Wednesday, January 4, 2012

THE LITTLE MATCH BOY ~~~~ a re-telling of H.C. Andersen's poignant tale part XII

It was quiet on that little side street. A few cats wandered through leaving paw prints in the light, dry, snowy powder. The rats weren't around. Too cold for them. Steamy sewers are better. A doxie strolled through with an imperial guardsman.  But she saw the children sleeping there and considerately decided on another site.

The little boy carefully folded the cookie bag  and put it down inside his coat. If he slipped each hand into the opposite sleeve like a mandarin that would be all right. Then they'd be warm. He still had the sweater, a cap and two scarves. He knew about using newspapers for insulation. All street people knew that. A folded-up cardboard box made a pillow. He'd survive...for that night anyway. So he slept. Visions of  buttered bread danced in his head.

The little girl, under the table across from him slept too. And the other children, encamped nearby did the same. Peace descended on the place. Every quarter hour the church bells chimed. The world stood still and rested. 

But sometime during the night, between the waning of the moon and the first pale weeping light, an old woman walked through the place. She saw the little girl and quickly motioned with her hand. Two big men silently padded up. She pointed down at the sleeping child and stepped aside. One of the men silently got down and scooped her up. She never even opened her eyes. The old crone stroked her smooth, white cheek. Then she nodded her head and scratched out a rough dry chuckle.  Fifteen heartbeats later they were gone. And the little boy, too afraid to move, saw it all. Why did he wake  up? Who knows? But he did. When it was safe he soundlessly crawled over and took the wicker tray back to his side. Then he crossed his legs and silently counted the match boxes. There were ninety of them, priced at two pfennig a box. 

He hoped the old woman was the little girl's babicka. She looked more than old enough to be a grandmother. Yet he felt she was not. So he stuffed himself back into a corner (with the tray close behind) and stared at her empty place. Then he broke off a piece of cookie and ate it. But he did not fall back asleep all night........


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