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Alcatraz isn’t a penitentiary,
but his dad might be in one.
He’s a boy from Marfell who doesn’t talk to strangers and has an eye infection.
Wise not to talk to strangers, he shouldn’t trust people. He’s right not to. Has a right not to.
Alcatraz is wary because he needs to be. Quick on his feet, dodging puddles barefeet amidst the mid-winter, a heavy hand or two. Who’s judging?
I don’t know if Alcatraz daydreams much. This isn’t a reflection of a lack of imagination, rather if your reality is real enough to warrant never closing an eye till you’re in class or you’re bleary, teary-eyed and hungry, losing focus isn’t worth it. His lunch would probably be stolen anyway, assuming he has some today. But I can’t back up all this talking, because Alcatraz never talked to strangers. Avoids them. Sensible. But it’s breakfast time. He has no breakfast, so he’s at school.
It is truly heartbreaking to see kids as young as five at eight in the morning with frowns on their faces. The day is ruined, and it’s only gonna get worse. But my guilt never helped anybody, and it’s not going to help Alcatraz.
I gave him jam toast in a silent transaction. Breakfast In Schools because we won’t give these kids anything else but Weetbix and white bread. He doesn’t trust my smile. He doesn’t trust the food. I’m inadequate. Weighed, measured, and found wanting because what I have he won’t ever get. One eyed, seeing one side of people.
Anger was in the other eye. I chose not to ask why.
Alcatraz has an eye infection because his mum had to choose between taking him to the doctor, buying groceries or filling the car. That’s one hell of a decision to be faced with. Got to make it though.
I don’t know what she chose, but Alcatraz’s eye was swollen shut, weeping and raw when I saw him.
If one was to keep both eyes open on a June drive down Alcatraz’s street, it would be hard to miss him. Barefooted amongst mini lakes. A barelegged boy for all seasons.
But would they want to see him anyway? Would they lift their eyes above a little stranger?
See the bare feet, brown skin, swallow hard and avert their eyes to a phone screen, or a windscreen, or a computer screen, transition lenses to shield their pupils from that childish emotion of guilt.
Would they love a sniffling boy with a weeping eye?
They don’t know. They won’t tell me when I ask. It’s a strange concept to them.
I wonder if Alcatraz knows the choice his mum had to make
she knows all about it.
I doubt he knows his dad.
I wonder if he realises these might be the happiest days of his life, and I worry that with that eye he won’t see them anyway.
He wouldn’t tell me if I asked. He doesn’t talk to strangers.