Skinny had never seen the sun rise before. In her porch prison, she’d be crammed with several children, bundled together in a heap of frail bones in shocked silence, asleep or unconscious on the hard dirt. Skinny, so tired, gazed at the rising orb, a sun she was just getting to know. For an instant, she pictured herself in a golden sundress, her hair washed and combed, open to the air flowing through it. She imagined herself as one of the new girls under the porch, clean and pretty except for all the tears. She was helpless to the sun’s hypnotism, tossing its rays all around her, covering her, drenching her with a warmth she had never felt.
Skinny spent the morning walking, thinking of the children she’d never see again—all the kids whose lives ended under the porch, where hers began. “So stupid!” Skinny reprimanded herself, forming questions to ask the others about the new world she was exploring this morning. If she had asked just one, maybe she’d know where to go, what to do. “What if the woods go on forever?” She thought, her heart nearly beating from her chest.
Her passing thoughts were dammed by an image of Officer Lansing, bleeding from his stomach while tied to a tree, just after her shot. His badge fell to the ground, blood oozing over it. Lansing, appearing dead, looked up at Skinny, his piercing blue eyes like Mikey’s, “You didn’t do this to me, Skinny. I forgive you.” In her mind’s image and outside it, Skinny cried. She covered herself with the words “I am not a monster”, and in her image Lansing’s face first turned to Mikey, smiling, then Egger. “Where the fuck are you, little shit?” His gapped grin enough to rip Skinny from her daydream.
“Where the fuck you at? We ain’t gonna hurt ya! Promise!” It wasn’t part of her dream. Egger’s voice bounced off of trees and into her ears—they were nearby.
Skinny hid behind a tree and breathed heavy, peering cautiously around the trunk to see Egger and Pa about 15 trees away, guns drawn. Pa was silent, moving quickly through the trees. The thrill of finding Skinny had faded, and Pa recognized Skinny as a threat to the family, a loose nail to be hammered.
“Egger! Git the fuck over here!” He raced towards Pa, his gun still drawn. Skinny watched, running to trees farther away when they weren’t looking. Pa picked up gold, or something glistening gold, from the ground. She couldn’t make out what they were saying, but when she reached into her teddy bear, Skinny knew what they found. “So stupid!” She thought of herself again, so engulfed by the sun’s majesty she forgot to listen for the “clink” against her leg. Time was up, there was nothing to do but run or get caught. Skinny closed her eyes, “1…2…3”, pushed herself from the tree, and sprinted away into thick bramble.
“THERE!” Egger roared, siting his shot and pulling the trigger, entirely missing Skinny. Pa ran in her direction with Egger behind. Mikey’s teddy bear had failed to protect Skinny, too, but she didn’t have the heart to tell it.