His heart pounded as though it was going to jump right out of his chest. Fear of what the woman chasing him might do to him if she caught him, caused an excess of adrenaline to pump throughout his body, giving him an extra burst of speed as he fled from her. Holding the woman’s purse tightly to his chest, Tony darted between cars in the oncoming traffic, narrowly escaping certain death had the drivers not been alert, slamming on their brakes in the nick of time.
Darting through one alley after another, and in and out of doorways, Tony tried to lose his pursuer, but she was relentless, refusing to give up. “Why doesn’t she just stop and leave me alone?” he thought desperately, as he hid behind some trashcans and searched through her purse. He reached inside, then pulled a tube of red lipstick out. He tossed it aside like unwanted refuse, before reaching inside to pull another item out. All of the makeup found in the purse was quickly thrown on the ground, as Tony pulled out the woman’s wallet, filled with money and credit cards, quickly looking into each compartment, before throwing it down with the other items. Tony quietly stole a peek around the trash cans to see if the coast was clear, all the while, running his fingers through the purse until he finally grasped it, in the nick of time, as he heard the woman screaming, “Little boy! Where are you?” then the sound of her feet pounding on the pavement. Drawing in a deep breath, Tony dropped her purse to the ground, beside the woman’s other belongings, and as he held his treasure tightly in his right hand, he ran as fast as he could toward his “home,” a cardboard shelter in a ditch between the dumpsters of a local fast food restaurant.
After entering his shelter, Tony crawled around inside, moving things around and searching until he found a small tablet. As his left hand grasped the tablet, Tony sat back on his haunches, grinning broadly as he opened the tablet and began writing with his newest treasure, a beautiful red ink pen, which left a trail of black ink in its wake. Carefully, Tony looked at the letters written by the previous owner of the tablet and painstakingly tried to copy them, determined to learn how to read and write somehow, hoping that if he could just copy the letters good enough, he would learn to read and write by osmosis.
He was so intent on his study that he never heard the woman as she stopped and knelt down by his shelter, peering through the box’s opening at him and queried, “My pen was all you wanted?” Tony looked at her warily, fearfully weighing their situation, then quickly determining there was no way for him to escape, as she was blocking the only exit to his home. He fearfully backed up as far as possible from the woman, extending her pen to her with tears streaming down his face.
“No,” she said softly, as tears ran down her cheeks too, “you can keep it. My name is Mandy. Is this your home?” Tony nodded cautiously. “I don’t want to hurt you,” she continued. “You can keep the pen, okay? Why did you take my pen and leave everything else? There’s more than $100 in that purse, why didn’t you take that?”
Nervously, Tony replied, “Thank you Miss. I-I’m Tony. I didn’t need the money. I just needed the pen, so I can learn to read and write.”
“I see,” Mandy responded. “Are you alone? Or do you have a family?”
“I don’t have anyone,” Tony replied flatly. “It’s just me.”
“Tony,” Mandy said softly. “Would you like to live in a house and go to school and learn to read and write?” With eyes as wide as saucers, Tony nodded, and as Mandy held her hand out, he tenuously placed his small hand in hers. Then, the two of them walked away from Tony’s cardboard shelter forever.
Although Mandy had planned on having the little juvenile delinquent arrested when he stole her purse, something had changed when she met him. Through the clarity of retrospect, the obvious conclusion surfaced: things don’t always turn out as planned.
Cheryl A. Showers