"It was a fire, that's what happened…[w]hat took my parents away from us."


Rebecca Hirschfield

portraitRebecca grew up in the heartland of America and moved to California after high school. She is an aspiring writer, actress, musician and very amateur photographer. This piece is her first published work. She lives currently in West L.A. with an 8 year old Tabby, Custard, named after the dessert. She likes the color red, scrabble and the movie, Annie Hall.


I've always believed that when morning comes, it meets each of us and blesses us with faith, curiosity and hope. But often by the evening it has passed, stolen pieces of our souls and left us empty.

Little Eli was only 3 when it happened, when our parents were taken from us. His mouth was red and raw from constantly licking his lips; I remembered things like that. He had dirty blond hair at the time, not dark as it is in the recent pictures. I was 8, skinned knees and hair askew always in my face and eyes. It was a hot summer, dusty and dry. We had a portable fan in the day room with attached metallic streamers that and it would blow with the breeze as it oscillated back and forth. The colors captivated me; red, blue, green, silver.

That year we had to move to Texas, but I was born in Southern Missouri where everything was green and luscious. We spent summers swimming in creeks behind the house. I had a favorite tree there, one that my father tied a wooden swing to. We brought the swing here with us, but had yet to find the appropriate tree to house it as of yet.

It was a fire, that's what happened, in case you are wondering. What took my parents away from us like they were specks of dust carried of in the wind. Like they never existed at all. Everything was gone; our pictures, our albums. In fact one of the only things left behind was that sad wooden swing in the back yard. That was the legacy left us by my parents; the only proof I had that they existed at all.

My brother's howls still haunt me. His cries at dawn when the darkness subsided.

It's November now.

I ride the bus to school.

I am seated at the desk positioned in front of the headmistress Ms. Dashel. She has flaming red hair curly and long. I cannot for the life of me pay attention to anything coming from this red head's mouth instead I focus on the brown stain marring the wall behind her. The office desk was flooded with Inkblot test and other papers.

"I am hearing that you are distracted in class, Shelly." Ms Dashel came to a seated position and continued, "Can you tell me what is keeping you so preoccupied?"

The tile on the floor surrounding me was a black and white checkerboard pattern that seemed to go on for miles and miles; that was how small I felt sitting there. I wanted to lose myself in that endless sea to disappear completely.

"What" Ms. Dashel continued, "Do you expect of yourself Shelly? How can we help you make the most of your time here at Southwood?"

I looked up; she wore an amulet on her wrist. A ruby stone with shades of gray. She probably got it from a Navajo reservation or somewhere special like that.

I could only stare blankly back at her.

"Well then" she finished after a long pause "You are dismissed."

I collected my book bag and headed for the door but turned around to approach her desk again.

"Yes?" she inquired

"An elephant" I told her, pointing at the picture on top of the stack. "This Rorschach; it looks like an elephant; with the trunk up."

She stared back at me then to the picture again and smiled. "You have a good point there, Shelly. Go on home."

I left her and headed for the hallway.

My feet hit the cement outside and I could feel the midday sun beating on my back.

If there was an alternative to what I was really trying to accomplish, I was blind to it, unwilling to see it. My watch approached 2:45 as the bus came to another HALT. This was my stop and I deboarded the ride.

Halfway between Bay Heights and Clark I looked around to see if I recognized anything around me. It was only a few months ago that Carrie Grey and her family had taken me shopping here, but those memories seemed to fail me know.

I would have tried it; I would have tried anything to keep Eli with me. The search would have to continue, because I did not know who I was, without him.

I headed down Ashburn in the rain, it was endless, no relief in sight. It struck a chord in my heart that shook through to my core. Emptiness, nothingness, excoriating darkness.

Her name was Felice, she was the first foster mother. Her constant derelictions enveloped my young personality. She feared everything. Barely even spoke to the postman without quivering her lips. The constant clamor that came from her held me hostage on a daily basis and her anxiety ran into the pit of my stomach and out the last nerve. She encompassed everything.

She was wry and reminded me of a wet rat; shaking from the cold, nibbling on crackers and cheese like a scavenger finding crumbs and taking what remains. I kept this picture in my head just to help me laugh. It was all I could do to alleviate the stress of her companionship. Nothing truly eased the strains of being preyed upon by her paranoia. I knew how to see the madness unfolding by the look in her eyes. It would brew like a storm grey and bleak. A cloudiness from behind her pupils until every vein in her body would pulsate with her blue blood. Then it would come.

"Mind your manners." she would say to me, then grab a handful of my brown hair from its roots, tugging until I went numb. It was like electricity every time, a shock always in waves. I grew to loathe her. She controlled every facet of my life; her reign of terror wrecking havoc upon me.

One day I came home to find those people in black jackets sitting with her in the kitchen. She pursed her quivering lips. They spoke with their legal pads, memos and briefcases pointing to me but I heard nothing of what they said. I just knew it was over, I knew I was leaving. She would no longer have me as her ward.

Outside I walked over fresh, dewy grass headed for a white Dodge Van. A large woman opened the back doors for me and handed me my red book bag. She looked sorry for me, but remained quiet. I climbed inside and the doors shut behind me. It was quiet and so cold that I could see my breath. I didnĂ­t look back at the salmon colored house outside of the window. I did not want to watch it get smaller and smaller. The trees stood out though; waving in the wind like they were bidding me goodbye. Maybe it would bring me closer to him. was all I thought.

Then it hit me. I was so now so angry so devastated. Not that they were taking me away, but that they had not done it sooner; the travesty of the situation clear to me now. All these months alone, trapped and waiting. Angst bubbled up inside of me and I screamed, grabbing the book-bag at my feet and thrashing it about the van against the walls scattering its contents across the floor. The metal on metal noise from the clip relieving me for a moment. I cursed God. I cursed these people. I cursed her. I cursed myself and I kept hitting the walls.

The van came to a sudden HALT. I heard the front passenger door open and shut. Footsteps.

The back doors opened and the darker woman with the curly hair stared at me, uncertain, perplexed by my behavior. I could barely return her gaze. She approached me and stopped my arms from flailing holding me against her. I stopped I could not hold back any longer the tide of despair, it exploded from every inch of me. Amid my homework papers and pens now scattered about the floor. This woman held me back tightly while I sobbed into her shoulder. And then a sound echoed thru the van cabin, a sharp cry like the sound coming of a wounded dying animal; but I realized it was me.

Editor: LinckeN@WLAC.edu | West Los Angeles College | 9000 Overland Ave, Culver City CA 90230 | www.wlac.edu
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