It rained the night before making puddles that soak my feet. My shoes had already fallen apart and the bottom of my money jar was visible from all sides. I am broke. Completely broke. I sigh and place my hands into my plaid jacket. My right pocket holds the bread that I am supposed to give to Ms. Looker, I finger it hungrily. It has been three weeks since I have tasted the sweet flavor of Mr. Wells homemade bread. Every week the money that I scrape up will always go into a bread for Ms. Looker who can not work on her own. She had been Mama’s friend for as long as I can remember and I could never live knowing she had starved to death. The three dollars that I make from sweeping the grocery deck can only pay for a single loaf of bread but Ms. Looker didn’t need to know that. I knew how hungry she always is so I fasten my steps down the squishy dirt road. The houses that I pass every week to her house look different this evening. Shadows from their sides cascade down onto the street making it feel even gloomier. I hear a dog barking and the low voice of a mother singing their child to sleep. The smell of smoke from a cigarette is also in the air and I cover my mouth, coughing.
I round the corner and I see her house with the single lantern hanging from the porch signifying she is home. Good, I didn’t go black. I think, amazed. I race to her door and give it a knock. Footsteps sound from inside and the door soon opens revealing Ms. Looker. Her stature is exactly the opposite of mine. She is small and only comes to my shoulders. Her eyes are a shade of brown when mine are a deep emerald. Her straight golden hair is placed into a tight bun when my dirty brown hair is cut short like a man’s. However, even with our differences, she is the only person able to understand me. One of my top traits is telling a lie. I’m an excellent lie teller and can get anything by anyone but Ms. Looker who can never be fooled. The first time I tried to tell her a lie was the day bringing her a loaf of bread became a tradition. I had been sitting on Mr. Wells porch steps three days after the accident and Ms. Looker was passing by. She looked at me for a second or two sweeping up and down my wiry frame until she looked me clear in the eyes and said. ” You are hungry.” I knew Ms. Looker like I said before she and my mother were the best of friends but I had never felt very close to her myself. She was always that witch in the alley that mother and I visited four times a month. Where mother and she would chat the day away and I would sit in a corner dreaming of a better life. Dreaming was foolish, I know that now for dreams are thoughts of a good life when nightmares are the reality. Anyways, on this day as she said “You are hungry,” stating it as a fact, lava began to boil in my chest and an eruption of lies flew out as easy as butter is spread on bread.
“Oh no ma’am, I am not hungry. I am never hungry. You must be mistaken in saying that this body is relishing food when indeed I am only in need of nothing. A pair of glasses could be helpful, for your eyes must be deceiving you.” I said with one gust of air. The only con about telling a lie is that it is exhausting. However, in this case, that was not the only false mark. Ms. Looker gave me a sharp look and sprouted, much like I.
“I thought your mother taught you better. Not to lie to an elder or to nobody in fact. Not to call women blind when indeed they are not. Not to say that God was wrong showing us to eat food and take care of our body that is the temple of the Holy Spirit.” she had rambled on for longer than my ears or brain can remember but what I do remember is agreeing to buy two loaves of bread and delivering one to her and eating the other myself. This became our tradition of taking her the single loaf of bread every week.
Now here I was, standing on her porch steps in front of her holding the single and only loaf of bread bought from Mr. Wells bakery shop. That is the only lie I have ever gotten past her.
“Oh, good you came, Addy. I have already started the oven to warm the bread. Come in, child.” She says opening the door. I step through into the pleasantly warm room that fits her kitchen, living room, and bedroom. There is barely enough room to move around but it is cozy and much warmer than the streets. I take a seat on the wooden chair in the corner near her black oven. Her brown tablecloth that covers the table blends in with the hundred of other brown objects in the room. The brown quilt on the wooden bed, the brown countertop with the brown dishes. The brown walls that lay perpendicular with the brown dirt floor. Last of all, the brown clothes of both Ms. Looker and I make it seem as though we are part of the room itself. That is why Ms. Looker keeps her golden locks in a tight bun hidden behind a brown hat to keep away odd looks. How unfortunate Ms. Looker is to have a name like that and not want to be looked at. I watch as she places the loaf of bread into the oven and sits on the other wooden chair opposite mine. “So, how was your walk over, child?” she asks. She always asks this question due to her short memory and I always respond the same.
