It was midnight, and the streets were empty, but something lurked in the darkness. They walked a long road, thinking they were alone. As they approached the town, they heard great shouts, much to their surprise.
“Ahh! It’s the Hunchback of the Dump and his look-alike bride! Run for your lives!” One man said in a mocking voice.
The townspeople erupted in cheers and had a fantastic roaring moment insulting these miserable humans. The children pelted the couple with rocks, eggs, and other objects as they continued their long walk home. Her cheeks were flushed with tears. She glanced at her husband for solace, but he turned away, tears streaming down his cheeks.
They walked in silence for the rest of the way.
Theo and Mary were born with disfigured faces and deformities, which made them the subject of everyday ridicule in their small town, a quiet farming community. Theo, the husband, walked with a hunchback and limped. He had enormous eyes, crooked teeth, and a nose that resembled a giant tomato. Mary, his wife, had a hump on her back and a set of big teeth. Her cheeks were round, and she was covered in scars, one of which went from her forehead down to her left chin.
They lived in a run-down shack near the landfill. The cardboard served as a covering for the gaps in the walls. They slept on an old, dirty mattress they had found in the landfill. They cooked their meals on an old and rusted portable gas stove, and used gas lamps for lighting at night. The couple went through the dump or people’s trash cans to make enough money to survive. They collected aluminum cans, glass, plastic containers, cardboard boxes, and cartons, sold them at a recycling facility, and used the money to buy whatever food they could. They went to bed almost every day, half-hungry.
One night, as Mary stood in front of the hot stove, cooking their meal, she closed her eyes for a moment and hoped for baked bread and hot meals on the table. As her food-related thoughts became more vivid, images of roasted chicken kept intruding into her mind. She could practically smell the buttered, warm bread. Mary opened her eyes, hoping that maybe, just maybe, her wish would come true if she could close them long enough. She snapped back to reality when she realized she was acting foolishly.
While rubbing her tummy, she murmured loudly enough for her husband to hear, “I wish we could have a nice supper, like those chicken thighs, wings, and legs we see in the window display at the restaurant next to the recycling center, instead of this steamed cabbage we eat every day,” Mary said. “Those delicious hamburgers and French fries would suffice as well. Also, a refreshing drink. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it.”
“You never know, Mary,” Theo said with a smile and a roll of his eyes. “I might surprise you one day and give you the whole chicken instead of just the thighs, wings, or legs. Then I’ll serve it with a lovely roast steak. The sky is the limit for you!”
Mary gave a warm smile. Her eyes glistened with hope.
“I was joking, Theo,” Mary said. “I’m not complaining. I am content. We eat despite our limited resources. Some people are wealthy and have unlimited access to food, but they are unhappy. Although other folks are homeless, we have a roof over our heads. I don’t care what people say about us. We are, in my opinion, the luckiest people on the planet because we have each other.”
“Mary, you know how much I love you. You always know exactly what to say to cheer me up.” Theo threw his arm around his wife’s shoulder and added, “You always find the positive in everything.”
They sat down to eat, and despite the lack of food on the table, they finished their meal happy and satisfied. Never had steamed cabbage tasted so wonderful. They lived a simple life, but they were happy living together.
When Mary and Theo returned home from selling their wares at the recycling center one night, they noticed a crowd gathered around their small shanty. Theo’s heart was slamming against the inside of his chest. He sensed something wasn’t quite right. They crept into the bushes and listened in on the people’s conversation. They noticed a young man shouting in front of everyone.
“How much longer will we allow these creatures to live here and be a disgrace to the entire town? Let’s get them out of here. They’re a bunch of freaks! They have no right to be here with us.”
As if Theo and Mary were animals, the man remarked, “We need to clean up our neighborhood, and we should start with those disgusting beasts.”
Mary couldn’t stop crying behind her hands when she heard the townspeople cheer. They were quiet, hardworking individuals who didn’t bother anyone. What infuriated them so much?
“What are we going to do, Theo?” Mary whispered as tears fell from her eyes.
Theo sighed before he answered. “Mary, it’s clear that we’re no longer safe here. If they catch us hiding here, I’m not sure what they’ll do. We don’t have much choice but to leave.”
“Where should we go?”
“We should get as far away as possible from here and from people. We need to find a safe haven where we won’t have to fear being harmed again. Don’t worry, Mary. In time, we will find a safe place for us, and we will build a world of our own. God will protect and guide us.” Theo choked as he tried to conceal the sorrow and sadness he was experiencing.
Meanwhile, the townspeople built a campfire in front of Theo and Mary’s small shack and brought food and drinks as if it were a party. As the kids sang and danced in a circle around them, they gathered around the campfire, eating marshmallows and telling spooky stories. The residents of the town then awaited Theo and Mary’s arrival. Many soon grew bored and headed home as the night progressed. A few people lingered behind, waiting.
And they waited.
They were exhausted from what seemed like an eternity of waiting, and decided to get some rest. They all planned to return first thing in the morning, with or without anyone’s knowledge or permission, to demolish Theo and Mary’s tiny shack. Everyone laughed, then left trash all over the place as they went away.
Theo and Mary, who were still hiding in the bushes, heard everything the people said. They waited in the dark for everyone to leave, before going inside their house and packing a handful of their items. They pushed the wooden cart and didn’t stop until the darkness enveloped them. Mary took one last look around the town and at the life she and her husband were leaving behind.
“Where are we going, Theo?” she said, a frustrated sigh coming from her lips.
“Mary, I’m not sure. I honestly don’t know.” Theo paused, a despondent expression on his face. He helplessly shook his head, unsure of what was ahead.
For the first time in his life, he was terrified!
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