To Silence the Growl…

He shrank between people that towered over him. Durban streets were always swarming at noon. People had places to go, people to see. He never did.
His bare feet were caked black with dirt. His ripped, ragged shorts barely reached his knees. At least he had a jacket though, albeit one with sleeves far too short and nothing to break it from the little boy’s dusty flesh.
The smell of KFC taunted him, making his insides twist with a desire so strong, it was almost lust.
But it was nothing more than his hunger – a grinding, constant reminder of his state of poverty; his endless struggle for survival against a monster much too strong for him to conquer on his own.
That was what he was – alone. Sure, he had a mother. Where she was though, he didn’t know. Sure, he had a father. Who he was though, he didn’t know. Which street-dwelling kid had a happy street-dwelling family, anyway?
He knew these streets better than he knew anything else. Each day, he spent exploring their depths, never fearing. The streets were his home, and there’s no place quite like home.
Standing outside KFC, with its agonizingly appetizing aroma dancing around in his nostrils, his taste buds almost hallucinate the flavour. More than anything, he’d die to savour the white meat, then the skin last. The longer the flavour of the skin lingered in his mouth the better.
He watched people pass by; people with clothes that were still in one piece, people who had shoes, people who had money…
He had no money. He’d found R10 once. Never would he ever forget. It had been lying on the ground so gloriously. The way the breeze had lifted its edges slightly off the ground almost seduced him. He’d lifted it off the ground ever so slowly, afraid somebody would return to reclaim its magnificence.
Nobody did. He had feasted. Today, he wasn’t so lucky. He hadn’t been since.
There it was, his chance – a young woman on her cellphone. He saw so many people on their phones, always so focused that they paid little attention to anything else.
Phones were worth a lot of money. He didn’t want money though, he just wanted food. He only wanted to stifle the pain…
Harnessing whatever little energy and speed his little body could muster, he darted forward and grabbed the packet of KFC that dangled loosely in her hand. It broke away from her hand with ease.
Her gasp was delayed, and he already started to spin away. Only, he couldn’t move. Someone had grabbed his jacket – his jacket with the sleeves far too short. It was old, and it tore. He didn’t have another…
Too much was happening too fast. There were angry shouts, and fists pounding and palms slapping at his dusty flesh. He would try to count the blows, but he couldn’t count past 19.
He tried to squirm away. He had long ago dropped the packet of KFC and the warm tears had long since began to trace their paths through the dirt on his face, as their harsh ignorant hands continued to beat against his leathery skin.
Couldn’t they see his sunken eyes? Couldn’t they see his hollow cheeks? Couldn’t they hear his tummy grumble? Didn’t they know he meant no harm? Didn’t they know he was just trying to survive?
He was now curled up on the floor, a six year old black child, who had only been in pursuit of sustenance, being beaten by his own kind…

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