accomplished at rewriting and polishing endlessly (and quickly), often with the help of gifted editors. Creative writing? Not so much. Appreciate the feedback very much.

      Like

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