Short Story Tuesday: The Happiest Place on Earth

The challenge: Write a short story every Tuesday in 500 words or less.  Post on your blog, share on twitter with the #shortstorytuesday hashtag.  Tag two friends to do the same.

***

The whispering wind flicked her hair from her eyes.  Looking up, she watched as a flag blew merrily in the breeze. The distinct shape of Mickey Mouse flapped on the yellow canvas backdrop.  The happiest place on earth, they say.  The place were tears aren’t allowed, where children can be children.

What makes it different for me? She wondered.  Am I just that separate from other children?  Deep thoughts for an eight-year-old, she knew.  But she wasn’t like other children.  Not in the usual kind of way.  Other children laughed and screamed and ran amuck while their haggard parents tried to keep up.  She watched as even now, a small boy attached to a backpack with a leash pulled against his restraints, reaching grimy hands for Donald Duck.  The mascot waved at him, bending down to hand him a signed picture.  The little boy squealed with delight.

disney castle

I like to watch, she thought.  I like to observe what families do.  How they act.  What makes them…well, a family.

“Jade!” The voice snapped her back to reality.  Above her head, the flag snapped against the pole.  She hurried under it towards the other children dressed in bright yellow.  Some smiled, some stared in wonder around them, but mainly, none knew what to do.  Shuffling feet, shifting eyes, they huddled like puppies afraid to make a wrong move.

Miss Kathy grabbed her shoulder.  “Pay attention, Jade.  Don’t dawdle.  Sometimes I wonder what goes on in that head of yours.”

Nothing that would interest you.  She dare not say it out loud.

“Leave her be, Kathy,” Miss Margie said gently.  She was Jade’s favorite.  Always sticking up for her, trying desperately to find her a family to call her own.  Organizing things like Disney trips for the kids.  But really, it almost made the pain worse.  So many happy families.  So many children with Moms and Dads.  College in their futures, a bed of their own, more belongings than could fit in a backpack.  Parents who weren’t in jail, or dead.

Or Moms who can get out of bed every day without chasing another fix.  Who don’t give up their kids because she would rather get high instead.  Jade knew she shouldn’t think that way.  But she preferred to live in reality.  Maybe she was too young, or too vulnerable, or whatever adults always said when she dared speak her thoughts out loud.

Really, what did it matter?  Jade found herself looking back at the waving flag as the children followed behind each other, marching to the orders of Miss Kathy. She shouted them like a drill instructor.  Jade filtered out the noises around her and focused on the Mouse.  The happies place on earth.  Maybe, just maybe, if she was good enough, quiet enough, obedient enough…someone would want her.  They would see her here, and instead of seeing an orphan, they would see a daughter.

She turned her face from the flag.   

 

***

Today, there are more than 400,000 children in foster care. More than 100,000 of those are awaiting adoption.  In reality, that isn’t a large number compared to the amount of families who have the means to take in these children. If one family, from every three churches in the United States adopted a child in foster care, it would eliminate the adoption need completely.  Check out your States requirements.  There should be no such thing as an unwanted child.

Short Story Tuesday: Victory Dance

The challenge: Write a short story every Tuesday in 500 words or less.  Post on your blog, share on twitter with the #shortstorytuesday hashtag.  Tag two friends to do the same.

Victory Dance

You can see the dance in nature’s victor circle.  A stallion stamps his hoof in triumph over a rival, tossing his head and snorting his defiance.  A peacock spreads his feathers wide, dazzling the onlooker with his prowess, marching to the beat of his own drum.  I win, they say.  I triumph.  I defeat all comers, slaying their pride and elevating mine.  See my victory?  See my attainment?  See my beauty?  See my power?

stallion

I can’t say the same for my type of victory dance.  It isn’t shown in the strength of a muscled stallion or the feathered display of the eyes of the peacock.  Sometimes, a victory dance is in muted silence of suffering alone, where the dance is a ragged breath of one more day of defiance.  A chest rising and falling, pushing the limits of expectation.  A feeble hand raised, or maybe just a finger, because the exhausted limit has been reached in days of floundering pain.  Where is the solace in trivial battles won, where age and decay eventually drag you down to the depths of mortality?  Or maybe the battles aren’t trivial.  Maybe they seem so to me, in this listless existence of mine.

A light breaks the darkness, a shaft of brilliance underneath a door.  A tiny hand grabs mine.  A pink bow drapes the cheek of an angel, with brown eyes and pigtails.  Her dance is one of life, a victorious fist raised in rebellion to natural law.  Death and decay only enhance the beauty of youth, and for her, I would die a thousand times to show the world her brilliance.

“What shall we sing today, Papa?” she asks.

I cannot answer, but the beep of the ventilator sets her rhythm.  It always does.  Voice raised, fists clenched, eyes bright, my angel sings.  If Heaven could peer down to the affairs of man, surely it would look and listen for such a time as this.  Purity in word, purity in motivation, purity in heart…these mean everything to the child who sees the pallor of death up close.  They instinctively know that it wasn’t meant to be this way.  Immortality was the intention, but death sprung from the deeds of audacious independence.  One that spurned life, craved autonomy, and now leaves me a broken shell on a cold, hostile bed.

Where once my purpose was sure, now I am irresolutely clinging to a past of shredded memories.  The surety is gone, replaced with uncertain confidence, the type that says I know my life meant something…but now, was it worth the heartache and the bliss?  Was it worth the tears and the laughter?  Was it worth the turmoiled storms and the smooth waters?

The angel silences her song.

“Did you like it?” she asks.

If only I could answer.  I would say, You are my victory dance.  And take another breath, my chest rising and falling.