Broken Birds


Through the glass door, he saw Angie running a vacuum and talking to a little girl with dark skin and long glossy curls who looked about Terry’s age. She wore a yellow apron over jeans and a white t-shirt and had her hair in a ponytail. Yesterday, she’d been dressed up and made up, but she looked even prettier like this. She looked really comfortable with the kid too. He grabbed the door and yanked. His fingers slipped off the handle. The nail on his middle finger snagged and sharp pain jabbed underneath.

“Son of a bitch.” He inspected the finger. The nail had torn down below the quick and was bleeding at the corner.

The door flew open, smacking him in the head.

“Ow.” He jerked back a step, reaching for the spot where he’d been hit. This was not the way he’d wanted to arrive.

The little girl Angie had been talking to clapped her hands over her mouth. “I’m sorry,” she wailed.

“Alan, what happened?”

“I was only trying to help.” The little girl grabbed Angie’s hand, her voice panicked. “You said he was your friend. I was only opening the door.”

“It’s okay, Jaz.” Angie patted the little girl with one hand while reaching out for Alan with the other. “What happened?”


For a brief time, I worked in a day care and it was the single most depressing job I ever had. The girl I based Jasmin on actually did live with her aunt because her mother had fooled around with the aunt’s husband to get pregnant, then the mother ODed and the husband/father went to jail. Another girl had the most terrific temper. It was some kind of chemical imbalance and when she lost it, she was dangerous. I could help her control the temper, but it was hard work that required me to be entirely focused on her and ignoring the other 11 kids in my care for the duration. Another girl was the oldest of three, but her younger siblings were to the current husband and her father wasn’t in the picture. She lived Cinderella. A three year old at the center bonded with me and would scream if I left the room and she wasn’t allowed to go with me. I had the 6-12 class, but I frequently had this one little girl along just to keep peace. This adorable doll-like child never spoke and rarely smiled. Her mother had been diagnosed schizophrenic shortly after the child’s birth. The parents lost the kids to foster care and they ended up being bounced from relative to relative. Her older brother, who was five at the time, never shut up. And then there was the day that one of the kids I considered average announced that her father had died the day before. He had abandoned the family years before and she didn’t know how to grieve for a man she didn’t know.

I tend to attract the broken birds when I teach, but this job had so many.

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