This is just a little piece I wrote for Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press. I had originally planned it to go a different way but then as I wrote it, it sort of morphed into something else. I am not 100% happy with the ending but I will post it as a work in progress and consider it a practice piece. It amazes me that sometimes I can’t write the piece I want and that the piece writes itself instead.
Isa folded the muddied cardboard around her head to shield herself from the drips falling from the bridge overhead. Her clothing was soaked through. She shivered uncontrollably as her body tried to take control of the situation and warm her up. Her tears flowed as freely as the rain. Happy birthday, she mumbled as she tried to get to sleep.
“Hey you there girl, wake up.” She felt something prodding her.
Through the eye that wasn’t too swollen to open Isa saw the end of an umbrella thrusting itself towards her. She followed the black folds of the fabric up to the handle. Wrinkled hands covered in age spots grasped the offending weapon. As she cast her sight further up, she found her attacker to be a white bearded old man.
“Leave me alone.” She mumbled tasting a rich iron flavour in her mouth. Her tongue prodded at the spot where the teeth had once been. The jagged sharpness told her part of one was still there.
“Come on girl, get up now, we haven’t got all day.” He said in a mocking singsong sort of way.
As Isa sat up her face began to throb. “What time is it?” She asked, grateful there was still some darkness. She could not handle any bright light right now.
“It is the dawning of a new day and soon the birds will be telling us so.” The old man offered his umbrella to Isa.
“Who the hell are you?” She asked leaning on the umbrella until she managed to stand on her own.
“You can call me Michael.”
“Well then Michael where are you taking me?”
“Someplace warm, where you can eat a decent meal and get some rest.” His nose curled slightly as he looked down at Isa. “Perhaps even have a bath.”
Isa followed Michael up the slope he had parked his car just at the other end of the bridge. It was nothing fancy but it was warm and dry inside. She grimaced at the pain in her ribs as she twisted to put the seatbelt on.
“So are you a priest or something?” She asked as Michael pulled away from the kerb.
He chuckled at the suggestion. “No, I am nothing like that.”
They made their way through the lower part of the city. Crumbling buildings were overrun with whores and pushers. Isa lived that life herself until her life became worse.
As they entered the next part of the city, Isa recognised some of the buildings. Although the businesses had changed since she had worked around there, the buildings remained the same. She grimaced as they passed her last place of legal employment. She was sure Joe and his own version of a whore still worked there.
“I don’t want to go to the hospital.” Isa said tensing up as they neared the road the medical centre was on.
“I promise I will not make you go to the hospital.” Michael’s voice was gentle and reassuring.
A block of flats had been torn down on James Road. Isa tutted to herself. Her friend Libby used to live in those flats. She spent many a night at Libby’s place when they were in college. Those were some good times, Isa thought to herself. It was Libby who was there for her the night she got the call about her parent’s crash.
“Are we going to the shelter on Oak Street?” Isa had volunteered there one summer it had not been too far from where Libby had lived.
“No, I won’t be taking you to that place.”
The sun began to rise. There was an orange glow all around. They had nearly reached the end of the city and the suburbs were in sight. Isa began to shake. She had not seen the large park that separated the more populated area from the more subdued in at least ten years.
“Are you sure you are not a priest? I don’t want to go to Saint Paul’s.” Isa shuddered at the memories of all those poor recovering alcoholics her father would call in to visit on their way into church on a Sunday. They lived at the old convent house and her father had volunteered his time to look after their medical needs.
“I assure you, I am not a priest, and we are not going to Saint Pauls.”
Isa was rocking back and forth now. Her body could not get warm. The pain in her stomach was becoming unbearable. She closed her eyes to shut out the bright light that was coming from the sun straight ahead of them.
Finally, Michael stopped the car. Isa did not open her eyes just leaned back against the seat. “We are here now.” He said as he opened the door for her.
Isa opened her eyes and laughed. “Why have you brought me here?”
“I told you, it is a warm place where you can get something to eat.”
Isa had remembered her primary school had always served breakfast on the last Saturday of the month. Each class took turns being the servers. It was a way for them to raise money for school trips and such. She hadn’t realised it was a Saturday.
“I can’t go in there looking like this.”
“Don’t worry there is no one there who will be bothered by how you look.”
Isa followed Michael to the side door. She glanced over at the playground, it was exactly as she remembered it. Then he opened the door and gestured for her to go in.
Isa was reluctant but she had not had a decent meal in a couple days. She entered the corridor, it smelled just as she had remembered it, a mixture of melted crayons, chalk dust, and heat from the radiators.
“Isa, do you remember where your mother’s office was?”
Isa nodded, her mother had been the school nurse.
“I want you to go into her office. You can get washed up there.”
Isa nodded again. She headed slowly down the corridor. A bright light was at the end where the nurse’s office was. She looked back towards Michael. Something told her that her mother would be waiting for her on the other side of that door. Isa knew what was happening.
She shouted to Michael, “Go away Michael, I can’t go there.”
Michael looked at her in shock. “Isa, you will find peace there. You will no longer suffer. The struggle will be over for you.”
“You don’t understand Michael. I can’t go there.”
“Everyone is welcome in the light Isa. Your sins will be…” Michaels voice trailed off.
Isa’s face began to change. The pupil in her good eye turned red. Her posture straightened. Her teeth grew back.