February 9, 2012 by greenhouse04
I had a lot of fun writing this one. Hope you enjoy!
Hunger, even severe hunger bordering on the brink of starvation, was the constant companion of all the little orphans living in the tunnels. The tunnels got their name because of their randomly twisting nature and the fact that no matter what the weather was like they always seemed to be dark, damp, and disease ridden. Jenny tried not to feel sorry for herself, but this was proving to be another discouraging day. Food was so hard to come by. Maybe she would get lucky and find somebody else’s stash. She’d have to be quick, but the food would be worth the possibility of a fight.
It was getting late, and when she looked around she noticed that she had wondered into unknown territory. That was dangerous. There were things that could kill. But the hunger! Just when her mind was about made up to turn around, she noticed a light softly glowing in the distance…beckoning her to inspect it. Carefully she sneaked closer, exercising all the caution her short but hard won time on earth had taught her. Curiosity was a trait she often thought ran too strong in her, and she was thinking that again now. As she rounded a corner, she came up short in mesmerizing astonishment. The light belonged to a home more spacious then she could imagine! For long moments she sat there, overwhelmed, just trying to soak in the immensity of it all. And then she spotted him. Old and bent, a man was sitting in clear view in front of an immense iron gate. Who would need such protection? And then she spotted IT! Before him was a mountainous feast of food! She had never seen a stash of food so large! And the manner with which he regarded it seemed to cry out that this wasn’t even a stash but simply a meal!
With a cry of fury Her hunger gnawed at her insides. That was more food than she had in a month…more! But how to get it? She quickly decided steeling would be the wrong way. She had heard stories…stories of crushed bodies stumbled upon by others searching for food. Other bodies were worse than crushed. Certainly somebody with the means to get so much food had the means to do with her as he pleased. Besides, stealing would be a onetime deal. But, if she could befriend him… Yes! That’s what she would do; then she’d never have to worry about food again! But it was late…tomorrow, tomorrow.
The excitement made her giddy as she prepared to see him the next day. Jenny smoothed herself down; checked over her hair, carefully to make sure no strand was out of place. The question was HOW should she go about befriending him. She couldn’t just walk up and say, “Would you like to be my friend?” No, she was young, but not THAT young! Besides, old men were always grumpy. Everybody knew that! If she just went up and started speaking he would probably just chuck an empty dish at her as much as speak to her. No, that wouldn’t be the way. But how?
She thought about it some more as she walked towards his house. It was such a grand house, with colossal stone walls and an ornate steel door. And the lighting was magnificent! He always had torches burning outside his home…no, mansion! It gave the whole place such a surreal feel! And the food! She couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to be his friend… to SHARE in all that goodness… to sit in his house… to bask in the light! To share the food!! She was fortunate that somebody had left a hole in the wall surrounding his home. In all the random twists of the tunnels it was a miracle she had stumbled upon it last night. Now if it could just be found again…
By time she arrived, after much backtracking, her mind was made up. She had decided she would dance for him. Old men like to watch dances. Everybody knew that. Her excitement was hard to contain! Surely his face would beam with joy and he’d just know in his heart that here was someone who would make a good friend. He’d confide everything with her, thrilled that he wouldn’t have to talk to himself like she saw him doing yesterday. Her face was radiant with anticipation as she came to his place. She would be a star!
It was a failure. She was a failure. He took one look at her and roared like some half mad animal! Scared and humiliated, she had dashed away, darting through the hole in the wall, and quickly loosing herself in the twists and turns beyond. Obviously her dance didn’t please. What was she thinking! Dancing was so stupid! And that noise he had made! Horrible. No wonder he didn’t have friends! She decided then and there that she didn’t care to be his friend. He could eat all his filthy food all by himself!
…But he had food! And a mansion. And cool torches that never seemed to go out. And she had so…very… little. She soon found herself slinking back. Once more watching from a distance, watching him eat his food in solitude, watching him looking out his parlor window while talking to himself, watching him in his solitude while she sat in hers… hungry.
Finally she resolved to try again. This time she would be brave! Old men respected those who were brave and wouldn’t back down. She would show him that she was thus.
She stalked out into his presence and stood there, silently, eyeing him. He sat there, eyeing her back. Then his hand casually moved for his empty bowl. She fled. Everybody knew what that meant!
Maybe she should just steal from him. That’s what everybody else did. They stole from people. Even she had on occasion. You got your food any which way they could… and some also died for it. There was one truth in life. The poor always lived in fear of the rich. But there had to be another way, a better way. No, she would befriend this man. Once he was her friend she’d never have to fear him again, and all he had would be hers. What were friends for if not to benefit from?
Over the next few weeks she tried everything she could think of. Prancing. Singing. Marching. Playing dead. She even learned to wiggle her nose! And she survived a lot of thrown bowls.
She had to admit it. This mean old man was not going to crack. Then a thought struck her. Maybe he was alone because he didn’t WANT friends! Maybe he was just so mean and angry and nasty that nobody could stand to be around him!
But that couldn’t be right. Hadn’t she seen him looking out his window with longing? Even with a feast for a meal didn’t he sit there in quiet misery, as if something in his life was missing…something that could only be filled by someone else? She thought about these things as she traveled through the tunnels toward his place that evening. When she came around that last corner she saw him looking out his great parlor window and crying, crying the tears of one who was friendless and alone. Her eyes began to moisten. Nobody should ever be alone like that. Nobody deserved to be friendless, no matter who they were or what they had done. His loneliness echoed inside her and she felt something break within.
She…cared…for him. Suddenly she found herself running towards him, flying on noiseless feet. He was on his knees, crying in anguish, and she went right up… and placed a tiny kiss on his cheek.
He jerked back in surprise. His eyes grew wide in shock…and anger. Spite and malice flashed across his face, and then that face broke. Tears fell once more, and then he reached his hand out gently towards her. This could be the death of her, but she decided to risk it all, to risk her very life, and let him draw her to him, eyes wide, nervousness causing her body to shake.
He smiled, a soft, sweet golden smile, and that smile put all her fears to rest. He rubbed his index finger back and forth on her head and said, “You’re a persistent little mouse aren’t you. Look at me, bemoaning my state, trapped in this dungeon prison all alone, with nothing but a torch to keep me company and a tiny little window to let in some light. But the good Lord saw my misery, and sent me a comfortor.” He laughed in amusement. “I took my sweet time figuring it out didn’t I?”
She squeaked in excitement! She had a friend! A TRUE friend! And she would get to share in that great mound of food he got three times a day!