A Child’s hunger for hope
“Can you keep going for another while Liam?”
He raises his head and it slumps back, to stare once more at the dirt of the road. She takes this as a yes and keeps going. Words use too much of the small amount of life left inside of them. Her hair hangs limply reaching for the ground. Her head is too heavy for her to hold up.
The twilight is fading to night, another day further from their home, another day closer to no where, for there is no where to go. There is no rainbow to slide down to find a slice of bread, not to mind a pot of gold. Yet still they continue on, like all the rest, shuffling from one place of hunger to another. The eternal hope of their hearts being bleed dry by the road as it stretches out ahead of them. Each mile takes its toll from their gaunt bodies and minds. The heartbreak, of leaving their mother in her bed to lie alone for ever, grows in their hearts, threatening to spread out and consume them. The priest hadn’t opened the door when they knocked.
“I have the sickness children” he had called out from behind the wooden door.
“But our mammy is dead Father, what are we to do?”
His sobs took another bite out of their hope as they listened to him crying behind the door.
“There are no men to dig a grave children”
She had caught him by the hand and taken him back to the bedroom where she brushed her mothers beautiful red hair and washed her face and then as the corpse lay in the bed with her hands joined together in an eternal prayer for salvation they set off on their journey.
The water of the stream cooled their weary feet. They starred up at the moon afraid to move.
“I think mammy is up there with daddy side by side just like us, watching and waiting for us Lizzie”
He moved his eyes and he saw that his sister was sleeping. Her pale skin translucent in the moon light. He wondered had she gone to heaven, as sleep took him away from the pain of his empty stomach for a time.
“Liam wake up, look what I found”
In her hands were berries. She put one in his mouth. An explosion of taste hit him and he stood up and fought to keep inside that which was so hard to find, his stomach rebelling against the foreign feeling of something been fed to it.
Their hands were purple after they had eaten as much of them as they could find.
“My face feels funny Lizzie”
“Its just you are smiling Liam, it always feels funny when you do something you haven’t done in a long time.”
The water from the stream tasted better than last night and they felt for a moment that perhaps they could fight on against this famine, as they put one foot in front of another along the gravel road once more.
They only saw the cottage when it was beside them, their heads cast too low to notice anything but the distance they were going. She saw the look of hope in his face.
“Its too dangerous Liam, they might have the sickness”
She stood watching him, too weak to stop him, as his tiny hands knocked on the door.
A child’s voice cried out
“We have the plague, move along”
But the door creaked open in response to Liam’s sobs.
A boy stood looking at them, his hunger as evident as theirs. His eyes sunken into his head were glazed over as he joined them as he also leaves behind his lost family, just as thousands of other orphans that year. All three joined in one hope all heading for nowhere with everyone else on the roads of a country of forgotten people..
© Frank McGivney 20 January, 2014