The Drowning Gull 1 - Page 34

three of them for the halves of green crayon. The sisters usually won-- but not always.

Those were the bad days: the days Mercedes was stuck with red or Mari had to use yellow. But they usually won. A sulking Juan would usually take a piece of gray and tell them it was the color of his soul. Mari would roll her eyes. Mercedes would laugh. It was a game to them all-- tradition, even.

The best part about the room, was the door. Well, the doorway, actually, since there was no door. The doorway was beautiful, but not for its looks. (The beehive incident made Mercedes nervous to walk underneath it and Mari would have to push her inside, complaining that the rotting wood was sure to fall apart on them.) No-- the eight students admired the doorway because of what came through it (other than bees, of course; although the bees took residence there for likeminded reasons). The doorway brought the first glimpse of the food.

Soup usually. Soup was the name given to this and that thrown into a bowl of lukewarm broth. It was placed in Styrofoam bowls and served with homemade chicha morada because the water wasn't safe to drink. Soup was the reason the kids went three days a week and pretended they cared about 2+2 and names of oceans they would never swim in.

Sometimes there were seconds. Sometimes, the volunteers would understand Spanish, or at least knew what más meant. Pointing at an empty bowl or waving a cup around sometimes got the message across. Some days, they would get seconds and the green crayons. Mercedes’ favorite day was when Lucas raided the kitchen, stealing a full pitcher of chicha and hiding it away to share after lunch was finished. So what that they had all had stomachaches? It had been hilarious.

Mari, as the oldest and- by default- the most responsible in the group, would make them all push their broken-backed chairs into the table and throw away their bottomed-out bowls at the end of the meal. Mari took what she called “attendance”-- a thing they had once read about in a book about a class. Then, the laughing children with satisfied stomachs would skip out of that beautiful doorway.

They didn’t want to go, but the sisters loved going. Hungry for the knowledge that they would be fed, the girls raced to the school each time it was open. They didn’t call it home. Sometimes, smiles and soup stains said more than words.

The Drowning Gull

33