The house sits on a beautiful piece of land. A stream winds through the tall trees and flower bushes. There is a kitchen garden and many fruit trees. A swing set with a wooden slide is in the back. A grey stone fountain is in the front. Many generations have lived and loved in this grand old house.
But now, the winding stream is sluggish and putrid. There are no fish in it. The trees have been stripped of their bark. The flower bushes grow only thorns. The kitchen garden is buried under years of garbage and the swing set is broken.
The family has many children. Barefoot and malnourished, they play on the grounds. No one oversees their play. No one sends them to school. They do not have chores to do. They hit and bully each other. Birds and squirrels keep away.
The woman is always angry. She hits her children. Some have left. One went to live with the family down the road and is studying to be a musician. Another one lives in the house with the green fence and is a famous doctor. The woman is pregnant again.
One little girl tries to grow radishes in a corner. The neighbors gave her seeds. She has managed to grow a few. Most of the plants were destroyed by the other children. Two of the littlest children are sent to work for the big house next door cleaning bathrooms.
The man does not work. Sometimes he wears his best clothes and goes to the neighbors to ask for money. Often he brings back shiny new toys for himself. He plays with them till they break. He does not know how to fix them and tosses them outside in the broken stone fountain.
Everyone is sick. Every year children die. The woman and the man do nothing and none of the children complain.
There is fear in the house. The smaller children are afraid of the bigger ones. All are afraid of the woman. She is afraid of the man. He is afraid of his neighbors; thinking they want his house and his land. No one wants the broken down house with the dirty sick children.
Some days the man takes a couple of his children and goes to the police station to protest about far away houses where he has heard that the bigger children hit the smaller children. The police officers look at the man. They can see the bruises and marks on the children that the man brings with him.
One night a neighbor’s son came into the house and hit a little boy.
The man went to the police station and complained. He said that all his children were furious that someone had hit that little boy. He said that it was wrong and he will not allow it to happen again.
It did happen again. This time the little boy’s arm broke.