“Quite well, thank you for asking.”
“Good to here, would you like some of my bread?”
“No, I am full from my loaf on the way here.” I lie. This is the same conversation we had last week and the week before and every other week before that. She continued in talking about the weather and how it was always gloomy and rainy. The same. She talked about how Pastor Key leaving the community and joining the Band of Brebbles. The same. She talked about the last shower that she took and how she ran out of shampoo. The same as every week. My eyes began to grow heavy and my ears began to mute until a single word caught my attention and my whole body was awake.
“Now your mother was a beautiful young lady. Did I ever tell you the first time I met your mother?”
“No.” I lie. She told me every time, however, this was one thing I could hear over and over. She never caught onto this lie and I was thankful for that.
“Your mother, like I said, was the most beautiful women this country has ever seen. Her fair hair was radiant in the sun and her eyes sparkled even in the gloomiest of days. Although this is a very small town, word grows quick and before she knew it a hundred men wanted to marry her, some not even from this country. Her father, your grandfather, Charles Leaf wanted to keep your mother safe so she sent her to me. Her father wanted her to leave her fine bed and her jewels and servants to live in a place not even worthy for street mice but Charles knew she would be safest here. Your mother, on the other hand, did not like that idea. She screamed and yelled, not wanted to go be a peasant. Your grandfather was split in two and could not decide what to do. Nonetheless, your mother arrived here on December 23, 3024. That was a glorious day. Finally, another girl came who had gold hair like me and dark almond eyes such as mine. Although, she didn’t want to come in the first place your mother became an amazing peasant and lived the part better than a child born here from birth. She cooked like a master and helped the sick daily. She served in soup kitchens and read the small children at church bible stories. She was such a caring child that this village was not the same when she left.” Ms. Looker pauses and looks into the oven. Her slouched shoulders tell me that the sad part of the story is arriving. I know it is, for I have heard this story over three hundred times but it never got old. She removes the bread from the oven with her brown oven mitt and sets it on the tablecloth. After slicing a piece for herself she takes a seat on her chair again. “So where was I?” I know exactly what to say for she always stops to take a break at this moment.
“You were going to talk about the day she left.” I repeat over to her.
“Oh yes,” she says, “that frightful day. Well, that day started like any other day. Birds sang in the rooftops and the early morning newsboy had already thrown his paper. Inside that paper, however, to this day still haunts me. Your mother picked it up that morning and was bringing it in reading until she said ‘Oh Margrit look here’. She showed me a picture of a group of men all sitting with instruments. It looked like a harmless page that announced that Duster Bowl Band was arriving tonight for a concert, it would have been if your mother hadn’t wanted to go. I still remember saying ‘now Laura, do you really care about music?’ but your mother was set on going. That night she left for the concert and I didn’t see her for another year and a half when she arrived on my doorstep shivering, bareboned caring a gift of love. You.” Ms. Looker stops her story at this point every time. I knew she was done with her part of the story because I usually ask about my father or what mother did in the year and a half she was gone but Ms. Looker never knew except that my father was apart of the band. The newspaper from that day had been burned to bits (Ms. Looker had said) because it carried too many regrets. I wonder what I would do if she had kept the newspaper. I wonder that every time. Even though the idea pops into my head every single week no answer ever follows.
“Thank you, Ms. Looker, but I must be going,” I say, like last week.
“Ok, come again next week and remember child you have the gift of your mothers. You are so kind and caring, don’t ever forget that.” She says, exactly like last week and watches me leave. Now standing with the door shut behind me and the open alley in front me, my heart begins to pump rapidly. It always does. The adrenaline of knowing my father is still out there always kicks in after she tells me the story but dies away when the thought of finding him seems impossible. But, what if, it wasn’t impossible? What if I found him? What would I do, what would I say? I shake my head to remove the thoughts from my mind. I thought the same thoughts last week and the week before that and would probably think them until I died. One day, I know, those thoughts in my mind will never be thought again and I will live in peace. Only two ways for that to happen.
Find him or die.