The saddest children’s story…

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WITHOUT PAPA

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Sometimes we passed a fancy house and I could picture Papa walking out of it. We would pass them on the street and my mind would wander away from whatever we were doing, wherever we were going.

“He wouldn’t do that, San,” Josie said, “He’d come out and invite us in. He’d bring us through the house and show him your room. Then we’d all go to the kitchen and have cake.”

Josie knew so much. I’m not sure how. His head was small so all of his brains must have been in his beard, or his long hair. His eyes twinkled when he said that. He’d turn away and we’d keep moving, on down the street, to wherever we were going.

I wasn’t sure exactly how long we’d been without Papa. It was long enough for me to forget the days, but short enough to remember his face, his words. I saw him when the sun began to set. My eyes would play tricks with me. I saw his grey beard, his bald head, his eyes. They were the softest pair of eyes I had ever seen.

Josie didn’t say much to me during the day. His eyes were tired and his legs wobbled. When we stopped at night he sat me down, crouched beside me, and made sure I was warm. We’d walked far and my eyes had weights on them. I fell asleep so quickly. I could feel him tucking me into the sheet, dropping my head on the pillow, and sometimes I could imagine it was Papa. Sometimes when he finished I was still awake. I could hear Josie beside me, coughing and spluttering in the cold. I was always asleep before I could ask him what he was doing.

In my dreams I was home. The village was bathed in sunlight. It was so different from here. I was playing outside with Jeremy, our dog. His fur was black and his eyes were golden, like the sun above us. Mama and Papa were inside, making dinner, talking together. In my dreams Papa had just gotten back from the city. He was sitting in his favourite chair, beside the burning fire. When I came in his face would light up with joy. He would shake me and throw me in the air, catching me with his warm hands. Even in my sleep I could feel his hands on my tummy, his words in my ear.

“How was your day, little one?”

And that’s where my dream ended. I woke up. The rain had seeped through the sheet.

“It’s okay, San. Morning has come. The sun is rising.” Josie was sitting beside me, holding out breakfast. I took a dry biscuit.

“Are we going to see Papa today?” It was my first question of everyday.

“I’m not sure.”

“God will help us, won’t He?”

“I’m not sure…” Papa told me to ask God, Jesus and Mary for as much as I could.

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