The Shelter (Excerpt Only)

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Ten-year-old Sunni Brown lies upside down on a tweed couch with her head hanging over the side and her feet thrust into the air. Wearing pink ballet slippers and a white tutu, she flutters her pointed toes through the five positions.  A television blares a short distance away and a dust covered fan blows lukewarm air across the girl’s face.

“Food riots have broken out for the second time this week,” the newscaster announces, but Sunni doesn’t pay much attention. Her ears strain to hear another conversation only a few feet away. 

Shannon, a slender woman in her early thirties with dark red hair and an anxious, demeanor paces the kitchen floor. “He thinks he better than us, is that why he den’ went and disappeared?” she shouts into the phone. “Well you tell that bastard….”

Sunni listens briefly and then shuts out Shannon’s words. Discussions of her father always have a way of making her feel bad.  If her father is a bastard, loser, cocksucker and a good-for-nothing like her mother insists he is, then what does that make her?

“Five more people have died in this week’s heat wave,” the newscaster says. 

Sunni freezes her feet at the second position. Still topsy-turvy she reaches for the remote and flicks through the channels, finally settling on a cartoon.  She resumes her ballet exercises as she watches the upside down images flicker across the television screen.

There’s a loud banging noise at the door. Sunni’s fluttering stops at fifth position.  She spins herself upright and peers over the back of the couch. The curtains are closed to keep the hot sun from invading the apartment; but Sunni can still make out the silhouettes of several people just on the other side.

As Shannon lowers the phone and slowly makes her way to the living room, a squeaky voice on the other end of the line continues to ramble, oblivious to the distraction. Shannon snaps her fingers at Sunni and motions for her to turn off the television.  The girl obeys, fumbling for the remote.  But through her fright she fails to turn it off and instead turns the volume full blast.

The banging continues, this time louder and more aggressive. Shannon rushes the couch and snatches the remote from the girl’s hand. Silencing the television, she flings the remote to the floor and returns her wild, fearful eyes to the door.  Creeping closer to the apartment’s entrance, Shannon tries to discern the identity of the figures on the other side.   But before she can formulate a theory the banging intensifies, this time on the door and windows.

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