A boy, perhaps eight or nine, shifted under the weight of a sleeping baby on his back in a makeshift sling. Hands and face smudged with dust and dirt, he begged for money with vacant eyes and an outstretched hand, and he moved on when my friend said he had nothing to give.
“They do that to get sympathy, and more money,” my friend said as we walked further, “and if you give money to one, the rest see it and swarm you.”
My heart burst into a smile as I headed to the border town alone on a quiet, gray morning. “Maybe they’re not up this early,” I thought. I walked carefully to find anyone, everyone. In the distance, I saw him. Yes, he had the baby on his back. I rushed to him. He held out his hand, and I wondered if he recognized me from the day before. His monotonous motions told me no. He looked up at me with those same dusty eyes. I slung off my backpack and dove in for the goods. I handed him a package of raisin bread and beamed as I dug for milk.
He looked away then at me again. “No food. Money,” he said in English.
“No, I don’t have money, but you need to eat something. Here’s some milk for your sister.” I held the provisions out again.
“Money,” he said. Drained by the experience, he shuffled away, and some other brazen children plucked the snacks from my hand and ran off giggling. I stared at the boy and the baby until they drifted out of sight.
Karen Toralba is an American living in Bangkok, Thailand. She has worked in English education for 20 years, most of which have been overseas. This almost exotic lifestyle opens many doors to unique experiences which can transform into stories. She is embarking on her publishing journey with accepted pieces in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Fiction on the Web, The Fictional Café and Buddy lit zine.
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