“Get away from there!” The Mother shooed the children away from the window, glancing outside with sharp gasps.
A subway arched over the asphalt sea, crashing down into the blacktop. Theradon was out there, harvesting dandelions! What if he got gobbled up by the beast? Who would get them all food? None of the orphans had been rejected from survival stories. They’d never last out here in the wilderness without him!
“Mother?” Little Lucy peered up at her. “Can’t we watch? The pirate came back!”
At that moment, the glass in the window burst. The entire building shook. Dirt fell from the ceiling. Wooden joints groaned in protest.
Mother’s eyes grew even wider. They drifted toward the window before catching herself. “He can’t know we’re here, children! Now, come! We must take shelter!”
“Ain’t no place safe from a subway. If we’re gonna die, I wanna see it comin’!” Tracy smirked. Her dirty overalls matched her dirty freckled face. “’sides, the whole place is ‘bout to fall down, ain’t it?”
“Nonsense! We’ll be perfectly safe away from the windows. Come now, children.” The Mother herded them into the bare wooden hallway. The walls sagged inward. The boards below creaked protest. The truth was, the Orphanage had seen better days, and more and more dreamers were rejecting children. It was a crowded husk of a building.
And husks were easily destroyed.
Mother shook her head, distracting herself. Who didn’t want to dream about children? What sort of world was it where so many people got rid of such good children, like Lucy or Tracy or any of the other countless waifs that ended up here? Children with no parent, and she, the Mother with no name?
The floor trembled. The subway must still be near. Sareh whined in fear. Her black eye never faded.
Honestly, why would someone bother to dream of an abused child and then reject her outright? How could anyone be that heartless?
Mother pulled Sareh to herself, cradling her gently. She sat on the shaking floor. The other children huddled around, sucking the strength out of her. Everyone except Tracy, of course, who sulked in a corner of the hallway, searching for some way to get back to a window. The entire building rocked.
Yelps of fear escaped several little mouths. Mother closed her eyes.
The subway would not get them. No subway had ever struck the Orphanage before. Of course it wouldn’t get them now. It would tunnel away and find different prey. Maybe it would eat the pirate. That would be nice. And the Orphanage would stand. It had to.
The boards squealed as the earth shook. Hands grabbed at Mother, finding some sort, any sort, of comfort from her.
All was still.
All was silent.
The children were afraid to breathe. Mother looked up in the air thick with dust, holding her breath. Was it over?
Below, a door burst open. A man’s voice screamed out, “Mother! Mother! Are you all right?”
Mother breathed a silent prayer. “Here, Theradon! Here!”
Heavy boots shook the steps. A cowboy hat and a dirty flannel shirt appeared. Theradon’s weathered face hovered before Mother. “We’re safe, ma’am. The pirate killed the subway!”
The children around her gasped. Tracy’s face brightened. “He killed a subway? Where is he? I gotta meet him!”
Mother stood. “Quiet, children. Theradon, please, explain.”
The dandelion farmer took off his hat and ran his hand through gray hair. “Well, ma’am, the Blond Buccaneer tried to rob me, but she was quite nice when I told her I didn’t have much.”
Tracy shoved her way through the crowd of children. “The Blond Buccaneer was here? Did you get her autograph?”
Theradon glanced down at her before continuing, “But then the Shopping Cart Pirate attacked. And then the subway surfaced, and he attacked it and beat it! And then they rode off together toward Barrelbottom!”
Mother stumbled out of the hallway, back to the window. It was true; the corpse of the subway lay there, glittering under the red sun. Some of it was buried under the blacktop. Mother nodded to herself. “Yes. This is a good day, I think. Children, gather your things. We’re moving.” She turned and smiled. “Who wants to live on the subway?”
Tracy cheered loudest of all.
This is a Barrelbottom Tale.
This tale refers to events told in The Shopping Cart Pirate Attacks!