Man Who Leaned

Untitled by zenjazzygeek

Aubrie, your pick up is here.”

I got my school bag from the floor of the gym where we lined them up with our jackets and sweaters. Mrs. Hendle smiled as I looked around the gym for Mommy. Mrs. Ulan, who helped Mrs. Hendle at the afterschool program, was talking to Keenan’s mom. Keenan had scratched his leg playing whiffle ball. Two kids took turns shooting a basketball into the hoop. 

"Aubrie, it's time to go.” Mrs. Hendle was waving at me.

I walked to her from the door we came through when our classes had ended for the day. “My mommy's not here yet.”

“Mr. Jonah Beese is getting you today.” She pointed to a man I never saw before.

I hugged my backpack. “I don't know him, Mrs. Hendle.”

She must’ve gotten her paper work wrong. He was probably someone else’s pick up. His pants were falling down, and his underwear stuck out over his belt. I couldn't see his shoes because of the pants, or his one eye because of his stringy hair. He had hardly any lips and swung his arm that wasn't on the counter, like he wanted to get somewhere but had to wait. I needed to go to the girls’ room. I stepped back from the man and Mrs. Hendle.

“I'll wait for my mommy.”

Sadie's mom took the sign out board from Mr. Jonah Beese. She wrote on it and smiled at Mrs. Hendle, but her smile wasn't really happy. Mrs. Hendle took the clipboard. Sadie left with her mom.

Mr. Beese didn't look at me. He stared at the floor’s shiny squares as Mrs. Hendle said, “Aubrie, he's your pick up. Your mom can't get you today.”

Mommy wasn’t coming! “M…my grandma said never to go with a stranger.” I took three steps away from them.

Mrs. Hendle's eyes zig-zagged between me and the man. He leaned on the counter where the lunch ladies gave us our breakfast and lunch. Mrs. Hendle put the sign out board next to his hand. She came over to me and stooped down.

“Aubrie, I have to release you to him because your mom gave us his name as a person to pick you up. We checked his driver's license. It's safe to go with him.”

The man who leaned didn’t say anything. “Maybe there was a mistake,” I said.

She stood up. “Aubrie, it's six o'clock. The program's closed. You have to go with him.”

I looked around the huge room. When did the basketball stop thumping? When were the last two kids picked up? I needed something bigger than just my backpack to hold on to.

“I want my mommy.” I started to cry.
Mrs. Hendle came towards me. I backed up closer to the door I had walked to her from. Even she was scary, telling me to do something I knew was wrong.
“Aubrie, he's a friend of your mom's. It's okay to go with him, honey.”

I ran the rest of the way to the door. It was the farthest place from the outside.

“He's a stranger,” I yelled across the gym. “I can't go with a stranger. Mrs. Hendle, I'm scared.”

She looked away from me. But I saw that she was afraid too.

Then, Mrs. Hendle said, “Calm down, Aubrie. I'll call your mom.”

“What if she doesn't answer?” That came out of my mouth without me trying. I hoped my pee wouldn’t come out like that too.

“Well, let's just try, okay?”

“No, no, here.” I dug out the phone and held it up. “Call my grandma.”

Mrs. Hendle didn't take the phone.

“Honey, your mom took your grandma's name off the emergency card. I can't release you to her.”

I didn't understand. “But, she's my grandma.”

The man walked back and forth in front of the lunch lady window swinging both his arms.

Mrs. Hendle dialed a number on her phone. “Hello? Ms. Petty? I'm just checking on who is picking up Aubrie today...Yes he's here. Well, Aubrie would rather her grandmother take her home...She's very upset Ms. Petty and won't go with Mr. Beese.” She looked at me and my phone that I still held out to her. “Yes. Give me the number...Okay, thank you. I'll call her. Do you want to speak with Mr. Beese?”

She handed the phone to him. All he said into it was: “Yeah, right.”

He gave Mrs. Hendle back her phone. I watched him walk through the outside door as Mrs. Hendle talked to Grandma about coming to get me.  



  1. Oh my gosh, Dawn, what a powerful scene. Bravo! You have me hooked. All best to you with this WIP.

    Sorry it's taken me so long to visit. My mom's been ill.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I hope all is going well, Dawn. Enjoy your weekend!


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