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This takes place like clockwork, every six months. Each time, a few months later, I give birth to another dead, frail or deformed baby that will not thrive or is destroyed by a gun blast as I watch in horror. After the last baby is thrown on a trash heap next to my cage in the backyard, I listen to my baby boy whimper his final breath. I tell him I love him and how sorry I am that I cannot save him. I tell him to let go as quickly as he can and I will see him in heaven.

Jason finally gives up after three years of this torture.

The day the last one of my babies dies, I hear the old woman ask, “So now what? She’s good fer nothin’. Can’t make anything that lives. What ya gonna do with her? Probably oughta just shoot her like all those dead babies she makes, but she be too big to put in the garbage like she deserves.”

Jason takes me to be sterilized that day and never touches me again. He never takes me to a doctor again either.

I am so lonely and filled with despair that I think I might be able to will myself to die, until the little girl moves in next door. I don’t trust her at first. I have never met a child before, but over time I see that we are becoming what I think I’ve heard people call friends. She brings me tasty treats and talks to me in a soft voice. She can see there is something wrong with my mouth. It’s been getting harder and harder for me to chew. There is so little that I can eat now, but the old woman keeps throwing hard bits in the food bowl. I cannot chew this and I’m losing weight. The girl sees this and brings me soft things that don’t hurt my mouth so much when I eat them.

One sunny afternoon in May, the girl comes to visit me. She quickly brings it to my attention that the old woman has, in her haste, failed to latch the wire door on my cage. Accidentally? Or on purpose? I spend one millisecond wondering and realize, who cares, I’m free. But I am afraid. Is this a trap? The girl coaxes me out of the cage. She encourages me to jump up on the large plastic storage bin. She tells me that if I push off hard enough I can make it over the fence. I have to try this several times, but I finally make it and the girl catches me just enough to break my fall. This is the first time I have ever felt the touch of human kindness. The girl wants me to come home with her, but I am too scared. I know I will never be safe this close to Jason’s house. Now that I am free, I know anything will be better than going back there. I thank her for her kindness and I run, and run, and run for what seems like miles.

As I have never had an opportunity to run before, I get winded quickly and find myself wandering around on the next street over. This is another part of the same dismal neighborhood, nearly as grim as the bleak area I just escaped.

Luckily for me, it’s the warm time of year. Slowing down to catch my breath, I cautiously explore the area. I keep thinking I hear footsteps chasing me, and I look over my shoulder every few minutes only to find it’s a stray lizard or nosy squirrel.  The warm afternoon turns into evening as the bright blue sky changes to crimson and indigo. I finally find shelter for the night in a woody area, under the safety of a sprawling Scrub Oak tree far away from the main street. I curl up and go to sleep as a free spirit for the first time in my life.


We hope you have enjoyed this excerpt from The Story of Bess. Look for the next installment in a few days.

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