We agreed for a little girl to live with us while her parents sorted things.
Dad is in jail, mom was on drugs but is trying to get clean.
She is ten, with thick, frizzy brown hair pulled back in a low ponytail. Round, sweet face, eyes made owlish by thick glasses with dark purple frames.
She wears a purple puffy jacket, which should be my first clue it’s a dream.
Those went out of style decades ago. Then again, trends cycle. Maybe she’s ahead of the curve.
We meet at a small, family-owned restaurant with a store attached. Evidently this is where she has spent her after-school hours starting back in pre-school. Her babysitter used to work here but is long out of the picture.
“She was such a good little girl” that everyone else agreed to jointly keep an eye on her until her mother sent a ride home or wandered in to pick her up. Someone noticed she wasn’t growing much in kindergarten and they started providing after-school snacks and a hearty dinner. The undernourished waif grew into a hale and healthy ten year old.
The last few months, they’ve been giving her rides home at closing. A light was always on and she had a key, but finally the cook decided to walk her to the door and found mom sprawled on the floor in a drugged stupor.
She called the police, who called social services. Our small town had no other foster homes available. Since the cook claimed to be a distant cousin and had a clean record, they let the child stay with her for 48 hours while the social worker looked for a foster parent.
These people have been her family for six years. None of them are happy to learn I live clear across town.
“You have to bring her back to see us. Come for dinner at least once a week. On the house,” the owner cajoles.
The cook chimes in, “yes, please do,” in a tone I recognize as, “I’m asking nicely but you can expect a consequence if you don’t comply.”
The child has gone back to her small play area in the rear of the store to tidy up. I follow.
As I pack her things into a plastic green suitcase, the social worker calls my cell. Mom entered the rehab program. This may be a very temporary placement.
For their sake, I hope so, but I won’t mind if this sweet girl stays with us longer.
Suddenly I realize we never finalized sleeping arrangements. I guess we’ll put her in the guest room for now. I wonder if our two will be jealous she gets the big bed.
For that matter, how will they all get along? Will a new addition send them into a tail spin?
Should I put her in class with one of them or in one of the other 5th grade classes?
It’s getting late. I haven’t even thought about dinner. I tug her heavy case toward the door, starting to feel overwhelmed. Will she even like us?
I pause by the door, ready to call her name and realize I’ve forgotten it.
The cook gives me a piercing glare.
“What?” I say.
She replies, “nothing,” but I feel her eyes on my back as I turn.
I shake my head, stress washing over me.
What was I thinking, taking this on? I just started a new job. My kids may not respond well and I forgot to tell them about it. Hubby’s out of town for a week. Wait, who is with MY kids? I suddenly can’t remember.
The girl reappears, hugging the staff as she makes her way to me.
“I’m ready,” she tells me, pushing past through the wooden screen door to the country porch.
I follow, panic rising, and stop, face to face with a huge young buck. I eye his antlers, uneasy with the proximity, and glance around for the girl.
He snorts, demanding my attention, and stomps his hoof on the echoing porch floor boards. He touches his nose to mine, huge brown eyes glaring.
I wake, wild-eyed, stressed and panting, nose-to-wet-black-nose with my German Shepherd.
He needs to potty. He snorts and stomps his paw on the bed once more.
I shake my head and let him pull me out of bed.
Thank God, it was a dream.
Later that day, I pull up photo listings on adoptuskids.org, searching for a round, sweet face with owlish eyes.
So…here’s what really went down. Congratulations to the following for making great guesses as to the nature of my confinement in this post:
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No one got it quite right, but Danny was the closest!
I sit, morose, staring at the wall of my laundry room. The smell of moldering wood and damp stone fills my nostrils. I feel my sinuses flare, building pressure.
We had a huge leak between the bathroom and laundry room. Our son, with batlike ears, alerted us. “Mama, I went to get in the shower, and I hear water. I haven’t turned it on, yet.”
