In the mountains of San Bernardino, just behind Resting Grace Cemetery, there’s a building unseen by patrons of the grave and citizens of the curious. It stands hidden behind rows of thick pines and forgotten loved ones. Polk Home for Disadvantaged Children houses the most vile rejects of the Foster Care system, including its caretakers—Bron and Binglie Choice. Mr. and Mrs. Choice care for their way-ward children with as much love and kindness as rabid lions.
Being the sole survivor of “The San Bernardino Orphanage Massacre,” I believe my story carries the most accuracy among the swirling and outrageous rumors. Permitted, I’d like to set the record straight. My name is Cane the Great, and this is the story of Arra Needers.
I sit at the window sill, anxiously awaiting Arra’s arrival. A man I presume to be the newest social worker assigned to the young girl he currently drags toward the building. His buzz cut contrasts his clean, silver suit that bulges over his muscles.
At barely 4’11 and seventy-eight pounds, Arra appears unthreatening, yet Jaime’s tan hand remains steady, even when they reach the door. She clenches a black trash bag, which carries all her belongings. I tried to convince her to steal a backpack or something from one of her old families’ houses, but she always refuses. “Stealing is bad,” she says. After everything that’s happened in her life, stealing seems a petty issue; she’s firm in her naïve views of good and bad, however.
Jaime’s strong arm pokes the door bell. The low ringing bell sounds more like a bad omen than an alert to the arrival of guests.
“Don’t get any ideas, girl. This is the end for you,” I hear him say—his deep voice echoing through the door.
Arra’s eyes flick up, and a small smile pulls over her white teeth. Her hair twists down her back in tight braids, and her dark brown eyes scan the building in front of her. I know this building well. I’ve been here for quite some time—watching and learning everything I can to assist Arra’s transition.
The afternoon light casts dark shadows across the stone building. Every window is lined with bars, making escape impossible except through the back door or front door. Footsteps stomp toward the living room. I rush behind the curtain.
“Who is it?” A woman’s voice echoes.
“Jaime Villa,” the man says. “I have your newest daughter.”
The woman cackles—it comes from deep in her throat and explodes out of her mouth like thunder. The door swings open.
The little girl stands close enough that I can hear her heaving breathing. My heart yearns to comfort her, but I stay hidden for fear of being found by my newest hosts.
“Jaime, always a pleasure,” says the woman, whose name easily escapes my mind. I peek out from the curtain, just a little. The woman’s light green eyes look like slashes on her thin face. There isn’t a pore or freckle in sight, but a light dusting of make-up. Brown hair flows from her head like a waterfall to her slender waist.
“It’s been too long, Binglie,” says Jaime. Ah, that’s her ridiculous name.
The woman smiles, and Arra’s mouth falls open. There are no curves in Binglie’s teeth, only sharp shark-like teeth.
“It’ll be longer. The old man doesn’t want any more children.”
Jaime’s head cocks. “I thought this was his favorite business.”
“It’s mostly mine, but it pays the bills. When I see you again, it’ll be the usual—one child less.” Her eyes finally move from Jaime to Arra.
“Speaking of, who’s this?”
“Arra Needers,” he says. He hands her a file that he kept tucked under his free arm. “That’s everything you’ll need to know.”
Binglie looks through it, speed-reading each page. “Interesting.”
“I told you that you’d want her.”
She smiles again.