Saturday, September 3, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday (Cycle 47) Bright Eyes




Flash Fiction Friday Prompt-Look at the photo, look into the child’s eyes. Some children are lost before they have even started living. Some children are a throw-away commodity like a burger box that’s left to blow down the street in the wind and rain.
Genre – open
Length – 700 words
Topic – look at the photo, look into the child’s eyes.
Deadline – Wednesday September 7th at Midnight EST. The stories post will go up Thursday morning.


(Author's note: This is a true story.)


After working my part-time pizza delivery job for a little over six months, I had come close to hating the aroma drifting out of the tightly packed insulated carrying bags located on the backseat of my car. Even worse, while I had been on the clock making deliveries for close to four hours since getting off work from my full time job I had less than twenty dollars in tips to show for my efforts, not really enough to cover the cost of the gas I had used driving around.

The section of town I found myself driving through offered no hope that I would hit the jackpot with a customer serving up an above average tip. The streets were lined with the type of cheap but rundown houses people reside in when their lives have not lived up to the popular but largely delusional belief Americans cling to about the country being a land of boundless opportunity. My ultimate destination was especially bad with huge patches of paint crumbling from rotten wood walls and makeshift cardboard patches covering busted windows.

Out of all the months of playing delivery boy I had never felt nervous walking up to a door, but this time the hairs on the back of my neck were standing straight up, namely from the odd chemical odor I could tell was coming from the house. After learning the doorbell did not work, I respectfully knocked on the door several times trying to get the attention of those inside. Just when I breathed a sigh of relief at the lack of a response and was about to turn around and leave the door opened and I was greeted by the cutest African-American girl whom I guessed was about six years-old, the same age as my own daughter at that time.

“Did you bring the pizza?” She asked with a dazzling smile and bright eyes that could have cheered up the dead, and given the person that showed up a minute later I believe that was the case. The adult male that now stood in the doorway looked like a real-life version of an undead zombie. While African-American, his skin had a visible gray pallor and was so loose it appeared to be struggling to stay attached to his hideously underweight frame. Adding to the effect, his soulless eyes reminded me of a clothing store mannequin.

“Sir, I have the pizza you ordered.” I said after several seconds of watching the zombie standing in the doorway saying nothing.

Some semblance of sentience appeared briefly after that with him mumbling, “Oh yeah, I’ll go find some money.”

After he disappeared back inside, I was left looking at the little girl and dealing with the overpowering chemical stench now pouring out of the house. She was now sitting on the floor with crayons and a coloring book obviously to the smell that was almost making me gag.

“How much money do you need?” She asked looking at me with innocent eyes that made me more uncomfortable than the chemical smell.

“About eight-dollars,” I replied absentmindedly, which caused her to flip the coloring book to a blank page and begin drawing intently. It took several minutes, which was no problem since the zombie had yet to return, but she eventually showed me her work. It was a crude drawing of various dollar bills and coins very roughly adding up to eight dollars.

“Do you like it? I colored all the money, even the coins.” She said visibly proud of her efforts.

“Yeah sweetie, it’s perfect.” I said feeling a growing sense of dread. Given what I was seeing and smelled I was worried that zombie dude was not going to show up and that the pizza was suppose to be her dinner. Feeling both disgusted at the adults in that precious girl's life and powerless to do anything about it I just gave her the pizza free of charge, walked back to my car, and drove away.

***

About a month later, I made a delivery to a different house in the same neighborhood. On the way back out I rode by that house and saw that it had burned completely to the ground leaving nothing but the foundation.

27 comments:

Adam said...

What a harrowing tale. Poor kid. As chilling as it was I thought you conveyed the story well. Good job.

Beach Bum said...

No problem about the extra comments, Blogger has repeated on me many times.

Thanks!

Mike said...

Breaks my heart that this is not only a true story but one that is very common in this "Land of Opportunity".
This was well written Bum, Thanks for sharing it with us.

Windsmoke. said...

Well written tale on drug abuse or use and the problems it throws up especially for the innocent children :-).

Cloudia said...

foreboding



Aloha from Waikiki;


Comfort Spiral

> < } } ( ° >

mjunta said...

good post

Beach Bum said...

Adam; Because of the word limit and my honest attempt to stay as close to it as possible what I left out of the story is almost as important as the story itself.

