On the edge of eastern Australia a young girl wakes with a start. Thunder rumbles over her house and despite the late hour, she quickly crawls from the warmth of her bed. Her flaxen hair is knotted from tossing and turning. She rubs at her eyes, tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and then kneels down to the floor. She faces the bed, closes her eyes, brings her palms together in prayer, and then lowers her head, her lips mouthing her thanks and begging forgiveness for falling asleep. She prays that God will keep her mother and father alive. She forgets to ask the same of her brother. His tormenting ways expel him from her nightly requests.
Her form is tiny, hunched there on the floor. She is barely nine years old yet her list of concerns is far reaching for one so young. She prays for the dogs and cats of the world, that they be kept safe and out of the rain. She prays to come first in the class this year for she knows that if God were to lend a hand with her grades, she would not have to ask him for a new bike. Her parents have promised her that already.
In the midst of her appeal, her eyes open and she stares up at the moon that is framed by the window above her bed. Her mind wanders from prayer, to a scene that she caught on the T.V last night. The image of a small African boy fills her head; his ribs so pronounced you could strum them like strings on her father’s guitar. She recalls the swell of the boy’s belly and the flies that crawled in and out of his mouth- into that dark empty space that rarely gets filled.
She shakes the image away but in the darkness as she prays by her bed, his eyes return like a die-cast image of anguish moulded to haunt her. Those almond shaped holes burn into her thoughts. She has stared at the boy’s ravenous eyes long enough to never forget. They imprint for a lifetime to come.
She saw the pain in his face, then his image was gone, and the screen became crammed with big burly blokes chasing a ball down a field; their faces filled with a pain that would never compare. With the flick of a switch by her father’s hand, their life had resumed its usual course - dinner in front of the tele with a side of ignorant bliss. She wonders if her family saw what she saw in the little boy’s eyes –if they heard the screams in her head that were snagged on the barbs of his pain.
She closes her eyes and returns to her list, adding the boy with the almond shaped eyes. She prays that wherever he is, God will keep him alive. She hears the rain spatter against the roof and she crawls back into her bed. She lies in the dark and stares up at the moon. It is a long time before she is able to sleep.