nothing of value

Her expression is empty. It always is.

Holding that old crutch of hers, she walks slowly. She tries to look miserable too. But that isn’t really hard with those exposed and broken legs of hers.

“A cripple has nothing valuable to lose,” her father says, before burning her.  He says it, before  he  breaks her ankle and knee.  First on the right side, then the left.

    Her stretched out palm seems to be calmly begging. She avoids to look at the faces. People are easily annoyed. No eye contact, she has been told. That is important.

    „There is nothing to see,” she tells herself. Although… There is something worth looking at, maybe even staring at.

She has seen it so many times. It makes her want to puke, right on the shoes of everyone around. That something she refuses to acknowledge: disgust, mixed with pity. What a hateful thing to show her! The pang of regret she can handle, maybe the glow of relief in their eyes too.

Truly, she hates the naked gladness, she can recognize in their faces. The ease, that they do not have to share her fate; the ease, when she hobbles away.

„There is nothing important to see.“ She won’t bother. She won’t look. She breathes in, then out.

    After three seconds of waiting, she turns to the next person. Still begging with her free hand. Repeating, carefully pronounced „danke schön” and the pleading „bitte hilfe“ the best she can. She has to concentrate to pronounce the german words in the proper order. No slurring, no biting off syllables, no hastily spoken vocals. Anna, her best friend, has taught her those phrases, in the strange barking language.

    The Metro shakes violently, nearly throwing her off balance. A big hand grabs her under her armpit. It pulls her up. She doesn’t dare to move. She doesn’t dare to look. The grip tightens.

It is her guard, pulling her on her feet. He is an obese man, speaking her language, and strong enough to beat her to death. In fact, he is guarding the money, not her.

He keeps leaning on her other crutch. Naturally, he doesn’t need it, but uses it as  weapon and tool. He scratches his back with it, beats stray dogs and homeless people, beats her too. He reeks of sweat and onions. Disgusting. Her aversion grows each day. It is enough to observe him eat and drink, which he does, as often as he can. The guard keeps behaving like a pig, wasting her cripple money.

    The only good thing about being crippled is, that you have nothing of value to lose. She keeps telling herself, sometimes with her father’s voice.

    She is happy about one thing though, one thing her father freed her from. Men are disgusted by her look, and her burnt legs and back. Not one of them would touch her, not even drunk. No one would ever bother her in bed. She counts on that.

    From time to time she dreams of her home and family. She dreams, that she is back in their hut, near the abandoned dump, at the edge of an overgrown garden. Mother makes fire outside and smoke billows inside. She sits in her plastic chair, prepares potatoes and other vegetables for lunch. Her brothers play cards or sword fight, or chase each other in the one room they all have to share.

    This is where the dream takes a bad turn.

    Her father comes home, with two guests. One of them is her uncle, the other a stranger. A friendly man, with a pot belly and a big golden watch on his wrist. He is smiling a lot, winks at her. The men talk a bit before entering. The stranger is the only one sober. „You don’t need to clean those potatoes anymore,” he says warmly. „We are going on a journey now, an adventure!“ She hears her mother arguing outside. Her father screams at her, to know her place. She can hear a short loud slapping sound, then sobbing. How furious she was at her father… He was hitting mother again.

„You know.“ The man squats down beside her, looks at her knowingly. „You are a smart girl, I see that now. You are ten, aren’t you?“ She nods. „If you come with me, you will make money. A lot of money, more than you can imagine. You can do with it, what you want. Maybe send it home to your mother. So she doesn’t have to work so hard.“ The stranger’s eyes lock on hers.

    She nods again. Mother needs help, he is right about that. She knows it. So the best thing she can do in her state, is going with him. Earning money is a dream. He even helps her into his car, buckles her up. Then she turns around to look for her mother. She wants to wave her  good-bye. She’s nowhere. In the entrance of their hut, her father and uncle smile and wave at her. She wakes up sweating and crying.     

    Where was her mother? She doesn’t know.

    What became of her brothers? She doesn’t know.

    What happens with her, when she gets older?

That is not important. A cripple has nothing valuable to lose.

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