This story happened around the 2005-06 time frame during what is called a "rough patch" in my marriage with my wife. I was serious just getting by on a daily basis with only my sense of duty to my children keeping me from leaving.

After I left that house I seriously thought about reporting what I smelled to the police but after talking about the situation with the pizza store manager I felt I frankly could not deal with the added weight of that responsibility on my shoulders.

Frankly I had no idea what the chemical smell coming from that house was, for all I knew it could have been their attempt at a massive cleaning. Plus, I smelled it just after getting out of my car so the neighbors and any passing cops had would have as well.

Long story short after seeing the house had burned down I very much wish I had reported the place to the police, but that is a sin almost everyone is guilty of doing.

Mike: Yeah, it bugs the living shit out of me to hear conservatives speak religiously about how America is the place of limitless opportunity. I have known hundreds of people who have busted their asses for decades figuring all their hard work and faith would ultimately payoff in the end. I could write a blog just from those stories alone.

Windsmoke: What we do to children here in America while worshiping free market capitalism is almost as big a sin as slavery.

Cloudia: Thank you!

Mjunta: Thank you!

Ranch Chimp said...

Mornin Bum! Odd chemical smell and pale daddy zombified, eh? Well, I think I know what that is about, but I wont elaborate here. That reality you experienced Bum ... is widely saturated throughout urban America, and most folk's dont get to see and experience it actually, and most would not want to. Nothing from me further, except to tell you "good posting Guy" ....

Beach Bum said...

Ranch: Thanks buddy! You know it does puzzle me greatly at how such houses are often common knowledge but the cops often leave them alone.

Akelamalu said...

I was on the edge of my seat to the very last word! :0

Ingrid Hardy said...

Oh, how awful it must have been to see the house burned down... What happened to that little girl, is she ok, does she have enough to eat...

John Myste said...

I have written quite a bit of fiction and creative non fiction, but nothing like this, simply yet moving and very effective.

The one change I would have made was that I would have left the last line out, as it is more interpretative and the prior line would have been more powerful on the end.

Beach Bum said...

Akelamalu: This is something I have wanted to write about for a long time, but never could get the words started.

Ingrid Hardy: I have no idea, I looked for a mention of the fire in the local newspaper but nothing was ever said about it.

John: Damn good point about the last line!

John Myste said...

I like the fact that you changed the last line, but now anyone reading my former comment will think I am absolutely insane.

Dave Dubya said...

This kind of horror story is all too common. Good for you to feed the child. There was litte else you could have done.

Distributorcap said...

whoa - some story and how awful....

i should stick to the suburbia stories

Glen said...

all the more chilling for its truth. Life is a very strange bugger sometimes

Elliot MacLeod-Michael said...

Very vivid picture you painted us here. Glad for the short time I was delivering pizzas it was not to areas such as this.

Pixel Peeper said...

I can see why this brief episode in your life stuck with you. Some moments just grip you and make a lasting impression.

Great retelling of such a moment!

goatman said...

That job sucks! When I was delivering pizzas I was paid by the hour and could keep tips. Of course it was my own car and it smelled of Sterno for years after.

John McElveen said...

WRITE on BROTHER! Powerful and oh so true!

Dang!!!!!!! Great!

J

lime said...

oh god, and her eyes haunt you still i only hope she got out safely.

Thomas Pluck said...

Really rough true tale. I saw similar when I delivered for a pharmacy, kids of Rx-pill addicts.

McDroll said...

Thanks Beach Bum for this story. It raises lots of interesting questions about our moral duty and how often we turn our heads away - we are all guilty of this, it was very brave and honest of you to write about your experience. Thank you very much for joining the challenge. xx

Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw said...

Suffer the children...

I appreciate the honesty and candor in your writing.

David Barber said...

A powerful write, Ron. A harrowing true story that will say with me. Well done, my friend.

Apologies for my absence of late. I'm still reading even if I don't leave that many comments. I've not forgot about your story either. Will be in touch asap.

Hope you and your family are well!

Joyce said...

Unfortunately, one cannot save all the children, but for a brief moment, you 'saved' her. We have all looked back, having seen children in peril, and thought, I should have done..., I should have said something to..., perhaps they would have..., but we all know nothing would have changed. Not really. Thanks for sharing such a painful memory. You did right by her, after all.