A Piece of Parker

The dim auditorium hummed with voices.The great torches on the wooden beams flickered and shadows danced on the yellowed plaster walls. Electric lights at either door created demons that stretched across the plank floor. The string of wire inside one of the bulbs looped around in an infinite swirl and Parker’s eyes could not stray away. She continuously traced the pattern in her mind. Around and around the light chased itself. Her father cleared his throat next to her, and Parker's reverie was broken.

The auditorium had become silent sometime during her daydream, and Parker could only assume that it was soon. They had been waiting all afternoon for the appearance, and Parker was sure it never began on time just to build the tension. She was about to ask her mother when it was going to begin when the whispering started. Just a couple people at first, the word barely a breath. And it began to swell. Voices joined the chanting chorus to create a thunder of noise-all this noise for one person. Parker felt a little ridiculous as she mouthed the name. She tried to shout with the crowd, but her voice was caught like a choke in her throat and nothing could be forced out. She watched her mother’s mouth form the name over and over again. Crawley. Crawley. Crawley! CRAWLEY! Her father pumped his fist in the air in unison with the other Waltzers gathered to hear their great man.

A sudden whirring broke the chanting. Thousands of eyes instantly focused on the white screen at the front of the great room. Old video clips of Crawley began to saunter across the screen. Shots of him standing in front of voters from the old world made the crowd lean on the edge of their seats, grins on their faces. Both the crowd from the old world and the crowd from the new world were held in awe of this god on earth. Parker’s eyes flitted from her parents’ faces to the faces of the people on the screen. They all had the same expression of wonder and reverence. Parker attempted to mimic the expression, but her incredulity of Crawley would not let her. As the clips faded out, a man walked across the plank stage, every eye in the room following his movement. He got to the center and proudly faced the crowd. He cleared his throat and made the announcement
“My fellow Waltzers, Mr. Crawley is not able to attend tonight due to some pertinent business to which he must attend. He sends his regrets and his apologies, and he wishes me to tell you he appreciates your support. As always, you can leave any donations at the door as you exit. Thank you.”

During the announcement, people were audibly sighing and shaking their heads. One woman began sobbing and had to be escorted out. People around Parker were mumbling about how busy a man like Crawley is and how they’re grateful for what he does for them. Nobody complained about his absence, and nobody seemed angry. Parker felt relieved, yet a little ill that people could be so foolish. This happened every time and people still blindly adored him. The Waltzers casually began to stand up and take various items out of their pockets and bags, donations for their glorious leader. Parker watched as people stacked their valuables in black plastic bins located near the door. As each person put an item in, they were handed a thank you card with a picture of Crawley’s face on the front. The Waltzers competed with one another via the cards to show their dedication to the cause. Parker knew kids that had wallpapered their rooms with his face, and they bragged about how many they were going to be able to get at the next rally.

Finally, Parker and her parents had trickled with the crowd to the exit. Parker’s mother and father each dropped an item into the bin- her father donated a gold coin from the old world and her mother donated a couple yards of un-sewn fabric- a rare commodity. Parker and her mother had argued earlier about what Parker would give. She had nothing she wanted to give up, but her mother threatened to lock her in the cellar again unless she found something worthy of Crawley. Parker had searched her room until she decided to give up the leather braided bracelet her late brother had given her. She played with the soft pliable leather as she got closer and closer to the black bins. She thought back to when she watched her brother make it out of leather he had won in a bet. Parker watched her brother through her nine-year old eyes as she remembered the way his skilled fingers wove the leather. He smiled as he worked, telling Parker to always remember to keep it tied tight, so she wouldn’t lose it. She promised him that no matter what, she would always keep it tied tight and he said as long as she never lost it, he would always be there with her. He said no matter what happened, he would watch out for his baby sister. He finished the bracelet and tied around her wrist. She giggled as he ruffled her hair and the memory faded.

Parker felt an impatient tap on her shoulder. She turned to the older woman who had tapped her and the woman pointed to the plastic barrel ahead. Parker held up the line. She glanced down at the bracelet in her hand. She twisted the leather around her fingers and gripped tightly. She looked up at the man next to the plastic bins and shook her head. He glared at her but said nothing. The chastising whispers behind her pushed Parker out the door into the cool twilight. She felt dazed and guilty, but immensely satisfied and relieved. She tied the bracelet back on her wrist and looked around for her parents, hoping that perhaps they had not witnessed the scene she had made. They were standing near the door-her mother’s arms were crossed and her father was a livid shade of red. Parker knew she was in for the cellar again. She touched the bracelet again and the warm leather reminded her that she had nothing to worry about, as her brother was looking out for her from beyond.