There was a crowd of people gathered under this pass as she approached, seeming to not only shelter from the rain, but appearing to be waiting for something.
“This bus is delayed…..supposedly the storm has flooded everything already,” she overheard people standing in line conversing.
The girl reached in her pocket and grasped the now soggy $20 in her pocket. It was money she made off of selling candy bars in school, but she decided to keep it. She would use it to take the bus to get home, because to ride a bicycle in this rain, would be like trying to swim against a tidal wave. Plus. She was lost.
She looked on the map for the bus route. The print was faded and hard to see. It actually didn’t look like they were all that far from home, maybe a few stops. She would wait.
There was a man with no teeth and a hacking cough pointing to a hand-made sign. He kept trying to speak.
“PPPPPPPPPPuppp,” cough. Cough. “Puuupppp.”
He was in the shadows of the underpass and she did not see him initially. She automatically motioned toward her brother as a reflex.
The man had hung up his sign poorly next to a board with advertisements. She eyed a poster for abused children.
“Puppies 4 Sale”
The man continued to point frantically at this sign.
The sign was barely noticeable against the loudly colored advertisements.
The Pit Bull puppies were all shoved into a clear glass encasement, like one of the planters she’d seen around the neighborhood. They looked sick and could not fend for themselves.
The girl leaned her bike against the cement wetness and pulled her brother forward to get a closer look at the puppies.
They looked like they were big enough to open their eyes, but chose not to. They were piled on top of each other in the encasement, and barely moved, like alligators.
Stuff like this made the girl sad, so she decided to seek another place to wait with her brother. Perhaps there was an indoors somewhere.
She had pedaled for hours, and now this rain. Her legs were soar. She was used to tolerating pain, but not the uncomfortable feeling of her wet clothes clinging to her shivering body. They would be a sight when they got home. If they ever got there.
Her mother would beat them both, surely. Most likely to be slurring her words and swearing, and demanding to know where they were. And the girl wouldn’t be able to tell her specifically, because today, they were all over. All she knew now, was they had winded up in Black Creek Park.
But as the day turned to dusk, and the sky darkened a little, her mother most likely had passed out by now, and would forget they were even gone tomorrow. She would forget everything.
“Is that what this stinky liquid makes you do? Forget?” she asked herself aloud one time.
It turned you into a monster, she knew that. So she vowed never to touch it. But one time, her mother beat her so bad, she was hoping to forget. The bruises and lacerations would remind her later, but as of then, to forget would have been nice. She had learned to displace herself from the beatings. Leaving her body almost, as if she was watching another girl get beaten, a stronger girl, one who was unable to feel pain. That other girl was a protector, for herself and her brother.