The Bended Tree

An excerpt from the novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo.

We arrived in Altoona early the next morning and piled off the train just as we had the day before. There were only a handful of children left and Mrs. Crandall said this was their last stop before returning to Chicago.

Miss Tanner helped us into our change of clothes and wiped our faces and combed our hair. We marched to the Lutheran Church, where there was a mass of people waiting in the pews. There were far more people looking for children than there were of us. I hoped this meant I’d find someone to take me home.

After Mr. Brandon introduced us and we sang our song (which I had memorized on the train before sleep), the people milled about, examining us as they had done before. A very large man with a tiny, cheerless wife came and examined me.

“Whaddya think? He’s small, but I think he’ll do,” said the man.

“He looks alright,” said the woman who appeared to have a permanent frown.

“You ever worked a farm, boy?” the man asked me.

“No, sir. But I worked a pug mill and I’m stronger than I look.”

He stood and looked at me for a several moments.

“Fine. You’ll do,” he finally said. He called over Mr. Brandon and said he’d like to take me home.

As they signed some papers, I saw Jack leaving with a couple, also. I waved to him from across the room. He turned and waved back as the church doors swung open and he disappeared into the daylight.

Mr. Brandon introduced me and the man said I could call them Mr. and Mrs. Jansen. I followed behind as they walked to their team and wagon outside. I got into the wagon as Mr. and Mrs. Jansen climbed into the front seat. I bounced around in the back during the eight mile drive to their farm. None of us said a word.

When we arrived it was time for supper. Mrs. Jansen showed me to my room, a tiny closet with a mattress on the floor. At least it was a clean mattress, I thought. I hoped there were no rats like the orphan home. There was a table with an oil lamp and some blankets on the bed.

At supper the Jansens didn’t talk much. They said they never had any children, which they were fine with, but now that they were getting up in age they needed help on the farm. That’s why they decided to get themselves an orphan. They told me they figured they’d give me a bed, a warm place to stay and food.

“It’s got to be better than the bastard life you been livin’!” said Mr. Jansen, clearly amused.

“I’m not a bastard,” I said under my breath, “sir.”

Mr. Jansen snapped his head and looked at me, fuming. “What’s that?” he said, his eyes boring a hole in my head.

“Nothing, sir,” I mumbled.

“That’s what I thought,” he leaned back in his chair. I looked at Mrs. Jansen and she only frowned at me. I realized at that moment the Jansens didn’t want a son. They wanted a slave.

When I climbed into bed after supper, it seemed clear to me this would be my home from now on. Then it hit like a flash. I had left everything behind. My friends, my family, they were all gone.

When I blew out the oil lamp that night, I never felt more alone.

*

Everything on this blog is property of Kathan Lewis and Kathan Ink. 
© Kathan Lewis 2010.

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© Kathan Ink 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kathan Ink, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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