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Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction

The following is a piece of writing submitted by Janee on September 15, 2008


When I awoke this morning, the tattered orange blanket covering our doorway was flapping madly in the bitter wind that blows down off Andes and across our sprawling, ugly neighborhood. Three of the children are sick this morning; they are lying on cots in one corner of our home while the others, wanting to stay warm, are huddled together in the corner furthest from the door.

Miguel is working for a bricklayer, but the work is unpredictable, and the pay is even more so. In this neighborhood, no one can afford a carpenter, and homes are constructed by pirating materials from vacant homes. Bricks, beams, sheet metal or tar paper to tack across rafters, and - for the lucky ones - a door or two.

Since there is no work here, Miguel's boss takes him over the long, dry plains to the big city where they will work for three weeks, possibly four or five. I don't know how long he will stay, but one day, when I have nearly given up hope of seeing him, I will hear him calling a farewell to his boss and then he will push aside that ratty blanket, and join us once again.

In the meantime, I do my best to comfort the children who are sick. The oldest one, Maresol, tries to smile when I speak to her, and the toothless gap on her upper gum makes her smile look weak, pathetic and unconvincing. Arturo is just a baby still, and when he is sick - which is more often than not - he doesn't yet know how to do or say anything but wail. The rest of us try to ignore the sound, but in a single room hovel that houses seven children, such things are not easily avoided.

Dimas - he is such a good boy - comes forward from the back corner of the house and asks what he can do to help. I hand him a bucket and ask him to go to the well and bring us back water. It is early enough in the day that he will do as he is told, and quickly, because he will want to return to the relative warmth of our home. Later on in the day, when the sun begins warming the land, he will not do so well. He means well, but he is forgetful, and when I send him on another errand, he will see a friend, or get distracted by a wild creature, and that is the last I will see of him until his empty belly reminds him it is time to eat. Then I will see him, abashed, creeping back in, with his errand incomplete, but hoping for some rice or beans.

I will feed him, and I will forgive him, because he is my son, and he is a good boy, after all, even if he is a bit forgetful.

And now, after all this, knowing that today is just like yesterday, which is much as tomorrow will be, you ask me what my dream vacation would be. It is simply this: I think I would like to have just one day in the life that you are so desperately trying to get away from when you go on vacation.

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