Hubby and I locked eyes, then almost tipped our chairs backwards onto the patio as we rushed toward the screen door. A quick listen at the tub wall confirmed our concerns. ANOTHER leak.
We removed a three-shelf unit from the wall above the washer, pulled the washer out and Hubby pressed a sheet rock knife to the wall. It crumbled. soaked through.
This small room, not quite two meters square, does not lend itself to comfort. Hard floor, bare walls. No bed, not even a cot (because, laundry room). Just a pile of dirty laundry. Stenciled letters on the rough grey back of the shower, which I can now see, indicate my location. “Downstairs Bath.” Like I’d forget. I guess the contractors wanted to make sure the tub went to the right spot.
Exposed pipes, dripping water…this place should be condemned, or at least remodeled. Okay, we’ll just repair the pipes and put up new sheet rock. The previous occupant managed to leave a small hole in the floor. An attempt to escape? Shawshank Redemption isn’t going to happen here. No one stays that long in the laundry room.
Maybe he was digging a latrine. (Actually, the hole in the floor—which should not be there—saved us; much of the water pouring from the pipe ran out the hole and under the house. We’ll have to replace a lot of insulation in the crawl space, but we won’t have to replace the flooring in much of the downstairs, which is likely what would have happened if the water had stayed on the floor and flooded through the house between the sub-floor and flooring.)
I sit in one cramped corner and stare up at the small window, then over through the steel bars of the laundry shelf we removed, praying for this ordeal to end. Nature calls, but I’m not using the bucket in the corner. Is that even a legally acceptable bathroom facility? I’m waiting for Hubby to finish exploring the damage under the house. I will hand him tools through the hole, as he replaces failed copper pipe elbows. I can wait a little longer, I think.
I pick at the crumbling masonry. Dripping water has eroded enough that a chunk falls off in my hands. I dream of simply walking away, then glance at the black and tan guard dog in the hall. Okay, slight exaggeration. He’s no guard dog, just a 25 lb. beagle-basset hound mutt, sleeping with his face buried in our laundry (now piled in the hall). He’s dragged pieces of our clothing to the top of the pile. he’s sleeping with his face buried in half of my…brassiere. He looks sort of like a 1800s prairie girl with a bonnet. Or a one-eyed alien frog.
No sleep tonight. I sigh, resigning myself to missing yet another blog post. Shaking out my stiff legs, I lean my head back against the corner and pray for rescue. Finally, SuperHubby finishes all the pipes and announces we can call it a night, freeing me from my little spot behind the washer. Do not pass Go…go straight to bed!
Now if I can just figure out how to collect that $200.
Today’s Prompt: Go to a local café, park, or public place and write a piece inspired by something you see. Get detailed: leave no nuance behind.Today’s twist: write an adverb-free post.
First person to guess where I’ve been for the last couple days (and WHY) wins.
(Yes, this is why I missed a few posts…)
I sit, morose, staring at the wall of my cell. The smell of moldering wood and damp stone fills my nostrils. I feel my sinuses flare, building pressure.
This small room, not quite two meters square, does not lend itself to comfort. Hard floor, bare walls. No bed, not even a cot. Just a pile of dirty rags. Stenciled letters on a rough grey background indicate my location. Like I’d forget.
Exposed pipes, dripping water…this place should be condemned, or at least remodeled. The previous occupant managed to leave a small hole in the floor. An attempt to escape? Shawshank Redemption isn’t going to happen here. No one stays that long.
Maybe he was digging a latrine.
I sit in one cramped corner and stare up at the small window, then over through the steel bars, praying for this ordeal to end. Nature calls, but I’m not using the bucket in the corner. Is that even a legally acceptable bathroom facility?
I pick at the crumbling masonry. Dripping water has eroded enough that a chunk falls off in my hands. I dream of simply walking away, then glance at the black and tan guard dog in the hall.
No sleep tonight. I sigh, resigning myself to missing yet another blog post. Shaking out my stiff legs, I lean my head back against the corner and pray for rescue.