Two brothers. Ages ten and seven. They had no heat. No food. No nothing. 1973 was a cold year.
To call it child neglect would be too soft. The single-wide was falling apart. Snow blanketed the leaky roof. They could see their breath in the bathroom.
And that is where they slept that winter. The bathroom. They huddled close, covered with garbage bags and quilts.
Their uncle was supposed to be raising them, but he’d been gone for weeks. Nobody knew where he was. Probably, they thought, in some gutter, drinking away his money.
“I’m cold,” said the youngest, trying to fall asleep.
“I know,” said the oldest. “Just wait, something good will happen.”
“It always happens when you need it most.”
“What kinda magic?”
“The real kind.”
“Like in movies?”
It was only brother-to-brother talk. The oldest wasn't even sure he believed it.
Before school, they split a candy bar found in a barren pantry for breakfast.
After lunch, they dug through the cafeteria garbage looking for leftover scraps.
A teacher saw them do it.
That same day, a teacher gave the oldest boy two heavy grocery bags full of canned
A feast for supper. It was canned spaghetti, beans, and Campbell’s soup by flashlight. It was the first real meal they’d eaten in weeks.
Their smiles lit the inside of the dark trailer.
“Where’d you get all this food?” asked the youngest.
“Magic,” said the oldest.
“I like magic.”
They ate so much they were sick. They slept in the bathtub with the door shut—towels tucked under the door to trap escaping heat. They shivered.
“My toes are cold.” the youngest said.
“It’s gonna be okay.”
“What’s gonna happen to us?”
“I don’t know. But don’t worry, it’s going to be alright.”
They woke the next morning. For breakfast: canned soup, Saltines, Ovaltine.
The oldest found something on the steps…