Darion straightened up, wiping the sweat pouring down his brow with a grimy arm. He looked up and confirmed what he already knew – the sun, pale behind the ever gray clouds, was up above his head. It was hot, sticky hot. Rot rose in the air in a vaporous langour. Moisture trickled back down. Darion wrung his ragged sweat soaked clothes and flicked a fly that got caught inside.
The ground shifted as he sat to rest. He had been digging for scraps since early morning. All he wanted to do now was to run up and down the heaps with his friends. He squinted his eyes. There were only a few people in this side of the island. Many, including his playmates, flocked to the other side to check the refuse that was freshly dumped from the sea. He smiled when he saw a friend working not too far from him.
His voice was drowned by the buzzing of the flies and the roaring waves.
He picked up a rusted tin can and tossed it, relishing the clank that it made as it hit other debris on the ground. He tossed more in succession, each time aiming further than the last toss. He stopped when flies swarmed around him, forming a halo about his head. There was no discriminating between him and the ground he was on. He frantically waved his arms then gave up and found a new spot to sit on.
The sun was beating on his back. He was hungry. He reached for his sack and rummaged for the tin where he stored the crusty bread that he found earlier. After a brief struggle with the bread, coarse crumbs filled his mouth, sucking the last bits of moisture. But there was no water around, not in the dump, at least. He looked around but saw only the garbage covered hills and valleys of this place he called home. Valetta. He propped himself up on an arm and rose, bracing himself for more scavenging. Bandar was dragging his sack towards a new digging spot. Darion hollered at him, throwing a flying tin can in salute. Bandar responded in kind. The sea breeze carried his “Later!” and odiferous wind back to Darion.
He hoisted his sack over his shoulder and walked bent over as he surveyed the ground before him. He was stooped down to pick up a piece of broken china when, from the corner of his eye, he noticed a bright reflection not too far ahead, between him and Bandar. He walked fast towards the place, checking if his friend noticed it too. When he got to it, he knelt on the ground, his back against Bandar and the people who were coming back from the shore.
He removed the debris surrounding the reflection as fast as he could, excitement growing within him with each piece of debris that was removed. Finally, the shiny thing was free – a glass ball resting on a golden pedestal. The ball was caked with dirt but the metal base was clean enough to catch the sun. He lifted it up and wiped the glass with his shirt. He gasped when he beheld the little horse figures inside. He caressed the smooth red and green stones on the pedestal. He traced the wrought metal work on its edge. His eyes squinted at the light bouncing off the glass. His heart skipped. He had not seen anything this beautiful before.
Darion nearly jumped when he heard a voice on his shoulder.
“Bandar! I thought you were working.” Darion managed to say as he quickly tucked his find under his shirt. It was cool against his skin.
“What was the shiny thing in your hand?”
“Nothing. A piece of glass, that’s all.” Darion said as he tried to slip past his friend.
“Let me see! Let me see!”
“No, it’s mine!” He burst into a run, up and down the dump’s heaps and mounds. He ran and he ran until he reached the little hut where he and his grandfather lived.
The door scratched the ground as he opened it. “Darion, is that you?” A voice said from inside the dark room.
“You are early?”
“My sack was already full, Abuelo.” The contents settled when he put the sack down.
Darion went to the corner across from Abuelo and sprawled himself on the floor. He pulled out his loot and looked at it. He smiled at the bejeweled horses inside. He felt a button under the base and turned it. A melodious sound filled the room and the horses pranced inside the little world. Darion blinked his eyes when he saw images of big tall trees and castles passing by as the horses moved. Something stirred in his heart. He stared at the images until he was no longer in the dark steamy room. He was with the horses where the ground was green and grass tickled his feet.
A hand on his shoulder pulled him back.
“Where did you get that, Child?”
Darion hugged his globe close to him in response.
“You have to put that back wherever you got it. That is bad luck!”
“This is mine, Abuelo. I got it from the dump. It is mine!”
“Child, child. That does not belong here. Not in this house. Not in Valetta.”
“It is the best thing I ever had. It is mine!”
Abuelo turned Darion to look him in the eye.
“Listen to me. Put it away, my child.” He said urgently.
(HOPEFULLY, WILL BE CONTINUED) 🙂