When the Earth Swallows the Good
by Connie Johnson Hambley
She gripped the hand of her five-year-old, hugged her swaddled baby to her chest, and hoped she didn’t drop her pack as the crowd shoved her forward.
“Mom! Are we there yet?”
“Almost, Sweet Cheeks. Almost.”
She saw her daughter’s lower lip quiver, trying to be brave. “You said that already.”
“I know, Honey, I know. Just a little bit more.”
They weren’t going back. Ever. There was nothing to go back to. The earth had swallowed the good and spit out the bad. The bad pushed them forward more than the teeming bodies.
“Me too, but you’re being such a good girl helping mommy carry your bear and your pack!” She gave a silent prayer of thanks her voice was strong even as she wasn’t. She carried their food, blankets, water. All the heavy things needed for life. Her daughter carried her bear and all the light things needed for life.
The crowd surged. A mother called for her child.
She could see over their heads. The checkpoint, a line of shining wire separating them from an expanse of green that held promises for no one but hope for all, was only a little more. Just a little more. Families hugged each other and wept on the other side. Families clung to each other and wept on this side.
“Present papers! No exceptions!”
She raced through her mental checklist of their frantic packing this morning. It was dark, the bad was closer than before, people panicked and grabbed what they could. They left what they could.
Another wave of bodies almost trampled them, wrenching them apart. She rooted her feet to the ground and plunged her arm down. Searching.
Tiny fingers gripped her hand. The cold panic receded even as she saw the black uniforms and the huge rifles of the guards loom closer. White buses, belching black exhaust, idled on this side, waited for their cargo with open maws. The wind carried the stench of diesel and the cries of the passengers to her.
|Photo credit: Gabriela Soto|
The drama unfolded again and again. Separation. She was lucky. They were going to be lucky. Everything was in order. She had checked and rechecked. They were going to be fine.
At last. “Papers?”
She reached into her pack, surprised to find one long yellow document. Her picture. Her baby’s certificate.
“Papers?” This time, to her daughter.
She watched the lower lip quiver. “Mommy. I lost my pack.”